A dispatch from Tasmanian back roads with touring stage manager Ellen Roe
Terrapin’s 2022 schools show The Paper Escaper began its season at the start of term three. We have already visited 39 Tasmanian schools and performed 55 shows and by the end of the season, we will have reached around 107 schools and performed 123 shows in every corner of the state. By this point, we are well under way and settled into touring life.
There’s no doubt that touring presents its challenges: the repetition of daily bump in/bump outs and performing the same show multiple times a day as well as working and often living with the same three other humans almost exclusively for five months. But on the other hand, touring provides new and exciting avenues of exploration within our community. We meet countless people, visit parts of our state we would have never knew existed and endeavour to discover the best cafes and bakeries across Tasmania.
So what does a typical day on the road looks like? We meet at the van every morning (who we have decided to call Terry – the van always needs a name). We generally arrive at the first school at about 8:30am to load in, get to know the layout and then bump the set in. We’ll perform our first show at 9:30am, hold a Q&A afterwards and then begin the load out, or prepare for the next show if we are staying at the same school for the day. We then do it all again for either an 11:30am or 1:30pm show, then pack up and travel back home for the night. The days leave us pretty exhausted, but we never cease to end the day on a high, often quoting kids as we drive home.
The thing that continues to make the long days worthwhile is the students. The hundreds of kids we see every week are what make every show as exciting as the next and they never fail to provide us with copious amounts of energy and some excellent comments which I keep track of for the amusement of both the cast and company (some recent highlights: the kids let out a united gasp as the finale started, yelling “holy moly!” “That is the coolest!”, and a question afterwards – ‘What is the purpose of the incinerator other than for mayhem and destruction?’). The range of responses we receive from the kids always keep us on our toes and it’s a rarity when we aren’t stormed at the end of a show by eager and curious students wanting more answers to their never-ending questions.
One particular student comes to mind, whose name was Henry. We had noticed his teacher had held him aside at the end of the Q&A and was waiting patiently to talk to us. She asked us if Henry could have a closer look at the puppets as they were his ‘thing’. He told us that he loved making puppets and giving puppet shows almost every lunchtime for his fellow students and teachers and that they were his favourite. As the team gave him a backstage tour and showed him how each puppet worked, Henry became more and more talkative and curious and you could just tell that this was a day that would stay with him, possibly forever. Not only do these shows leave students feeling inspired, but they also give teachers an excellent avenue into creative work in the classroom. A teacher once said to me after the show ‘the whole afternoon is cancelled, we’re going back to the classroom to just make!’
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