In the Spotlight: Jo Baldwin
How long have you been a Loft member?
Since November 2009 after the national tour of Quadrophenia ended in Coventry. A friend working on the show invited me to work on the get-out and my time as a lampie began. I enjoyed it so much that my friend suggested that I should try local amateur theatre so off I popped and offered my services to the Loft.
How many Loft productions have you been involved with?
About seven so far as I can remember. The technical team are obviously involved in every show and we are all needed to pitch in to get it all done. It’s a continuous cycle from dropping the overstage lighting bars on the Monday after a show finishes in order to rig them for the next show before the set goes up, rigging front of house lanterns etc, plugging them all in (or patching as we call it), colouring them up, focusing, programming the desk, doing the technical and dress rehearsals, and then operating the show every night. And that is just the lighting!
Both lighting and sound designs are also needed for each show, which involves working closely with the director and attending rehearsals, then the sound effects need to be created or specially recorded, the speakers rigged and all the levels set. There is a lot to do on each show but it is rewarding to see it all come together.
When we occasionally get grumpy or feel unappreciated we threaten to turn the lights off and tell ’em they can do it in the dark...
What has been your principal area of involvement so far?
I started out as a lampie due to having a lot of friends in the trade but I am now getting more involved in the sound side. However, I am pure techie so it’s all backstage and I am usually to be found up a ladder somewhere or sat in the dark of the perch behind some soundproof glass!
Are you involved with other theatre groups/societies?
I was the Assistant Production Electrician on the National Tour of Haunted starring Brenda Blethyn earlier this year and am due to do several of the get-outs of Chess which is on tour at the moment having been revived by Craig Revel Horwood. It is hoped that it’ll be going into London’s West End next year, but if you can catch it on tour it is well worth a look as it is visually and technically spectacular. (Yes, I know, but I’m a techie so what do you expect me to comment on?)
Which is your favourite of the Loft shows you’ve worked on so far?
I really enjoyed Noises Off, it was really good fun to operate the sound for the show and kept me laughing from the beginning of the run to the end every time I saw it!
Have you experienced any backstage or onstage disasters?
I don’t think anything has ever gone hugely wrong in front of an audience; the rehearsal process is not without its hiccups, but after all, that’s what rehearsals are for.
Have you had any form of theatre training?
Nothing formal but I am picking up a lot as I go from various people I met while, and since, writing a dissertation on technical services in the theatre industry for my MBA that I completed last year. The dissertation was the start of my interest in all things techie and stemmed from a teenage stint in the Youth Theatre Group at Milverton Music Centre where I met a friend who has since gone on to become a successful lighting programmer. I am also learning from doing any pro gigs that I can fit in between my commitments at the Loft and work.
I’m starting to get quite handy with my quad spanner I think, and can be found getting rather grubby in a diverse range of places, including Bath Abbey which was quite an experience after working in theatres that have a large amount of kit already installed. I spent a large part of that day crawling around laying cables underneath a temporary stage in the transept. Apparently my lack of height makes me ideal for doing such things. I’m not convinced.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a Civil Engineer by profession but I’m currently working in waste management as a Technical Advisor, predominantly advising those involved in delivering the large amounts of waste infrastructure required to divert waste from landfill.
It’s a very demanding industry to be in at the moment as there is a lot to do with a shortage of skilled staff available, but it’s a good place to be riding out the current economic issues and it is incredibly rewarding to think about what we are delivering. I often compare it to the road building boom in the 1950s when the motorways were built. They had few, if any, design standards and those involved lived by the seat of their pants. I always wondered what it was like and am excited to be a part of something similar now.
Besides theatre, what are your main pastimes?
My lampie habits and my job pretty much eat up all my waking hours but I suppose going for long walks with my dogs might be eligible although that is less of a hobby and more of a way to keep them quiet!
What would be your dream show to be involved with at the Loft?
One that is lit using torches held by those on stage and with no sound track so we could have a little break!