Sarah Nicholson is Executive Director at the Orange Tree Theatre
‘My role as Executive Director is administrative, meaning I am the person responsible for people and money! I oversee our production, theatre management and fundraising colleagues. My role kicks in as soon as Paul [Miller, Artistic Director], starts considering programme ideas. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a play, but it’s key to make sure it complements the programme for the entire year. The first thing is to find out if the rights for the play are available and then work on the financial and contractual negotiations.
‘Working within each budget is essential and, thankfully, our team is extremely diligent. For instance, our Technical Manager will communicate early on if he thinks a design needs further exploration to avoid comprising on the quality. Any overspend is likely to have knock-on effect on other areas.
‘The casting process begins a few months before a play goes into rehearsal, but it has to be worked around a director’s other work and will depend on the size of the cast and what kind of audition schedule is deemed necessary.
‘Collaboration is at the very heart of how good theatre is produced so it’s important that we work with other theatres and companies. On average, I’ll see each production three times, plus a run in in the rehearsal room before it goes into the theatre. It’s always fascinating watching a show evolve.
‘I have regular meetings with colleagues – we have a team of 14, 11 of which are full time – as we plan the short and long term future. Inevitably, an actor or a creative may be faced with something challenging outside of the production. It’s not possible to pre-empt but I believe it is part of my job to offer support. A highlight of the day is catching up with Paul as he makes me howl with laughter. I sometimes close our office door as I have quite a loud laugh!
‘I have been here for just over two years and it’s genuinely fun. I thrive on being surrounded by people wo make theatre. There is nothing we wouldn’t deal with on stage, so it means working in an industry that inspires open and inquisitive thinking.
‘I’d like people to think of the Orange Tree as a place to feel welcome and stimulated. My day often ends with me flying out of the door. I’m quite optimistic about how much I can achieve in a short amount of time and being so close to Richmond station means I often end up on the platform with seconds to spare!’