In theatre, set installers are tasked with building dreams. After a playwright creates a world and the set designer decides what it will look like, a team of technicians assembles the stage.
Dustin Scott Harvey (dustinscottharvey.wordpress.com) builds sets in Halifax when he’s not writing his own plays. He studied theatre at Acadia University and did a post- grad in acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in the U.K.
“I am well-schooled in whatever it takes to get a performance up and out to a public,” he says. “I got involved in technician work when I found myself back in Nova Scotia looking to pay rent. There are always opportunities to get calls if you are willing to do it. I really wanted to stay within the world of theatre.”
Working on stages gives him a deeper understanding of how creative ideas are articulated in theatre.
“Each show is like a little life. My personal interest is how theatre is as much as what theatre is,” he says.
At the entry level, set building doesn’t require a lot of technical qualifications. It helps if you’re passionate about theatre and open to new experiences, Harvey says.
“These jobs can be physically and emotionally demanding. That being said, the things that will always help are: Work diligently, show up on time and don’t complain. If you just do those three things, you will go far.”
Earlier this year he was on the team that built the stage for Neptune Studio Theatre’s South African-Canadian collaboration, Ubuntu, which had previously run in Toronto. After building the complex and frequently changing stage, he worked as a backstage technician.
“There were five hours to learn how to run the show,” he remembers. “The show had three giant, rotating doors, quick costume changes, prop placements and resets. At one point, I was standing with my back to a wall while one of the 500-pound doors swung inches past my nose. The margins for error were slim.”
John Raymond is the BFA Technical Theatre Coordinator at the University of Alberta. “Students take courses in stage management including … design (set, costume, and lights), theatre history, production management and some practical shop courses,” he says. “The program provides the student with knowledge that they would not easily pick up otherwise.”
Raymond says the degree also plugs students into the theatre world, giving them a chance to make valuable connections.