Considering a career in Technical Theatre?
January 28th, 2019
What is the employment market like for Technical Theatre in the current industry environment?
When stage management and technical theatre courses first started they were often seen as an ‘add-on’ to performance courses where students would learn on the job. Now any technical course has an equal status to other programmes within an FDS drama school. This status should now be reflected in the industry, with stage management designers and technicians now seen as equal practitioners within a piece of creative work. The UK is a global leader in technical theatre and British-trained practitioners in demand the world over, as employers know that they will have a certain standard of professionalism and attitude. There is a massive market out there for FDS School graduates
What are the potential career paths for a technical theatre graduate?
Short term it is typical for students to embark on freelance career as stage management, technicians in sound, lighting, video, costume or scenic arts or begin to build a profile as emerging designers.. It is less common to go straight into a permanent job e.g. within a theatre, workshop or a production company. Long term graduates can progress to senior positions e.g. Designer, Company Manager,Venue Manager, Production Manager, Wardrobe supervisor, Scenic artist or Master Carpenter. There are so many different options and pathways! Graduates also move into related industries e.g. becoming an events manager, teaching or setting up their own companies.
What type of person would do well in technical theatre?
A good theatre stage manager, technician or designer needs to be positive and enthusiastic, self-motivated, but also collaborative and good at working in a team. They need to have a love of the arts. Stamina is important because it is hard work! Resilience is also vital because you need to be quite self-reliant to build a freelance career. There is so much work out there but you need to have the will, drive and self-confidence to really go for it. You also need a good sense-of-humour as you will need it!
What would be your advice to someone who would like to train in technical theatre at a drama school?
Get as much experience as you can whilst at school or college: take part in school plays; amateur companies, local events; undertake work experience shadowing in your local theatre; apply to the National Youth Theatre or National Youth Music Theatre for their summer projects.. Some FDS Schools like GSA offer summer school courses. Try to see as much live entertainment as you possibly can. Make sure that you are really well informed about theatre and the entertainment industry.Develop a critical assessment about shows you see. - be prepared to discuss your opinion of costume or lighting, you don’t have to like it! Do your research in terms of the sort of Production programme you want to do: you can keep your options open with a generalised programme or if you’re sure you want to work in a particular area or genre choose a more specialised programme.
What can a student expect at an interview for a technical theatre programme?
Every school will vary so be clear about what the requirements are. It is typical to have to include a portfolio of your work which could include information on your prior experience and visual references, artwork or Design Technology work that you have done. Generally speaking, the portfolio is a talking point to discuss your viewpoint and critique of work that you have done or shows that you have seen. Interviewers are generally looking for understanding and knowledge of the industry, commitment to the career path, aptitude if you are applying for a more specialist course and critical thinking e.g. the ability to analyse what you have seen in theatre/shows.
What would you say to someone considering going into technical theatre?
It’s the best job in the world! You are working with amazing artists to create innovative and exciting pieces of art. It is always fun, rewarding, exciting and adrenaline fuelled! There are so many different avenues and genres you can go down. It is also really varied, you won’t be sitting in an office every day and instead you can travel the world working with some of the most incredibly talented people in amazing productions and venues. You can get paid to listen to the best opera singers in the world at the Royal Opera House! It is intellectually satisfying because it is complex, as there are so many different elements that you have to bring together. For example, if you are a sound designer you have to understand the maths and physics of sound; the emotional impact; the practicalities of making a sound system work; the artistic knowledge of a range of genres; the ability to get on with people and work in a team; and be self-motivated. I’m a stage manager and have worked in the business all my life: I couldn’t bear to do anything else.