1.) What is the most memorable event from your 10 years at the New Theatre?
I have actually had this job for 11 years, and early on I in my post I met Prince Charles when he came to visit the Theatre, that still probably is the most memorable event for me. He was very nice.
2.) Did you always want to work for the theatre? How did you get the job?
Not really I was working in the Council as an administration manager and saw the job advertised. I then had 3 interviews the final one in this very office and got the job
3.) What were you like at school Girly swot or trouble maker? Were you ever sent to the head?
My husband would probably say that I was a girly swot. I was deputy head girl at my school but I could get in trouble for speaking out when I saw things that were wrong.
4.) Is the theatre haunted? Have you seen the ghost/s?
With a building with this much history and heritage there are going to be stories and some people think that there are ghosts here. However in an episode of Doctor Who ‘The Unquiet Dead’ the theatre had 'ghosts' flying around the theatre with Charles Dickens (played by Simon Callow) on stage. Actually they turned out to be aliens wanting to take over the world rather than Ghosts
5.)We are looking at set design in school, what was your favourite set design? Why?
I do not get involved in stage design except as a customer watching it. The Welsh National Opera did a lot of fantastic set deigns when they were based here. They would end their tour here and the set would be built especially to take full advantage of the theatre.
Probably the most impressive set for sheer wow factor was built by Theatre Clwyd for their King Lear, it went right to the back wall and over the orchestra pit and 6 rows into the seating too. It was raked/sloped upwards and had rain and wind blowing across the moors too, that was spectacular.
6.) Who is the nicest person you have met at the theatre and why?
Penelope Keith, sometimes actors are not quite the characters we see them playing on stage or TV, but Penelope Keith always plays the lady on stage and she is an absolute delight a lovely lovely lady.
7.) What does the theatre do to recycle and save energy?
Lots, as you walked in you passed a lot of different recycling bins for paper, aluminium and plastics we do a lot in the office from recycling paper and ink cartridges to switching off lights, we recycle outside too with waste from the public. Our technical manager is responsible and he makes sure that no one does anything without thinking about saving energy or recycling (Susan pointed out to us the recycling bins in her office too)
8.) What would you most like to change about the New Theatre (such as more parking, size) and what’s your favourite feature of the theatre?
The theatre interior is lovely and has a lot of character, but I would like it to be more accessible for wheelchair and disabled users. There are steps everywhere. And whilst we have set up wheelchair access to some parts of the theatre I would like it to be throughout.
9.) How do you decide what shows to put on and for how long?
We have to think ahead and if you look at our board you can see we are working on 2012 already. First we need to find out what is available by ringing and discussing ideas with producers, once we have agreed the price, we start marketing it to the public and produce brochures and posters. Even then it can get cancelled and we have to find a replacement at short notice.
The production company set up the show on a Sunday ready to run the following night, it is amazing to watch how quickly the sets are loaded and unloaded into the waiting vans there is a lot of planning involved in doing that needs to be done.
10.) Do you think that the New Theatre’s 100th Birthday was celebrated enough in the city?
We did advertise as much as we could and held a special evening in which we invited people who have helped and supported us over the years, it was a very nice celebration. The Council sets the priorities and the budgets accordingly, some felt that more could have been done.
11.) Has the recession affected attendance, how?
In the past downturns have not affected us, I know that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had a great effect in London’s theatres with Americans reluctant to travel abroad, but it did not directly affect us. With all the headlines of recession doom & gloom in last year’s media actual attendances went up, probably so people could escape the headlines to cheer themselves up. But the people did not buy the best seats which normally go first and “Ancillary sales” (brochures, gifts, drinks) were hit.
This year there are signs of recovery and the Pantomime is always very popular.
12.) How did you celebrate your 10th year in the job? (A trip to the theatre?)
I did not do anything special the time goes very quickly. Every day id different and you never know what you are going to do when you come to work. One day I had a call from Mr Edward Windsor who turned out to be Prince Edward trying to get me to book his production, I did not book him, but you never know who is going to ring or what problems you have to sort out.
13.) Do you get to see all the shows? Would you like to/rather not? What was the first show you went to? (what was it like?)
Yes I can see the shows if I want to, normally I will see them especially if there was a problem with it; in which case I will see it more than once. But even when I go with my family I cannot switch off from work mode and tend to look at it all – the production, the safety aspects- with a critical eye in case of complaints. It is not often I can switch off and just sit back and enjoy the performance for what it is.
14.) Who was the most demanding guest/performer at the Theatre… that you can tell us about?
All performers can be demanding in their way but you have to understand that whilst it sounds a very glamorous job it is extremely hard work. A 20-30 week tour will have you going up and down the country with a different place each week so you never quite settle in, you are away from your family and friends apart from the occasional visit. To be honest I cannot believe that anyone would want to choose that way of life.
So if do have a strange request from a performer you have to understand that it can be quite important to them, and we do try to help when we can. But we did have a request to fit a Jacuzzi in the changing room for Julie Goodyear (your mums will know her as Bet Lynch from Coronation Street) but the rooms are only small even the star rooms and that was just not possible.
15.) What was your favourite show/performance? Why
My favourite show was “An evening with Peter Ustinov” it was a one man show where he would sit on the stage and tell you stories about his amazing life doing great impressions of people too. I had tickets in the front row and had met him briefly beforehand too so he recognised me and caught his eye. As he was talking he kept looking towards me and it felt like he was speaking just to me the whole 3 hours.
We thanked Mrs Lewis for her kindness and sparing the time to help us.