stagehand n : an employee of a theater who performs work involved in putting on a theatrical production [syn: stage technician]
A stagehand is a person who works backstage or behind the scenes in theatres, film, television, or location performance. Their duties include setting up the scenery, lights, sound, props, rigging, and special effects for a production.
Types of stagehand
GeneralStagehands are generally employed on a show-by-show basis, although most major theatres and studios maintain staff heads of departments and assistants. Often, they are union members, typically I.A.T.S.E. in the United States. Many stagehands are on a path to become a designer or director.
ChallengesStagehands are required to work in any and every environment. Since they are required work in a number of venues (i.e. theatres, film and television sets or arenas) the type of jobs they are expected to do varies greatly. For outdoor and large arena performances stagehands may be required to do everything from the rigging the stage installing lighting, scenic, special effects and sound systems. Stagehands are often responsible for operating these systems during shows or tapings and also for the repair and maintenance of the equipment. Performances often travel worldwide and it is very common for twenty or more trucks to arrive at a location with tens of thousands of tons worth of gear to be built by local stagehands who are then instructed by road or production stagehands who travel with the show (known as roadies) for a one day show. Afterwards, they take it all apart that evening and load back onto its fleet of trucks to haul it to the next city to built again the next day. Other shows might set up in a certain theatre or studio and stagehands and other trades might remain there for years.
Theatrical musicals and plays are often put together in theaters which tend to be very small. Hours for a stagehand can start in the early morning and can end late at night or just the opposite. Some of a stagehands duties are very physical and carry a high risk of injury or fatigue. Rigging stagehands build structures that are tens of stories high and must climb on pieces of steel sometimes a few inches wide. Much of the same safety gear used for mountain climbing is utilized. Other duties require highly specialized skills such as programing lighting displays created by LDs (lighting designers) during the pre-production phase. Most stagehands have a general knowledge of all the phases of a production, however specialists tend to handle some of the more technical departments such as lighting or rigging as described above.
However most major productions employ unionized stagehands who can be paid well especially those with specialized skills. Employment can be intermittent, for instance seasonal with long and odd hours. Some grips might travel the better part of years. One day a stagehand might find themselves living on buses and hotel while on tour with a rock band or in exotic movie locations for months at a time. In some smaller productions, stagehands are not all paid: many are volunteers, theatre students or unpaid interns.
Touring stagehandsSome shows do not stay in one particular theater, but rather circulate through many theaters. These shows usually travel with one or two hands for each department (often referred to as "roadies") and use local stagehands from the area where the show is performing if needed.
stagehand in German: Stagehand