A Day in the Life...of Jerry Knight-Smith

A Day in the Life... of Jerry Knight-Smith

Our Town Rehearsals, Royal Exchange Theatre. L-R: Patrick Elue (George Gibbs) & Norah Lopez Holden (Emily Webb). Photo: Stephen King
Our Town Rehearsals, Royal Exchange Theatre. L-R: Patrick Elue (George Gibbs) & Norah Lopez Holden (Emily Webb). Photo: Stephen King
jerry knight-smith


By Jerry Knight-Smith, Head of Casting and Associate Director of Royal Exchange Theatre


Date Published: 15 September 2017

Well, as I spent most of last week in London, either in auditions or seeing shows (Follies & Lions And Tigers I particularly enjoyed), there is plenty to catch up on today back at Manchester HQ. As for anyone else in this business the idea of a typical day is absurd but the irregularity is part of the attraction to the job. Isn’t it? Planning, time management and the ability to be in two places at the same time are key skills. I don’t have a casting department as such but I do have are wonderful Associate Casting Director in Vicky Richardson who works with me on a part-time basis on most of our shows. We have several projects in play currently including Guys & Dolls, directed by Royal Exchange regular, Michael Buffong (of Talawa Theatre). It’s the largest professional cast and also the longest contract I’ve ever put together in my 20 years in casting at the Royal Exchange.  As I plough through my inbox, I am liaising with her by phone today as she runs final recalls for a central role in that.

I am also fixing auditions with director, Katy Rudd, for an exciting new play called The Almighty Sometimes, one of our 2015 Bruntwood Award winners (the 2017 round of winners will be announced at our grand ceremony here on November 13th); checking actors’ availabilities for an upcoming co-production (details I cant reveal!) and setting audition dates in October for another large production (a new adaptation of a classic this time) directed by Associate A.D., Matthew Xia. There are also contracts to draw up and send today (we completed casting on two shows just last week) and a string of calls to agents to let their clients know they unfortunately haven’t got the part (not a highlight of my job but something we’ve always made a point of doing here).

Downstairs in our rehearsal room I will check in later with the 20+ strong company of Our Town which Sarah Frankcom opens next week in the Main Theatre. It’s a production with a large community ensemble element (our Young Company, Company of Elders and local community choirs) which in turn will be staged in quite an experimental way. Their rehearsal time on stage (rather than the rehearsal room) is critical now for putting the jigsaw together.

There are the regular internal meetings (Management & Programme Planning etc.) to attend today too. I’m planning next theatre trips, here in the North West and elsewhere for the next two or three weeks (daren’t commit further as the diary has to remain fluid) and getting ready to nip down to London tomorrow evening to attend the Access All Areas event at Channel4 about working learning disabled and/or autistic performers. (With colleague, Amit Sharma, we set up a group for D/deaf & disabled actors in the North West recently and I’ll want to report back to them what I’ve learned…) I also won’t leave today without my daily check in with our Company Manager – our ‘building based’ jobs are obviously very close linked.

Down the list, there are new drafts of scripts to photocopy, self tapes to upload to Vimeo and maybe I’ll get round to tidying my office before I leave. But maybe not. One of these days…

Most importantly I’m going home in time to cook, eat, chill and Skype my daughter in Edinburgh who’s just started at Uni there.

The cult of ‘busy all the time’ is too easy to be drawn in to – make time for life too!


Our Town, Royal Exchange Theatre - Wylie Longmore (Professor Willard). Photo: Stephen King
Our Town, Royal Exchange Theatre - Wylie Longmore (Professor Willard). Photo: Stephen King
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