Passionate about theatre and its practices, Rebeckah Astles first attended Queen Margaret University (QMU) to study BA Costume Design and Construction. In 2018, keen to further explore the inner workings of the world of theatre, she returned to QMU to study MA Stage Management.

Here, Rebeckah explains more about her love for the industry, what drew her to the course, and how it's impacted on her chosen career path.


Student Name: Rebeckah Astles

Course: MA Stage Management

Hometown/country: Scotland

Year of course: 2018/19


About you

Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.

I get fairly invested in the theatre projects I work on, usually unable to turn my brain off when I get home, meaning a lot of what I do in my free time is theatre-related. Working in theatre is genuinely a labour of love for me so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If I do find myself twiddling my thumbs, more often than not you’ll find me with my nose in a book, curled up watching a movie (but I caution anyone who is watching it with me, I will talk about everything from the costumes to the cinematography whilst doing so!) or writing.


The course

Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?

I studied my undergraduate in Costume Design and Construction at QMU. In both my undergraduate and postgraduate, there were few courses available in the UK - let alone Scotland - that looked to provide such a specialist and personable environment for learning, or that encouraged students to be influential in their own learning.

The MA in Stage Management offered a unique opportunity to not only engage with the practical and academic aspects of stage management but give a comprehensive overview of the technical departments of sound, lighting and AV (to name a few). The MA seeks to produce practitioners who are not only successes as individuals but essential communicators and facilitators in the context of a theatre production process. As someone passionate about theatre and its practices, there couldn’t have been a better course to be a part of to become a successful practitioner.


Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is such a special city to live in. It is a city proud of its rich history and culture, and it provides a wealth of opportunity for people interested in theatre. Most notably, the Fringe Festival in August delivers ample chance to get stuck in and experience a vast wealth of performances, whilst the likes of the Lyceum and Traverse are leading theatres in producing new and exciting works right in the heart of the city.


What have you most enjoyed about your course? What has been your highlight?

Make no mistake, the MA course is a full-time commitment but that is one of the many reasons why it’s so wonderful. Full weeks of classes ranging from sound design to practical lighting exercise mean you are being exposed to the world of production and its design in a way you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Full-time classes also mean that you build a close support network with the handful of students you are learning alongside, absorbing as they do and cheering each other on as you progress.


What have you learnt, or which particular activity has been the most interesting?

Stage management is a fairly new field of academic study but, having been fortunate enough to already have carried out two placements, I have learned that it is such an essential part of creating theatre.

Being immersed in the professional theatre process has allowed me to see the difference that being competent in the language of the lighting designer or sound designer can make and has made me passionate about the comprehensive training of future stage managers.


How have your lecturers supported your learning?

Every single lecturer, whether a guest or full-time, has more than supported my learning by simply being fanatical about what they do. They have made sure to create a learning environment that encourages questions and personal growth, treating each student as an individual.


What have been some of your challenges with the course and university life? How have you overcome them?

No one tells you the difference a year can make in remembering how to write an essay. You forget how a lot of your time writing an essay is second-guessing your own thoughts, opinions and analysis. There isn’t a lot written on stage management and this only makes things harder, relying on your personal experience of the field which, in my case, is rather limited!

However, take it an essay at a time, remind yourself that you do in fact know what you’re talking about, and that your perspective is important! In the case of this course, rest assured that that no matter how stuck you get, there are lecturers there who want to help because they want you to achieve.


Did you take part in a placement as part of your course and if so, what was your experience?

At a minimum, by the end of the course you will have carried out four placements. I am fresh from my second placement at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and can’t begin to recommend the experience more. Placement allows you to get stuck in and see everything you’ve learned in theory be put into practice. It can be daunting, but like your lecturers, the people you’re on placement with are there to help you learn and develop in your field in a professional capacity.


Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

As I mentioned before, the MA in Stage Management really is a full-time investment, but it is completely worth it. If you come to classes with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn you will be rewarded with a wealth of experience you would unlikely find anywhere else, make friends with people who will be your unyielding support, and meet professionals who want to cheer you on in your journey.

Additionally, don’t be put off by lack of experience in any of the technical departments or even in stage management because I can assure you, anything you don’t know on the first day you will learn along the way!


What are your plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?

Before starting the MA in Stage Management, I was convinced that a stage manager on some big, commercial musical was where I dreamed of ending up. However, having been a part of a Scottish production theatre’s creative and technical team has made me realise that that’s where I want to be in any capacity I can.

Being part of a storytelling process, especially when that story has something to say about society, culture or the nature of humanity, is hard work but utterly rewarding. I enjoy being a part of a team that creates together, is there for each other when the days are long and will toast one another for their achievements when it’s all over.

Still, I have another year of my MA in Stage Management to go and a world of opportunity to hopefully experience and learn from, so who knows what might happen!?


Life as a student at QMU

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

If you are fortunate enough to be a university student, you are not only being given an amazing opportunity to learn but explore who you are and who you want to be in a supported environment.

Whilst handing in the assessments and engaging in class is important, so are the experiences you’re offered through the friends you make and extracurricular activities you participate in. It is so important make sure that you look after yourself as a person, not just a university student.

What has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at university?

University is about more than the classification that you get on a certificate at the end. It’s about taking the opportunities you are given and applying yourself to the best of your ability. A mark on a piece of paper is great but it doesn’t define who you are or what you are capable of as a person.


[Published May 2019]

"Every single lecturer, whether a guest or full-time, has more than supported my learning by simply being fanatical about what they do. They have made sure to create a learning environment that encourages questions and personal growth, treating each student as an individual."
Rebeckah Astles, MA Stage Management

Culture and Creativity

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