Coordination and Collaboration in Theater

Tina Hanagan | February 23, 2018

I’ve been involved in the arts since high school. That’s when I was first introduced to backstage work, and a love for theater was cultivated.


I was a theater nerd.


I then went on to college to study and work at the Indiana University Opera Theater, and my passion became a career. I’ve never had any desire to be onstage, and am quite happy being the unsung hero of productions, skulking in shadows wearing black and making the magic happen.


Indiana is where I first learned to appreciate how collaborative theater is. The theater space is huge and has many moving parts. It takes a village of people to get all of the set pieces, wagons and drops coordinated to move at just the right moments in order to make the scene change seem magical within the 90 seconds allowed by the music happening in the orchestra pit. And, that’s just while there’s an audience.


In between productions there is mass coordination. Lighting and stage crews can rarely work in the exact same space at the same time, so we learn to work together. One crew working downstage while the other works upstage. Communicating when and where items can be left, and when they are available to be taken to storage. We all work together into the wee hours of the morning to take a production down and are back at work at 8 a.m. to start the next one.


Some of those coworkers are still my good friends today. We learned to laugh while working hard, and played cards when the singers and musicians were busy doing what they did best. It can be difficult and exhausting work, but we loved it.


To slip out into the audience during a rehearsal to watch and listen to a performance makes all the work worthwhile. To see how the transformation of the stage affects the singers and the audience to enhance the production is our reward.



About the Author

Tina Hanagan has been a technical theater professional for over 20 years in a variety of job titles, venues and states.  She resigned from the Arts Council Board because she accepted a job there. She is working at the Aberdeen Area Arts Council while freelancing as a Production and Venue Manager.

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