By BRUCE DENNILL
When a volume is this slim, it’s fair to harbour suspicions that the word “ultimate” in the title might be somewhat aspirational.
However, do not let the physical stature of the book – or indeed, that of its author – mislead you in any way. In both cases, there is an astonishing amount of wisdom (and, in Batzofin’s case, discipline and energy) packed into a compact package.
Beginners On Stage is, in essence, a bulked-up checklist of everything a theatre manager or an administrator for any similar event would need to take care of before launching a new production. There’s a lot to get through, too, far more than a non-insider would generally think of, even if the general framework of what was needed could be guessed at.
Batzofin’s first strength in putting this book together is her thoroughness. Though each chapter is short – as, necessarily, are the sub-sections under each heading – there is sufficient information here to allow a rookie with appropriate resources to put on a show without necessarily needing to consult any other source (in theory).
In that sense, the book is like a well though-out study guide; the sort of thing a smart student would distil a whole course’s worth of work into to allow them to access it conveniently and memorise it easily.
The second facet that makes this publication a stand-out is the discernible passion that comes through in the text, even though it is welded together with no-nonsense instruction and business advice. That combination gives the book the feel – inasmuch as plain black and white pages can have a feel – of a trusted teacher, someone who cares enough about your future to make sure you get properly to grips with what you need to know while still recognising that getting too technical or formal is going to have an adverse effect on your desire to try out the material you’re studying.
Batzofin did not write the book in order to make money. She makes it available for free (where she can) to youngsters studying in fields associated with the themes it covers.
Here’s hoping they realise the value of what they’re being given.
If you’d like to buy Beginners On Stage…Ask Miss B: The Ultimate Guide To Running A Theatre, it’s available for R100 a copy via AskMissB.com.