Sunday, July 27, 2008

Job Description. Part II- PRODUCTION

Jobs part II. A production involves so many people aside from just those on stage. It's easy to forget about all who contribute to a show when we are engrossed in our individual responsibilities. Additionally with a little schooling, as dancers consider options beyond dancing, many of these jobs can tie together other interests while keeping one in the field.

The following is an incredible summary of positions in the theater contributed by Kevin Jones a great lighting designer/stage manager for the James Sewell Ballet. He also stage manages the O'Shaughnessy theater at the College of St Catherine in St Paul, MN. Kevin has devoted his life to serving the theater especially dance from the production side- if you take him out, you can get some great stories!

Production Manager

The PM is the head of the production department. It is a managerial bridge between the artistic and administrative side of an organization. Most of the time, this is a very high level of position in the organization just below or equivalent to the Artistic or Executive Director. This person has the job of overseeing the artistic vision of the organization from a production viewpoint. The PM oversees the budget and vision of the production department which would include all the stage managers, costumers, designers and the crews. It is often considered a more artistic administrative position as the PM must have an insight to the artistic side of the company to envision what and where the company’s production needs will be in the short and long term.

Production Stage Manager

The PSM is the person who oversees the day to day operations of the company’s needs from a production standpoint. They support the needs of the performing part of the company. They would work closely with the Company Manager with an oversight of the other Stage Managers (If any). They sometimes replace a Company Manager, but tend to have more of a production background than an artistic background. This is a production department parallel position to a Company Manger (who is usually an artistic department employee).

Here is a link for a handbook for stage managers....including a personal account of the fist show this manager called. Even production succumbs to stage fright at times!

Stage Manager

The SM is the person who is in charge of the shows the company puts on stage. Once the show is in the theater, the SM is in charge of making everything run smoothly. If there is no director or other artistic person overseeing the performance all the notes, staging, blocking, etc all are overseen by the SM. In theater the SM is different for each show. They stay with the play from preproduction meetings through auditions, casting, rehearsals techs, dress rehearsals and all performances. They are the conduit through which all information flows. After the director gets the show open on opening night the director and all the designers leave the play in the SM’s hands to oversee and care for. All notes, cues and staging documentation are kept by a SM for the production. In dance the SM is the person who is most familiar with the ballets in the rep. They would often be in rehearsal learning the ballet with the dancers (often running sound) and taking notes for the rest of the production and artistic staff. The dance SM has the same responsibility in the theater as a theater SM. They call all the cues, etc. once a show is in place and oversee the actual shows.

Lighting Designer

The LD is the designer who illuminates the particular dances in the repertory. Sometimes there are resident designers who design most or all of the repertory for a particular company, sometimes there may be many different designers.

An article by Jeffrey Salzburg listing effective collaboration for choreographers working with lighting designers.

Lighting Director

The Lighting Director is the person who ensures the Lighting Designers designs are recreated accurately after the design is completed. They will generally adapt the original design as needed for the current repertory plot or tour.

The Crew

When there are crew positions for an organization they break down into these departments:

Carpenter(s): The Carpenter is in charge of the hard and soft scenery for the production. They would get the scenery in and in position for the production and work for the SM during the rehearsals and performances. They would deal with anything like snow or rain onstage that is rigged overhead as well

Electrician(s): The Electrician is in charge of the lighting equipment and works with the Lighting Director to complete the plot. They would get the lighting in, hung focused and working before the rehearsals and performances. They would work for the SM during the run or tour. They would generally deal with all of the electrical special effects like fog, projections, strobes, etc.

Props: In dance the Props department is in charge of anything that is not scenery or a costume and is used on the stage. In dance the props person is in charge of the floors and the floor maintenance as well.

Costume Department

After the costumes are designed by the designer, they are built by the costume department. The costume department consists of three or four general types of positions in dance and theater. The department is overseen by costume department managers or department heads. The department heads work for the Production Manager and oversee the entire department. In the theatre there are also dressers who help with loading in and unpacking, steaming or pressing costumes, dressing and quick changes, and repacking and loading out.

Larger costume shops have this general breakdown of positions:


There are cutters who develop the patterns for and cut out the patterns for the costumes.


There are stitchers who assemble the costumes and do the fittings of the costumes.


There are shoe people who deal with shoes (brand, color, inventory, distribution, etc.)

Other crafts:

And there are wig/hat people who deal with wigs, hats, hair pieces, etc. Often there are dyers and painters involved in the process as well.

As in my previous post about the job of dancers, most companies in current economic conditions do not employ a single person per job position. Usually positions are combined ie: company/stage manager, lighting/production manager, costume/wig/shoes...etc.

To reiterate I have also known of and participated in projects and dance companies where dancers have aided many of the production or costume duties for a show.


Jacqueline Carlisle said...

Very informative site...wishing you the best with it.

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