Putting on a Show: Production Team

Introduction

This page introduces you to production team roles in H.A.T.S. Please either read it in sequence, or skip to the role that most interests you: Stage Mgr, Designer, Set Painter, Set Build, Stage Crew, Lighting, Sound, Costume, Props or Makeup.

Stage Manager

What is involved: the Stage Manager (SM) organises and runs the entire Production Team - he is the Director's right-hand person back-stage. (Note in many groups the SM is a female, but for simplicity we shall use the term 'he' in this piece.) As well as organising, he will also do things; this will vary depending on his personal skills. In H.A.T.S. he probably is more involved in set design and construction and less in lighting, costume and set painting.

Once the Dress Rehearsal is over and the performances start, he or she is in absolute control of the running of the Show, managing the back-stage staff, controlling set changes, cueing performers and coordinating with lighting/sound, props and the front-of-house team.

The Stage Manager is also responsible for fire evacuation of the building, if alerted of a fire by the lighting department.

What experience is needed: lots!!! He needs in-depth experience built up over time before engaging in this demanding role - at least one year working within HATS backstage crew. As well as practical skills, he needs a special sort of personality - calm, authoritative, non-confrontational, organised, focused, good at working with people and superb in emergencies. He also need to be resilient - the job is physically and mentally hard work!!

Convinced this is you? Then apply now - good Stage Managers are very difficult to come by!

How much time will it take: Quite a bit, depending upon the type of show - pantomime/musicals take more time than a play or review. He will be planning with the Director long before the show is cast, then starting set construction in line with the set-design and thereafter he will seem to be forever in the Theatre. He attends all rehearsals and, of course, performances. His time commitment can be similar to the Directors'.

 

Set Designer

What is involved: Works with the Director to design a set that meets the artistic needs of the production in a practical way. Important to achieve this well before rehearsals start, so the cast and directors can 'use' planned entrances as part of their moves. In H.A.T.S. the designer is often also the stage manager.

the supports ready to construct a rostrum covering two-thirds the stage!Our Sets are often a combination of flats (large movable free-standing canvas structures on wooden frames with part of the set painted on them), dropcloths (a number of large canvas rolls at the back and front of the stage which have a complete background painted on them, different ones for different scenes) and rostra (aka rostrums - wooden structures used to create platforms or semi-permanent structures on a set - see left. Some have metal components).

Like Directors, Set Designers like to put their 'stamp' on the Set, making each new one better and more exciting than their previous design.

What experience is needed: Clearly extensive stage building experience coupled with artistic flair.

How much time will it take: the design phase will be intensive, but not last too long. There will be many meetings with the Director as well as set builders and painters; of course the designer may also share these roles.

 

Set Painter

What is involved: paint the flats and dropcloths (see above) for each scene. An immensely skillful job, as the H.A.T.S. panto scenery demonstrates, requiring coordinated decoration of flats, dropcloths and rostra to provide a picture of the scene with a suitable sense of perspective.

What experience is needed: high-level artistic sense and skill with the paintbrush. To watch a member of the H.A.T.S painting team create a credible three-dimensional picture with, seemingly, very few strokes of the brush, is an awesome experience.

How much time will it take: as much as you can spare. There is an enormous amount to be done, but it is shared between many people. You may expect to attend one evening a week plus any other time you can spare. Near the performance there is an inevitable rush.
 

Set Builder

What is involved: working with the stage manager/set designer to construct any rostra, large props and special pieces needed for a show.

What experience is needed: nothing specific, but you do need to know the difference between a nail and screw! Can involve some hefting of heavy pieces, so make sure you're comfortable with that.

How much time will it take: as much as little you can spare. There can be much to be done, but it is shared between many people. You may expect to attend one evening a week plus any other time you can spare. Again, near the performance there is an inevitable rush.

 

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Stage Crew

What is involved: moving scenery and large props and furniture on, off and around the stage during scene changes and raising/lowering dropcloths and someone has to take charge of the curtains. Doing this all calmly, quickly and quietly.

What experience is needed: none, but as it can involve moving heavy pieces quickly and quietly, make sure you're comfortable with that. It helps to have a good sense of humour, an ability to take orders and a disinclination to panic. It is a great way to quickly get involved in a Show, especially as on-the-job training is provided!

How much time will it take: In itself not too much, although people often share this role with set construction. The stage crew attends every performance and some rehearsals, however this is usually rostered so you need not come every night if you don't want to.
 

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Lighting

What is involved: another highly skilled job, for the full member of the lighting team needs a blend of artistic, electrical and practical skills. Their job is to design the lighting plot, in conjunction with the Director, to ensure that each set is lit to create the right dramatic mood. They also do special effects, e.g. flashes.

Having agreed the overall design, they must acquire any extra equipment, setup the lights in accordance with the overall plot (position and colour) and plan and set the lighting changes for each scene on the 'lighting board'.

'On the night' they operate the lighting board, changing lights for each scene. There are also operators needed for the 'follow spots' (the powerful searchlights that follow some actors).

Finally they must be alert to change and emergencies; particularly the lighting department is responsible for alerting the Stage Manager if there is a fire and instigating fire evacuation procedure. Once alerted the Stage Manager is responsibile for clearing the building.

What experience is needed: lighting in a complex job, that merits a whole page to itself. There are really three types of skills involved:

  • Designers - with artistic skills and an understanding of the capabilities of the equipment.
  • Electricians - those involved in wiring must be suitably qualified electricians and properly supervised.
  • Operators - again a blend of artistic and practical skills, tracking the action of the play and moving the follow-spot as actors move on stage.

Often one person may take all these roles.

How much time will it take: quite a lot, depending on exact role. There is much preparatory work, you will attend many rehearsals in final weeks, and most performances (although however this is rostered among many people).

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Sound

What is involved: you will have to prepare sound effects and music and then on-the-night ensure they are produced exactly as required. You will have to set up and operate sound reproduction equipment needed. This role is usually operated by the lighting team..

What experience is needed: a similar blend of artistic and practical skills to the lighting team, although not as demanding and less electrical. However dealing with the spaghetti-like tangle of sound cables requires a unique level of patience!!! Modern sound-effects require familiarity with the Web and sound-editing tools, like 'Audition' or 'Cubase'.

How much time will it take: in itself one of the roles demanding less time. Some preparation, many rehearsals in final weeks, and most performances.

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Costume

What is involved: as one of a team of ladies (men are not excluded, as long as they can sew and talk at the same time) you will produce costumes for our productions, either from scratch or by modifying current costumes. Costumes must sometimes be produced for heads hands and feet, which can present interesting challenges! There can be as many as 150 costumes for a panto!

During performances you might also be involved in the dressing rooms, to help actors dress and find that costume they 'had yesterday!', also to perform first-aid on damaged costumes.

What experience is needed: as a junior member of the team, nothing specific to the stage, but sewing ability is key. A calm approach will help - but even this may not be enough when someone has torn the same costume for the third time!

Those involved in design and cutout will need artistic flair and imagination and the ability to translate that into designs. They also need the 'people skills' of an international negotiator - mediating between the needs of the director, the actors and the costume team!

How much time will it take: as much as you wish to spare - the team works one/two nights a week during the four month rehearsal period of a panto, becoming more frantic as performance time approaches.

Most work in the Theatre, but same people take pieces home to work on.

 

Props

What is involved: props are responsible for the furnishings and smaller items that go on the Set as well as the 'personal properties' (e.g. wands) that are used by individual actors. There is often an overlap between the props team, costume department and the stage crew.

The props team beg, borrow or (hopefully not) steal the items they need, or they have to make it! Having sourced it, props then ensure it is available on-set in the correct position or with the actor for every performance.

What experience is needed: little direct experience, but you need to be good at making things, able to persuade people to lend things, well organised and tidy and able to walk a neat line between the needs of the actors and those of the stage crew. Acting experience helps in that respect.

How much time will it take: the preparation phase can take much time, depending on how much is required. You then need to attend performances, shared between those involved on a roster.

 

Makeup & Wigs

What is involved: although most make-up is put on by individual actors, specialist makeup (e.g. 'King Rat', Aladdin's Genie, or most Dames) requires help. The makeup artist will attend performances to do this and to help with the Dame's wigs.

What experience is needed: clearly a skilled job - you need an artist's eye, a surgeon's dexterity and a hairdresser's line in chat!

How much time will it take: least of all (although it may not feel that way), maybe 2 hours each performance plus a few rehearsals.

 

Refreshment

You're probably wondering why we didn't have a separate link for refreshments. In truth, it is because the post is not available. It is taken by Joan, and we're very happy with her thank you! Besides, it may be difficult to find someone prepared to provide about a thousand cups of tea, with biscuits and cakes during the panto performances!!!! Although Joan is always grateful for a helping hand.

Now see

Further details about Performers or Front of House or return to the Overview