Stage Carpenter

  • Stage Carpenter

Live productions rely on several technical elements to set the mood of the show and express a sense of time and place to the audience; the most obvious to the viewer is generally the set. Before the cast hits the stage on opening night, stage carpenters work behind the scenes to create the environments the actors will occupy.


Duties

The stage carpenter works under the supervision of the set designer and master carpenter to build scenic elements for live concerts and theatrical productions. He or she works with a larger crew of carpenters to complete assigned sets to the specifications documented in construction blueprints, in the time allotted. The stage carpenter is responsible for the proper maintenance and repair of all shop equipment and tools, and should adhere to procedures set forth by the master carpenter at all times. In cases where the construction crew also serves as the running crew, these individuals will be tasked with moving sets during live performances to achieve scene changes and will report to the stage manager.

Skills & Education

In this profession, you must be trained in the use of construction tools and in the techniques of scenic carpentry. Further skills in welding, using fiberglass, sculpting, and carving are also beneficial. A formal education in carpentry is not explicitly required, though a college degree in theatrical design with a concentration in stagecraft is recommended. It is typical for stage carpenters to spend several years in apprenticeship under a master carpenter to learn the craft as it applies to theater. Hands-on experience is paramount to theoretical knowledge.

What to Expect

Safety must be the first concern of every stage carpenter working in the scene shop; it doesn’t take much more than a momentary lapse in attention to cause serious injury when working with power tools. As such, those who demonstrate a lack of concern for safety procedures or who are frequently caught becoming distracted at work will not stay employed for very long. The work can be dirty, hazardous, and physically taxing; this is not the career for anyone who is accident-prone or skittish around a table saw. For those who enjoy the smell of sawdust in the morning, the path toward work as a professional stage carpenter typically begins with experience as a stagehand or props technician. With time and several credits under your belt, you can seek out an apprenticeship in the scenic department and progress to eventual opportunities as a master carpenter or prop master.

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