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Stage Technician


Description

Stage technicians perform a wide variety of technical tasks in the theater industry. They may work as carpenters, electricians, props assistants, costumers, painters, grips, video engineers, motion picture and still camera operators, sound technicians and lighting technicians. Stage technicians serve as equipment operators during technical rehearsals and performances. They ensure that the lighting and sound equipment used are in proper working order, install and maintain stage lighting and related technical systems, operate sound, lighting, communication, and stage equipment, and perform routine repair work as needed. The stage technician is the jack-of-all-trades having general technical skill in many areas.

They are primarily responsible for effecting scene changes in the main theater whilst the performances are in progress. There are several ways of achieving scene changes without actually moving traditional scenery. Most changes are carried out by simply carrying furniture on and off stage or possibly changing a floor covering. It is essential that stage technicians set things in exactly the right place on stage as lights may be focused on pieces of furniture and actors may rely on furniture as part of the action in a scene. Therefore, they use very small tape marks for each piece of furniture and, if necessary, using different colored tapes for different scenes. If a scene change takes place in darkness, then many technicians use luminous tape to mark the positions and also to mark steps or obstructions so that people don't have accidents.

Other scenery and furniture may also be moved mechanically. Some mechanical systems are manually operated, requiring a person to turn a winch handle or move a lever, whereas other systems are powered by automated computers. More and more, computers will replace more hands-on, traditional methods to control machines. Another form of mechanical movement is flying. Peter Pan is the most famous example of flying on stage.

Stage technicians are responsible for maintaining inventory records. They are responsible for checking out, renting, or requisitioning all equipment needed for production and construction. Stage technicians work as constructors, doing lighting as well as some possible administrative work. Once the lighting technicians have placed, aimed, and adjusted the lights, stage technicians set up the equipment used to cast shadows necessary to achieve desired effects. Stage technicians may also unload the parts of the set that come from storage and place them for the carpenters or prop-makers to revamp. Also, whenever the sets need to be reassembled from storage, technicians will do it.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Stage technicians must be solid team players. They should be able to adapt to a variety of production styles and deadline requirements. Stage technicians must keep up with changes in technology and in the industry. They often move heavy equipment and set up difficult sets. Due to the physical nature of the job, stage technicians must be strong, in good shape and have the ability to work with their hands. The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy working with tools and equipment on tasks requiring precision. They need to have a basic knowledge of carpentry, including tool use, wood and metalworking. Computer skills are also a good idea, with the fast pace of technology these days.

Stage technicians should also be really comfortable with heights. Setting up scaffolds is always done at a considerable height. Finally, patience and the ability to work through to deadlines are essential skills for stage technicians, who are often required to work long hours.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Determine set specifications and discuss set-design requirements with production personnel
  • Climb ladders and scaffolding to set up proper sets and stages
  • Transport and position stage fixtures and props
  • Change scenery between acts and scenes according to script
  • Move and dismantle sets, backdrops, scenery and other stage equipment
  • Test apparatus to ensure proper functioning and safety
  • Pickup and deliver equipment and supplies
  • Prop up phony set walls and background scenes
  • Provide their own tools normally used in the trade
  • Stage technicians will work long days and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends. They must arrive before the production to set up, work during the scene changes and dismantle when the play is over. Consequently, stage technicians must remain flexible in their work availability. They almost always work indoors.
  • There are various occupational hazards are connected with this job. Sometimes sets fall on stage technicians causing considerable damage and lights and light fittings can also fall. Occasionally they bump their heads against low hanging fixtures or trip over the many wires that lie on the floor during filming. They can also get splinters, injuries from boards with nails, and suffer other cuts and bruises. They normally bring their own tools to the set and wear safety shoes.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Stage technicians may be found across the country and around the world working in television, theaters, films, concert halls, civic centers, auditoriums, sporting arenas, and other similar facilities. They may also tour with musical groups and theater companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for stage technicians? A stage technician usually starts out as part of a basic crew and then works up through various theater levels to stage manager or production manager. Many technicians decide to specialize in a particular area and then become new career professionals as a scene or lighting designer, art director or pyrotechnician. Many theaters promote from within, although there is a lot of interchanging between theaters depending on how many productions are going on. Advancement is a slow process and may take many years since openings are few. In fact, advancement really comes in the form of an increasing pay level, based on growing professional status and recognition.
 

  Educational Paths  
There are no standard educational training requirements for becoming a stage technician. Education and training in carpentry and rigging are helpful. Many go to theater school as well. Volunteering and apprenticeship work are always great methods of gaining experience along with making the right connections. Learning directly from stage technicians is the most valuable experience.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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