Mathilde Johnsen took over the role of Barron Manager towards the end of first semester. Alex Mullarky spoke to her about the job. 

On paper, what does the role of Barron Manager entail?

The Barron Manager sits on the Mermaids committee and chairs the Barron Subcommittee. I manage bookings from both Mermaids shows and rehearsals as well as from other groups and societies, trying (trying!) to make everyone happy. Then I get to yell at people if they leave rubbish in the theatre, block fire exits or trail paint into the Development Office (although our Tech Officer Dan is quite good at that too); and as much as I enjoy spending my time worrying about fire exits, it is also part of the job description since Mermaids’ continued running of the theatre is contingent on all of that being in order.

Basically the Barron Manager needs to make sure the theatre is as easy and safe to use for as many people as possible, performers and audiences alike.

mathilde In reality, what’s the worst part of your job?

With the Byre closed and the Union redevelopment, the influx of bookings for this semester has been quite massive – 18 Mermaids shows at the moment, plus the odd poetry reading, music gig or launch event. All this activity is terribly exciting, and few days in the coming months will pass without an event in the Barron – but you can sometimes forget that, once you’ve spent 5 hours straight doing a preliminary schedule for two weeks worth of bookings.

 And the best?

I very much enjoy having a physical theatre to work with; it means that the scope and variety of tasks I work on is large, and I have to strike a balance between making things work today and considering medium- and long term planning on how to improve the theatre. It is also nice to see a bit more of all the Mermaids production teams, hearing how things are going, and having some small part in all the great plays which go up in St Andrews. Also, people seem to become extraordinarily friendly and helpful come booking deadlines.

What do you plan to do differently in your time as manager?

One of the first things I wanted to work on was making sure the space was used as efficiently as possible; a publicly available Barron calendar on the Mermaids website (www.mermaidstheatre.com) makes it easier for producers to find available times, and we are now booked most days from noon or earlier until 11pm.

Secondly, I would like to change the Barron from being simply a ‘venue’ to being a proper theatre in people’s minds. We need to raise awareness of its existence (for a building right next to the Uni library, it is surprisingly obscure outside Mermaids circles), and make sure that the plays, gigs and exhibitions we offer appeal to many different audiences. Using the Barron Facebook page (facebook.com/barrontheatre) is one aspect of that, another is the idea of “what’s on at the Barron” type posters, as well as trying to establish a slightly more visible entrance of some sort.

Thirdly, I have been working with the Barron subcommittee and the rest of the Mermaids committee on various ideas for how to improve the Barron more fundamentally. Our Set & Props Manager Caroline has been doing an amazing job sorting through all the odd items contained in the depths of the Barron props room, and a general overhaul could be useful in many areas. This is obviously a work in progress, but we hope to be able to make some visible improvements with minimum disturbance to our many users.

Alex Mullarky

Image credit: Mathilde Johnsen