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Here are some of the ways you can get involved!
A choreographer works with dancers to interpret and develop ideas and transform them into the finished performance. Working with the director, the choreographer must gain a full understanding of the director’s vision of the show, including style and pacing, and must be familiar with the script and music. An effective choreographer is one who supports the director’s vision, so that all elements of movement and dance work as part of the larger picture. As part of the production’s support team, the choreographer must work closely with the musical director (and accompanist), costume designer, set designer and lighting designer, to make sure that all stage movement is compatible with musical cues, costuming , sets and lighting. Choreographers in community theatre must often work with non-dancers, or dancers with limited experience, as well as those who have had considerable training. Reports to the individual Show Director. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
Creative collaboration among the costume designer, the director and the set and lighting designers ensures that the costumes are smoothly integrated into the production as a whole. Costume designs also need to include any accessories such as canes, hats, gloves, shoes, jewelry or masks. These costume props add a great deal of visual interest to the overall costume design. They are often the items that truly distinguish one character from another.
Costume designers begin their work by reading the script to be produced. If the production is set in a specific historical era, the fashions of this period will need to be researched. To stimulate the flow of ideas at the first meeting with the director and the design team (set, costume, lighting and sound designers), the costume designer may want to present a few rough costume sketches. This is also an appropriate time to check with the director on the exact number of characters needing costumes, as any non-speaking characters the director plans to include may not have been listed in the script.
It is the costume designer’s responsibility to draw up the costume plot. The costume plot is a list or chart that shows which characters appear in each scene, what they are wearing and their overall movement throughout the play. This helps track the specific costume needs of every character. It can also identify any potential costume challenges, such as very quick changes between scenes.
Once the show opens, the designer’s work is essentially complete. Now it’s normally the job of a wardrobe assistant to make sure that every aspect of the production runs just as the designer intended, time after time, until the production closes. Reports to the individual Show Director. Moderate to heavy time commitment, show dependent.
The director has the challenging task of bringing together the many complex pieces of a production—the script, actors, set, costuming, lighting and sound and music—into a unified whole. To accomplish this task, a director needs to:
Interpret the script
Cast the production
Collaborate with designers
Plan the rehearsals
Guide the actors in their work during rehearsals.
The director’s initial meetings with the production manager, costume designer, set designer and lighting designer typify the creative collaboration vital to theatre. Any notes the director has made on the technical needs in the script are shared with the designers. The free flow of ideas that takes place here will further refine the director’s vision of the production as a whole. Details in the script about the specific locale(s) in which the action takes place need to be attended to early in the production process, because they will determine both the basic requirements of the set and the possible movement of the actors on stage. Acting areas, entrances and exits, and furniture and props called for in the script or desired by the director will need to be a part of the set design.
The floor plan can then be sketched out. The floor plan is a basic outline drawing of the stage setting as it would look from above. It is an essential rehearsal planning tool because it allows a director to work out the blocking of the play. Blocking (or staging) is the precise moment-by-moment movement and grouping of actors on stage.
The director’s creative collaboration continues during his or her work with the actors in rehearsals. The actors will bring their own interpretations to the project and perhaps inspire the director to rethink his or her interpretation. They will work closely together to breathe life into the lines and develop a deeper understanding of the characters’ motivations and relationships, fleshing out the subtext of the play. Later the focus of the director’s work in rehearsals will broaden to the overall look and feel of the whole production as transitions between scenes are smoothed out, effective pacing is achieved and all the design and technical aspects of the production are integrated.
Once the show opens, the director’s work is essentially complete. Now it’s the stage manager’s job to make sure that every aspect of the production runs just as the director intended time after time, until the production closes. Reports to the Artistic Director. Heavy time commitment.
At its most basic, stage lighting functions to make the actors and their environs visible to the audience. But it can also be used to:
Evoke the appropriate mood
Indicate time of day and location
Shift emphasis from one stage area to another
Reinforce the style of the production
Make objects on stage appear flat or three dimensional
Blend the visual elements on stage into a unified whole
The lighting designer begins by reading the script to be produced noting the type of light it calls for in each scene. Designer and director share their ideas about how light could be used to enhance the production concept at their first meeting. The Lighting Designer must also coordinate with the Set Designer in order to achieve the desired “look” for the play.
Lighting designers attend rehearsals to get a feel for the lighting cues and to plan how to light the actors as they move from place to place on stage. When the blocking is set, the lighting designer can start to work out which lighting instruments will be used and where each one will be located.
The Lighting Designer will produce the following documents according to the Director’s timeline:
Paintings and photos showing the mood and style of specific lighting techniques and are gathered through research
A lighting plot: a scale drawing of the stage and set as seen from above showing the planned layout of each lighting fixture to be used
A vertical section plot: a cross-section of the stage and set drawn to scale showing the vertical sightlines and the height and position of each instrument
An instrument schedule: a chart that lists each lighting instrument separately along with the details of its type, wattage, purpose, filter color, the dimmer it will be plugged into and the circuit that will control it
A cue sheet: a complete list of the various lighting effects the designer has planned for the show and when they occur.
The lighting designer will meet with the director and the design team (set, costume, and sound designers), to discuss the details of the set and the director’s interpretation of the play. The set, costume and lighting designers also meet and work together to ensure the creation of a unified look and feel for the production. Once the show opens, the designer’s work is essentially complete. Now it’s normally the job of the stage manager and light crew to make sure that every aspect of the production runs just as the designer intended, time after time, until the production closes. Reports to the individual Show Director. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
The set designer will normally read the script many times, both to get a feel for the flavor and spirit of the script and to list its specific requirements for scenery, furnishings and props. The time of day, location, season, historical period and any set changes called for in the script are noted. The set designer’s focus here is on figuring out everything that may be needed based on the dialogue in the script. Stage directions tend to be ignored at this point in the process.
The Set Designer will produce the following documents according to the Director’s timeline:
a rough sketch of the set in the preliminary phase
floor plans drawn to scale showing from above the general layout of each set and the placement of the furniture and large props
front elevations giving a view of the elements of the set from the front and showing details like windows or platforms
The set may also need to be designed so the backstage areas used by the actors and stage crew are kept out of sight from the audience. This will depend on the effect the director wants to create with the staging and on the type of stage the production uses. The set designer will meet with the director and the design team (set, costume, lighting and sound designers), to discuss the details of the set and the director’s interpretation of the play. The set, costume and lighting designers also meet and work together to ensure the creation of a unified look and feel for the production.
All the things appearing on the stage other than the scenery are called stage properties, or props. Set props like furniture, draperies and decorations are the types of things that complete the set and they need to be part of the set design.
Once the show opens, the designer’s work is essentially complete. Now it’s normally the job of the stage manager and backstage crew to make sure that every aspect of the production runs just as the designer intended, time after time, until the production closes. Reports to the individual Show Director. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
The master carpenter’s job takes the working drawings from the TD, and using them, builds the set. After a quick glance at the working drawings, the MC should be able to schedule the build, order lumber, and then just pass that information on to the crew chief and TD, who make sure that the carpenters are there at the appropriate times. Reports to the Set Designer. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
A highly sought skill in most theatres, the PC is responsible for painting set elements under the direction of the set designer, but often the Paint Chief has the freedom to choose many of the design elements him/herself. Reports to the Set Designer. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
When sets need to be built or lights hung, shows need carpenters and electricians to do the grunt work of sawing, hammering, lifting, hanging. Reports to the Set or Light Designer. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
In addition to the sounds of the words spoken by the actors, a play may also call for sound effects to recreate lifelike noises or use music or abstract and unidentifiable sounds to support the drama.
The Sound Designer will produce the following documents according to the Director’s timeline:
Plot: A list of all the music and sound cues for each act/scene. It indicates where the sound or music occurs, the page number of the script where it appears, precisely when it begins and ends, and the equipment that will be used to produce it.
System layout: A system layout shows the type and location of speakers on stage, on the set and in the auditorium. The system layout may also include a layout of how all of the sound equipment will be interconnected.
Cue sheet: A version of the sound plot to be used by the sound technicians who will run the equipment during the performance.
Once the show opens, the designer’s work is essentially complete. Now it’s normally the job of the stage manager and sound crew to make sure that every aspect of the production runs just as the designer intended, time after time, until the production closes. Reports to the individual Show Director. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
The sound engineer works under the designer, and must take the sound design and ensure that it can be created in a given space. This involves selecting equipment to reproduce the various sound elements required, installing and testing it, and usually running the actual show. Reports to the Sound Designer and Stage Manager. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.
Assistant Stage Manager
Often needed in larger productions, when the stage manager is out in the house, the ASM is often stationed just offstage to facilitate communication between the stage manager, crew and actors, as well as ensuring safety. The ASM often helps with complex set changes, quick changes offstage, or preparing the stage for performance. Reports to the Stage Manager. Moderate to heavy time commitment, show dependent.
The marketing director is responsible for creating the content and design for all pieces that present the Theater to its various constituencies: flyers, posters, programs, tickets, social media headers, website pages, advertisements, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, video title pages, fundraising letters, and sponsor/patron newsletters. This person will work with the artistic director and show directors to create and execute a marketing plan for the full season including initiatives specific to each show. This individual is the caretaker of the Theatre brand and will assist others in understanding how to communicate the brand. Reports to the Artistic Director.
The Technical Director (TD) works with a great deal of independence and exercises independent judgment in performing a wide variety of duties. Because of the operating hours of most facilities, close supervision is not normally required nor expected.
A TD will do the following:
Operates, maintains and safeguards the technical assets of the theatre, including supervising the use of lighting, sound, communications equipment, and the use and maintenance of stage facilities.
Determines the necessary technical supports, such as lighting, sound, staging, and special needs, necessary for events and performances presented at the facility in advance of production dates.
Designs, sets up, maintains, and operates lighting and sound systems for theatre, dance, music, and other productions and projects; assists guest designers and arts with technical matters.
Advises production managers, lighting and sound designers, on the technical specifications, costs and usage of technical equipment required for the individual show, and supervises the implementations of approved technical designs.
Supervises and assists with set and stage construction and management.
Assists in recruiting, training and assignment of volunteer or paid technical staff for individual shows.
Orients facility renters and visiting productions to safety, technical characteristics and other areas of facility operations; facilitates the use of the technical facilities by the resident company and others engaged by or renting the facility.
Monitors the condition of equipment including lighting, sound, and rigging equipment; arranges for the repair and replacement within budgetary constraints; performs preventive maintenance on equipment.
Assists with the preparation and control of production budgets; maintains inventory and orders specialized supplies.
Attends technical Week rehearsals, in order to supervise and assist in the technical aspects of the mounting the show.
Makes recommendations to the Artistic Director regarding capital purchases of technical equipment.
Because a TD may be called upon to deal with a wide range of technical issues, he or she benefits from a working knowledge of techniques, methods and procedures of theatre, dance, and music productions and presentations including stage, set, sound and lighting design and implementation; stage management; computerized lighting systems; stage carpentry; appropriate safety precautions and procedures. Reports to the Artistic Director. Moderate to heavy time commitment, show dependent.
The crew chief is intended to take the burden of finding a scheduling staff off of the TD and master carpenter’s shoulders. The CC will find determine with the master carpenter what the build schedule is, and how many carpenters will be needed on any particular day (and then make sure that they show up). Reports to the Technical Director. Moderate to heavy time commitment, show dependent.
Most productions use a properties master to deal with the large number of small items that a play needs. In larger shows, there may also be a props designer who decides what the props should look like and how they will function, in coordination with the director and set designers. Reports to the individual Show Director. Light to moderate time commitment, show dependent.