I’ve done work in every corner of the theater industry. From lighting and sound, to advertising and audience engagement to even acting, I love the collaborative atmosphere that comes with production design and execution.
My path is similar to many of those who are working in the theater industry. Oftentimes, actors and designers get started doing multiple jobs at the high school and collegiate levels before choosing a primary path to pursue in the professional world. But I’ve found that audiences and fans don’t realize how many people should be thanked for their hard work.
From design to opening night and beyond, there are so many people involved in a theatrical production process that deserve all the praise they can get.
I just finished working on my final production at IU: the musical “Carrie” which closed this past weekend as the last production of the mainstage spring season. I’m currently enrolled in a costume construction class as part of my degree, and we’re required to work as wardrobe crew for at least one production.
But before we continue, do you have any clue what the wardrobe crew does?
If you’ve worked in the theater, I hope your answer was yes. But chances are, if you only have experience from the audience perspective, you likely just made an educated guess.
The wardrobe crew are some of the hardest working members of the production crew. They show up hours before actors arrive at the theater to ensure everything has been washed, pressed and cleaned for the show. Once actors arrive, they are often responsible for monitoring every costume change that happens between the start of the show and the finale.
In our crew’s case, that included scrubbing the stage blood out of Carrie’s dress after each show. I gained a new perspective while watching actors and crew leave the theater soon after the performance while my team and I kept working.
But the hard work goes beyond the wardrobe crew. Run crew, light operators, sound mixers and pit musicians work vital and complicated jobs. These include checking light cues before each performance, ensuring each actor has the right props and costumes available at every moment and playing complicated musical scores for more than two hours.
It’s not the audience’s fault that so much work often goes unacknowledged. This work is rarely noticed because many of these people do their jobs so well you don’t even know they’re there.
There’s more work that goes on before a production even begins. A production team often meets months before a show’s opening night to develop a cohesive scenic, sound and costume design that the rest of the crew can execute. Everything from sound to scenery and costumes are brainstormed, conceived and designed by talented artists.
Not to mention, often entire creative teams work together to write whatever is being performed on stage. They deserve praise just as much as the rest of the team.
All this to say, there is so much more talent that needs to be acknowledged beyond those who bow after the show finishes. Actors do amazing work — and this is not meant to take away from their achievements — but theatrical productions cannot happen without stage crews and behind-the-scenes help.
Between movies, theater and concerts, thousands of peoples’ livelihoods require them to exist in the shadows without the great applause afforded to those in the spotlight. Audiences across the world should take the time to understand that without these backstage professionals, shows wouldn’t go on.
So next time you’re at a production, consider looking through more than just the actor biographies and pictures. Think about how many people were involved in the inception of the show and clap for them at curtain call, too.
Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU.