Backstage and Beyond - Ami Stidolph, Head of Theatre
Welcome to Backstage and Beyond, a series of interviews in which we talk to theatre industry professionals to find out more about their jobs. Everyone knows what an actor does, but it takes a lot more than just the people on stage to make a show. Please join us as we quiz people in all sorts of cool theatre jobs on their work, what it involves, and how you could do the same. Next up is Ami Stidolph, Head of Theatre at The Vaults, a multifunctional venue based in the tunnels underneath Waterloo Station.
Can you explain to us what exactly your job involves?
My job title is ‘Head of Theatre’, which technically means I look after all the theatre in the building, whether it is a company coming in with their own show or a production we do ourselves in-house. That said, we’re a small team in a big venue, so we all get involved with everything, from exhibitions to events, dances, dining experiences and everything in between.
How did you come to work in this job?
Like many people, it wasn’t a direct route. I originally trained as an actor, and then began producing my own small fringe shows, so that I could be in them. I initially hired a desk at The Vaults to work from, which led to producing work there freelance, which led to being offered a job!
What does your daily schedule look like?
It is very varied. Daytimes would involve meetings with companies who might want to bring their show here, or with creative people who we can collaborate with on our own shows. I do a lot of administration such as payroll, marketing and running the Box Office. But there is also a creative side to my job, where I will be coming up with ideas for shows, trying to get permission to perform scripts or make adaptations, find fantastic artists to make artwork or performers to bring something to life. Naturally we also work a lot of weird hours - we might have to manage an event, go and see a production to know more about it, or even work behind the bar if need be.
What are the best parts and the worst parts of your work?
The best thing is the variety. No idea is a bad idea, so if something or someone inspires you then you can make something happen from that. Every day, and every project, is very different. It is really hard work to make a show but you have such a brilliant, tangible result at the end that it’s always worth it. The bad stuff is the fighting with the practical, administrative difficulties - trying to make events happen with no money, or to get permission to do something exciting that won’t turn a massive profit. Also, my office has no windows, so that’s pretty sad sometimes!
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in going into your line of work?
Just go for it - and explore many options, including stuff you’re not sure you like or have never heard of. Arts education can be quite limited - for example, everyone knows what an actor is, but there are a million other exciting jobs out there that you’ve probably never heard of. You never know what path you’ll end up on so get involved - watch a lot of theatre, speak to people, go to workshops - it will all work out in the end.
What do you enjoy about working at The Vaults?
The variety. The people. The challenges. And being able to create theatre that works for everyone.
What do you hope theatre in London is going to be like in the future?
Crikey, that’s a big question! I hope that artists around the world will continue to create work that is entertaining and fun, as well as work that is challenging and tackles everything and anything that needs to be talked about. I believe that London is pretty central to the development of a lot of work, and the UK has the privilege of being able to provide the means for artists to continue to create. I really hope we don’t loose that!