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News & Notices
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
TD Job Survey Results
Released - Project Continues

James L. Murphy, Erik Viker, and Adam Zonder
Technical Production Commission

Earlier this year, the Technical Production Commission approved a project to explore current trends and information about job descriptions for technical directors.

A panel chaired, by Adam Zonder, created a survey to gather information about job responsibilities, perceived workloads, and job satisfaction. The survey sample was recruited through mass e-mail invitations to industry contacts, links on the USITT Technical Production Commission web site and several theatre supply company websites, and an invitation to participate posted on the Stagecraft list-serve.

Approximately 100 responses were received at that stage of the project. Results of the survey project to date were reported by the panel during a USITT conference session on March 19. The survey project is ongoing and readers are encouraged to participate at

The panel hopes to report on trends from a larger survey sample at the 46th Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Louisville.

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The current sample pool revealed several interesting trends about the respondent population:

  • 45% hold a terminal academic degree
  • 20% are members of IATSE
  • 63% work in academic theatre and 11.5% work in regional professional theatre
  • Almost one-fourth of respondents have worked as technical directors for six to 10 years, approximately one-fourth have worked as technical directors for 11 to 20 years, only 10% have worked in the industry for less than two years, and about one-fifth have over 20 years' experience.
  • 50% of academic theatre respondents report operating four to six productions each academic year, with 20% reporting seven to 10 productions per academic year.
  • Regional professional theatre respondents report 28% produce less than five shows per season, almost 30% produce five to seven shows, and about 13% mount eight to 10 productions per season.
  • Only 30% of academic theatre respondents report being tenured faculty or in tenure-track positions, with over 50% reporting that they are considered professional staff.

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Job responsibility trends include:

  • Over one-fourth of the sample respondents serve as recognized production manager for their employer in addition to technical director duties, and about the same number of respondents have production management responsibilities without the title. Almost 25% have stage management duties.
  • Over 50% serve as master electrician whether or not the title is official, and 65% supervise the electrics department.
  • 55% serve as properties master or equivalent, and over one-fourth do double duty as scenic artists.
  • 27% have lighting design responsibilities and about one-fifth of the sample serve as sound designers and scenic designers. If the number of technical directors doing lighting design without the official title is added to the total, the number rises to almost 55%.
  • Over 70% of all respondents must participate in scenic carpentry on a day-to-day basis.
  • Over 60% of all respondents have input on the selection of plays for each season, and over half have some influence on the season order.
  • Of academic theatre respondents, over one-fourth teach one class each semester, one-fifth teaching two classes, about 30% teaching three or more classes each semester, and approximately 30% teaching no classes.

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Resource highlights from the survey include:

  • Almost three-fourths of all respondents have scene shop facilities adjacent to their theatre.
  • Over one-third of all respondents report serving two theatres. One fourth report serving only one theatre and one-fifth serve three venues. Less than 10% report serving four or more theatre spaces.
  • Over 70% report sharing facilities with the paint department, and 20% share facilities with the electrics department.
  • Over 35% of all regional professional theatre respondents do not have professional staff in the scene shop. Less than half of academic theatre respondents supervise professional staff, but over half have paid undergraduate shop assistants.
  • Less than half of all respondents believe their individual production budgets are adequate.

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In response to the survey data reported by the panel, participants at the March 19 conference session contributed to a list of ideal responsibilities for technical directors. The group decided the following responsibilities were appropriate for technical directors, agreeing that some delegation is likely with the technical director retaining accountability for each responsibility:

  • Time, labor, and cost estimates for scenery construction
  • Scenery construction materials research
  • Scene shop organization and operations policies
  • Storage and inventory management
  • Shop equipment and tool and maintenance
  • Theatre equipment maintenance
  • Engineering for scenery construction
  • Technical drafting for scenery construction
  • Determining build and paint schedule
  • Construction supply purchases
  • Scenery construction and supervision
  • Stage rigging engineering, installation, and operations
  • Load-in and strike planning and supervision
  • Scene shift choreography in cooperation with stage management
  • Scenery maintenance through production closing and strike
  • Safety oversight for shops and productions
  • Stage crew training
  • Hiring decisions for scene shop staff
  • Overhire and subcontractor arrangements

Session participants discussed how some theatre companies and academic departments are, unfortunately, not able to hire enough staff to allow technical directors to avoid some responsibilities in areas such as lighting, properties construction, and facility maintenance.

The panel and session participants agreed that this list is not intended to cause conflict or disaffection in working relationships between technical directors and employers, but may be helpful in outlining expectations, official position descriptions, and academic tenure goals. As the sample pool increases, the group will be better able to examine similarities and differences in the job description of the technical director in varied production settings.

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