Working backstage in the Theatre

Working backstage in the Theatre

Roles behind the scenes

There are many jobs in the theatre that do not involve being on stage but backstage and many people with a love of the theatre business prefer to be involved in the background, doing jobs that are vital in keeping the show running smoothly and looking great. Drama schools run classes in all kinds of backstage and technical work, as well as dance and drama classes and students often choose to mix both types of class for a well rounded education.

So what jobs are available backstage in the theatre?

Props Manager
The props manager looks after the props department, buying props or overseeing their construction, then looking after them during the production, making sure they are in the right place at the right time. Theatres may have a stock of props that the manager is also responsible for taking care of and maintaining.

Stage Hand
Stage hands or stage technicians are responsible for moving scenery to the right place at the right time, a vital role in any production. Qualifications are not required for this role, but experience will go a long way, as will any electrical and carpentry skills which allow thestage hands to help out the carpenters and electricians.

Wardrobe Supervisor
The Wardrobe supervisor is in charge of the dressers and other wardrobe department staff. They work with the costume designers and make sure the costumes are clean, in good repair and on the right actors at the right time in the production. Costume complexity can vary hugely from play to play, and for smaller companies one person may cover the roles of costume designer, dresser and wardrobe person.

Lighting Designer and Technician
Lighting is an integral part of any production and the role of the designer is to make sure the actors and scenery are lit in a way that adds to the story and complements the action happening on stage. Lighting designers are often freelance and will design the lighting for the production then hand over to the lighting technician who will make sure the design is carried out.

Technical Manager/Director
The technical manager is in charge of the technical side of the production, from the stage design to the lighting and props; they make sure everything goes to plan. This role may involve managing a permanent staff of technicians or temporary workers that change from production to production. They may have to turn their hand to a range of tasks in an emergency, so practical, electrical and carpentry skills are all useful.

There are many backstage roles, all of which offer a varied and fun way to take part in a stage production. Experience is an important part of most of them, so anyone wanting to get a job backstage should gain skills wherever possible; help out with amateur productions or give a hand with the local schools drama classes for kids, doing makeup, costume design or lighting. Ask around at local theatres and be prepared to start at the bottom on a casual basis. Promotion to permanent, higher up roles is often from within the existing workforce.