Former West End dancer joins the team at Bungay's Fisher Theatre
Following a successful career as a West End dancer and show coordinator, 30-year-old Michael Stannard has hung up his dancing shoes to take on a new role at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay.
Michael Stannard spent his teenage years training to be a dancer.
Born and raised in Halesworth, he moved to London at the age of 16 to train at Bird College of Dance, and three years later started performing in the West End.
He moved to Florida to work as a show coordinator for PGT Entertainment, casting shows for cruises and teaching the routines.
He said: “I worked in America for four years and got to travel all over the world. We did everything from classical musical theatre, to pop to conceptual Cirque du Soleil.”
Mr Stannard then moved to Scotland where he set up MGA Company - a vocational dance and musical theatre college - before managing the National Centre of Dance for Scotland.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “I got to work on some really high calibre dance productions.”
After several years away, Mr Stannard returned to his roots in East Anglia, and while on holiday in Greece a few months ago, saw the vacancy for artistic director of the Fisher Theatre.
Keen to bring some of his experiences as a dancer and show coordinator to the community theatre, he applied for the position and is now in his ninth week as part of the team.
He said: “I was completely enchanted by the place from the moment I stepped in.
“I was quite speechless when they gave me a tour of the theatre and couldn’t believe I had never been here before.
“I knew the theatre was here but I didn’t realise the extent of what was happening inside.”
Mr Stannard will be working alongside Cory Minns, the only other paid member of staff who works as bar and front of house manager, as well as a team of around 60 volunteers who work on the bar, box office, as ushers or technicians.
He said: “Coming into a new job, especially when things have been working so well, is always hard, but for the last four or five weeks I’ve been learning everything from Cory and the volunteers and they have been fantastic. They are all so passionate and full of energy.
“I think I got the job because of my passion and ideas. I need to be challenged and this is the perfect role to challenge myself and to challenge the audience for a better experience.
“I know some people don’t like change, but I’m all for people having a variety of responses to theatre.”
The 2016 spring programme which runs from January to April, will include the first line-up of shows Mr Stannard has brought to the theatre.
“Because of my dance background I definitely want to bring more dance,” he said.
“Paul Daniels is going to be coming back to do a special show, Toyah Willcox will be bringing her new show and fingers crossed we will have musical theatre royalty here too.
“I’m very passionate about the delivery of new work and we are going to have live shows from the West End and Broadway on the screen.”
Mr Stannard has also arranged adult dance classes in tap, ballroom, Latin and musical theatre, which will start in January.
And as well as offering exciting shows on stage, Mr Stannard wants to make sure the theatre remains a place for the whole community to enjoy.
“I really feel that we not only need to be a theatre but we need to serve the community,” he said.
“So we should be showing screenings of the Bolshoi Ballet, but we should also be running bingo.
“I want it to be inclusive for all.”
One of the first projects Mr Stannard implemented was to get a new bar installed. The theatre was closed for a week and a half while the work was carried out.
“We have given it a modern feel with a wink to the Georgian era, and made it a bit more comfortable,” he said.
“It is a social space not just for people using the theatre but also as a working bar.”
The original pit underneath the theatre has also been refurbished thanks to funding from WREN. The cellar will be available for dinners, parties, music events and more.
And despite leaving the bright lights of London behind, Mr Stannard said he is looking forward to working in a smaller theatre.
“It’s lovely because you get more of an intimate feeling with the production and audience than you do at a large theatre.”
For more information and the full programme, visit www.fishertheatre.org