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Mason City Theatre presents:

The Theatre As a Workplace

hatYou might feel that some mystifying call is drawing you to theatre. You could have found something symbolic, magical, and ceremonial in the realm of the stage. It beckons you, and you want to join even though you are aware that your acting skills are not compatible with the requirements of the show. Do not consider it an obstacle in your potential career in theatre. This sector offers different positions which help create the performance and keep it going. This article will introduce you to the most common ones.

While the actor is a central part of a performance, he still works within a wider context. He memorises words and verses and makes them come alive, but the statements he proclaims from the stage have a source. The author of the source is a playwright. The author’s work is just as creative as an actor’s; it involves writing scripts or adapting existing ones into new contexts. Nowadays, playwrights usually work on a freelance basis, often holding alternate jobs; some of them also compose scripts for television, radio, and film, some can be novelists, and some might work in sectors that are unrelated to arts and culture.

The playwright composes the scripts, the actors perform it, but there is another figure that watches over them. I am referring to the director. If the act is based on a classic, another author will not be a necessity, but any performance needs a director. The director is a type of manager; he is responsible for the creative aspects of the performance. He decides what the show will be and what message it should convey; he can turn a comedy into a musical or make an Elizabethan play take place in a contemporary setting. He coordinates the production team’s work and supervises auditions.

The director and the playwright are part of a bigger team which requires people of diverse specialisations. The characters of a play are supposed to appear in relevant outfits; a costume designer decides what type of clothing a specific character should wear, how the colours should mix, and tailors the costume if necessary. The role of a scenic designer shares some similarities with the previous one. However, this specialist is responsible for background decorations. A scene can take place in a castle or in a garden, in a cottage or in a hospital. Each diverging scene needs to have its own interior and imagery, and a scenic designer chooses the proper ones.

Nowadays, performances put an emphasis on special effects. A lights expert manipulates illumination in order to give a scene or monologue a bigger effect; an acoustics designer works with sound equipment and creates sound effects. There are technicians who manage stage equipment. A supernatural character in a play can seemingly arrive from above, but the technicians behind the scene are the ones who operate the crane that makes it possible. An invaluable member of staff is the stage manager; his duties can unite those of an accountant and an administration assistant.

All in all, work in theatre can be compared to a performance on the stage: actors are the face, but members of the production team are the background performers that play their own prescribed roles.

Michael P Richards is writing on behalf of Theatre Supplies