I'm at school and want to get into the technical entertainment industry. Where should I begin?
In the short term, get experience wherever you can - even if it involves making tea. Get in touch with as many local amateur groups and small bands as possible, and offer to get involved with helping backstage. If possible get involved with school productions and find out if there are any local youth theatre projects. One option is the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain who run performance and technical courses every year.
I've got a work experience placement coming up and I want to find something in theatre. What should I do?
Generate a list of all the local theatres, production companies and hire companies - Write to them all to give yourself as many options as possible. Be prepared not to get a response from the majority, especially as many will have insurance problems with having people under 18 around. It may also be worth phoning up a couple of weeks after writing to politely remind them about your request.
I'm about to choose which subjects to study at ‘A’ Level, are there any that are needed for a career in the industry?
Most higher education courses in technical theatre do not require specific subjects. You may find certain subjects like Theatre Studies, Design Technology, Physics, Art and English Literature useful though.
Will you do my homework for me?
No. But if you are looking for a range of industry/user opinions then we may be happy to help.
We will require you, however, to show that you have thought about the question first. This can be done, for example, in one of three ways:
1) "This is the question and these are the views of people whose books/articles I've read. What do you think?"
2) "This is the question and these are my thoughts. What do you think?"
3) "I've set up a questionaire and wondered if you would mind completing it. Here's the link."
I'm coming to the end of my education and want to pursue a career in the technical entertainment industry. What should I do?
There are two options for school leavers - One is to go to university or college to obtain a qualification, the other is to go straight into the industry and work your way up as you gain experience. There is a lot to be said for and against both options, and there is no right or wrong way. Higher education courses are available which just cover specific areas like lighting or stage management and general courses which cover most technical disciplines. These courses include City & Guilds, Btecs, Diplomas and Degrees, and range in length from 1 - 4 years. Alternatively, you could try and get a job as a trainee, casual or apprentice with a lighting company or venue.
I want to go into higher education to study technical theatre - Where can I go?
You could try looking at the PLASA Training listing for a good starting point.
As far as UCAS goes: (in no particular order!)
-RWCMD (in Cardiff) - BA (Hons) Stage Management. 3 years.
-Rose Bruford (in Kent) - BA (Hons) Lighting Design. 3 years.
-LIPA (in Liverpool) - BA (Hons) Theatre & Performance Technology. 3 years.
-QMUC (in Edinburgh) - BA (Hons) Stage Management & Theatre Production. 4 years.
-Derby - BSc (Hons) Sound, Light and Live Event Technology. 3 years. 4 years with foundation year.
-CSSD (in London) - BA (Hons) Theatre Practice. 3 years.
-Bretton Hall (part of the University of Leeds) - BA Performance Design and Production. 3 years.
-Amersham & Wycombe College - 2 year HND "Performing Arts: Technical Theatre
Non UCAS: (in no particular order!)
-Bristol Old Vic - Diploma in Professional Studies (Professional Stage Management). 2 years.
BA Professional Stage Management. 3 years.
-RSAMD (Glasgow) - BA (Technical and Production Arts). 3 years.
-Guildhall (London) - BA (Hons) Stage Management and Technical Theatre. 3 years.
-Guildford School of Acting (Surrey) - School of Production. 2 year dipolma BA extension.
-Mountview (London) - BA (Hons) Technical Theatre. 2 years.
-LAMDA (London) - Stage Management and Technical Theatre Course. 2 years.
-RADA (London) - Diploma in Theatre Technical Arts. 2 years
-City of Westminister (London) - City and Guilds 181 in Theatre, Electrics and Lighting. 1 year part time
-The Brit School (London) - BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts. 2 years
Its also worth checking out Conference of Drama Schools, the representative body for the leading drama schools in the UK - its very useful, but bear in mind that only accredited courses are listed. The courses are accredited by the NCDT, which has some useful information on their website regarding careers.
Do I need a degree to get into technical theatre?
No. A degree is by no means essential but there are good reasons for getting one. More discussion can be found here.
-A solid grounding in technical theatre
-Three years of experimenting and learning in a 'safe' environment without harming your career when things go awry
-Studying may provide you with a whole host of contacts for the future
-Many employers have come to expect everyone to have a qualification which may put others at a disadvantage
-You’ll probably be able to do some casual work in addition to studying
-A degree provides some security as it will be transferable if you decide to change careers in the future
-Three years of good fun!
-Will probably leave you seriously in debt after paying for accommodation, living expenses, course fees & materials etc
-Who you know is very important, you might meet more people working
-Three years without a salary
-You might have to write the odd essay
-Degrees have been devalued by the number of people taking them
What are the main differences between the types of degree available?
The major difference between the courses available is that some cover all aspects of technical theatre and some focus on specific disciplines. It is very important to have a good grounding in all aspects of technical theatre to understand how it all comes together. If you already have a good general grounding you may want to focus on something specific like Lighting or Stage Management. Most of the specialist courses give a brief introduction to the other disciplines.
What should I think about when choosing a course?
Choosing a course or university is ultimately down to personal preference. Try and get a wide spectrum of opinions from others and beware of anyone who says “we’re the best and that’s it!”. Remember that a degree is just a stepping stone, and you will continue learning forever.
-Does the course have a good reputation?
-Do you want to be in a big city where there are more job opportunities?
-Do you want to go to a big university where there is loads going on or a smaller, quieter university?
-Do you want to stay at home or get away?
-Do you want to study a general or a specific course?
-Do you like the atmosphere of the place?
-What facilities are available and are they well maintained?
I’ve got an interview coming up, what should I expect?
The majority of degree courses will require an interview which will take varying forms. RSAMD and QMUC both require you to build a scale model of a set design for a specific script, CSSD want you to research a photo, Mountview and Guildhall make you rig lights or set out a props table from a photo and RWCMD and Rose Bruford ask you to bring a portfolio of work, which can include programmes, designs, prompt copies, etc. At LIPA, you spend most of the day doing group based activities and then have an interview towards the end. Most of the institutions will ask you about a performance you've seen recently, and will ask you why you want to attend and what you hope to get out of the course.
"Remember to relax, smile, be your natural self and friendly, but not familiar. Answer all questions honestly and to the best of your ability. If they ask you a question to which you have no immediate answer, don't panic, but maybe answer something like "I'm not sure, to be honest, but I would imagine..." They won't expect you to know everything and will only get suspicious if you act like you do. Entering into a conversation and breaking away from the question / answer format normally puts everyone at ease."
There is more on this here.
What books are useful for students?
Thanks to the Amazon Associate scheme, by buying any of the following books through the links below, we will receive a small donation which will add towards our contribution to our chosen charity.
-Stage Lighting Design: The Art, the Craft, the Life - Richard Pilbrow
-Stage Lighting Design: A Practical Guide - Neil Fraser
-Light Fantastic: The Art and Design of Stage Lighting - Max Keller
-Stage Lighting for Theatre Designers - Nigel Morgan
-Institution of Electrical Engineers On-site Guide to BS 7671: On-site Guide to 16r.e (IEE Wiring Regulations)
-The Stage Lighting Handbook - Francis Reid
-Lighting and Sound - Neil Fraser
-Lighting for "Romeo and Juliet": Patrick Woodroffe at Vienna State Opera - John Offord
-Stage Management: The Essential Handbook - Gail Pallin
-Stage Management and Theatre Administration - Terry Hawkins & Pauline Menear
-Stage Management: A Gentle Art - Daniel Bond
-Stage Management: A Guidebook of Practical Techniques - Lawrence Stern
-Stagecraft - Trevor Griffiths
-Devised and Collaborative Theatre: A Practical Guide - Tina Bicat & Chris Baldwin
-Architecture, Actor and Audience - Iain Mackintosh
-Make Space!: Design for Theatre and Alternative Spaces - Kate Burnett & Peter Ruthven Hall
-Time and Space: Design for Performance - Peter Ruthven Hall, Kate Burnett & Keith Allen
-The Sound Reinforcement Handbook - Gary Davis & Ralph Jones
-Live Sound Reinforcement - Hunter-Stark
This is by no means a definitive list. See this this topic for more information.
This FAQ is now replicated, extended and superseded by the one on the Blue Room Wiki, here.
This post has been edited by peternewman: 21 April 2007 - 10:01 PM