Stellar Quine of the Month: Shona Rattray

Shona Rattray

image by Eoin Carey

How would you describe your current job and what do you like best about it?
I am the Creative Producer at Birds of Paradise Theatre and the only full time member of staff. My job covers a broad range of activities from developing artistic and creative partnerships to company and financial management. I am responsible for communications both internal and external. I like the first day of rehearsals best, everyone in the same room, all my work as a creative producer starts to come alive and the intensive work in creating a show comes alive.
I also have the pleasure of sitting on the Board of Directors for Independent Theatre Council.

What’s been your best job in theatre and why?
I think the individual productions I have worked on are the most rewarding. It is difficult to select just one.  My top three:

Birds of Paradise’s The Man Who Lived Twice by Garry Robson, directed by Alison Peebles. I loved this show. It was a shrine to the glory days of theatre, to American playwright Ned Sheldon and a young John Gielgud, incredibly stylish.

Suspect Culture’s Mainstream by David Greig, directed by Graham Eatough. It was the most complex challenging and intriguing show I have ever worked on.

7:84 Theatre Company’s Caledonia Dreaming by David Greig – A dream production, a dream company and sunny summer tour throughout Caledonia!

How has the type of work that you do in theatre changed since you first started?
I trained in Stage Management at RSAMD and worked as a Company Stage Manager for a number of touring theatre companies in Scotland. I was fortunate enough to work with companies that toured in Scotland and Internationally. As a stage manager I was freelance and I spent a lot of time on tour. I was offered the position of Projects Manager with Birds of Paradise in 2005 and now I am Birds of Paradise’s Creative Producer.

What was your first ever job?
A berry picker. I grew up in Blairgowrie; berry picking was a way of life. I spent my summers with a luggie round my waist trying to get a suntan.

What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
That would have been meeting and working with Graham Eatough, David Greig and Nick Powell – collectively known as Suspect Culture. I was their Company Stage Manager and I had the pleasure of first working with them on Airport in 1996. The work that Suspect Culture were creating inspired and really challenged me. Through my work with Suspect Culture I was introduced to an amazing body of artists in Scotland and Europe.  I and toured extensively throughout Europe with them.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
I was based in Trieste, Italy with A Different Language a co production between Suspect Culture and Il Rossetti Teatro in Trieste and I was offered a job there. On occasions I ponder how different my life would be if I had taken that opportunity, but I don’t regret returning to Scotland. When I left Italy I started work at Birds of Paradise. My only mini regret is I would be fluent in Italian by now.

What do you like the best about working in theatre?
I think this is best summed up by this quote from the film Shakespeare in Love – “allow me to explain about the theatre business, the natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster… strangely enough it all turns out well.”

What advice would you give emerging women in theatre today who want to play a role in the producing side of a company, venue or show?
This is a difficult question to answer. I would say, take your time to develop as a producer, find your creative partnerships (don’t force them – the right meeting of minds will happen). Be bold and know what you want. We work in a really supportive business. Learn from both your peers and experienced practitioners alike. As a producer you need a broad knowledge of all aspects of production and company business. Know your strengths and recognise your limitations. Be confident without being arrogant.

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
My quine of the month would be actress Kate Dickie. She is beautiful, generous and veracious as a person and actress. She is fearless in the choices she makes on screen and the stage she is an inspiration to us all.

SQ of the Month