Stagehands in performing arts are the behind scenes support staff for a production. They carry out a wide variety of jobs backstage to ensure a production is successful.
The role of a stagehand
Stagehands, also known as stage technicians or crew, work 'behind the scenes' with props, scenery and special effects in theatres, concert halls and TV/film studios.
As a stagehand, your knowledge of exactly where and when to move objects and scenery would be a vital part of any performance. Your tasks could include:
- loading and unloading equipment
- helping carpenters to build and put up scenery
- attending rehearsals, to become familiar with every scene change
- moving scenery, furniture and heavy equipment during performances
- opening and closing theatre curtains between acts
- operating manual and automated scenery-moving machinery
- clearing the stage or studio and backstage area at the end of the performance.
You would work as part of a team under the direction of a master carpenter, technical manager or stage manager.
Working as a stagehand
You don't need any formal qualifications. Stage managers will be interested in your experience and practical skills.
As a stagehand, your hours would vary according to the needs of the show.
Most theatre performances take place in the evening, but you would also work in the afternoons during rehearsals or matinee shows.
In film and TV, most of the work is in the daytime.
You might work in one venue, or travel to different venues when on tour. The work can involve heights and some heavy lifting. You would wear black clothing during performances, for making scene changes in the dark.
Becoming a stagehand
You would often start as casual backstage staff. To find work, you could approach a theatre's resident stage manager or master carpenter.
You don't need any formal qualifications to work as a stagehand. Stage managers will be interested in your experience and practical skills, so it would be useful to have backstage experience from school, college, amateur or fringe productions. You may also find it helpful to have skills and experience in carpentry, electrical work, sound or lighting.
You will learn on the job from experienced crew. You may also be able to take short courses in skills such as:
- health and safety
- scaffolds and towers
- using hydraulics and pulleys
The Association of British Theatre Technicians have details of short courses for stagehands and other backstage technical staff.
If you want to progress into technical and production roles, you could take a technical theatre or stage management course at drama school or university. You can find a full list of approved courses (usually degrees or diplomas) on the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT) website.