£15,000 + per year
Stagehands, or stage technicians, help to get things ready on set for performances in the theatre, at concerts and in TV/film studios. They can prepare everything from stage scenery and props to lighting, sound and camera equipment.
If you want a job with lots of variety, have good practical skills and can work as part of a team, this may be the career for you.
A common way to start in this job is to pick up casual work in a theatre or venue. Previous experience in school, college or amateur productions will be helpful. Practical ability in carpentry or electrics might also give you an advantage. You may also be able to get into this work through an apprenticeship.
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 hours and conditions
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 technical work is during the day.
You might work in one venue, or travel to different venues when on tour. The job can involve working at heights and has some heavy lifting.
Full-time stagehands could earn between £15,000 and £20,000 a year.
Many stagehands work on a freelance or casual basis. Pay rates can vary, with some based on industry agreements. 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 may be able to start in a theatre or venue as a member of casual backstage staff. You can contact a theatre's resident stage manager or master carpenter to find out about possible opportunities.
You don't need any formal qualifications to work as a stagehand. Stage managers will be more interested in your experience and practical skills. Any backstage experience from school, college, amateur or fringe productions will be helpful. You may also have an advantage if you have skills and experience in carpentry, electrical work, sound or lighting.
Another option is to start on an apprenticeship scheme, for example in technical theatre, set crafts or live production.
You can also take a college course, such as the Level 3 Diploma in Production Arts, which would cover some of the skills needed for this work. Check with your local college to see what they offer.
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 stage management or technical work like sound or lighting, you might find it useful to take a course in technical theatre or stage management. Relevant courses include:
- Level 4 HNC Diploma in Performing Arts (production options)
- foundation degree or degree in subjects like stage management or technical theatre.
You should check entry requirements with individual colleges or universities. You can search for courses at college and university level on the Drama UK and UCAS websites.
Skills, interests and qualities
As a stagehand, you will need:
- good physical fitness and stamina
- the ability to work well as part of a team
- good practical skills
- 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
Tel: 020 7403 7999
Association of British Theatre Technicians
Tel: 020 7242 9200
Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
Tel: 020 7346 0900
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:
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