TD of High School Theatres: hourly, salary, responsibilities?

emathews

Member
Joined
May 25, 2017
Location
Scituate, MA
Hi all,
First time poster. Happy to have CB as a resource.
I'm a TD in a high school performing arts space. Newly created position, currently hourly, maxing out at 20 hours a week (funny, I know). The Supt. is trying to make me a salaried employee.
Since we're so new, some of my responsibilities will disappear as the years go on. I'd like to hear from some seasoned people: break down your responsibilities. What percentage of time do you spend running an event? Setting up/breaking down an event? In the office doing paperwork? Training technician/students? Other?

Thanks, all.
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 21, 2013
Location
Near Milwaukee
Last week.
Monday :
7:15 - 8:15 set up, run, and break down a morning meeting
11:15 - 12:45 Teach tech theater class
2:45 - 5 Run rehearsal

Tuesday :
7:15 set up for the days events
7:30 - 3 Field trip
3 - 5 rehearsal

Wednesday:
7:15 - 12:00 Set up for choir concert
1 - 3 run choir concert rehersal
3 - 5 coach rock climbing club

Thursday
7:30 - 10:30 supervise and run meetings
10:30 - 3 run choir concert rehearsal
3 - 5 Run Drama Rehearsal

Friday
7:00 - 11:15 run Choir Rehearsal
11:15 - 12:45 Run Tech theater Class
12:45 - 3:15 choir rehearsal

Any time not booked is spent checking email (there is SO MUCH EMAIL!), working on facility scheduling (this never ends), lesson planning, designing, maintaining equipment etc.... Oh and there is always the occasional CB browsing while trapped in the booth.

Note that this was a week with very few after school commitments. Last May I had over 18 events that occurred outside of the school day. I would say I average 10 events per month that are outside of the school day, not counting Tech crew build days and rehearsals that fall under a secondary contract.

I am curious, what startup responsibilities do you think are going to disappear as the years go on?

My first job out of college was similar to what you are describing but I maxed out at 24 a week. That was fine for some weeks but for most it was impossible to do my job in that time, so they let me time-card any time worked over 24 hours. I would say I actually worked around 30 hours per week, with some weeks being as high as 90 (dance recital season). After 2.25 years of that, I found a full time version of the same job somewhere closer to home and left. It took them one full time and one part time employee to replace me whereas had they offered to just bump me up to full time, I might have stayed. If they expect to retain an employee for an extended period of time, they need this to be a full time position right off the bat. Upgrading it to full time down the road is hard to do.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hi all,
First time poster. Happy to have CB as a resource.
I'm a TD in a high school performing arts space. Newly created position, currently hourly, maxing out at 20 hours a week (funny, I know). The Supt. is trying to make me a salaried employee.
Since we're so new, some of my responsibilities will disappear as the years go on. I'd like to hear from some seasoned people: break down your responsibilities. What percentage of time do you spend running an event? Setting up/breaking down an event? In the office doing paperwork? Training technician/students? Other?

Thanks, all.
@emathews @GreyWyvern "E", let me tell you a story and, optimistically, there's something positive you can glean from it.
I'd only ever worked hourly, from part-time jobs in high school, through my IBEW apprenticeship, my decades in the IATSE, yada, yada, etcetera. At one point, I was asked if I'd accept a salaried position in a 750 seat producing theatre, what you'd probably term a "regional". I had a verbal contract. That was my first error. I was told "Keep track of your hours and we'll give you time off in lieu of overtime." Believing this was my second error. I've no idea how many "errors" I made but I'll stop enumerating at two as that's already too depressing. My employer was a brand new theatre. I'd been with it from consulting, through ground-breaking, visited multiple times over the construction period, dealt with commissioning of all aspects of A/V systems and eventually accepted a position as their Head LX upon opening. As their "Head LX", I felt ALL aspects of electricity within their building were my responsibility. I assumed responsibilities for pro-active building and production installations and maintenance as well as operating my employers' rehearsals and performances, plus outside rentals on Equity free days. I maintained shop, office, lobby and exterior lighting as well as production audio, intercom and page / monitor systems. I thought once I had a show hung, focused and cued, I'd be able to show up for 8 performances per week and take a few hours off so long as I was keeping on top of lamp replacements from aisle lights, through offices and shop spaces to exterior lighting. No, surprise, surprise. That wasn't enough. Once we'd had our grand opening, I learned I was expected to be in from 8:00 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday, even on Equity-free days, to deal with co-op students. Co-op students? Yes. Apparently my employers had co-op students in many areas from sewing costumes through props, carps, scenic painting and had expanded their co-op program to include lighting and electrical.
Back to error #2: "Keep track of your hours and we'll give you time off in lieu of overtime."
I procured a nice spiral-bound calendar about 16" square with a page per month and a square block for every day of the month.
Every morning when I rolled in, I'd jot down my arrival time.
Every night / morning when I left, I'd jot down my departure time.
During every Saturday evening performance, I'd total my hours for the week and note it in Saturday's block.
At the end of every month, I'd total my hours for the month and carry my total over to the next month's page.
At the end of my first year, my employers owed me more than a full year off with pay.
Clearly there was a problem and apparently I was it.
My third error was an inability to say "No!" My employers burned through a steady stream of new hires, none of whom lasted more than a few months. The last time I visited the building, maintenance must've become a dirty word as they clearly weren't doing any.
All the best and be careful what you commit to.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

Shoottv

Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2017
Location
Tulsa OK
It's a little hard to direct you but I'll give you some thoughts. NEVER take a new position on salary. I work in education and the extent of job creep is like nowhere else.
Everyone thinks that running a show is show up for 2 hours and go home. Administration doesn't see the hundreds of un-sexy hours hanging and wiring and changing light bulbs and stringing cable for the new video system and figuring out why the ticketing system isn't working and calling the printer to see why the programs came in misprinted etc...etc...
I You also don't say if this is a 9 month or 12 month position and if you teach.
I teach a full class load and manage the tech classes and student productions but my school also has 2 full time technicians managing our 3 spaces. (2000 seat auditorium, 200 seat black box, and 5000 seat arena). And I still end up working 50-70 hours a week depending on the show. I would say that less than 2% of my time is spent running productions in front of an audience. The techs bill the school for 40 hours a week then any outside groups get billed for technician hours outside of the school day. school events go on OT or comp time within the next 2 pay periods. I would say that less than 10% of their time is running shows in front of an audience.
If you have 1 or 2 spaces to maintain I would start at $15-25/hour minimum with a guarantee of 40 hours and a benefits package. Hours from 40-50 can be taken as comp time at time and a half and taken within the next 30-ish days. 50+hours goes on the clock at time and a half. Set a cap on the amount of comp time you can build up at about 40 hours. If after the first year you want to move to a salary position you will have some idea about what you're realistically at.
What will happen if you get more than a week of comp time built up is you will never get to take it and you will never get paid for it.
Is your school used for outside events? If so do you staff those and what are your responsibilities. Do you turn on some front light, fly in some legs and turn on a mic or do you have to write light cues, actually run lights or audio and bring in the orchestra shell. People think that things like mics and risers just happen because they didn't see the 3 hours previously setting them up. If you're doing outside events and suddenly the person running the event wants "4 handhelds and a red special over by the Christmas Tree" that you have a mechanism in place to bill them for that and for you to get paid for the extra work.
Tell us more about the facility and what they see as the job and we'll give you some additional thoughts.
The last thing I will say and this will sound snarky at best and bitchy at worst, DO NOT WORK OFF THE CLOCK FOR FREE! We generally love our jobs and want every production to be beautiful. but, beautiful takes time, money and talent. The only thing that we have to sell is our talent and every time somebody throws in a free mic or free design it does a dis-service to every technician that person will work with in the future.
 
Last edited:

JJBerman

Active Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2014
Location
Middleton, Wisconsin
As the high school theatre I 2nd job at is working on hiring a new "Director" I'll chime in as the "Interim Director".
The previous director was full time 40hrs "Salaried". 20hrs was salaried and 20hrs was "technically" hourly, he also got additives for school activities (Stage Crew, Production Technical Director, Set Designer, etc)
This position was originally setup as half time PAC Director, half time PAC Custodian. In the last few years, so many school day events prevented the Director from cleaning regularly because he was either dealing with event issues or needed the space empty to clean. This helped in preparing for events as he could focus on the event and not cleaning... Now they have removed the Custodian part of the job but haven't found funding to make the position 40hrs...

During normal school weeks he spent 50hrs at the building. During school Tech/Show weeks he spent 70-80hrs at the building. This was ALL for the high school theatre department.
Any event during the regular business hours/school day was primarily run/supervised by the Director. If extra hands were needed he would contact a staff of Supervisors and Technicians specifically hired for the Theatre.

Outside renters and school district events after regular business hours are staffed by hourly Supervisors and Technicians that the Director hires.
I try to hire students as Technicians as that gives back to the school more, but I am allowed to hire anybody in the area as long as there is justification/need.
Supervisors are seasoned technicians who I trust to be the person with keys and in any sort of emergency situation they can handle anything until I arrive or Emergency responders arrive.

How much do you expect your space to be used? When my PAC was built, opened in 2003, the school was asking how to justify a large non classroom expense. My boss said "If you build it, they will come" and we are now turning down multiple renters from across the country every year as there just isn't enough days in the calendar to fit everything. School day events have dramatically increased in the past 6 years too. Music and Theatre used to be the only school groups to use the PAC, now there can be a student council meeting on stage/house, on one side of the lobby is a music breakout session and the other side has art/photography, and the green room has a theatre seminar. In the spring I have 3 months straight where the building will be used 7 days a week for a minimum of 10hrs a day(some weekends are nearly 20hrs a day).

One question you should ask now is who runs the budget and what happens to the income from rental groups? My annual operating budget is $6000 for lamps, tape, window cleaning, anything not building related(anything theatre is not building even if it is part of the structure)... $6000 barely covers the basics for me let alone if I need to replace gear the breaks or increase inventory I have to beg.

I also have to schedule HVAC and exterior door locking/unlocking, this is on a per event basis with over 300 event days a year.

To answer your questions;
Running event: depends on the event if it is a band rehearsal all we do is open doors and clean up after, if it is a meeting with podium microphone and powerpoint we sit at the sound board making sure everything keeps working.
Setting up/teardown: also depends on the event, music and theatre have gotten really good at doing all their own setup/teardown but at the end of the day I still have to double check things are put back nicely or how I like it.
Office paperwork: depends on how much paperwork you give yourself. Also for the small presentation events I will try to do some paperwork while I sit bored at the sound board.
Training of staff and students: All after normal hours, students/my hires are during weekly stage crew. My boss had issues trying to pay for training and it left a lot of the staff un-trained until they actually worked an event. That will hopefully change with new boss.

If you become salaried try to plan it around at least 50hrs a week, with additives for school activities/clubs you run also.
 

emathews

Member
Joined
May 25, 2017
Location
Scituate, MA
I am curious, what startup responsibilities do you think are going to disappear as the years go on?
Thanks for your detailed response. I wonder if things like creating policies and procedures are going to disappear once we create them. For example, I need to create a procedure for organizing audio cable by length. Another example, creating an evacuation procedure.

I'm 20 hours a week this year and it's virtually impossible to do this job with that many hours. Just wait until performances and concerts start!
 

emathews

Member
Joined
May 25, 2017
Location
Scituate, MA
@RonHebbard
Thank you for taking the time to post that. Is there anyone in the theatre world who is really great at saying no to their employers? I took notes on your experience. I will document my hours. I have been doing a little bit here and there, but I will be sure to be stricter about it. Fortunately, if I go over my hours right now, I don't get paid---ever---so that is a big driver for me to work 20 hours and adios!
 

emathews

Member
Joined
May 25, 2017
Location
Scituate, MA
It's a little hard to direct you but I'll give you some thoughts. NEVER take a new position on salary. I work in education and the extent of job creep is like nowhere else.
Everyone thinks that running a show is show up for 2 hours and go home. Administration doesn't see the hundreds of un-sexy hours hanging and wiring and changing light bulbs and stringing cable for the new video system and figuring out why the ticketing system isn't working and calling the printer to see why the programs came in misprinted etc...etc...
I You also don't say if this is a 9 month or 12 month position and if you teach.
I teach a full class load and manage the tech classes and student productions but my school also has 2 full time technicians managing our 3 spaces. (2000 seat auditorium, 200 seat black box, and 5000 seat arena). And I still end up working 50-70 hours a week depending on the show. I would say that less than 2% of my time is spent running productions in front of an audience. The techs bill the school for 40 hours a week then any outside groups get billed for technician hours outside of the school day. school events go on OT or comp time within the next 2 pay periods. I would say that less than 10% of their time is running shows in front of an audience.
If you have 1 or 2 spaces to maintain I would start at $15-25/hour minimum with a guarantee of 40 hours and a benefits package. Hours from 40-50 can be taken as comp time at time and a half and taken within the next 30-ish days. 50+hours goes on the clock at time and a half. Set a cap on the amount of comp time you can build up at about 40 hours. If after the first year you want to move to a salary position you will have some idea about what you're realistically at.
What will happen if you get more than a week of comp time built up is you will never get to take it and you will never get paid for it.
Is your school used for outside events? If so do you staff those and what are your responsibilities. Do you turn on some front light, fly in some legs and turn on a mic or do you have to write light cues, actually run lights or audio and bring in the orchestra shell. People think that things like mics and risers just happen because they didn't see the 3 hours previously setting them up. If you're doing outside events and suddenly the person running the event wants "4 handhelds and a red special over by the Christmas Tree" that you have a mechanism in place to bill them for that and for you to get paid for the extra work.
Tell us more about the facility and what they see as the job and we'll give you some additional thoughts.
The last thing I will say and this will sound snarky at best and bitchy at worst, DO NOT WORK OFF THE CLOCK FOR FREE! We generally love our jobs and want every production to be beautiful. but, beautiful takes time, money and talent. The only thing that we have to sell is our talent and every time somebody throws in a free mic or free design it does a dis-service to every technician that person will work with in the future.

Hi there...I intentionally left it a little vague b/c I didn't want to give too much info then get no responses. Considering you had no idea what my job description is, you did a damn good job with your suggestions and input. Thank you for that!
I hear you on the salary vs hourly bit. I am really hesitant to go forward with something of this scope, especially since we are brand new.
Do you still write down all your hours so that you get comp time or do you just start documenting after your salaried time runs out?

Right now, everything is so new we are starting slow. For our first full year the space is...
-a classroom space for the music department
-presentation space (think slide show, mic, podium, person on stage, projector, lights on/off)
-Town hall space for meetings (think presentation space with more mics, more people)
-performance space for the whole district music classes (voice, instrumental)
-performance space for the whole district drama clubs (currently at 4 productions a year)

This is far from where it will stop, though. The long term vision is making revenue with outside rentals. As of now, I am the ONLY technical person in the space!

Edited to include: I am currently not teaching. However, I am a teacher, licensed to teach theatre at the HS level, so I'm hoping that will change.
 
Last edited:

emathews

Member
Joined
May 25, 2017
Location
Scituate, MA
How much do you expect your space to be used? When my PAC was built, opened in 2003, the school was asking how to justify a large non classroom expense. My boss said "If you build it, they will come" and we are now turning down multiple renters from across the country every year as there just isn't enough days in the calendar to fit everything. School day events have dramatically increased in the past 6 years too. Music and Theatre used to be the only school groups to use the PAC, now there can be a student council meeting on stage/house, on one side of the lobby is a music breakout session and the other side has art/photography, and the green room has a theatre seminar. In the spring I have 3 months straight where the building will be used 7 days a week for a minimum of 10hrs a day(some weekends are nearly 20hrs a day).
I think this is exactly where we are right now, and where we will end up!

Joe: thanks for the detailed inventory of how you spend your time.

I think what I've gathered from this, without even thinking about my original question is, this is not a job I should do alone! The budget piece is HUGE. I need to be able to hire in technicians to help me out. Unfortunately for now, my position is currently "unfunded" until SY 2018/19, so the idea of asking for a budget of $6k (which sounds totally reasonable, btw) for basics would get me laughed out of the Business & Finance guy's office. It sounds like there may be a little fake it til you make it to make the school department see the need for more support and more supplies before I'd get them!
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
@RonHebbard
Thank you for taking the time to post that. Is there anyone in the theatre world who is really great at saying no to their employers? I took notes on your experience. I will document my hours. I have been doing a little bit here and there, but I will be sure to be stricter about it. Fortunately, if I go over my hours right now, I don't get paid---ever---so that is a big driver for me to work 20 hours and adios!
@emathews I hear you "e". Talk's cheap, let's see / hear you put your exit strategy into action.
C'mon, you can do it. At least you're trying to kid yourself into thinking you can.
G'wan! Make it look easy.
[Know when you're being ragged].
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

Calc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2004
Location
Mid-Michigan
...so the idea of asking for a budget of $6k (which sounds totally reasonable, btw) for basics would get me laughed out of the Business & Finance guy's office.
While it may get you laughed out of the office now, setting the expectation (even if you don't necessarily get it) will help tremendously down the road when money isn't as tight.

Who pushed for the facility to be built?

It sounds like there may be a little fake it til you make it to make the school department see the need for more support and more supplies before I'd get them!
We've all played "Fake it til you make it" in one way or another. Just remember that while the challenge may be fun from time to time, it wears out it's welcome quickly. It's tremendously easier to do any job with the proper support, both financial and manpower. They're going to have to establish some sort of operating funds, especially if they expect the program to grow significantly.

If you build it, they will come. But if half the house lights are dark because nobody budgeted for lamps, they probably won't be back. :p

Also keep in mind that they won't ever see the need unless you make it known.
 
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Ric

Active Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Location
Werribee, Victoria, Australia
Agreed with all of the above. ( great comments guys)
I work in a local government owned venue. There's never enough staff, time or budget, to do all the things that need doing.
However the important things to do in the startup stages of a venue are setting the ground work for how the future of your space will pan out.
Place needed items, budget, staffing levels in front of the bosses at every opportunity.
Set realistic schedules, and show why the staff are needed an hour or 2 prior to the event on stage.
Allocate time for training, maintenance, repairs, restore to standard.
Set long term expectations of replacement equipment, at reasonable time spans ( desks every 7 years, lights every 10 years or less etc.) to get the budget crunchers thinking.

And keep a record of your time worked, and what on, for your own records, but also to justify why 20 hours is not enough!
 

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