Meanwhile: We have our first question

  November 14, 2019  

By Erin Frey

I’ve started to receive some questions from curious theatre-lovers so it feels like the right time to start sharing what I have discovered. The first question I’d like to address came in from Matteo: 

I’m a big fan of the theatre, have been to many Mirvish venues and have worked on shows in my home town. I have a resume a page long and was wondering how to work backstage in professional theatre? Do you need to go to college or university? If so, why do you need to go to college or university? Or is it who you know?

 Thanks for the great question! The answer really depends on where your interests lie so I’ll go through some of the options.

All of our theatres are union houses. This means that our backstage workers must be members of IATSE. IATSE has many different Locals that represent different skill sets. 

If you want to work as a Stagehand 

Our stagehands are members of IATSE Local 58. This union represents Carpentry, Properties, Lighting and Sound workers. You can check out their website here and start the application process. 

As for training and education, it is always a good idea to further one’s education. There are both university and college programs that teach hands-on skills, theory and theatre history. 

However, you don’t need a diploma or degree in theatre to join IATSE. 

Other forms of training are also valuable, such as experience in community theatre. You can also study certain skills and then receive a license. Some specifics that are on the application for Local 58 include First Aid, Forklift, Automated Lighting experience or Digital Sound Experience. 

Members of Local 58 must have their own toolkit, a list of the required tools can be found here

If you want to work in Wigs, Wardrobe or Makeup

IATSE Local 822 represents our Wigs, Wardrobe and Makeup departments. They also have an online application you can fill out to get started on the process. 

For Education and training, again, there are specific college courses you can take but they are not mandatory. Experience and relevant skills are important. 

Both of the IATSE locals are made up of people with varying skill levels. Contacting the specific local that is of interest should be your first step. Most importantly keep working with your local theatres, build up your skill set.   

Once you apply, and if you are accepted, you must work for a certain amount of time before becoming a full member of IATSE. Once you become a member you get offered “calls'”around the city based on your skill set and seniority. 

Things to keep in mind about backstage work: You will be required to work evenings and weekends and holidays. The days can be long and you will be on your feet for long periods of time. Also stage work is not consistent. There will be fluctuations. If that is not a lifestyle that will work for you, you may want to consider a different career. 

Creative Positions 

Directors, Lighting Designers and Stage Managers (for example) require extensive education, training and experience. Here are some pointers from various professionals who have worked on Girl From The North Country.

Simon Hale, Orchestrator, Arranger, & Musical Supervisor: “Say yes to everything. At first, anyway. You never know where things lead and getting experience in different areas is extremely important. Most importantly, don’t EVER stop using your imagination and trying new things out”

Alan Berry, Musical Director: “I’d say don’t be in a rush. Take your time, never say no to a gig and learn your craft. There’s so much to be learnt from sitting in a pit and listening to the other musicians around you. Enjoy the ride up. “

Lucy Hind, Movement Director: “See lots of work. Be able to talk about work. I think that’s for anybody who’s interested in this industry at all- being able to talk about work is a part of the job. Being able to explain yourself really well in a rehearsal room is really important. Try and get into rehearsal rooms — assist people. I learned so much from watching rehearsals. Some rehearsal rooms it’s not appropriate — you can’t always bring people in with you.

But very often, even if it’s for a couple days, I’ll ask the director I’m working with if a younger movement director can come and sit and watch rehearsals with me.

Taking other movement directors out for coffee and going, ‘Can I just ask you loads of questions?’, because it is about the relationships with the director — 100%. We don’t/they don’t advertise movement directing roles. It’s not like an agent will see an advert and go, ‘I’ll put Lucy forward for that.’ All the work I’ve ever gotten has been through the recommendation of another director. Those relationships are vital. Meet people, talk to them and see lots and lots of work. Work out who you are, what you’re interested in and train up. There are loads of short courses that you can do.”

Finally, don’t forget that there are many theatre-related jobs that don’t take place in the theatre itself, finance, management, marketing, advertising, accounting, ticketing, front of house. It takes hundreds of people to bring each production to life. It is always a good idea to start with volunteering at a local community theatre to get an idea how much is involved behind the scenes.

Thanks for your question. If you have any questions about the theatre please email me at

Question mark icon on listing page created by Gregor Cresnar from Noun Project