Musical theater road crews make touring stage productions possible.
Touring musical theater productions bring professional live shows to cities all over the world. Getting a theater company's entire cast and crew from one place to another is a tall order, but it can be done - with a lot of precise coordination and industry knowledge. Theater companies must sell shows to booking agents, selecting advantageous dates from a packed calendar; once dates are in place, they must connect with a venue and provide a list of technical, transportation, and accommodation requirements for the show. This might include door widths for loading large equipment, grounded power sources for certain electrical equipment, backstage dressing rooms that can accommodate all of the show's performers, and more. If a venue can meet all a show's requirements, the company will agree to perform there, which can be a mutually beneficial agreement.
This is the point where a theater company gets moving. Typically, a show's company manager and touring manager will work with a team of tour planning professionals, dividing responsibilities accordingly amongst the crew. Truck drivers transport set pieces, specialty lighting and audio equipment, costumes, and props to each city, while performers may fly or be bussed from location to location. Usually, a crew will arrive long before any of the performers to ensure that when they arrive, they will have a familiar setup to work with. Set designers create dynamic stage visuals and may oversee builds at touring locations; stage sets for touring productions are often near duplicates of a show's home stage, but adjusted for the particulars of each new building. Similarly, lighting and sound designers must adjust their original plans for each venue to create the same effect, and venue capacity may call for changes to stage blocking.
Work on a musical theater company road crew may include...
- Coordinating with booking agents and venues to place shows
- Transporting all physical components of a show from one place to the next
- Hiring local builders, performers, musicians, or stagehands
- Marketing a show in all tour locations
- Building and breaking down sets and equipment after a show run
Working for a touring production almost always means being affiliated with the theater company that runs the show. However, it's common for these companies to hire local workers in each tour city for a variety of short-term roles before and during a production. Landing a crew gig on a high profile musical can be a great experience and put a recognizable name on a worker's resume.
The prerequisites for each crew role in a touring production are different. Bachelor's degree programs can prepare aspiring theater workers for the rigorous schedule and all-hands-on-deck mentality of a touring show, and high level touring set and lighting crew often have degrees in technical theater. Coordination, management, and marketing professionals for touring productions may have backgrounds in arts administration, business management, or public relations. In theatre, skills and experience often outweigh formal education, and touring productions can be a great arena for workers to demonstrate their knowledge.
If you want to use your technical skills to make high quality live theater accessible to a wider audience, consider joining a musical theater company's road crew.
The Broadway League is the national trade association for the commercial theater industry, dedicated to fostering increased interest in Broadway theater.
North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents is dedicated to promoting the professionalism of its members and the vitality of touring the live performing arts.