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The stage crew is a group of workers that facilitates the mechanical workings of a performance, including handling and moving scenery and props, acting as dressers, stage managing a performance, constructing and destroying sets, handling audio and lighting. Stage crews are integral to any performance. While many of these positions are voluntary on the local and amateur levels, stage managers working in professional productions on and off Broadway can be compensated well into the six-figure range.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Report
Compensation for stage crew work on a Broadway show varies according to the level of responsibility. Individuals working on professional shows, such as those on Broadway, must be union members. Industry-wide, 5.3 percent of individuals working in the arts and entertainment sector are union members, with 5.9 percent listed as non-union members according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2010 report, accounting for a little more than half employed in the field working in non-professional venues, or working as non-union support staff. Per the report, the median weekly earning of a stage crew member is $636 per week, or just over $33,000 annually. The BLS reports that salaries in the field show a growth of about 15 percent annually. Individuals who work on Broadway stage crews represent a minuscule sector of those employed nationally in the theatre entertainment field.
Columnist James Ahearn of the North Jersey Record tells a different story, reporting earnings for stage management staff that are staggeringly higher: Carnegie Hall properties manager at $422,599; carpenters and electricians at $327,257; and an artistic director at $946,581, annually. Ahearn reports that stage hands working Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center earn between $300,000 and $500,000 per year. A 2008 statistical analysis of off-off-Broadway budgets by the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation reports expenditures for stage management at approximately $510,000 annually.
Individuals working as full-time stage hands generally receive handsome benefits packages as well. These packages might include health, vision, dental and life insurance, generous paid time off, and deferred compensation, an arrangement between the employer and employee that pays an annual salary out over time, rather than when it was actually earned. Deferred compensation is a benefit that allows the stage crew member to earn a salary year-round, rather than during a performance season only.
Work on a Broadway stage crew is a demanding, high-stress undertaking. Hours are extremely irregular, and individuals working in this field may be expected to work nights, weekends and holidays. Getting work at this professional level is difficult, and people employed at this level must have a well-established reputation in the performance arts, a solid network of high-level contacts, and an educational background in theater, design, and/or performance technology.