Who does what in the world of live theatre?
PRODUCER: Top supervisor in the Commercial Theatre although Not-For-Profit (NFP) Theatres may on occasion have this position as well. The Producer serves as the CEO raising and administering funds on behalf of investors. On Broadway, each show is incorporated as a unique entity to protect investors from personal liability in the case of bankruptcy. Whether in Commercial or NFP operation, the Producer is the final arbitrator regarding hiring, firing, finances, and contracts. Even when some of this authority is delegated, it is only at the discretion of the producer.
PRODUCING DIRECTOR: This position is most commonly found in Regional (LORT) Theatres and is quite similar with the position of Producer in a Commercial theatre enterprise. The Producing Director, however, serves at the discretion of the company’s Board of Directors. Also the day to day leadership of the company is split between areas of fiscal and artistic leadership. Here, the Producing Director is charged with the financial and operational management of the company, with Artistic Management falling to The Artistic Director. Needless to say, these two must work in tandem toward the same ends if a company is to succeed.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: This position is found in Not-For-Profit companies with multiple production seasons. Such companies commonly include theatre, opera, and ballet. The model here follows that of Executive Producer supervising subsidiary Producers. Here the Artistic Director administers the artistic direction of the company as a whole from formulation of the season to the selection of individual directors for each specific production. The Artistic Director is then the direct supervisor of these specific production directors, and commonly directs productions for the company as well on occasion. A company’s Artistic Director closely shares supervisory responsibility with The Producing Director. Needless to say, the Artistic Director shares both managerial and artistic supervisory duties.
PRODUCTION MANAGER: Charged with organizing or coordinating the various resources of finance, personnel, space, and scheduling so as to allow for the highest caliber of production possible.
CASTING DIRECTOR: It is important to note right off, that The Casting Director does NOT determine the casting of a show! What the Casting Director DOES do is to manage the resources that will lead to effective casting of the production by that production’s Director. This includes maintaining a pool of potential candidates as well as screening likely candidates for the parts to be cast.
The Casting Director may work as well in the same mode as the Executive Producer vs subsidiary Producer combination. In this case, the casting director may be charged with selecting the cast for a season of productions. The various production Directors will then choose amongst themselves, selecting individual cast members from this company assembled by The Casting Director. In some instances, especially in cases involving opera, a cast may be assembled even before a director is hired. The same may happen in the case of “star” billing. In these cases, final hiring decisions are made by the company’s Artistic Director.
PRODUCTION STAGE MANAGER: Here too, this position is usually found in a company charged with the production of various shows in a season. In this case, there will be a Stage Management Staff with various Stage Managers assigned to specific shows. The PSM, then supervises the team and coordinates schedules and resources between the various shows, working closely with the production Manager.
The PSM may be distinguished along another line as well. In the case of a Broadway or other large Show, extensive planning is needed long before the show even goes into production. In the case of a show like a complicated musical, there is a premium on those Stage Managers with extensive backgrounds in managing such ventures. In these cases, a PSM will be hired who will have a supervisory role through the planning and rehearsal process. Since the show may play for years, though, once it opens, the talents of such an experienced manager would be wasted in the repetitive day to day run of the production, so at that point a Stage Manager takes over operation of the production freeing the Production Stage Manager to move on to planning of the next large project.
STAGE MANAGER: The stage manager literally manages the day to day operation of the activities that happen on the stage. The SM supervises the work of the actors in rehearsal in executing the instructions of the director. The SM manages the rehearsals and has prime management responsibility once a show moves into the technical rehearsal stage. At that point, the SM supervises the running crew as well as the actors.
After a show opens, the SM is charged with maintaining the level of performance. Duties here would include the rehearsal of understudies, and conducting brush-up rehearsals as needed.
Among the many, many duties of the Stage Manager, the SM maintains a prompt script as a record of casting, script changes, blocking, staffing, rehearsal activity and performance activity. The stage manager “calls the cues” and supervises scene shifts.
A brief word about unions:
Actors and Stage Managers are represented by AEA…(Actors Equity Association).
Designers and Scenic Artists are represented by USA…(United Scenic Artists).
Technicians and most film crew are represented by IATSE….(International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).
Artistic and Design Staff
DIRECTOR: At the artistic helm of specific productions in both commercial and Not-For-Profit companies. The director is the final arbitrator of production concepts working as a collaborator with other artistic staff including the various members of the design team.
SCENIC DESIGNER: Collaborates with the director and other members of the design team in creating the spacial environment of the production. Charged as the default designer of all stage properties as well.
RESIDENT SCENIC DESIGNER: Again, this position follows the mode of supervision of multiple productions. In this case, the Resident Designer is hired by a company producing many shows in a season. Individual production designers may then be jobbed in. The resident designer will then see that the guest designers are properly briefed and acclimated to the practice of the company. The Resident Designer will usually design portions of the company season as well, or in many cases, the entire season.
CHARGE ARTIST: Head Scenic Artist. A crew supervisor. Charged with the surface treatment of all scenery to the specifications set by the Scenic Designer. The term “Scene Painter” is outmoded since scenic decoration techniques involve many materials besides simple paint. Sculptural techniques are frequently required as well.
SCENIC ARTISTS: The crew under the supervision of the Chargeman
PROPERTY MASTER: Properties which include set decoration and dressing, furniture, and hand props used by actors are by default designed by the Scenic Designer. At The scenic designer’s discretion, though, some of the design responsibility may be delegated to the Property Master. Whether the case or not, the Props Master is charged with the execution and or assembly of all prop items.
In traditional theatre practice, mechanical (non electronic or recorded) sound effects are under the auspices of the property crew. These effects may include door slams, crashes, doorbells, wind machines, and the like.
LIGHTING DESIGNER: A collaborative member of the design team and artistic staff. Designs the lighting for the production including instrument placement, color, cue structure, and light levels. May also design various effects if a specialist is not at hand including projections and pyrotechnics.
In traditional theatre practice, water effects are also under the supervision of the LD and the electrics staff (from the days when a LD worked with gas)! These effects may include rain, fountains, and running water in sinks, etc.
MASTER ELECTRICIAN: Charged with executing the lighting design according to the specifications of the Lighting Designer. Duties include supervision of the crew, assembling and installing all equipment. Focusing the lights, maintaining the look of the production, and supervision of the control of the lighting.
ELECTRICS CREW: Charged with the installation and running of the show under the supervision of the ME.
DECK ELECTRICIAN: Example of one member of an electrics running crew. This individual handles items requiring attention on the stage during a production. Duties may include plugging in various items as scenery units move, seeing that lines do not tangle during performance, re-patching lighting units during a show, and changing colors on lights during a performance.
COSTUME DESIGNER: Designs all clothing and costumes worn by cast members. If it isn’t worn, it is most likely a prop. If clothing is not on the body it is especially likely to be under the auspices of the props crew. Some items such as purses, and eyeglasses, canes, and the like, may be handled by either crew and must be agreed on.
COSTUMER or COSTUME SHOP SUPERVISOR: Charged with the execution of the costumes to the specifications set by the Costume Designer. NOT a design position.
WARDROBE MASTER: Head of the costume running crew. Sees that costumes are repaired and maintained between performances. Distributes costumes to the actors. Sees that costumes are properly laundered.
DRESSER: Specialized member of the Wardrobe crew. Assists actors with special dressing needs. In cases of important actors or complex character costumes, may supervise the handling of specific costumes. Traditionally serves as a confidant.
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Charged with seeing that scenery is constructed and properly installed and maintained according to specifications of the Scenic Designer. While the look of the scenery is determined by the scenic designer, construction materials and techniques not integral to the look are determined exclusively by the TD. The TD supervises a number of specialized crew heads who in turn supervise specific crews.
MASTER SHOP CARPENTER: Crew head serving under the TD and directly responsible for the supervision of scenery construction, from sewing of drops to building platforms.
MASTER STAGE CARPENTER: direct supervisor of the scenery on the stage. Serves under the TD.
HOUSE CARPENTER: Comes with the theatre space and is responsible to the management of that facility for all the equipment that comes with the space. Supervises all crew members who operate house equipment. Show specific equipment is supervised by The Master Stage Carpenter.
FLYMAN: Specialized member of the house or stage carpentry staff. Operates the rigging used to “fly” scenery.
SHOP FOREMAN: Manages the shop facility in the same manner that the House Carpenter manages the stage machinery. Supervises use of shop tools and facilities. Orders materials necessary for the running of the shop. Maintains tools and administers shop policy. Contrast with Master Shop Carpenter who is tied with construction of a show within the shop facilities.
SOUND DESIGNER: Collaborates with the director and other design staff in formulation of the aural environment.
SOUND TECHNICIAN: Charged with the execution of the sound plot according to the specifications of the Sound Designer. Engineers the equipment requirements and supervises the run of the show.
MAKEUP DESIGNER: Collaborates with the director, performers, and other design staff in creating the physical look of the performer. Many specific crafts may be involved including wig ventilation and prosthetic appliances. This is the “newest” of the design areas.