Belinda Gibson – Program Manager At The Glasshouse

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Meet the Program Manager – Performing Arts at the Glasshouse. During the course of her career, Belinda has ran the gamut of entertainment experiences – capably managing children, animals and celebrities with her trademark flair…

You moved to the Port Macquarie region in 2008 to take up the role of Venue Operations Manager at the Glasshouse. How have you settled into the region in that time?

I love it! I have always been a ‘big city’ girl, but with my background in touring shows, I’ve spent most of the last 16 years living out of a suitcase – leading a gypsy lifestyle. For a few years I didn’t even bother having a ‘place to live’. I kept everything in a storage unit and would pop in to change suitcases from summer to winter clothes on my way to or from the airport! The move to Port Macquarie gave me an opportunity to settle into a more normal lifestyle. Moving to a place where I knew no one was a little terrifying at first, but I was made to feel so welcome by the community – and now I really feel at home here. I often walk to work along the coast and think how fortunate I am to live in a place that is so stunning. I have seen many towns around Australia and overseas, and Port Macquarie is truly beautiful. I feel so privileged to live and work in this region.

What have you enjoyed most about your work so far at the Glasshouse? 

Since we opened, visitation through the Glasshouse and attendance at our shows, exhibitions, kids’ programs, education programs and heritage events has been rapidly increasing. I am so lucky to work with a team of incredibly talented and committed people, all constantly working to give our customers a great experience and even more things to see and do. It is extremely satisfying to have been with the Glasshouse since its early days and be able to see the success the centre is becoming in the industry and amongst our local patrons. The Glasshouse has very quickly developed a reputation in the industry as being one of the best venues in Australia and with Port Macquarie being such a gorgeous place to visit, we now have theatre companies booking years in advance to secure dates to get here. Our 2012 season will showcase Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre; these are two of Australia’s best contemporary dance companies with very limited time to tour Australia, so it is amazing for us to get them both and a real sign of how well regarded the Glasshouse has now become.

In your  new role as Program Manager – Performing Arts. Describe your new day to day activities?

My previous position as Operations Manager was about solving the logistical challenges associated with running a facility as diverse as the Glasshouse. My new position is more focused around the shows we program across our Subscription, Morning Music and Holiday Seasons. This involves negotiating the deals with promoters, producers, arts companies and touring bodies, a lot of contractual paperwork, funding acquittals, managing the touring teams’ needs while in Port Macquarie and an almost obsessive harassment of our box office staff for daily sales figures. I am really looking forward to delivering a season of shows in 2012 that will continue the success of our past programs, but also allow for a lot of new choices. My aim is that there will be something for everyone in the Glasshouse program. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you like dance, drama, music or comedy or even if you have never been to the ‘Theatre’ before – there will be something there for you to come and see.

What challenges you in this role? 

My biggest challenge at the moment is getting people to understand that coming to a night of live entertainment is as accessible as going to the movies. It is not for the elite – it really is for everyone. I think a lot of people build it up to be a big thing that is ‘not for them’, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if you come in a ball gown or board shorts. The aim of live performance is to get people to come out and engage with other people, experience something new and have a good time! It really is that simple. In 2012 there will be opera, drama, and classical music, but there will also be comedy shows, kids’ shows like the The Gruffalo’s Child and Happy Birthday Peter Rabbit (who is 110 years old next year!) and live music from people like Katie Noonan. I work in the business, but I don’t pretend to love absolutely everything – we all have things we like and things we don’t. I really try and encourage people to check out, work out what interests you and come see that!

Tell us about your backround performing arts? 

Before starting at the Glasshouse, I spent 16 years working as a freelance Stage Manager, Company Manager, Tour Manager and Producer in the professional live entertainment industry. I had an interest in drama at high school, but never really understood it could be a career! It wasn’t until my third year at university, when I was sensibly studying a science degree, that I discovered there was a whole industry around the performing arts. I auditioned and was successful in gaining a place at NIDA in the Technical Production course, which focuses on the management of performing arts product. People often hear that I trained at NIDA and expect me to be an actor – I can confidently say I have no talents in that area! I‘ve worked with companies including Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, the Conservatorium of Music, Legs on The Wall, and Hi-5 and have done everything from dance, drama, live music, children’s entertainment and physical theatre. From working in the performing arts sector, I ended up in major event management and ran large scale public events for a few years, such as the Sydney Australia Day celebrations across Hyde Park, Macquarie Street and Circular Quay and a major outdoor cinema across summer – the Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park. I’ve worked with children, animals, actors, dancers, musicians, divas, acrobats, even Pope John Paul II, and survived. I truly believe you just have to grab every opportunity as it comes along and constantly look for new challenges.

Where have you toured, and what have been the highlights?

I have toured many times around the Australian metropolitan and regional areas and much of New Zealand, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. Sadly, my knowledge of most towns is limited to the airport, the theatre and the hotel! There are many touring war stories and most involve actors that have gone missing, trucks that haven’t arrived an hour before curtain up, audience members who die before interval (even then his wife didn’t want to leave the theatre, because her husband really wanted to see that show!) and the continual challenge of cultural and language barriers. I was once doing a job in Seoul and trying to call cues to the lighting, sound and staging crew over headsets; not surprisingly, they only spoke Korean, and I don’t speak a word! We started with an interpreter standing next to me, but she took so long to interpret the cues into Korean, that the show was practically over by the time she had asked the lighting operator to dim the house lights! I ended up working out that if I spoke a few key words of English in what I thought was a particularly brilliant Korean accent – then they could understand me, and away we went! After a few days I got a reputation amongst the Australian and American teams working on the show that I could speak fluent Korean! I only ever really mastered “thank you” – “kamsamnida.”

Good manners travel everywhere.

Thanks Belinda.

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