Stage set for techie jobs

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By Deborah Gardner

There’s no business like show business. But it’s a tough market to break into for technical theatre students.

“It’s a difficult market to penetrate as a young student or grad. If you’re not a [union] member you have to work your way in,” said Doug McBoyle, manager of technical services Paramount Canada’s Wonderland.

McBoyle, a Ryerson student 15 years ago, offers hope. He said Ryerson applicants’ skills and knowledge of the industry have improved the last five years.

“The kind of things they’re teaching seems to be right on the money,” said McBoyle.

First-year students are introduced to backstage theatre — administration, lighting, design, sound, costuming, set construction/design and stage management. Students can major in second year or focus on several areas at once.

“Generally speaking, they all find jobs because they don’t have to stay in theatre but they can go into film as well,” said Jean Charles-Black, a theatre school professor.

The industry is mainly run on a per-show, per-season basis. “Our industry is generally freelance,” said McBoyle. The only security is to join the union, International Association of Theatre Stage Employees — but it’s tough to get into.

Andrew Jefferies, a fourth-year sound major, said connections are a must.

“You really have to know somebody,” said Jefferies. “I am worried because I’m graduating but I’m confident something will come up.”

But the majority of learning comes once students apply their knowledge in the real world.

“The theatre school will help me get a job but it won’t be the deciding factor,” Jefferies said. “It’ll be the experience.”

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