Stagehand Job Description
Stagehands must perform a large amount of behind-the-scenes labor in settings where performances take place. Examples include building, placing, and changing sets; setting up sound systems, lighting, and props; and completing miscellaneous duties related to the production they are working on. Some stagehands may have to join a union, especially those who work in TV and film. Part-time and on-call work hours are common in this profession, as are irregular hours that can vary depending on production scheduling.
Stagehand Duties and Responsibilities
Although a stagehand’s daily duties and responsibilities vary depending on employer, there are a set of core tasks that are generally expected of those in the profession. Based on our review of job listings, these core tasks are:
One of the most common tasks of a stagehand involves managing the set. Depending who is performing — such as a theatre company or a band — the stagehand needs to know exactly what set equipment the performers need and where to place it on the stage. In between sets, the stagehand is responsible for making adjustments to the sets, as well as breaking down the equipment after the show.
Although there may be sound technicians in charge of the sound, stagehands typically assist as needed. For example, they ensure that equipment is plugged into the correct sources, help set up monitors, and assist the sound manager with sound levels.
Assembling support structures, attaching lights, running electrical cords, and adjusting the lights as needed are all core tasks for a stagehand. Although large productions may have a lighting manager, for smaller productions, a stagehand may be solely responsible for the lighting.
Performers may need assistance with receiving their costumes or changing into difficult costume pieces. They may also need stagehands to bring them special props or track down other items they need.
Signage is an important part of any production, and a stagehand is often tasked with this responsibility. Stagehands hang banners, update marquees, and handle other signage within a venue.
As part of stage maintenance, the stagehand may need to remove any trash in waste containers as well as sweep the stage floor in between shows.
Stagehand Skills and Qualifications
Due to the wide scope of duties a stagehand performs, they need to be ready for anything. Employers also desire applicants who have the following abilities:
- Technical skills – technical skills related to lighting, computer presentations, and sound are all helpful for a stagehand to possess
- Planning skills – the ability to prioritize work activities, plan ahead for resource needs and develop realistic plans of action to accomplish set goals is key[NM1]
- Physical Ability – while working as a stagehand, frequent standing, reaching, climbing, stooping, kneeling, and crawling will be required
- Construction skills – when assembling or disassembling a set, construction knowledge is helpful, such as the ability to understand how things are put together and what tools are needed
- Interpersonal skills – as with any job that requires hustle and accuracy, tensions can run high. Stage manners need tact and patience when communicating with others, as well as the ability to admit mistakes
- Dependability – because production schedules can change or run longer than expected, a stagehand needs to be willing to work more than his or her assigned hours, complete all assigned tasks, and notify the appropriate person if an alternate plan is needed
Tools of the Trade
Stagehands frequently use the following tools and equipment in their work:
- Stage lighting
- Professional audio systems
- Basic video systems
- Microsoft applications
Stagehand Education and Training
At the very least, a high school diploma or equivalent is required to hold a stagehand position. Some employers, however, prefer a two-year or four-year degree. Additionally, some employers will require that stagehand applicants possess several years of tour and stage production experience to qualify for a position. People who take on volunteer stagehand roles at the high school or university level or work in general contracting roles can gain valuable experience for this career.
Stagehand Salary Information
PayScale lists the national median annual salary for a stagehand as $37,128, with a median hourly wage of $17.85. A stagehand in the 10th percentile earns approximately $21,444 a year (or $10.31 an hour), while the highest paid in the field make $69,097 a year ($33.22 hourly).
Stagehand Helpful Resources
Researching a career thoroughly before making the leap is the best strategy. We’ve done some of the legwork for you by providing the best industry resources for stagehands.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE) – the IATSE represents members in all behind-the-scenes areas of live theater, movie and TV productions, trade shows, concerts and equipment and construction stores.
National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) – the NABET-CWA, which is a division of the Communications Workers of America, serves as a labor union. It represents approximately 12,000 employees who work in the areas of TV, radio, film, and media production.
Stagehand 101: A Comprehensive Guide – written by Kenny Barnwell, this guide provides everything you need to know to become a knowledgeable stagehand who can stand up to the competition when applying for jobs.
The Backstage Handbook: An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information – written by Paul Carter, this book is full of reference information, formulas, and other technical facts that proves valuable to any aspiring stagehand.
Stage Rigging Handbook– author Jay O. Glerum describes each type of rigging, how it functions, and how to inspect it. This book is the go-to source for information about the operation and maintenance of stage-rigging equipment.
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