What Does a Theatrical Technician Do?

Gregory Hanson

A theatrical technician is responsible for some or all of the backstage work necessary to put on staged entertainment. The duties of theatrical technicians often include work with props and costumes, the construction of scenery, and the installation of lighting and other technical systems. They are also responsible for making sure that the technical elements of a production function smoothly and correctly as the production is being staged, and they monitor or operate audio equipment, lighting, and other effects.

A theatrical technician must be knowledgeable of all stage operations in a theater.
A theatrical technician must be knowledgeable of all stage operations in a theater.

Props and costumes are widely employed in theatrical performances, and a theatrical technician will often be asked to create and maintain these items. Skill with sewing machines, alteration techniques, and a general knowledge of fabrics and their use in the theater is helpful in this sort of work. The ability to create durable props that will have the correct appearance under stage lighting is also a key skill for some technicians.

The construction of stages and scenery is often a key responsibility of a theatrical technician. Theaters employ a variety of specialized construction techniques which allow stages to be built, installed, and removed rapidly. Technicians may be called on to serve as carpenters, welders, and painters during the course of building and assembling a set and need to be able to understand technical plans and blueprints.

Technicians are responsible for installing and calibrating sound and lighting systems. Stage lights must be installed, focused properly, and tested before a performance. Sound systems must be calibrated to work properly in each specific performance space. A theatrical technician affiliated with a traveling theater company will spend a great deal of his or her time setting up, checking, and taking down sound and lighting rigs.

When special effects are used in the theater, technicians are generally responsible for making sure that they work properly and safely. This may involve the installation of pyrotechnic effects. Complicated sets may be partially or wholly mechanized, and technicians ensure the safety of effects such as moving set pieces and flying harnesses.

Theatrical technician duties include work during theatrical productions. In some cases, this may consist of little more than making sure that sound and lighting cues are executed appropriately. In other cases, this can mean operating complicated set pieces during a performance, detonating pyrotechnic effects, and making sure that flying harnesses and other safety and stunt equipment work properly.

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