Scenery construction has traditionally been a pathway for males, but there are plenty of employment opportunities women can take advantage of. Final year BFA (Staging) student Taylor Hill discovered the possibilities of building and mechanics at school in her DT class in Year 11 and 12 and a Certificate III in-school VET Entertainment Training Package.
‘We had an awesome DT teacher,’ said Hill. ‘He taught us how to weld and introduced us to lots of machinery – like a CNC laser cutter that can cut angles and curves through thick timbers and steel. He really got me curious about building and I was hooked,’ she added.
‘When I discovered the NIDA Staging course which is all about building for the theatre and it leads to other areas like festivals and events. I was really excited. It’s about doing things that are hands on. We create construction drawings which describe how something is being put together, rather than the look of it. And you can’t mess up because someone is going to be walking on your set, so it has to be safe and strong.
‘The second year is all theory and paperwork, about hydraulics, project management, electrical engineering, WHS. I’ve discovered that I love project management. I didn’t think I could do that, but I really liked it,’ said Hill.
Professional contractors work alongside the students in the construction of the staging for the October productions at NIDA. ‘All of the contractors that are here create such a good environment. They’re like a window to the outside world. They prepare you for the reality of what’s outside.’
Taylor is aware that women are in a minority in the set construction area. ‘Everyone has to prove themselves at work from day one,’ she said, ‘But being a girl I think you feel it a little more than others.’
Taylor is building a drive to spin the framework of the revolve in Fraternal, all from scratch. ‘I chose to work on this show so I could build a revolve. I’m ecstatic with how it’s going’ she said. ‘We had to build it in sections as it didn’t fit in the welding bay as it was so big. I’ve worked on all the electrics and it’s my job to make it spin!’
‘The industry is thirsty for students with staging and set building skills,” said NIDA Head of Staging and Production Manager, Nicholas Day. ‘Go to any live event that has a stage, scenery, and transforming environments and you will see the skills that are required for technical designers and set builders.’
Employment prospects in the staging sector are healthy and Hill is positive about her future. ‘For my secondment I’ve been working with a staging company on music concerts. In January 2018 I’m going to do the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony on the Gold Coast. I’m really looking forward to that.’
‘Each Staging student is equipped with an in-depth knowledge about building a stage from start to finish – including engineering, automation and rigging, integrating technology into a stage, scenery, computer-aided design, metal fabrication and control systems. We encourage anyone who is interested in construction and creating with their hands to apply and develop a new pathway for 2018,’ said Day.
Find out about preparing for a career backstage with courses in props, costumes and stage management. The application period has been extended to 29 October to ensure all students have the opportunity to apply. Apply by visiting apply.nida.edu.au.
Article and photos supplied by NIDA.