£12,000 + per year
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.
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.
Full-time stagehands could earn between £12,000 and £15,000 a year.
However, many stagehands work on a freelance or casual basis. Pay rates can vary widely. You could negotiate your rate based on the type of production and your own experience and skills.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
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.
If you want to progress into stage management or technical work like sound or lighting, you might find it useful to take a course in technical theatre or stage management before looking for work. Relevant courses include:
- BTEC Level 2 and 3 Certificate/Diploma in Production Arts
- BTEC Level 4 HNC Diploma and Level 5 HND in Performing Arts (Production)
- degrees and foundation degrees in stage management or technical theatre.
You should check entry requirements with individual colleges or universities.
See the Creative Choices website for more information about careers in the theatre, case studies and networking opportunities.
Training and development
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
See the Association of British Theatre Technicians website for 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 Drama UK website.
See the Related careers job profiles list for more information about technical theatre and stage management.
Skills, interests and qualities
- physical fitness and stamina
- the ability to work well as part of a team
- a patient and flexible attitude
- the ability to work under pressure
- a head for heights
- good awareness of health and safety
- an interest in theatre and live performance.
Stage Management Association
89 Borough High Street
Tel: 020 7403 7999
Association of British Theatre Technicians
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9200
Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Creative Choices (Careers)
You could work for theatre venues, TV or film studios, touring theatre companies and large-scale concert tours. Freelance work is common.
Some jobs may be advertised in The Stage or on crew recruitment websites, but it is also common to find work through word of mouth.
With experience, you could lead a crew of stagehands and scene builders, or become a production carpenter. You could eventually progress to tour manager or stage manager.
You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:
Job market information
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