Career Development

What Does a Stagehand Do?

Find out what a Stagehand does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Stagehand.

The role of a Stagehand is integral to the seamless execution of live performances and events, operating behind the scenes to ensure that every aspect of the production runs smoothly. This position encompasses a broad range of responsibilities, from setting up the stage and equipment before the event to managing quick changes and technical adjustments during the performance, and finally, breaking down the set once the show concludes. By collaborating closely with directors, performers, and technical staff, Stagehands help create the magic of live entertainment, ensuring that audiences are immersed in the experience without ever being aware of the extensive preparation and hard work that takes place backstage. Their expertise in handling props, scenery, lighting, and sound equipment is essential for the timely and efficient execution of live events, making them an indispensable part of the production team.

Stagehand Job Duties

  • Set up and dismantle stage sets, ensuring all pieces are correctly positioned according to the stage design plans.
  • Operate stage machinery, including curtains, backdrops, and platforms, to facilitate scene changes during performances.
  • Manage the placement and movement of props before and during performances, ensuring they are available at the correct times.
  • Rig and focus stage lighting, adjusting intensities and colors based on the requirements of the performance.
  • Control audio equipment, including microphones, speakers, and sound mixing boards, to maintain optimal sound quality.
  • Perform routine maintenance and repairs on stage equipment, including lighting, sound systems, and machinery, to ensure everything is in working order.
  • Assist in costume changes backstage, helping performers with quick changes and ensuring costumes are properly stored post-performance.
  • Coordinate with external vendors for the rental, setup, and return of special equipment or props not available in-house.

Stagehand Salary & Outlook

Stagehand salaries vary based on experience, type of production (theatre, concerts, corporate events), union affiliation, and the size and budget of the employing organization. Specialized skills in rigging, sound, lighting, or carpentry can also influence earnings, as can the length and timing of a project or tour.

  • Median Annual Salary: $51,975 ($24.99/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $79,500 ($38.22/hour)

The employment of stagehands is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by the increasing demand for live entertainment, including concerts, theater productions, and corporate events, which require skilled Stagehands for setup, operation, and dismantling of stage equipment, lighting, and sound systems, reflecting a resurgence in public appetite for in-person experiences.

Stagehand Job Requirements

Education: A Stagehand typically possesses a diverse educational background, with many holding Bachelor’s Degrees in fields like Theater Arts, Technical Production, or related disciplines. High School Diploma holders often complement their education with practical courses in stagecraft, lighting, and sound design. Those with Post-Secondary Certificates or Associate’s Degrees usually focus on specialized areas such as set construction, rigging, or audiovisual technology, gaining a mix of theoretical knowledge and practical skills relevant to the dynamic demands of stage production.

Experience: Stagehands typically enter the field with a background in various aspects of theater production, including lighting, sound, set construction, and prop management. On-the-job training is common, allowing newcomers to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of seasoned professionals. Many also benefit from participating in training programs or workshops that focus on specific technical skills or safety protocols. The role demands a blend of practical experience in theatrical or event productions, with a significant portion having spent a considerable time honing their craft through direct involvement in multiple projects. Adaptability, quick learning, and a collaborative spirit are key to thriving in this role.

Certifications & Licenses: No specific certifications or licenses are typically required for the job of a stagehand.

Stagehand Skills

Rigging: Knowledge of hardware and systems for safely suspending scenery, lights, and sound equipment above the stage is imperative. Stagehands in this domain meticulously plan and execute the installation and operation of hoists, pulleys, and motors, adhering to strict safety standards to prevent accidents.

Lighting Design: A keen eye for how light interacts with space, color, and movement to evoke emotions and highlight moments is crucial. Collaborating closely with directors and designers, stagehands in this field create lighting schemes that support the narrative and aesthetic of a production.

Sound Engineering: The ability to manipulate sound equipment to balance voices, instruments, and effects seamlessly is essential. Stagehands with this expertise troubleshoot audio issues on the fly, ensuring clarity and consistency throughout the event.

Set Construction: Combining carpentry, painting, and design skills to craft realistic and durable sets is vital. Working closely with designers and directors, stagehands in this area translate artistic visions into tangible environments that enhance the storytelling experience.

Prop Management: Organizational prowess and a deep familiarity with the script are required to ensure each prop is accurately placed for quick accessibility and scene accuracy. Stagehands in this role collaborate with directors and actors for seamless transitions and interactions on stage.

Special Effects Operation: Precision and a keen eye for timing ensure that visual and auditory effects are integrated into live performances to enhance storytelling and audience immersion. Stagehands in this specialty operate complex equipment and employ creative techniques to bring dramatic scenes to life.

Stagehand Work Environment

A stagehand’s work environment is dynamic, often shifting with the needs of different productions. The physical setting is primarily backstage or in the wings of theaters, where space can be tight and cluttered with props, costumes, and equipment. This necessitates a high level of organization and spatial awareness. Tools of the trade range from basic hand tools to sophisticated rigging and lighting equipment, demanding versatility and a continuous learning curve.

Work hours are irregular, aligning more with production schedules than a typical 9-to-5 job, including evenings, weekends, and sometimes holidays. This irregularity requires adaptability but also offers some flexibility. Dress code is practical, focusing on safety and mobility, such as sturdy shoes and comfortable, non-restrictive clothing.

The culture backstage is collaborative, with a strong sense of camaraderie but also a need for clear communication. Safety is paramount, given the potential hazards of working around heavy equipment and at heights. Noise levels can be high, and the pace of work varies, often peaking around showtimes. Interaction with a wide range of production staff is common, fostering a diverse social environment. Despite the challenges, the role offers a unique blend of technical skill, creativity, and teamwork.

Advancement Prospects

Stagehands, integral to the success of live performances, have various advancement paths within the theater and live event industries. Starting as general crew members, they can specialize in areas like lighting, sound, or set design, leading to roles such as Lighting Technician or Sound Engineer. With experience, a stagehand might progress to Stage Manager, overseeing all aspects of production.

To advance, stagehands should focus on gaining hands-on experience in their area of interest. Working on a wide range of productions, from small local theater to large-scale events, broadens their skill set. Demonstrating leadership qualities and a strong work ethic can pave the way to supervisory positions, such as Head Stagehand or Production Manager, coordinating the technical and logistical elements of shows.


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