What to Expect Working Backstage in Theatre

We want to clarify some facts about working backstage in the theatre. While the performers are in the spotlight, the backstage crew guarantees they shine. Backstage workers ensure all the moving pieces and parts come together for seamless shows. Still, the work required to put on a musical theatre production (and the fun that goes along with it) is often vastly underestimated.

Common Roles Backstage in Theatre

The diversity of the roles available backstage in theatre may surprise you. Common opportunities to take part in musical theatre productions include:

  • Props Manager – Buys props or oversees their construction and makes sure they are in the right place at the right time. Some theatres have a stock of props that the manager is also responsible for taking care of and maintaining.
  • Stage Hand – Also known as a stage technician, this role is responsible for moving scenery to the right place at the right time, a vital role in any production.
  • Wardrobe Supervisor – In charge of the wardrobe staff and works with the costume designers to be sure the costumes are clean, in good repair, and on the right actors at the right time in the production. Costume complexity varies, and for smaller musical productions, one person may cover the roles of costume designer, dresser, and wardrobe supervisor.
  • Lighting Designer and Technician – Makes sure the actors and scenery are lit in a way that adds to the story and complements what’s happening on stage. Lighting designers typically hand their design over to the lighting technician to ensure it is carried out.
  • Technical Manager/Director – They make sure everything goes to plan, from the stage design to the lighting and props. This role may involve managing a permanent staff of technicians or temporary workers that change from production to production.

Career Path for Working Backstage in Theatre

A degree beyond a high school diploma is not necessarily required for roles working backstage in a theatre. However, many people do opt to get undergraduate degrees in technical theatre. Typically, these roles are employed on a per-show contract basis allowing you to work on multiple musical theatre productions should you choose. However, many midsize and large theatres use the same backstage crew for each show.

Many working backstages are part of the IATSE labor union (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).

Getting Started Backstage

Work experience counts backstage, so if you’re interested in these roles, we recommend getting started by assisting or apprenticing in local musical theatre productions and/or acting classes. However, even if you prefer to be on stage, learning the ropes of working backstage in the theatre could give you a leg up.

Multiple musical theatre productions occur in our Roy E. Barberi Theatre throughout the year, providing opportunities to explore various roles onstage and backstage. Being part of these musical theatre productions could give you experience and the ability to build a professional portfolio.

Contact us today to learn more about musical theatre productions at Expression City!