Prod. Electrician - Job Description, by Charles T. Bugbee
The production electrician's job begins with a reading of the script and a study of the set design. Meetings follow with the director and various designers to discuss the look and feeling of the show, and any special effects that may be required. Until the mid 1960's, the production electrician, working closely with the scenic designer, often "designed" a show's lighting. Since this time the use of lighting designers has become widespread; and ironically, this creative element is no longer a part of the production electricians's job.
An equipment list is prepared and sent to competing electric shops for their price bids. Once a shop is selected, the production electrician supervises two to three weeks of the work during which all of the show's lighting equipment must be readied, tested, packed, and shipped to a theatre, usually out of New York, where the show will be set up for the first time. (n.b. Professional theatres do not provide any equipment. Absolutely everything, from dimmer boards, to lighting instruments, to colored gel, to cable must travel with the show.) The production electrician is responsible for the "hanging the show" (i.e. setting up the equipment) after which he focuses the hundreds of lighting instruments. During previews, mammoth changes may be required on a daily basis. As scenes are rewritten or restaged, entire numbers added or deleted, not only do the lighting cues change but equipment must often be rehung in different locations, and ready for that night's preview.
Often a new show plays in two or more cities prior to New York. At each stop, the production electrician must hang and focus the show. On closing nights all the equipment must be taken down (struck) to be shipped to the next theatre. This process continues until opening night in New York City. During the show, the production electrician operates the switchboards (since the 1980's most shows use computer boards) and throughout the run of the show he is responsible for maintaining the equipment and supervising the crew.