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Student success during placements at ACCA

Claudia and Stefan outside ACCA

Two undergraduate students recently spent eight weeks working alongside the production team at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

Claudia Penna Rojas and Stefan Evans, both third-year BA Drama, Theatre and Performance students, completed work experience placements for a dissertation-level module during February and March.

Here they share more about their time at ACCA.


What did you do during your placement?

Claudia: The official title was production assistant, so we did a variety of different things across two days per week. Very little of what I ended up doing was admin. Greg, the Production Manager, was really flexible. He discussed with us what we wanted to get out of the placement. I’m really interested in stage management, but I had little experience with sound and lights. Greg got me started with technically easy events - a couple of film screenings and conferences. I’d set up, do the lights and run the AV equipment, so I could learn the basics and move up to more challenging events.

Stefan: Our interests tended toward different things, but we managed to get an even spread of experience across stage management and production. I approached it more from the perspective of a performer.

What was one thing you learned during your placement?

Stefan: Probably my biggest takeaway from the placement was being able to talk to technicians and other production staff efficiently and to convey artist demands in an effective manner. I think that’s an essential skill. If I want to direct or write, I need a clear understanding of how these pieces fit together.

Besides communication, it would probably be the ability to rig lights and design a lighting state for a show. You have to understand lights, the temperatures, the qualities of lights. It’s hard to do without guidance. So that was a pretty amazing skill to pick up.

Claudia: One of the biggest things for me was the way you communicate, especially somewhere like ACCA that is mainly a receiving house. You have all these performers coming in. There are people who have been travelling for weeks away from home and you want them to have the best experience possible. It’s about making sure everyone feels welcome and takes away a positive memory.

What was it like working in production at a professional arts centre for the first time?

Stefan: Brilliant. The people here are so open and willing to help.

Claudia: Yeah. Also, you get such a wide scope of experience because a variety of things are going on all the time. I got to work on more traditional theatre as part of Brighton Festival, and then we had some really abstract performers coming in with an intricate set, and then we had a conference. The placement gave me a better understanding of all the steps that go into a production – from before the performers come in until the moment they leave.

Stefan: You often don’t see that, because production is the grease in the machine of theatre.

Claudia: If you want to put on a show you need to know the process you actually go through. If you want to go into the industry you need to have those skills or at the very least be able to communicate what you need.

How did you find your placement overall?

Claudia: I loved it. It’s the best thing I’ve done in this degree. For me it was a massive thing as well because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after uni. This was so helpful – it was such a well-rounded approach. I feel like I can do basics in everything now and everyone at ACCA is lovely!

Stefan: It was brilliant. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and the kindness the staff have shown us. Their patience really stuck out to me - obviously we messed up at times!

Would you recommend the experience to other students?

Claudia: Massively. Certainly for someone interested in theatre production I can’t think of any placement that would have been better. It was really good.

Stefan: If you like a hands-on approach, then this is second to none. We were in the field the whole time. Nothing really beats that real-time experience and the liveness of the theatre.


Greg Mickelborough, Production Manager at ACCA, said: "ACCA is an amazing resource at the heart of the university's campus, and because of this position, I’ve always believed it’s hugely important for us to offer professional work opportunities to our students.

“Claudia and Stefan quickly became integral parts of our team here - professional in attitude, open to challenges and really keen to learn and experience all they could in the limited time they were at ACCA. I am without doubt they will both go far, and hopefully their work experience at ACCA will help shape that future in some way.”

Dr Jason Price, Head of Drama, commented: "Through our work placement module, students gain invaluable experience in professional arts and educational institutions, including the National Theatre, the Live Art Development Agency and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. Students gain degree credit and CV-building experiences that help better prepare them for professional life after Sussex. As Stefan and Claudia’s recent experiences demonstrate, students find these opportunities both exciting and important."

Now that their assessments are finished, Claudia is looking for more experience in production, while Stefan is preparing to start a Masters in acting at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Visit ACCA’s website to learn more about upcoming productions and events.

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Monday, 1 July 2019


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