Building sets, helping create props and operating equipment, the backstage crew support the designers and performers with the running of the show.
What is the job like?
Backstage crew jobs can include:
- carpentry, to build and repair props and scenery
- construction: building the set, including any mechanical or moving parts, and making sure they work properly
- loading, unloading and assembling scenery
- operating moving scenery (traditionally the person who does this is a 'flyman'). Flying scenery is often not a job on its own, but can be a part of the role of stagehand or theatre mechanist.
How do I get into backstage work?
Routes into backstage work include:
- formal study (such as a BTEC national qualification in performing arts or a degree in stage management-related work)
- finding a theatre that can take you on as a Creative Apprentice in Technical Theatre and train you 'on the job'
- building up as much experience as possible in amateur and local productions
Backstage crew need to be able to unload scenery, maintain and repair the 'flying' equipment and scenery. They may need to raise and lower suspended scenery during a performance, operating the mechanical components of the stage. In smaller theatres where the flying systems are not mechanized, there can be a lot of physical labour involved.
For specific kinds of backstage work, like carpentry, you need to be good with your hands.
For specific kinds of backstage work, like carpentry, you need to be good with your hands. Science, drama, and design and technology may be useful school subjects to focus on.
Specialist backstage jobs, like carpentry, can be achieved either through training at drama school or university, or simply starting out at a low level and working your way up.
It is also possible to learn a technical specialism in a non-theatre setting, and then move into the industry. In all cases, building experience of making things, setting up theatre sets, and operating machinery is important. A broad knowledge of how theatre works is also useful.
In addition, you might find that a welding qualification could help you with jobs during get-ins and fit-ups (unloading and building the set in different locations).
You don’t have to be strong, but you do have to be quick, quiet and calm when working backstage. A head for heights may also help.