Learn About Backstage Jobs
Read on to learn more about the hundreds of jobs behind-the-scenes on Broadway
What is "Broadway"?
Broadway refers to the 41 Broadway houses in midtown Manhattan, NY. Most shows in these houses perform 8 times per week. A "house" is how we refer to each theatre...or theater. Both spellings are acceptable :)
Who owns the Broadway theaters?
There are three major theater owners: Shubert, Jujamcyn, and Nederlander. Learn more...
There are four not-for-profit theater owners: Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center, and 2nd Stage.
Ambassador Theater Group owns two theaters.
What types of jobs exist backstage?
You can work backstage during each show (usually 8 times per week) or help “put up” a show as a creative team member. Dozens of "office jobs" exist as well - from working at an advertising company to ticketing analytics.
You can also work in a “shop,” i.e. a place that provides physical needs for a production.
Scenic shop, such as Hudson Scenic
Costume shop, such as Eric Winterling
Lighting shop, such as 4Wall or PRG
Sound shop, such as Masque or Sound Associates
Props shop, such as Propstar or Sharff
Can you explain what each job does?
Theater is always changing, as are the jobs and requirements of each position. Below is an overview to get you started, but the best way to learn about theater jobs is to DO them and to talk to professionals in the field.
House Head Carpenter
Employed by theater owner. In New York, House Heads "Carps" are members of Local 1. Works on each and every show that comes in to that theatre. In charge of hiring of carpenter crew. Oversees the installation, running, maintaining and removal of physical elements of scenic design. Skills include carpentry, welding, knots. They are also in charge of hiring their over-hire crew for the load-ins/outs. They do the payroll for all "local" carpenters. Learn more about Local 1...
Employed by the Producers under a Pink Contract under the IATSE.
They work with the designers in preproduction and then in conjunction with the House Head to bring in the scenic elements of the Production and maintain and run the show. When the show closes, their contract finishes.
In charge of scenic elements that are flown – i.e. come in and out above the stage via a counter weighted fly system or hemp system. A series of weights, and pulleys allow heavy pieces of scenery to be moved easily and safely above the stage by pulling on ropes.
Installs scenic elements flown in the space above the stage from the grid. They do not necessarily work on the show after the scenery is installed.
"Deck" or "Flown" is any moving piece of scenery operated via a computer. The Automation operator can program and run software which controls moving elements via motorized winches, sometimes hydraulics, pneumatics or other mechanical means.
Deck could include travelers either soft drapes or framed scenery as well as elevators and tracks that move furniture or pallets.
Flown could include moving pieces too heavy to be flown by hand or when multiple pieces need to move in unison.
House Head Electrician
Employed by theater owner and represented by IATSE Local One in New York City. In charge of the full electrics department which includes lighting, sound, video. Hires local crew for load-ins and any electrics running crew on the local payroll. Oversees installation of electrics on every show. Is also in charge of the electrics concerns of the theater building itself, including lobbies, dressing rooms, offices, illuminated signage, marquees. Provides power to all aspects of the production requiring it.
Is hired by Production Electrician. Generally in charge of leading the crew to install the show per the production’s plan. Has built the show in a lighting shop prior to load-in.
Front Light Operator (Follow Spot)
Operates spotlight during the show. Can pan and change the size, beam width, and color of the spotlight. Often referred to as being “on a lamp”. Can be on-contract (aka pink) or on local payroll depending on the production.
During tech and previews works with the Lighting Designer to program and control the lighting instruments to create the looks that the Director and Designer desire. Each look is saved in the lighting console as a cue with a number. During performance the Stage Manager will call the cues at the appropriate time. Once the show is “frozen” - during previews the programmers duties are done and the Lighting Board will be operated by a house electrician.
Much like the Lighting programmer, during tech and previews works with the VideoDesigner to program and control the video content to create the looks that the Director and Designer desire. Each look is saved as a cue with a number. During performance the Stage Manager will call the cues at the appropriate time. Most often the video cues are linked to the lighting board so that they can be triggered by a lighting cue so that only one operator is needed. Once the show is “frozen” - during previews the programmers duties are done and the Lighting Board will be operated by a house electrician.
(Part of the Electrics Department on Broadway)
Sound mixer who mixes the show at the sound-board. Often they will work in the sound shop in pre production to build the sound package - mics, speakers, amps, processors, cabling etc - everything that is required by the sound designer.
In the theatre they are in charge of installing the sound system - hanging speakers, running cable, setting up microphones. Once actors are onstage they operate the show. This means mixing all mics and operating all playback - music tracks, sound effects. In a busy play or in a musical they will have a script with their mic cues in it, they will also take cues from the SM.
A2: Assistant to sound mixer
The A2 is on the deck and will assist in checking the sound system preshow including batterying up all mics and checking them, then distributing them to cast. They monitor mics throughout the show and will troubleshoot problems as they arise.
House Head Props
In charge of maintaining, setting, and running of all props (any item held or moved by an actor, including elements of furniture). This also includes any set dressing, which is any non-structural scenic element to the set (think window curtains shelves, phones, placement of tchotchkes and doodads on tables counters, etc.) They set up tech-tables and are responsible for theater seat maintenance. They are also in charge of hiring their over hire crew for the load-in/out. Their responsibilities include the cleaning of the set, which means they are in an hour before everyone else for a mop call (vacuum, dust, etc., as required by the production.) Their skills are really varied but include carpentry, furniture making, sewing, painting, firearms.
Hired by show and in charge of props backstage.
** A note on "pinks" vs "locals"**
"Locals" are employed by the theater owner and represented by IATSE Local One on Broadway. Different cities have different union locals.
"Pinks" are employed by the producer of the show and represented by the IATSE.
++ Production Carpenter, Electrician, Sound, and/or Props
Is hired by production management to create a system for respective department throughout a production. Works with the designer and shops to secure rental of equipment and methods to achieve the designer’s vision for the production. Hires the contract crew(s) to build the show in the shop and plan for the transportation of equipment to the theater. Plans for a maintenance schedule for productions and often stays with a show from its pre-Broadway try-out or workshop through a Broadway run and on to tours and other cities.
Wardrobe Supervisor (Local 764 on Broadway)
Maintaining, cleaning, dyeing, pressing, sorting, handling, distributing, hanging, unpacking, repacking, repairing, altering, pre-setting, shopping (as directed), transporting, and the general supervision of all items of costumes, wardrobe and costume/wardrobe accessories, and assisting in the dressing of and making changes for all performers. Also included are the making, executing, fitting, and re-modeling of such items and other duties incidental to or necessary for the performance of the forgoing as well as any duties associated with the control, disposition and organization of costumes and wardrobe for their efficient and artistic utilization. Learn more...
A dresser hired by theWardrobe Supervisor and is assigned to a cast member or members and will ensure that all wardrobe items for that cast member are clean, maintained and preset as needed. During performance they will organise and facilitate quick changes as needed;
In charge of the well being of any minors in the performing cast. Duties start in the rehearsal room and go through the run of the play. The wrangler is the liaison between the parent and the production. They will be with a minor at all times backstage and in the dressing room to ensure their safety. Learn more...
Sometimes a division of props, sometimes of Wardrobe depending on the particular item.
Hair or Wig Supervisor (Local 798)
Application, removal, cleaning, blocking, setting styling, coloring, perming, maintenance and repair of wigs and facial hair pieces and application of makeup and cosmetics, prosthetics, body makeup and tattoos.
Makeup Supervisor (Local 798)
Front of House
House Manager (ATPAM)
The House Manager welcomes audience members and is responsible for all day-to-day operations in the theatre. They also ensure that everyone has a safe, relaxed, and pleasant experience from walk-in to walk-out. They respond to any and all issues pertaining to ticketing, health emergencies, and anything else building-related. Duties include oversight of all front-of-house operations before, during and after performances, coordination and assistance with the show, and supervision of theatre staff and volunteers (including ushers, cleaning crew and concessions.) Learn more...
Ushers (Local 306)
Usher: Serves as a general guide for the theatre. Assists patrons to their seats and stands by throughout the entirety of the performance to make sure patrons are following rules of the theatre, but also communicating any patron needs to the house management team.
Director: Serves as a guide to audience members throughout the rest of the house, explaining how to find restrooms, concessions, exits, etc.
Head Usher: Serves as a go-to for the rest of the team of Ushers.
Ticket taker: Responsible for scanning/counting the ticketed patrons that are allowed into the house.
Local 751 represents qualified and professional Box Office personnel within the jurisdiction of New York City. The 500 men and women of the Treasurers & Ticket Sellers Union work in the Box Offices of over 60 venues. From its inception, the Union has worked closely with venue owners and producers, thus enabling management to avail itself of the expert workforce that is Local 751.
Engineer (Local 30)
Local 30 members are the engineers and mechanics that maintain the critical facilities our region depends on. They operate the power plants that sustain homes and businesses, power the health care facilities that keep our communities healthy, energize the stadiums, arenas and gaming facilities that boost local economies, maintain higher education facilities that cultivate future leaders and support commercial, retail and residential infrastructure that create communities. Learn more...
Local 32BJ members help maintain Broadway theaters as well as Yankees Stadium, Citi Field, and Barclays Arena. The union also includes cleaners in schools, airports, and security guards. Learn more...
Porter: Cleaning staff on-site during the day and after the performance. They relay any cleaning issues to House Management, and help clean any emergency mishaps. They also maintain the communal spaces throughout the performance.
Cleaner: The cleaners are present after the performance and handle the regular cleaning of the theatre, house, and restrooms.
Acts as a bridge between Marketing/Press/General Management and House/Stage Management. This person operates in-house during theatre hours and serves as a guide in relation to social media, public relations, and audience engagement.
The concessions duties include set up and clean-up of concession booths, serving food & beverage orders, processing cash/credit card payments & maintaining food/beverage inventories.
Handles all of the merchandise sales for every performance. They operate in the house at a designated merch stand and sell show-branded items to patrons. They are responsible for transactions, inventory, and customer service.
Oversees all business needs of the show. Examples include:
Company Manager (ATPAM)
This position reports directly to the General Manager, serves on the local management team and is responsible for a variety of responsibilities in the areas of human resources, finance, and general administration. Responsibilities include oversight of the day to day local finances of the company; weekly payroll processing for all production employees, partnership in the budgeting, year-end, and financial reporting processes. Additionally, the Company Manager is the local HR point of contact for the show and oversees the day to day of benefit systems, orientation systems, hiring, development, conflict resolution, and morale.
At theater each night. Part of Actors' Equity Association.
Oversees all physical production needs of the show.
A member of the Stage Management team hired by the PSM. They will work from the first day of rehearsal in the rehearsal room helping create paperwork, run props, manage and distribute script changes, manage and distribute music changes. In the theatre they will assist the 1st Assistant and ASM in the initial running of the show. The position generally ends in Previews and always by Opening. The PA often goes on to be the SM sub for training and coverage purposes.
Designs the production and manages the following: create/design a set model that includes full step-by-step details for carpenters, color schemes for the painters, designed properties for the props team (including draperies/furniture), special scenic effects (including projections), budgets (to be approved by producing team and necessary unions). Scenic Designers must also be present at all pre-Broadway and Broadway setups, technical dress rehearsals, the first public performances and opening in New York, and must attend public performances regularly as a form of a normal check. USA 829.
Fight Choreographer (SDC)
Most importantly, producers choose which shows or ideas they are going to bring to life! Producers then raise the money needed to mount a production, hire the personnel in the creative positions (writer, director, designers, composer, and choreographer), and provide final approval over all aspects of the show.
Jeffrey Richards Associates
Casting Directors collaborate with producers and directors to cast the best actor for each role. Casting Directors and their staff review agent submissions, create idea lists, and prepare and run audition sessions. They must intimately understand the script and the type of person that the director is interested in casting. Examples:
Press Agent (ATPAM)
An agent employed to establish and maintain good public relations through publicity. This person communicates information to any press outlet (newspaper, website, television news, etc.) on behalf of the show. Broadway Press Agencies include:
Digital marketing companies use social media, video production, and app design as tools to market theatrical productions. They develop and create a “digital” brand on social media and create content for each social media platform, design client websites, and purchase digital advertising on behalf of clients.
Marketing and advertising agencies work to ensure that the public is aware of a show and that they are excited to purchase tickets. Marketing agencies organize photo shoots for production photos, put together the playbill, design logos, and work closely with digital marketing agencies to promote shows digitally and on social media. They also create and purchase radio and TV ads, organize press events, and create publicity opportunities. All of the banners, TV ads, and taxi toppers that you see every day were designed and purchased by marketing/advertising agencies.
Booking Agents work on behalf of producers or artists. They contact presenters and promoters and sell shows, concerts, and other forms of live entertainment. They put together a route and negotiate deals and contracts with each presenter or promoter to bring the show to their theater/venue.
A venue or company that works directly with booking agents to stage theatrical productions. Presenters purchase and/or produce shows that will be seen by the audiences in their venue.
Broadway Across America
IPN (International Presenter Network): A group of 50 of the leading Broadway presenters, theaters, and performing arts centers.
A programmer works at a venue (usually a theater) and decides which shows will be presented at the venue. They often work with booking agents and promoters to book the theater. Many touring Broadway theaters include a “subscription” option - where patrons can purchase tickets to a select set of shows for a discounted price. In addition to choosing which shows will be presented, programmers must decide which shows are part of the subscription and which are not.
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