Crew that works behind the scenes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 May, 1993, 12:00am

HAVE you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a theatre? Here is a brief look at the various specialists and the work they do.

The process starts several months in advance of the first performance when the director and the set designer and costume designer (frequently one designer does both) discuss the style and interpretation of the work to be presented.

Next, the director holds auditions to choose the performer with the best ability and stage presence for each role. For dance productions the choreographer fulfills the role of the director as well as creating the movements and formations that the dancerswill follow.

As the set designer develops design ideas, he or she makes a series of three-dimensional 1:25 or 1:50 scale-models of the scenery.

Next, the set designer or design assistant produces working drawings for the construction workshops to follow in building the scenery. Furniture and stage properties such as masks and sculpture are made by the props department.

The set model and drawings give the lighting designer a basis from which to start making decisions about the types and placement of lights as well as colour and effects to create the desired mood for each moment of the performance.

Costume designs for each character are worked up from rough sketches to final colour renderings.

The performers' body measurements are taken and patterns are cut by a cutter initially in paper or calico and later transferred to the fabric to be used for the costume.

Historically accurate undergarments are also made by the costume department.

Modern theatre scenery uses more than the traditional materials of wood and canvas - today aluminium and steel, plastics and other synthetic materials are all used for various purposes.

After the scenery has been built by the construction crew, the paint finish is applied by the scenic artists.

By adjusting and balancing the intensity of different lights, the lighting designer helps to set the mood on stage and focuses attention by highlighting the important areas.

If the production has significant audio requirements, there will also be a sound designer. The Sound Designer provides sound effects to enhance the reality of each setting.

The person with the unenviable job of co-ordinating and managing all of these technical elements is the production manager.

The stage manager, deputy stage manager and assistant stage managers co-ordinate and cue the technical aspects of running rehearsals and performances.

The APA presents student performances of dance, drama, opera and musicals for which the technical roles described here are carried out as far as possible by technical arts students to give practical working experience as an important part of the education process.

The APA is technically equipped to international standards and offers an ideal training ground for students in Technical Arts disciplines, including theatre, TV and film. The new Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree courses are a reflection of the growing importance of the technical arts in modern theatre.

Mr Soden is Director of Venues at the APA