From laying cables, placing microphones, and running sound systems, to humping gear, hanging rigging, and tweaking lights, the job of a Stagehand has an incredible variety of tasks. Stagehands work in tightly coordinated teams, and everyone knows exactly what job they must do.
There’s not as much hanging around as there is for the musicians (“hurry up and wait” we call it) because there is always something that needs doing. The Stagehand reports to a crew chief, or a Stage Manager. The Stage Manager reports to the producer of the show, so the most important job of the Stagehands and crew is to make the vision of the show producer come to life, whatever that takes.
Sometimes Stagehands are involved with designing, moving, setting up, and tearing down mobile stages. They are expected to think on their feet and find creative solutions to technical problems. They must be especially mindful of safety, as the stage has potential for danger and injury, and accidents can and do happen around stages and show rigging.
The Stagehand must have very good people skills and know how to get along with all different types of personalities. There’re a lot of egos in show business, which requires managing complex emotions from time to time. Every artist and show brings its own set of unique problems and demands, and the effective Stagehand will know how to deal with whatever gets thrown at him or her. There’s no room for attitudes or anger when working on a show.
In the most general of terms, a Stagehand assists with the loading in and setting up of gear, while learning what the physical needs will be for the show to happen.
Then they will place microphones and instruments appropriately at the time they are needed, operate machinery to open and close curtains or other moving pieces, assist the performers with the soundcheck and with getting on and off stage as needed, monitor and operate all the sound and lighting equipment during the soundcheck and show, and then after the show is over they must tear everything down and put away or move it from the stage to storage or to vehicles.
When Stagehands travel with an artist or show, they might be called Roadies, although Roadies tend to mostly just load and unload the equipment from trucks.