Theatre technicians are responsible for all the technical aspects of a production that is, inter alia, décor, sound, make-up, lighting, costume construction, theatre props as well as for maintenance of technical equipment.
Theatre technicians work in a team managed by a stage manager. Each technician has specific tasks according to their particular field of expertise:
Lighting technicians use lighting to execute the ideas or create the moods that the artistic director or lighting designer wishes to convey in the production. Lighting technicians install and position the correct lighting equipment and operates it during productions. There are several different kinds and colours of spotlights and spray lights that can be used. The skilful handling of lighting equipment can accomplish special effects in plays, operas, performances and music concerts. Lighting technicians must have an artistic aptitude to be able to cast the perfect lighting effect for every performance. Lighting, special effects and the balance between light and shade are tested during the rehearsals to see if any adjustments need to be made. Equipment that is used for lighting purposes must be well looked after and be in a perfect working condition. Lighting technicians work with the stage manager, sound technician and lighting designer or artistic director.
Sound technicians install and maintain all sound equipment such as microphones, loudspeakers, and position them as required. Awareness of the acoustics necessitates the use of certain techniques to prevent echoing and the need to keep turning down the sound. Sound technicians are also responsible for the prerecording of sound effects, such as the sounds of a motorcar, piano and horses or even a mixture of several sounds, for various productions. Such recordings must be precise and played back at the right moment during the play.
Property masters design, create or acquire authentic properties or requisites and place them correctly for use during stage productions, such as eating utensils, weapons, pillows, candles, ornaments, portraits, etc. Property masters may also fix all decor elements onto sliding stages or trucks. Research is an important component of the property masters’ tasks, because the articles used in the production must be historically correct.
Mechanicians are responsible for operating and moving technical equipment and stage machinery. They carry a big responsibility, because the lives of the actors can be endangered if the apparatus is not managed carefully.
Scene painters are responsible for painting the décor according to the designs made by the artistic designer or director. Scene-painters not only paint three-dimensional objects, but also new panels. They must have an excellent knowledge of painting techniques and materials and be able to make very convincing replicas.
Costumiers are responsible for the making of costumes used during productions. Good knowledge of the different historical periods is essential. Research into materials and costumes forms an integral part of costumiers’ work. A lot of attention is also given to textile design during training.
Make-Up Artists perform one of the most important aspects of any production or play, which is the make-up that the actors use. They must be able to apply make-up according to the designs given to them and according to the characters the artists or actors represent, for example, clowns or old men. They must have very good knowledge of various make-up techniques, materials and historical eras in which productions are supposedly taking place. Prospective make-up artists also receive training in hairdressing and hairstyles of different periods.
Stage managers are responsible for all the aspects of the production. They are in charge of all the stage staff and theatre technicians. Stage managers are assisted by assistant stage managers, mechanicians and other staff. They are also in charge of the various performers, and must see to it that the dancers, actors and orchestra are present and appear on the stage as scheduled. Stage managers, producers, sound and lighting technicians, technical managers and theatre personnel work closely together as a team. Stage managers must determine which sound effects are going to be used, as well as types of furniture and lighting. The décor must be put up correctly, and décor changes during the acts are also organised by the stage manager. Stage managers accompany theatrical companies when they go on tour.
Generally theatre technicians must be prepared to work long and irregular hours. Most of the work takes place in the theatre and behind the stage. They also need to be willing to travel a lot since theatrical companies often go on tours.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Diploma: N.Dip: Entertainment Technology - TUT, DUT
These diplomas take three years to complete and include subjects such as Make-up, Décor Painting, Lighting and Sound, Costume Construction and Property Study.
Students undergo practical training in the theatres. These theatres are fully equipped with the most modern apparatus, and provide the students with an opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge.
N.Dip: Electrical Engineering - DUT, CUT, TUT, UJ, CPUT, NMMU
The University of Stellenbosch also offers a two-year diploma in Stage Management.
The Head, Personnel Department, SABC
National Television and Video Association of South Africa (NTVA)
P O Box 16140
Tel: (021) 424-7575 Fax: (021) 424-7580
National Arts Council
P O Box 500
Tel: (011) 838-1383 Fax: (011) 838-6363
P O Box 809
46 & 48 Dunbar Street
Tel: 082 230 2255 Fax: (011) 388-1045