A theater technical director coordinates all technical aspects of a theatrical production. The work requires skills in multiple creative and analytical fields and is one of the top level positions in technical theater staff. Technical directors may be employed as in-house theater or educational theater staff or contracted by theater groups and traveling shows.
The technical director ensures all technical aspects of the production work smoothly and safely. Much of this is done by coordinating between the artistic and technical departments. The tech director creates working construction drawings that translate a set designer's idea into workable plans for the scenic crew. He coordinates schedules so the lighting, sound, set and other crews have the time they need to set up their work onstage. The technical director also coordinates with the director and stage manager to ensure actor safety and fulfillment of the director's vision. Rigging -- the placement and safety of any elements that are placed over the stage -- is also the technical director's responsibility, in coordination with lighting and fly crews.
The technical director position is part administrative and part hands-on in most theaters. It is often combined with the production manager position, in which case the technical director is also responsible for scheduling everything that happens in the theater as well as assisting any outside groups that rent the theater space. In theaters without large crews, the technical director often pitches in on any crew that needs help, including construction, lighting and painting. Some are also called upon to design sets or lighting for productions, particularly when working in educational settings.
Skills and Experience
Technical directors must have a thorough understanding of all aspects involved in technical theater, including construction, lighting equipment, rigging and sound. Most technical directors have one or two areas of expertise but can function well in any role. People and time management skills are a must, as are a focus on safety. Technical directors generally work their way up to the position, learning the roles of lighting, rigging, set and sound technicians through years of hands-on experience. Experience is often more important than education, but a bachelor's degree in technical theater is useful.
A technical director must be able to work safely around power tools, on ladders and lifts, and around electricity. The work often involves getting dirty or dusty and being around paint fumes. For theaters where hands-on work with various crews is required, the technical director must be physically fit enough to spend most of the day on his feet or kneeling, crouching, reaching and exerting his muscles through the use of hand and power tools.
Tech Director Salary
Salaries vary greatly depending on the size of the company employing the technical director and the company's location. Salaries vary according to the size and location of the theater as well as the experience of the director. Cities with high-budget production houses, such as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, may offer the most lucrative positions. The U.S. average annual salary of theater technical directors as of June 2014 was $67,000, according to Simply Hired.