Article: Theatre Work
This article covers the following jobs:
- Costume Designer
- Make-up Artist
- Stage Manager
- Theatre Attendant
- Theatre Lighting Technician
- Theatre Sound Technician
- Theatre Stagehand
- Theatre/Television Designer.
The job descriptions are only a brief summary. It is recommended that you do further research on jobs that interest you.
Some of the different careers in this area
Theatre/television designers design and supervise the creation of settings for theatre, television and film productions. They read scripts and then work out what the sets should look like.
Theatre/television designers make decisions about the size of sets, colour schemes and scenic features. They do careful research, for example, to make sure that any historical details are correct.
When they have finished their research they produce scale models and detailed drawings. They might find, buy or hire props.
To become a theatre/television designer, you are likely to need a degree in a relevant subject such as theatre design, interior design or architecture.
Actors and actresses work in live stage performances and/or recorded media such as film and television. Their job is to bring to life, as effectively as possible, the role they are playing. They use their own experience and emotions to help them portray characters.
Actors and actresses usually work under the guidance of a director.
Many actors and actresses have periods of unemployment between jobs. During these times, they may have to take on other jobs.
There are no minimum requirements for entering this career, but most actors complete a professional training course at a drama school.
Stagehands set up scenery, furniture and props, before performances and during intervals in performances. They may also raise and lower the stage curtain.
Stagehands are sometimes responsible for the basic maintenance of stage sets, furniture and props, as well as being involved in their construction.
They need good general fitness, because lifting, bending and climbing is necessary. No formal qualifications are needed for entry to this work.
Make-up artists do the hair and make-up for people in television, film and on stage. In television news and chat shows, most people only need 'corrective' make-up. This means tidying up their hair and putting some foundation on, so they don't look pale under the studio lights.
For drama and film productions, make-up artists use a wider range of techniques. They may need to make someone look older than they really are, or as if they have an injury or illness. For dramas set in a particular period in history, the make-up artist tries to recreate the look.
To become a make-up artist, you need to train in hairdressing, beauty therapy or make-up and then usually gain experience as an assistant. Entry to this job is very competitive.
Costume designers work in theatre, film or television production. They design costumes and pick accessories to suit particular characters and settings.
Before they start to design, they read the script and carry out detailed research, especially if they are designing period costumes. They then take measurements of the cast members and create the costumes.
They work closely with directors, producers, set designers and performers so that the designs suit the overall look of the production.
The usual route towards a career as a costume designer is to complete a degree or HND in a relevant design specialism such as theatre, costume or fashion design.
Theatre attendants carry out a range of duties. These include checking tickets, showing people to their seats and handling enquiries from the public. They also sell tickets, programmes and refreshments.
Attendants also have responsibilities for public safety in the theatre, which include checking that gangways and fire exits are clear, and ensuring that customers do not smoke in 'no smoking' areas. Cleaning duties are also part of the work.
No formal academic qualifications are needed to enter this work. Training takes place on-the-job.
Stage managers make sure that performances run smoothly and that lighting, costumes, sound, scenery, make-up and props are co-ordinated. Initial entry is usually as an assistant stage manager (ASM), which involves:
- obtaining and preparing props
- dealing with scene changes
- making sure that actors are aware of rehearsal times.
Progression is to the position of deputy stage manager (DSM). Tasks include:
- noting all script changes
- co-ordinating actors' actions with sound effects and scene/lighting changes
- calling actors/actresses for rehearsals and costume fittings.
During the performance, the DSM prompts actors/actresses and cues lighting, sound and technical stage effects. Both the ASM and DSM answer to the stage manager (SM) who is ultimately responsible for the smooth co-ordination of the performance. In large theatres, this involves working in a control box and using an intercom to communicate with lighting and sound technicians.
Many stage managers train at drama schools. Academic qualifications are not usually specified. However, entry is extremely competitive and many applicants have A levels (or equivalent) and practical backstage experience.
Theatre Sound Technician
In the theatre, sound equipment is used to amplify and balance the voices and musical instruments of the actors, singers and musicians. It is also used to provide sound effects and background music.
Theatre sound technicians set up and operate this equipment. This could involve:
- choosing the most appropriate equipment and the best positions
- rigging microphones and loudspeakers in appropriate places
- connecting cables to the sound console or mixing desk.
Some sound technicians find, or record and edit, suitable sound effects and background music. They can then prepare a sound plot with cues for when each is to be played during the show.
During performances, technicians operate the sound console to switch between microphones, or adjust levels between them to achieve the right effect. They are also responsible for cleaning, maintaining and repairing equipment.
Entry may be possible without formal training or qualifications. However, potential theatre sound technicians must have an aptitude for technical work and show that they have an active interest in theatre work.
Theatre Lighting Technician
Theatre lighting technicians are responsible for preparing, rigging, operating and maintaining theatre lighting systems and electrical effects. They work closely with lighting designers.
Lighting designers decide where the lights are to be placed, and plot their position on a lighting or rig plan. Using this plan, lighting technicians rig the lights, place coloured filters or gobos in front of the lights, and focus them.
During rehearsals, technicians help lighting designers create special lighting effects and write down lighting cues. Once productions are underway, they check that lights are working properly and are correctly maintained.
There is no set route into this career. However, some training and formal qualifications can give you an advantage.
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
Tel: 020 7379 6000
Tel: 0141 2482472
Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)
Tel: 020 7529 8794
Entertainment and performing arts news
Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT)
Address: 55 Farringdon Road, London EC1M 3JB
Tel: 020 7242 9200
Tel: 020 7452 3400
Stage Management Association (SMA)
Address: 89 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NL
Tel: 020 7403 7999
Society of British Theatre Designers (SBTD)
Address: Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup DA15 9DF
Tel: 020 8308 2674
National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)
Tel: 029 2035 3070