OPINION: Searching For The Phantom

Saturday, September 07, 2013

DRTCC’s  entrance, foyer, bar and Theatre auditorium are commonplace for theatre attendees. They are easily accessed and comfortable to navigate. However, there lie areas beyond the access of the general population, areas which even after more than three years of having keys to the building I am yet to explore.

I decided it was time to break out of my ticket box, combine my passion for photography and urban exploration and see what hidden treats I could discover around DRTCC.

This is what I found.

Thursday 29 August, 2:36pm

Camera in one hand and keys in the other, I enter the most familiar part of the Theatre: the foyer. I decide against a trail of breadcrumbs and stash my mobile phone in my pocket in case I cannot recall from which direction I came. I ascend the stairs to the mezzanine level and continue through the first of many ‘Authorised Personnel Only’ boundaries I am destined to cross. This one is adjacent to the Door 3 entry into the auditorium.

I enter a small room and climb the narrow stairs with only an ultraviolet light to guide me (it also helps to locate many specks of dust on my clean black shirt). As the stairs end and the room opens in front of me I gain perspective thanks to the large window opening overlooking the stage and theatre auditorium. I have briefly been in this room before but it still feels foreign.
The Bio Box is home to a large desk with many numerous black and coloured knobs for lighting and sound adjustments. Adjacent rooms on both sides house large spot lights and the room farthest to the right allows access to further stairs to soar higher above the auditorium. Given my psychological hesitance to navigate areas of great height I decline my instinct to explore the catwalks high above the audience seats.

I exit the lofty room and continue through Door 3, descending the familiar stairs along the side of the theatre auditorium. Beyond Door 4 and down a few more stairs there is another door again marked ‘Authorised Personnel Only’ and I enter then follow a narrow corridor.

If I hadn’t already trodden enough stairs already, this corridor would make sure I did. After a short passage, there are stairs leading down to a short platform then subsequent stairs ascending to another door. Through the door I see a bright light and unfortunately I have found myself on the exterior of the building along Carrington Avenue and a few metres from the stage door at the rear of the building.

It looks as though I will have to commence my journey from the back of house.

Thursday 29 August, 2:53pm

I re-enter the building from the stage door and make my way past the dressing rooms and through the doors leading to the loading dock. This area often houses large props and stage equipment but, more importantly, it is the workplace and office of three DRTCC technical staff.

Adjacent to the stage manager’s office, there is a roped doorway revealing stairs leading below the dock and stage areas. At the bottom of the stairs lies a workshop. Paint, tools, coloured gels and film are neatly sorted and stacked along the walls of the benches.

I descend a further short flight and arrive under the Theatre stage. Currently used as additional storage, this is where musicians load their instruments onto the orchestra pit, where large props have found a permanent home and where the mirror ball sits alone against the far wall.

Behind this room, moving further away from the Theatre auditorium there is a door leading to an infamous cavity, one which I have yet to see for myself. This is the room with no floor.

The door creaks as I open it and my impressions are swamped with a waft of cold, stale air. Apart from having no floor, there is also no ventilation. Unable to find the courage to enter too far without allowing the door to close behind me and afraid I may be trapped here and become part of a Theatre tragedy I hold firmly on the handle and quickly retreat back into the relative comfort of the narrow hallway.

Following the long hallway and back past the workshop, I notice a small half-sized-door (unfortunately not leading into Wonderland) which enters into a large room that has found purpose as storage. Moving past the door and further along, underneath the Macquarie Auditorium stage now, there is ample storage currently housing large exhibition panels, chairs, dining tables and newly purchased dining chairs.

Opposing the direction of the excessively large painted ‘Exit’ sign, a doorway leading to a dark, musty room grabs my attention and I enter. A few random items from balls and galas gone-by occupy the corners of the room and propped against one wall is a large frame housing a commemoration to Her Majesty’s visit in the early nineties.

Apart from another feeling of myself portraying an extra in a horror movie, I quickly remove myself from the eerie room and now follow the painted exit sign into the Convention Centre hallway, past a cleaning cupboard and into the familiar sight of the Macquarie Auditorium.

Thursday 29 August, 3:18pm

After my short journey, it is easy to see why these areas are off limits to unauthorised and unsupervised persons. While everything has a place and appears to be in it, there still lie many hazards. While today’s exploration has been interesting, there are few areas here where I will need to visit again to fulfil my current role. They are areas that exist for both specific and undefined purposes and even those whose job includes travel to these areas seldom go there.

There are limited occasions where members of the public are granted access to areas. Being involved in a local production may involve backstage and control room access. Volunteering as an usher can transform a performing arts enthusiast into ‘authorised personnel’. But the most convenient way would be to attend one of DRTCC’s rare Open Day’s... one such occasion may just be approaching!


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