As the highest position among the theater's technical staff, the technical director is responsible for operating, protecting, and maintaining the theater’s technical assets, while also managing and overseeing the different technical departments, including set, lighting, costumes, props, sound, and effects. They serve a dual role, acting sometimes as technical experts and advisors, and others as project coordinators.
As technical experts, technical directors are responsible for:
- Setting and enforcing safe-use guidelines for equipment
- Routinely performing (or delegating) preventative maintenance on equipment
- Purchasing new equipment and replacing failing equipment as needed
- Keeping an inventory of the theater's technical supplies
- Overseeing and assisting throughout tech week and the load-in/load-out process
- Acting as the last line of defense for technical problems
- Advising production managers, directors, and designers on feasibility, cost, and equipment capabilities
- Turning designer's sketches into technical drafts used by carpenters
As project coordinators, technical directors are responsible for:
- Hiring, recruiting, or training technical staff
- Scheduling and leading meetings and regular check-ins with different departments
- Scheduling technical staff for events or performances
- Setting project deadlines
- Creating and implementing budgets
- Acting as the technical point of contact for renters and outside productions
At a Glance
This position is the apex of a career in technical theater, typically requiring more than 10 years of dedicated work in the field to be qualified. Technical directors are expected to have a thorough knowledge of each of the technical theater departments, experience with theatrical design, and an understanding of the production timeline.
Most aspiring technical directors start out by working for lighting, carpentry, or painting crews on various productions, in the process acquiring diverse skills and experience. Along the way, they might move into a leadership position, working as a department head, crew chief, or master carpenter. An advanced degree in a related field—theatrical production, for example, or electrical engineering—can open up new opportunities with prestigious theater companies and performance spaces.
Full-time work is a rarity in the world of theater, with most job opportunities coming in the form of freelance work on a single production. This means that networking—being tapped into a network of past collaborators and colleagues—is often a more effective strategy for finding work than checking job listings, although the two aren't mutually exclusive. That having been said, technical directors might find permanent and full-time positions working for theater companies, performing arts spaces and complexes, and schools with large theater departments.
- Carpentry (sets and props)
- Painting (sets and props)
- Lighting (programming and rigging)
- Theatrical sound design
- Technical effects (including pyrotechnics, video, projection, etc.)
- Electrical engineering
- Project management
- Personnel management
Technical directors have a solid mix of hands-on technical responsibilities and managerial ones, and should have an interest and proficiency in both these fields. This job is all about bringing different moving parts together: understanding long-term production goals, breaking them down into short-term ones, and delegating them effectively. For this, being organized, communicative, and goal-oriented is absolutely essential.
Between productions the job may be confined to normal business hours, but this is a rarity. Technical directors often need to be on call for events and performances, making night and weekend work a regular occurrence. In periods of high intensity—usually the final week(s) leading up to a production—technical directors may be attending nightly rehearsals and working almost around the clock, with little time for sleep or relaxation.