“Hold on, just let me email this woman who keeps phoning me…”
If ever there is a dull moment on Stage Door, it’s not long until a bright one happens along – or a drastic one, or a funny one, or one that’s just plain strange.
Such has been the rhythm of Linda Eavis’ working life for the 17 years she has been on Stage Door at Lighthouse where she and the team are the first and last people seen by performers, crew, contractors, staff and visitors alike. There’s not much that goes on at Lighthouse that doesn’t involve Stage Door at some level – it’s where you’ll find the glue that holds everything together.
“I love it, I really do,” says Linda. “I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t. We’ve started to say Lighthouse is different every day and it really is for us; it’s exactly that.”
Her job title is Stage Door Assistant but spend ten minutes talking about it and it’s clear that also encompasses tourist information, car parking director, concierge, confidante, counsellor, logistics manager, diplomat, receptionist, PA, foreman, traffic controller, emergency responder and no doubt dozens of other jobs all rolled into one Lighthouse team member, with a perma-smile on their face.
“We don’t really see audiences, but other than them – and the Leisure Painters who are almost mythical creatures to us because they come in the front door – we see everybody in and out of the building. And that’s for Lighthouse and the BSO.”
Unsurprisingly it’s a very different job today than it was when Linda started here. In those days theatre shows would arrive and get-in on a Monday, open on Tuesday and run until Saturday when there was a get-out ahead of the next show arriving the following Monday.
“That rarely happens nowadays, it’s more one-nighters. When they were here all week you used to get to know people a bit. Kate O’Mara used to crack me up – she always wore huge sunglasses no matter what time of year it was. She had this shopping trolley and when she went out she’d say: ‘Oh darling, need anything at Sainsbury’s?’
“Generally, people are really nice. They’re going to work; this is their job. The amateurs get more excited, but I like it when I bump into someone I’ve seen on and off for years on other shows, it’s like meeting an old friend.”
There are good days and (very few) bad days. There are also long days and sometimes very long days. If there’s anyone in the building there’ll be someone on Stage Door and if a get-out takes longer than expected, or there’s a get-out followed by a get-in and a floor change in between that can mean whoever’s on night shift hands over to the early morning shift.
Emergency responses tend to be co-ordinated through Stage Door, as they were when water from tanks above the theatre flooded the building a few years ago. A 999 call was followed by calling in senior managers and with characteristic cool heads order was restored to Lighthouse, a few shows were cancelled or rescheduled and relevant communications issued.
“That was a bad day,” says Linda. “We don’t have many of them, but things do go wrong from time to time and there’s usually a way we can deal with it without fuss.
“I’m sure people don’t realise half of what goes on at Stage Door, but that’s OK, it probably means everything is under control. There are times when it’s quiet, but at other times everything happens at once. That’s when you have to think on your feet, stay calm and be very organised while remaining friendly, professional and on control.”
So, what makes a good Stage Door Assistant?
“Other than showing the basics of answering the phone and giving out passes, it’s really difficult to train anyone to do the job – most of what you learn you have to pick up just by doing the job. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it’s probably more fun now than when I started simply because I know more so I’m more confident I can deal with whatever crops up.
“And I like that.”