Help and advice
We’ve put together this handy guide which should be useful for teams taking part as well as teams who are thinking about entering their first festival but want to understand what's involved.
If you then decide to enter the Festival, make sure that you find out as much as possible about the Theatre where the festival is being held. In particular, the size (width and depth) of the stage, the height of the proscenium opening, sight lines, type and colour of the stage curtains, and, vitally important, the lighting rig. Details of the theatre are given in the Technical Data Package but we recommend that you also contact the Mumford Theatre to arrange a theatre visit (for at least the director, the stage manager and the lighting person) and a discussion with the Technical Director at an early stage in the planning of your production.
You will be asked to complete various questionnaires giving details of your staging, lighting and sound plots. This is to enable the festival back stage team to anticipate any problem areas or potential conflicts on the use of technical resources.
The Technical Director is there to help but he is not expected to prepare your lighting plot for you – it is your responsibility to provide fully detailed lighting and sound plans to enable your play to be presented.
Detailed preparation for the performance on the Festival stage is essential. Ensure you make effective use of the space available. Make sure the cast are prepared to perform in a different type of theatre – if you generally rehearse and perform in a small village hall, the cast must be prepared to cope with the very different acoustics of a large theatre auditorium.
Make sure you know what colour the stage curtains are. A set, costumes, make-up and a lighting plot carefully designed to be performed in front of pale grey curtains can loose its effect if the stage curtains turn out to be black. The Mumford Theatre provides the choice of either full blacks or an open white cyclorama. There is also a set of light coloured mid-stage tabs which can be used if required.
Please complete and return the forms by the required deadline. Failure to provide the necessary technical information in a timely manner could result in disqualification from certain technical awards.
The Cambridge Drama Festival provides every group with a 50 minute rehearsal period on stage on the day of performance to carry out the full technical preparation and rehearsal. There may not be time for a full run through, so prioritise what needs to be rehearsed on the stage. Do not be over-optimistic about what you can achieve in that time, particularly working with a strange lighting board.
Think very carefully about the lighting plot. Any special lighting requirements will have to be set, all your lighting cues will have to be plotted and recorded. In addition, the cast will need time to familiarise themselves with the stage and test the acoustics, sound levels will need to be established, scenery and special effects will need to be organised.
Making effective use of the on-stage rehearsal time is vitally important – there is no second chance.
Dressing rooms & backstage
One dressing room at the Mumford Theatre will be assigned to each team. This room can be used by the team as their base during the day of their performance. Costumes, props and other non-valuable personal items can be left in the dressing room. Tea and coffee making equipment will be provided in each room, with fresh milk & sugar. A limited amount of space in the wings will be assigned for each group to store their scenery and equipment.
Any work on the set must be carried out during the 30 minute get-in period or during the team’s assigned rehearsal period. During the rehearsal periods, the auditorium, on-stage and back-stage areas are reserved for the exclusive use of the team rehearsing – members of other teams will have access to and from their dressing room but must be quiet and respect the privacy of the other teams.
For the performance itself, 10 minutes are allowed to set the stage (all scenery, furniture, stage props etc. must be set during this period) and, at the end of the performance, 5 minutes are allowed to strike the set. This may sound a short time, but it is amazing how much can be achieved with thoughtful design and careful preparation. An interesting set can often add significantly to the success of a performance – just because you are “on tour” does not mean that you have to perform in front of black tabs.
The stage manager’s desk is located in the stage left wing. It is equipped with a monitor providing an auditorium view of the stage and a communication system with the lighting & sound control desks. During the performance, full control will be passed from the Festival Stage Manager to the Stage Manager of the visiting team. The main front of house curtains can be controlled either from the Stage Manager’s desk or from the lighting desk.
The festival audience is very important to the festival, not only by providing an income to cover the costs of the event but also by responding to the performances of the teams taking part. It is very depressing to play to an empty house, so please encourage your friends and local supporters to attend the festival. Members of your team (cast and crew, at the discretion of the Organising Committee) will be provided with a complimentary pass for the day of your performance so that you can watch the other plays on that evening (subject to seats being available in the auditorium). We would encourage you to come along on other nights as well to see other plays in the festival and hear the adjudicator’s feedback. And of course we hope you will all come on the final night to find out who has won the awards and to receive any trophies that are awarded to you.