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super quick and dirty tech theatre 101 materials

  • 1.  super quick and dirty tech theatre 101 materials

    Posted 01-28-2019 11:35

    Okay, gang. Me again, with another challenge.  :-)

    The technical theatre program that I have inherited is, to my mind, about 1/10th of a "real" tech theatre program. There are no theatre classes at the school (not even acting), the design and construction of sets and costumes is done offsite by third parties, and kids aren't allowed to use power tools or go on ladders. I am working on all of these things, but in the meantime we only use students as running crew (board ops, ASMs, dressers, etc.).

    In the past, they've been brought in at the last moment and told which button to push or which quick change to help with, but I want them to know more than that. To that end, we've added about two weeks (7 two hour sessions) to our tech crew members' show commitment, and stuck those days of "Tech Theatre 101" at the front end of the calendar. Here is what I have on the menu:

    • Day 1: Theatre history (focusing on the evolution of theatres and stage technology)
    • Day 2: The production process, with a typical production timeline or Gantt chart by department
    • Day 3: The production staff/roles
    • Day 4: Types of modern stages, interpreting a ground plan and section, stage directions, parts of the stage
    • Day 5: Scenic design process, conventions, basic construction (flats, platforms, etc.), interpreting ground plans, sections, and models
    • Day 6: Lighting design process, functions of stage lighting, the role of light, McCandless, color, instrument types and purposes, intro to light plots, play with board
    • Day 7: Sound design process, types of audio equipment, tour of school's sound system/inventory, play with mixing board

    And that's as much time as I have (no room as yet for costumes, props, makeup/hair, stage management, etc.). After Day 7, we'll get right into assigning running crew roles and getting into the actual show.

    I am sharing all of this because I am looking for help in locating materials I can use to teach these students the stuff I've listed above. I've already found lots of photos and illustration dealing with theatre history, and have put these into a PowerPoint, interspersing them with a few on-your-feet games and exercises. It was fun, but took a ton of time. Yes, there is lots of info out there on the Interwebs, and existing textbooks besides. As usual, however, the textbooks I've found are either too detailed (Gillette et al) or too simplistic (like for middle school). I'm simply out of time.

    If any of you can point me to any of the following, I'd be most grateful:

    • "typical" production calendar
    • Gantt chart of production process by department
    • Theatre staffing hierarchy
    • Thumbnail description of theatre production roles
    • Diagrams of modern stage types (plan and section)
    • Actual ground plan and section of a proscenium theatre, with a line schedule
    • How to read a ground plan and section
    • Stage directions
    • Schematic of a typical stage with parts labeled: all drapes, electrics, proscenium arch, wings, traps, grid, center line, plaster line, apron, pit, fly system, etc. [this has proved very hard to find – the ones online tend to either be British (different terms than we use), or ancient, or so small that they blur when blown up to a useful size]
    • How to read a ground plan and section
    • Conventions of scenic design for the stage
    • Introduction to typical set components: flats, platforms, steps, ramps, door and window flats, etc.
    • Evolution of a set design from initial sketches to final version, ideally with a model and production photos
    • Simple intro to stage lighting theory – functions of light (etc.), lighting angles with modeling, a simple McCandless lighting plot, diagram of a lighting system, actual plot with schedules, diagrams of instrument types with parts labeled and basic uses explained (I haven't yet found one for an LED instrument!)
    • Key terms and equipment for sound reinforcement, how microphones and speakers work, schematic of a typical sound setup for theatre

    So, if you have a FAVORITE set of teaching materials for any of these and wouldn't mind sharing (the URL or the document/file) I'd be really grateful. As an added bonus, I will make you famous by putting you in the "special thanks" section of the playbills for our upcoming performances of "Annie Jr." – yay! I could even park everything in a shared Google folder if some of you would like to avail yourself of what I find.  

    As always, thank you for your support!



    Stuart Rosenthal
    Dania Beach FL

  • 2.  RE: super quick and dirty tech theatre 101 materials

    Posted 01-28-2019 12:54
    I've written about a lot of these subjects in my blog, at

    Most of the articles are short and focused on one specific subject. There's a Table of Contents to help you find topics and a Resources page with lots of links.

    It's all based on 35+ years of working in set design and tech, and it's free.

    Hope it helps.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 3.  RE: super quick and dirty tech theatre 101 materials

    Posted 01-29-2019 12:52
      |   view attached
    I have a document I include in every tech crew application that describes all of the jobs available (attached). The descriptions are ones I created so they fit with the needs of our school. They may not always fall in line with the professional world. You are welcome to use it as you see fit.

    For points of information:  We hold weekly production production meetings in the morning before school for a few weeks that the team leaders are required to attend. I also ask team leaders to attend a couple of rehearsals a week before the time when all of tech attends every rehearsal. We have our tech crew begin attending rehearsals every day (typically 2 hours after school until tech and show weeks when they move to the evenings) about 3 weeks out from show week.

    I would love to see what others are using in document form. So access to a shared folder would be awesome.  Best of luck!


    Vicki Palmer
    Theatre Technical Director
    Hickman High School
    Columbia MO