In one of the first workshops at TheatreCraft, Simon Lovelace, the founder of the one-day stagecraft training course Crew Class, provided a fascinating insight into the world of backstage careers. Lovelace covering a diverse range of areas including sound design, lighting, set design, admin and management.
In a culture where everyone now wants to be the star of the show, it’s important to acknowledge that gaining a career backstage is more likely achievable than one on stage. But it’s obviously not always a glamorous lifestyle behind the scenes.
Lovelace offers some useful advice – be prepared for 24 hour days, repetitive tasks, little pay. Sometimes you’ll need to simply do the job, sometimes creativity isn’t the main priority.
Having spoken to Michael Grandage and Julian Bird earlier today, I would also add that it’s got to be a job that you know you really want to do.
As well as appearing to be unglamorous area of the theatre industry, backstage jobs can also be highly competitive. It is vital for anyone interested in a career backstage to get hands-on experience as soon as possible. Whilst vocational non-performance theatre degrees can provide the skills needed to enter the industry, ultimately, it is the experience that really counts and the contacts that you make.
For instance, with the impending panto season, contact the local theatre and inquire for work in the casual pool. Sign up to an agency. LinkedIn provides a valueable platform for showcasing an online CV to wider contacts and the public. Although you might not get the big break instantly, as with anything, perseverance is the key.
Lovelace’s presentation reminded me that even if the role is difficult, the backstage crew are vital to every production and event. Someone has to do the job. Without them, the show inevitably wouldn’t run. Yet, knowing that you are contributing to a team, seeing the performance unfold with all hands on deck and enjoying the audience’s response, the job satisfaction alone can make the task worth it.