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Stagehand Job Description, Career as a Stagehand, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

stagehands production union television

Education and Training: None

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Stagehands perform a variety of behind-the-scenes functions in many kinds of productions. Although most often associated with the theater, they also work in film, commercials, and television. Stagehands are responsible for building, maintaining, moving, and storing sets. They take care of the many changing details in a stage, television, or movie production.

Prop stagehands are in charge of "props," a shortened term for "stage property." Props are the smallest parts of a stage setting. They range from personal props such as gloves, eyeglasses, and other items that an actor wears, to hand props that an actor may carry such as books or a briefcase, and set props such as furniture and rugs. Prop stagehands ensure that these items are in place at the beginning of a scene and that they are collected at the end of a scene. Prop stagehands may also be responsible for locating and obtaining props.

Other stagehands, known as grips in the motion picture and television industries, move equipment and scenery. They often set up flats (movable wooden frames used in stage scenery) and may paint or decorate them according to the scenic designer's specifications. When a production is completed, the grip dismantles the scenery or set pieces and stores them or prepares them for return to the supplier.

Theatrical stagehands are called flyers if they hand the scenery up into the roof and lower it down on stage. Some stagehands work with electricians or lighting people. They set up lights for the lighting director, make sure the equipment is working, and put the equipment away. Theatrical stagehands often work under the supervision of a sound engineer as well. They are responsible for the sound system, which produces music and amplifies the artists' voices.

In union theaters and studios, these different jobs are divided among many stagehands. In nonunion theaters, each stagehand may perform several tasks.

Education and Training Requirements

Stagehands must be strong and physically fit because they routinely lift and carry heavy equipment. Most training for this position occurs on the job. Prospective stagehands must know how the equipment works, what it can do, and how to fix it in an emergency. More advanced stagehands have training in electrical work, carpentry, or photography. It is increasingly important, especially in video production, for a stagehand to have formal education in technical areas to work with computerized equipment.

Some vocational schools and two-year colleges offer courses in the technical and artistic skills needed for advanced stagehand work. Candidates should be interested in drama, dance, and music since they will be surrounded by people and activities related to these fields every day. It is also helpful to have experience working on school plays, video productions, or community playhouse performances.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can apply directly to community theaters and college playhouses for work as a stagehand. Many openings in summer stock and local theaters provide seasonal jobs for students. Some corporations have their own video production studios and hire freelance rather than union labor; however, many theaters, television stations, and film studios require union membership. Unions offer apprenticeship programs but may accept only a limited number of apprentices each year.

Opportunities in theater depend on the number of local productions per season and on public and private funding of theaters. Stagehand positions are more plentiful in New York City's theater district than anywhere else in the United States. Television and motion picture stagehands are in greater demand in Los Angeles, California.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced stagehands sometimes specialize in one aspect of behind-the-scenes production, becoming electricians, carpenters, production assistants, or scenic designers. They may also move into stage management. According to the Occupational Information Network, the employment outlook for stagehand work is poor, with projected growth being slower than average. Prospective stage-hands may have a better chance finding work in video production for the music industry, cable television, or corporate production studios.

Working Conditions

Stagehands may work on productions either indoors or outdoors, in theaters or studios, or "on location." They may have additional outside duties. Stagehands belonging to a union must abide by union rules and work only within their job title and description. All stagehands perform physical labor such as lifting and moving heavy props. They may also be called on to work overtime. Union members work a forty-hour week, usually on different shifts.

Earnings and Benefits

The salary range varies because this job title covers many kinds of workers. Union members usually earn more than nonunion stagehands. Pay varies according to the location and size of the production facility. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stagehands, grips, and set-up workers earn a median hourly salary of $9.79. Pay in New York is generally higher. Assistant stagehands in commercial television unions reportedly earn a minimum of $700 a week.

Where to Go for More Information

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada
1430 Broadway, 20th Fl.
New York, NY 10018
(212) 730-1770

National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians
501 Third St. NW, Ste. 880
Washington, DC 20001-2797
(202) 434-1254

Union contracts provide benefits, including health insurance, vacations, and pension plans. Larger television stations tend to be unionized; smaller ones usually are not. Many public, cable, production house, and corporate video departments are not unionized.

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over 6 years ago

Im Indonesian, I just have experience on board a ship as a stagehand for 1 year. And I was enjoy it. I need a job as well..

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almost 11 years ago

The information you give could not be more wrong. I have worked as a "union Stage Hand" for 30 years. The outlook for jobs could not be better and if you want to feed and support a family, going union is the only way.

As a starting "EXTRA" (Non union employe paid as union) in NYC you can make 30 to 70 thousand and as an experienced stage hand you can make from 80 to 160 thousand dollars. Yes some people make more, but I am talking about the average stage hands.

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over 6 years ago

Got the job from networking, in a Union- in Texas. In my experience Operas have paid less then Corp. events. I make 12.00$/hr(Opera) to 19/hr(Corp). But they all differ! Some Operas may pay more then a Corp. event, it just depends on the venue and type of work. For anyone interested in becoming a Stagehand: You MUST be physically fit, it is a labor intensive job. It pays well, but you certainly have to work for it. It consists of helping carpenters, electricians, loading/unloading, and just being bossed around from one person to the next. Once you gain knowledge you won't need to be told what to do, but there is a LOT to learn and they expect you to know it. Most jobs have certain times they have to bet set up, or tore down by- and almost always something delays or screws up timing and you have to really work. I'm training to become an Electrician, but I still work with the carpenters, and every part behind the scene,exclude rigging, although they do throw me in the forklift to adjust lights. Can't be afraid of heights, and have to be willing to take a good yelling. My experience, hope it helps :P I love my Union. But it is no walk in the park :) Peace

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over 1 year ago


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over 6 years ago

One of the great things about the Thomas Sabo charms is that they are made out a variety of different materials and so are suitable for both formal and informal occasions. For example, if you were attending a formal event, it's most probable that you would select charms made from crystal, gold of silver. Whereas for casual occasions, it's likely you would opt for charms made out of a material such as enamel for a more relaxed style.

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over 6 years ago


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over 7 years ago

have stage hand experiance at job and looking for work!

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about 9 years ago

There is a lot of nepotism in this line of work, it's who you know. I knew a guy who became a stagehand and makes a lot of money because he knew a guy on the union softball team. one day they needed an extra guy he got a couple of hits, next thing you know he had a job. Try and get some names of people and hang out in the bars they go to... like anything else it's all networking.

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almost 10 years ago

I have worked as a non union stagehand in phx and dallas for the last 12 years.For set stike work in the dallas area starting wages range from 12.00-17.00 dollars an hour depending on what company you choose. In phx it is 9.00-20.00 again depending on who you work for. Corperate gigs pay the most even over union theater gigs. I dont care what any one says being a professional hand is one of the most difficult jobs to have. If you live in a right to work state where they dont have strong unions you essentially have to be a whore to make a living.If you allready have expierence the union is generally a step back career wise becuase of senority and the way they are ran you basically have to start over from the bottom. In phx at the local 336 if you work on the over hire list you make between 15.00-17.00 an hour as soon as you join you get bumped to 12.65 an hour and you have to put in 500 hours of booth set up at civic plaza before you can be considered for journeyman status.For a person like my self I have done several years of corperate a1 and a2 calls. Untill the union changes its policies regarding industry expierence it will never be an option that is realistic for any stage hand who is not completly new to the buisness.Now in non right to work states that may be different this is just my expierences working in dallas and phx. Every succesfull stage hand I know in those 2 cities either work for 4-5 companies and are allways strugling or they are with some one who has a really good job. When this article says that the outlook is bad they are 100% right. If people dont have money they wont go to operas, broadwy shows, or even concerts. Ticket sales are down in all three of those areas . Being a corperate hand in this economy is even worse. With a democrat controlled government that hurts big buisnes . As a corperate tech, hand, whatever half the companies you worked for are no longer in buisness the other half have scaled down thier budgetts dramatically. Any one who says this industry has good career outlook is not only lieng to themselves but everyone else they talk to .For those of you living in say New York the union is a good option if you can get in.But outside of New York and Chicagomost concerthalls and companies are non union. thx for taking the time to read this hope it was helpfull

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over 10 years ago

My name is Sarah Councell, I'm 21 and still trying to decide what I want to do for my career. I've worked in school plays, and volunteered at the local theatre.

I don't really know what to believe on this topic.

As I said I'm still trying to decide what I want to do.

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over 10 years ago

My name is Hugh Mulcahy and I would like to become a stagehand In New York City. I currently work for a company which may go out of business. I have one small child and one on the way. I will be 31 years old and I am in good physical shape. I have been told by people in the theatre industry that I would be great in this field. I am hard working,reliable,and eager to learn in this field. I would just like to find a lead as to how Do I get my foot in the door somehow? My current union is teamsters, And I would like help from them if the can help me in this field. If anyone out there can help a hard working guy trying to get a crack in this field, Please let me know.

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almost 11 years ago

FIRST OF ALL THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS LETTER.I am interested in becoming a stage hand how do i find a job?I'm phisicaly in shape 28 years young married with three little kids living in miami fl willing to relocate.I box profesionaly on the side it's hard to get fights so i'm in need of a career,i have a brother he used to work for CIRC 'DE SOILA. HE AND I SPOKE RECENTLY ABOUT MY BOXING STUFF SLOING DOWN I SHOULD GET A GIG DOIN STAGE HAND, HE ALSO SAID I AM PERFECT FOR THIS KIND OF THING I'M HARD WORKING,RELIABE, highly motivated and eager to learn .I listen well and follow through on tasks if anyone should happen to be able to i appriciaet a point in the right direction.I AM AVAILIBLE STARTINGYESTERDAY,I'LL WORK NIGHTS,WEEKENDS,HOLIDAYS,AND RAINIE DAYS TOO

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over 7 years ago

Kira L. Parker

7309 w. Hampden Ave. Lakewood CO.80227

(303) 261- 6744


To obtain secure employment with a stable company which utilizes my skills and experience to create a mutually beneficial working relationship.


Customer Service

Retail Sales /Marketing

Cash register

Suggestive Sales

Ear piercing


Money Handling

Over wrap machine

Daily Reconciliation

Loading /Unloading

Food Handling

Material Handling

Stocking / Sorting

Bread slicing machine

Janitorial / Custodial

Sanitizing / Dishwashing

Answering phones

Filing / Organizing

General Office


Internet / Email


Windows / Word

Detailed Techniques


2005-2009 Bus Assistant, Jefferson County Schools (Transportation), Colorado

• Took attendance and supervised students on bus routes.

• Assured safety of students on bus. Performed emergency evacuations.

• Assisted driver with directions as needed and kept bus clean.

2004 Cashier, Taco Bell, Littleton, CO

 Delivered orders and collected payment from customers.

 Cleaned lobby / Restrooms /Washed and Sanitized dishes.

2003 Sales Associate, Claire’s Boutique, Littleton, CO

 Assisted customers with accessory purchases, Pierced customers ears.

 Stocked shelves and kept store neat and clean.

 Performed closing duties at the end of the day.

2001-2002 Bakery Clerk, King Soopers, Littleton, CO

• Took detailed cake orders / Special orders.

• Kept bakery area clean, Washed and Sanitized dishes.

• Practiced safe food-handling techniques.

• Unloaded food deliveries.

• Marked down expiring products and wrapped leftover pastries.

2001 Receptionist, Fantastic Sam’s, Littleton, CO

 Greeted customers, set clients appointments.

 Swept floors and assisted stylists when needed.

1999 Clerk / Cashier, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, Littleton, CO

• Served ice cream to customers and accepted payment for orders.

• Stocked coolers as needed and kept facilities clean.

• Took detailed cake orders / special orders


Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, CO – General Curriculum

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over 10 years ago

indeed this write up is wildly inaccurate. In non union settings perhaps less than ten dollars in hour might be market minimum average for pay...if you're including lots of small theaters with part time employees in middle of nowhere places.

I work in a mid sized American city. Granted it has a very large theater district and several large employers.
EVERYTHING in this write up is wildly inaccurate. To begin with, if you're a union stagehand you do lots of work in different markets to different ends. Concert production is a staple of MANY I.A.T.S.E. locals and this entire market was left out of this description of the job. As well as the many other departments a stagehand can be working in on any given sunday. Sound. Lights. Spotlight. Rigging. Climber. Electrics. Carpenters. Pushers. Loaders. Set. Backline. These are all job descriptions often used when being a stagehand.

I work in a very strong stagehand market with a very weak economy. It's a bit of a paradox but everything in this city is. See Pittsburgh. It's got very slow growth and some decline. We've lost nightclubs, we've gained corporate contracts. We do alot of audiovisual corporate work now, for everything from conventions in hotels to putting together large installations (much like sets) in museums and the local history center. We do some atypical venue work, such as large galleries.

The job is a fantastic job. It does currently have a slow growth rate but that is expected to change remarkably quickly in the diversifying economy. As record labels sell less records more artists will have to tour. They will need more labor to fulfill contracts with an expected upsurge of performances and larger tours and festivals, which have been in a steady decline after record breaking million dollar contracts for record sales.

As corporations adopt more technology they will also and have been already adopting more "staged presentations" that will include...and have included in my experience, small video shoots, large presentations with props, lights, sound equipment, video equipment. All of which needs assembled by audio visual experts...

The pay is very high. I'm in a market where 100,000 a year is still a great great deal of money.

A stagehand working in Pittsburgh earning 40 grand a year is living better than a programmer living in an LA suburb and earning 65 grand a year.

I won't go into specifics about what is average income in my hall or what speculation as to incomes of top earners's not protected information but it's not often volunteered either. 40k a year isn't average, especially since many union brothers and sisters are part time because it's an excellent part time job if you can pull it off successfully. It's not easy and it's VERY difficult starting out. There is a painful apprenticeship period if you do not have a second income that is reliable and steady.

Once you get into it and seniority do alot of technical work, it's a fun and rewarding job that is almost never the same thing twice, you have the choice of your hours and can cherry pick the best gigs and the best rates of pay.

Alot of it is up to a business agent and a strong sense of ownership within the local...
But it's hard to get into a local hall like most of the last and strongest remaining unions positions are competitive and most people who try to get into it will find that it is very difficult when you start. Most people who get on the overflow list (you don't even get to start as a real apprentice) will do nothing but physical brute labor for several years in most of the larger markets.

But the eventual payoff is very rewarding and can also lead to many private industry jobs. And you can once in a union hall work a non union job by gig or by contract or by permanent employment and stay a part time stagehand.

Also be warned that not all stagehand locals cover film production, some locals compete slightly in the same market, some markets will have one local that does just theater one that does just movies...

It's a little different everywhere.

This page needs rewritten with more accurate information.

Interested applicants should have a foot in the door already, experience in a smaller theater or with a company that does something in the business of film television concert/sound production or theater...
Welders and carpenters are very often needed and very often if in a local hiring hall for welding or carpentry these applicants have a better chance of getting in.

But it's an intentionally well protected trade. Paternally and maternally protected as well. You can't pass off positions like you can ownership of a company but nepotism plays a competing but not illegal or insurmountable role in getting your foot in the door of the hall.

If you have a skill that makes you useful and are willing to learn a lot more skills in other related fields you have a genuine passion for the theater or music or film and you can deal with, in some markets, half a decade or more of irregular, highly labor intensive work...go for it.