Teacher of the Week: Tech Theatre & Events

Angie Berwick: Technical Theatre & Events

How did you become interested in Tech Theatre?
I was a late starter to working backstage as there was so little known about this work and courses out there that I wasn’t aware of a route into the industry. I took a BTEC in Performing Arts at Liverpool Community College and joined the Playhouse Youth Theatre.

During my first year at College I was lucky enough to gain the lead role in a Youth Theatre Play – Lillian in Bertolt Brechts Happy end which toured to the Edinburgh Fringe. While there I offered to support the backstage set up of another production we had also toured. I found myself more excited about setting up the other production than acting in Happy End. And so it began. When I returned to Liverpool Community College that September, I changed course to Technical Theatre where I studied for two years finishing with a Diploma in Production Technology.

What did you do before you taught at West Cheshire College?
When I left College, work was scarce and poorly paid so I set up as a freelancer working on the Liverpool Brouhaha Festival and for local schools, theatres and art centres. Along the way I decided to expand and so became ABER Lighting, Sound and Stage Specialists – my own business. During this time I was also approached by Liverpool Community College to help out in their Performing Arts department teaching technical theatre units to dancers and actors. I took on a teaching role and never looked back.
During my career I have taught at John Moores and Edge Hill Universities both as a guest lecturer and a part time tutor in Events Management and Technical Theatre.

My greatest achievements as a teacher are seeing the dream jobs my students go into and receiving the most wonderful letters of thanks from parents and students. In industry my recent achievements include; designing lighting and following a script in Welsh –when I don’t speak a word of Welsh. This however came with a plus side as I was able to sit next to Rhys Ifans (Spiderman actor) during a rehearsal. I have also had the absolute pleasure of being reunited with many of my ex-students while working alongside them on The Istanbul reunion at the Liverpool Echo Arena where I was Assistant Production Manager surrounded by ex-players from my beloved team Liverpool Football Club.

How did you end up at West Cheshire College?
The Technical Theatre course at West Cheshire College started 13 years ago when I arrived and began teaching part-time. I have been able to develop and shape the course into the success it is today.
I am still in touch with students from each year group and I am extremely proud of every one of them.
I love receiving updates on the career progression of ex-students. Over the past 13 years I've seen a number of ex-students set up successful large scale companies such as UK effects and MJD Productions and Events. One of our ex-students is also now the youngest senior technician on board Disney Cruises, which is a fantastic achievement.

There's a greatatmosphere within the Technical Theatre team and when we are all working on a show it is incredible. Watching students develop in their roles from operators to designers and assistant stage managers to production managers is very rewarding.

Why would you recommend the Technical Theatre course at West Cheshire College?
Past students grades and their career pathways demonstrate that we are successful in placing students into jobs and connecting them with a network of contacts for life. Ex-students and staff remain in contact and work alongside each other long after the course is completed. Students have access to a 30 metre events space and a state of the art theatre with a full truss rig so students can experience rigging and de-rigging large scale installations on a regular basis. The College equipment is on par with Universities and staff are connected professionally with a variety of local and national companies to ensure input and work experience for students. 

Students studying with us are timetabled for 3 days a week but as in industry must be committed to work longer hours than this often with early starts 8:30am and late finishes 10:30pm or later. Some late nights are within College and others might be due to work experience externally. This is to help climatise students to the real world of Technical Theatre where late nights and long weeks form part of our spectacular industry.

We have lots of opportunities and reward reliability and enthusiasm with additional work experience which can often be paid. Trips include local theatre backstage tours, meeting practitioners from industry, PLASA (convention for our industry) and shows.

The current teaching team is made up of myself and Mike Dunn (Owner of MJD Events and Productions). Mike is an ex student who went onto LIPA gaining a degree in Technical Theatre and now owns his own successful business. We are a disciplined, enthusiastic and friendly team who will always welcome new students no matter what their level of knowledge is.

Click here for more information on studying Tech Theatre and Events at West Cheshire College.

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