What it takes to work on stage..Just a small sample.

every department I can see in this 4 minute video I’m gonna attempt to run thru the basics of what they have to do..because I’ve had coffee and I’m …righteously mad.

Ok…let’s start with hmm….a short youtube video of the metropolitan opera..

Someone had to make that huge set, not just make it but make it safe enough for actors to be around, climb on, and make it safe enough to prevent the possible case of an actor falling on it and the entire thing toppling over. That would be the carpenters and set designers. Now let’s look at the detail of the set itself. It looks exceedingly realistic. Like every brick and rock were individually painted. To paint a person or team of people in this case have to spend hours wearing huge rebreathers =

They’re largely uncomfortable but when you’re spending at least 8 hours a day around paint for an undetermined amount of time…in the case of the set of carmen I’d guess from experience at least 6 weeks maybe more depending on waiting on the carpenters and any changes that designers might make…this uncomfortable head gear will save a life. The fumes from paint, even if it’s low fume stuff can suffocate the strongest of people even if it’s outside. We’re talking headaches, nauseaua, heart palpitations, possibly even death or weeks of illness. This gear is a necessity.

Let’s look at bit at what actually building this set means…I’m gonna try to find a video…This is a different opera house but the set is similar in size, Which is important because it involves similar challenges..

Basically it’s giant legos that have been hand built. This means a team of people( which has it’s own challenges) had to be skilled enough to handle saws, hammers, drills, ladders, the house rigging system, I see some welding in the video as well (we all know welders make bank because of the skill and danger involved in their trade, Kinda jealous but let’s move on). Oh! and let’s not forget the not so simple task of figuring out how to store, transport, and maintain this large of a set. Things like that come from experience, knowledge, teamwork, organization skills, and let’s be honest the patience to deal with the intense work required.

Let’s revisit the video to see what other departments we can find right away…

Costumes….well…let’s go with Wardrobe..

This is a department I have never worked but let’s just look at what we can for now.

Someone had to figure out historically close to accurate costumes for starters. They had to look at the characters themselves and design according not only to them but also the scene. This is just 1 scene too, of a 2.5 hour opera.

Let’s go a bit deeper if we can..

What does it take to sew and maintain such costumes??

Well…a seamtress is given a design that gives the measurements of the actors. They then have to cut the fabric to size and be able to make the proper lines with the proper machine( which takes it’s own skill set and knowledge of how to work plus they probably bought their own and travel with their own working “kit”). Then they have to get the actor to try it on and be able to make adjustments. This process requires special fabric scissors, tiny needles that require descent eyesight to thread, knowldege of the fabric and how it will react under the machine, knowledge of the proper needles and thread to use to hold it all together.

Not to mention on site repairs if something falls off or gets accidently torn. This doesn’t include the storage, prep, and maintaince that has to happen before/during/after every single show..

Let’s talk about hair and make up for a bit…which is part of wardrobe I believe. I can’t be sure on that so don’t qoute that bit. either way..they’ve got some pretty intense requirements as well..

Every bit of make up has to be timestamped and individually stored by category of actor. Each actor get’s their own box that includes the wigs, eyelashes, blush, lipsticks etc and each piece in that box has to be known of it’s typical rate of use, expiration, and replaced before the actor shows any signs of illness. This includes whatever brushes, clips, rollers,…anything that is used for an actor in this department has to be individualized. This takes a skill of detail orientation, organization, hygiene, and ofcourse ability to communicate effectively with the actor. I’m not even gonna mention the skills of blending, highlighting, color contrast, or whatever else is required of actual make up artist.

Let’s carry on…

we’re gonna talk about the prop department for a bit… I can see various tables that had to be painted (see above on painting requirements). They also had be transported in such a way that they do not become damaged, stored until they were needed on stage. this is intense planning based on the events of the story unfolding on stage..you’re not gonna put a chair that isn’t needed until act 2 in the wing of the stage. it’lll just be in the way of actors,dancers, backstage staff that have to work around it. So let’s just put that dark table somewhere else? maybe offstage in a far wing or back stage till changeover? sometimes things even get stored in the air (we’ll get to that in a bit).

The point is each piece has to be stored out of the way and maintained( if it breaks..which happens at times during transport..which means the props department has to know how to safely fix said prop in a timely and safe manner usually with whatever they have on hand on or in their work box which requires forethought and planning.)….

This is intense to write. lol Whew…ok..we’re only 55 seconds into this video..man..Oh! props is also responsible for the papers on the walls, the handcuffs that she’s sporting, the chairs..hmm..let’s move forward a bit and see what other props we see..

That podium that he’s resting at is probably decent in weight and while wheels for transporting it on and off stage might seem like a great idea it’s just not safe for the actor. Props is also responsible for the book he’s looking at.

without giving away some magic at mark 1.34 i see some amazing carpentry work.

All of what I’ve written so far does not include the departments of Lighting, Audio, Design, Transport, Planning, Call, or Rigging. I’m sure there’s at least one Stage hand department I’m forgetting.

But I’m just an apprentice. 😉

Author: PuppyPuppy

D.I.D. , writer, stagehand