Production Organization


J. Michael Gillette. Theatrical Design and Production, 4th edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company. 1999. Chapter 1: Production Organization and Management.

l. Outline the organization of a typical theatre company.

2. Briefly discuss the responsibilities of each of the following production staff:


The Director is the artistic head of the production company. His (or her) primary responsibility is to develop an interpretation of the script. He spends most of his time at rehearsal working with the actor.

    Technical Director

The Technical Director is primarily responsible for the coordination of the technical aspects (scenery, lights, sound, props, rigging) of a production. He establishes the production calender, oversees the technical (scenery and lighting) budget, coordinates the scene shop and on-stage activities and oversees the load-in, load-out and running crews. In a small academic program he may also be both the scenic and lighting designer.

    Scene Designer

The Scene Designer develops the drawings necessary to build, paint, and mount the set on stage. The Scene Designer's work is executed by the "set crew" under the leadership of the Master Carpenter.

    Costume Designer

The Costume Designer develops the drawings necessary to build, rent, or borrow the actor's costumes.The Costume Designer's work is executed by the "costume crew" under the leadership of the Wardrobe Master.

    Lighting Designer

The Lighting Designer develops the drawings and charts necessary to hang, color, focus and cue the lights.The Lighting Designer's work is executed by the "light crew" under the leadership of the Master Electrician.

    Sound Designer

The Sound Designer selects the music and sound effects necessary to full fill the director's interpretation and develops the drawings and lists necessary to aquire the needed sound equipment (speakers, amplifiers, CD players, etc...) and to locate this equipment in the theatre. In the commercial theatre the sound board operator is generally a member of the electric (or "light") crew. Like the light board operator, he is a part of the running crew under the jurisdiction of the Stage Manager.

    Stage Manager

The Stage Manager's responsilities change during the four to six week rehearsal period. During the first few weeks he assists the director by maintaining the prompt book , distributing rehearsal props, setting the stage before the actors arrive and prompting the actor when they "go up on lines." During tech week he will move back stage (or perhaps to the light booth) to call the show. After the show opens and the director's job is finished, it is now the stage manager's responsiblity to maintain the integrity of the production. During the production, the Stage Manager is the back stage boss.

    Master Carpenter

The Master Carpenter is the head of the "set crew." He is responsible for taking the Scene Designer's drawings and turning them into scenery on stage.

    Shift Crew

The Shift Crew are the carpenters (members of the "set crew") who change the scenery in a multi-set show. They are part of the running crew and fall under the jurisdiction of the Stage Manager. In most Northern and ACT productions, scene shifts are handled by members of the cast..

    Master Electrician

The Master Electrician is the head of the "light crew." He is responsible for hanging, coloring and focusing the lights. He is often the light board operator which makes him part of the running crew under the jurisdiction of the Stage Manager. Assistant electricians operate follow spots and handle lighting equipment on stage during a performance.

    Wardrobe Master

The Wardrobe Master is the head of the "costume crew." He is responsible for taking the Costume Designer's drawings and turning them into the costumes worn by the actor. During the performance, members of the costume crew are typically backstage to assist the actors during quick-changes and to make minor repairs.

    Property Master

The Property Master is the head of the "prop crew." He is responsible for finding or building the necessary furniture, hand props and set dressing. He is guided by the prop list generated by the Director and/or Stage Manager and by the drawings developed by the Scene Designer.

    Scenic Artist

The Scenic Artist is a member of the "set crew." Using the painter's elevations developed by the Scene Designer as a guide, he paints the scenery in the scene shop before the set crew places it on stage.

3. Who are the four production designers?

Scene Designer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, and Sound Designer

    Of the three visual designers (Scene, Costumes and Lights) which is at the top of the "pecking order?"

The Scene designer. Why? Because it is easier and cheaper to re-dye a costume or re-gel a light than it is to repaint the set.

4. What are the five departments of technical production?

Carpentry (sets), Props, Wardrobe (costumes), Electric (lights) and Hair/MakeUp. Each department is headed by a "master" -- Master Carpenter, Master Electrician, Prop Master and Wardrobe Master. The electric crew is normally responsible for the setup and operation of the sound equipment. The flymen, who operate the fly system (rigging), are part of the carpentry crew.

There are two primary crews involved in mounting a production -- the shop crew which builds (or gathers) the set, props, costumes and lights and the show crew which mounts the production on stage. The show crews are divided into three groups -- the load-in crew, the running crew and the load-out crew. For example, it may take ten electricians to load a show in and out of the theatre, but only one to run the control board during the actual production.

5. Which union represents the three visual designers?

The scene, costume and lighting designer are represented by the United Scenic Artists of America., Local 829 of the IATSE.

    The stagehands?

The stagehand in the commercial American theatre is represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a large organization which not only represents stage hands but also projectionists, film editors and other craft people employed in the film and television industry. There are three locals in South Dakota: one in Sioux Falls (Local 220), Rapid City (Local 731) and Mitchell / Huron (Local 503).

    What is a "yellow card" show?

A "yellow card" show is a touring production which is staffed by an IA crew. The Master Carpenter sends a "yellow card" to the business agent of the local IA union. This card established the size of the required crew for each department (carpentry, electric, props, and wardrove) for each call (in, show, and out). It is the responsibility of the union to provide the necessary stagehands.

6. How do you become a member of these unions?

Entrance into the United Scenic Artists (USAA), Local 829 (New York) is through an interview and portfolio review.
As a scene designer you will be asked to provide for your "Main Project" a colored rendering, sketches of any additional sets, a ground plan, cross section, designer's elevations, and a fully painted physical model (or a "Xerox model" plus painter's elevations). The "Main Project" must contain at least two sets and be presented in a traditional manner in a legitimate theatre. The examination committee does not want to see productions of Waiting for Godot or A Chorus Line, productions of The Cherry Orchard staged "on a piece of white shag carpet with some upstage saplings and lots of lovely furniture" or productions " a storefront with a 10' ceiling for $1.98."
From the USAA 2003 Scenic Design Exam Info Packet

Officially, you become a member of IATSE through an apprenticeship program, but often you become a member become your father, and his father before him, were members. IA Local 470 in Oshkosh, WI gives each applicant a Stagehand Primer and Study Guide covering ten knowledge areas -- basic union information, carpentry, shop, electrics, properties, wardrobe, sound, video production, hardware identification, and practical application. An apprentice must score eighty percent or better on the entrance exam to earn a journey man's card.

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Last updated: August 11, 2006
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