Ask the Expert
answers from Christine Eddowes on Technicians in Theatres
What does a Technician & Facilities Manager actually do?
As a technician, I look after the major technical aspects of producing and running a show, particularly lighting, sound, projection, video, special effects etc. The Facilities Management aspect of my role relates to the general running of the building, which is the theatre and making space for Horse and Bamboo Theatre i.e. booking/room hire, equipment maintenance, utilities, building contracts and repairs etc.
What sort of creative input do you have in productions?
I’m currently creating a lighting design for our Christmas show ‘The Twittering Machine’, but we usually work with musicians and composers who create the soundtracks to our productions. In the past, I’ve assisted in producing some animated shorts that feature in the shows and I occasionally get the opportunity to help in the making of props, such as the mechanical bird that also features in our Christmas show.
How did you get into behind the scenes work and why do you prefer that to other aspects of theatre?
Although I didn’t study technical theatre at University, a couple of years after graduation, I was lucky enough to get a position as a trainee technician at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. I thought it was really exciting to learn about all of the work that goes into making theatre a magical experience. I enjoy the possibilities that this kind of work has to offer, but I think it’s important to know a bit about all different aspects of working in theatre, and to watch as many shows as possible to be able to do the job well.
Can you give any advice to anyone who would like to get involved in technician work?
There are a number of routes into this kind of work – the most obvious is college or University, but to an extent it’s better to get hands-on experience if you want to be a technician. That might mean work experience, volunteering on projects, casual work or applying for an apprenticeship in a theatre. It’s also really useful to get to know people in the profession, as a lot of work is dependent on grants or funding, and if people get to know you, they are more likely to ring you up in the future when a new project comes along.
Have you got any tips, (dos and don’ts) for touring companies coming to a venue?
It might sound obvious, but it’s always good to be prepared – find out as much about the venue as possible before you get there, most importantly things like the size of the playing area, sight lines and what equipment they have. You might need to tweek some aspects of your show accordingly for different size spaces, or adapt your lighting rig slightly. If possible, it always helps to save your lighting cues on a disk which can be loaded onto the venue’s desk, but to also have them printed out in case you need to programme the desk when you get there. Also make sure you have a clearly agreed get-in time, and that you allow enough time to set up properly, rehearse if necessary, and leave a bit of leeway in case there are any problems. Finally, if the venue technician is running your show, always make sure you have a spare copy of the script, clearly marked with all of your cues… Hope this helps!