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Jason of all Trades

Wednesday 4 September 2019

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Jason of all Trades: Putting the "community" in community theatre

Without a doubt, one of the most important attributes of any community theatre employee would have to be their willingness and ability to take on other roles within the venue. At the crux of community theatre is a completely seasonal and diverse combination of performances quite unlike any other type of performing arts venue, from one-night-only music concerts and plays, to children’s theatre shows and even local art exhibitions. Anyone who has worked in community theatre would understand the importance of adapting to the venue’s diverse employment needs - from ushering to food & beverage service and beyond - knowing that it would not be possible for the theatre to sustain them in any one role for the long term.

On that note, we had the pleasure of chatting to our very own Jason Hopkins-Gamble, a community theatre all-rounder who has called the Frankston Arts Centre home for the last six years. Originally an actor looking for work, Jason knocked on our door in 2012 – and the rest, as they say, is history.  Performing a number of roles concurrently, from usher and head usher to front of house, café supervisor and even functions and events management, Jason has been instrumental in the delivery of projects as diverse as the Cirque pop-up restaurant and various art installations for Cube 37. And whilst all of our employees are accustomed to the inevitable multi-tasking that is required of their tenure, it is unlikely that any of them have diversified more than Jason.

We begin our interview upstairs in the McClelland Gallery Lounge, where it’s apparent that Jason knows everyone - from staff members to contractors and visitors - all of whom greet him warmly and enthusiastically in return. With the buzz of a local calisthenics competition taking place on the ground floor below, a young Mum and her two sons come up the stairs to seek some refuge from the chaos beneath us. Jason immediately engages the boys with a jovial “Hey, kiddos!”, before thoughtfully suggesting to their Mum that she might want to show her sons the lift around the corner - “which has windows!”, Jason gleefully points out.

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that Jason has even spent the last two years learning a number of important back of house processes. Having previously laboured for building sites, and equipped with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Jason took to this aspect of the theatre like a duck to water – spending time at the top of the fly tower, and observing as the technicians adjusted the 65-odd fly lines and counter-weights that are responsible for the all-important visual enhancements to a performance. As it turns out, Jason’s newfound technical knowledge came in handy only recently, during a regular shift as an usher when he was suddenly called upon to see if he could raise the curtain before a performance (in the absence of the flyman, who was a no-show that day). Jason promptly fixed the problem before returning to the front of house for his ushering duties – proving, as always in live theatre, that the show must go on!

As Jason reflects on his time so far with the Frankston Arts Centre, he is quick to note that he doesn’t have a favourite role here – rather, it is the sheer diversity that drives him to keep building his skill set and delivering an unparalleled experience to the visitors. “I’m like a wide-eyed kid with a sense of awe that never wanes” muses Jason, who said that the day he knocked on our door was just like coming home. And we emphatically agree.

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