Backstage Roles

If you are interested in becoming involved in any of our backstage roles, members of the company go into some detail and share past experiences on the various jobs that are essential in producing a successful show.

Set Design and Construction by John Bush

It is the job of the designer to create the visual and physical environment in which a play is to be performed. This is called the set.

Working closely with the director, the designer establishes style, colour palette and plans. The set designer liaises with the costume designer to ensure that style and colour of set and costumes work well together and also discusses plans with the lighting designer.

The designer can initially produce a visual image of the proposed set but then builds a scale model to show the director, cast and lighting designer. For a multi-set production, the designer needs to solve the problem of efficient scene changes.

Once the design is agreed and budget approved, the designer decides what can be used from the club’s stock of flats and rostra, draws up any new pieces that need to be built and arranges hire of any specialist items such as decking and black drapes.

The designer then needs to source and chose the set dressing; furniture, wallpaper, floor covering, practical lights etc.

As rehearsals progress, the designer should keep in touch with the director and stage manager as to any change required to the set, furniture or dressing to accommodate new bits of action or stage business.

The designer and their construction team need to prepare as much as possible before the get-in and to ensure that everything is delivered to the theatre ready for building the set on stage.

The designer supervises the construction and painting of the set and is responsible for ensuring it is a safe structure. Once everything is up and running smoothly, they can lay out the furniture and do any final dressing.

As technical and dress rehearsals proceed, the designer should solve any teething problems with the set; sticking doors, masking in the wings etc.

On the first night, the designer will be found propping up the bar with a large drink in their hand !

On a personal note, I have now designed over 20 productions for Southside Players which has given me the opportunity to create American hair salons, continental chateaux and English mansions, Rugby clubs and WI halls, 1st World War trenches, the back streets of Glasgow, Welsh seaside towns, French cafes and so much more.

Designing for the theatre is a hugely creative, satisfying and rewarding role. If you are interested in gaining experience in this area, you can start as a design assistant and learn the ropes as well as getting your hands dirty at the get-in. You will be very involved in the production and have great fun.

Costumes by Linda Parker

My first step when costuming a play is to scan and highlight my script (italics only) for any costume bits and character detail mentioned in stage directions. Then I read carefully for anything a character might say about costume and highlight. This way I get to grips with the personality and style of the character. I also make note if there are uniforms or period costume that need to be hired. Depending on the period of the play costumes might be hired, made, used from stock, borrowed or bought.

I then draft the costume plot, a grid which shows who wears what and when. Next is the costume book, a collection of cuttings, photographs, drawings and fabric swatches, my ideas for what each character should wear and how they should look.

A theme might come to mind. For example for Arcadia, I thought floral, the play has a gardening subtext.

The director has the final say in what the actors wear, so we discuss my ideas and then, once approved the making, buying, hiring and borrowing starts.

What I like most about doing costumes is the research, making period costumes and the satisfaction of coming up with a good charity shop bargain!

Lighting Design by Rhona Sampson

Lighting design and operation is a great way to get involved in the production aspect of the show, as it fuses both technical and creative elements, while allowing more flexibility and a reduced time commitment when compared to some of the other technical roles.

Depending on the requirements or complexity of the production, lighting designers/operatives may be involved throughout the rehearsal process, although the bulk of the work occurs during ‘get-in’ and Show Week, when the lights are ordered, rigged, and set up for operation during the show. The designer will generally liaise with the director and tech team to create a suitable scheme during rehearsals, then set up the equipment for the performance.

Patience, attention to detail, and a predilection for red wine are all good qualities in a lighting tech, but all that’s really essential is a bit of good humour and an enthusiasm for paper charts and cables! Get involved, and see the production from a different side.

Sound Design by Jacqueline Gunn

We’re always looking for people interested in helping out with sound at Southside – whether you’re a complete beginner or a sound editing pro, there’s a project to get involved in. More recently we have started recording and editing our own incidental soundtracks for shows and for those interested in the tech, we use a Zoom H4n for recording and Sound Cue System for cues. For a couple of recent performances, we have also recorded our own vocal arrangements as part of show soundtracks as well.

It’s a great chance to get creative without the need to attend every rehearsal and our members are happy to train beginners to have their first go at dipping toes into the world of sound. So whether it’s mixing, scratching*, editing or sourcing great tunes you’re into, get in touch!

*Disclaimer: we haven’t actually ever had any live scratching- yet!

Properties by Amy Wedgwood

Props are a key role of any Southside production. With such fantastic sets and costumes, it is vital that everything used by the actors on stage fits with the period being portrayed and doesn’t look out of place. This presents a really fun challenge for anyone doing props as you find yourself creating things and rummaging around the prop store or in charity shops with unusual shopping lists of items. Over the years, Southside has had to source a tortoise, a theodolite, a parrot, mountains of food and much much more. This is a role where you can really let your creative side go or if you haven’t got the time you can call on a wealth of Southside members who have the most unusual things hiding in their houses (my personal favourite was someone who had some stuffed pheasants!).

On show night you will be responsible for making sure all the props that need to be on stage are, and any personal props are set in the dressing room.

Top tips for this role would be:

1) Be organised – spreadsheets are your friend so keep a list on what you have sourced, what is being made, what you still haven’t got and keep updating it.

2) Always ask for help – it is amazing what family, friends and other Southside members have hiding in their homes. Once you have your list of props send out a plea and you will be surprised what people turn up.

3) Try and get things ready a couple of weeks before show week – this makes your life during show week so much easier as the actors get used to looking after their own props and when to bring them off/on. From an actors’ perspective, it is also useful to have a few practices before the get-in weekend with the props you will be using so you can used to them.

Production Assistant by Liz Steer

The role of the Production Assistant is to ensure everything is booked and organised through the rehearsal period in preparation for show week. This can involve assisting the director to organise rehearsals, co-ordinating Front of House volunteers, monitoring the budget , liaising with those that are involved on show marketing, organising key marketing activities like flyering weekends, ordering the lighting tower and vans for the get in weekend and of course making sure everyone has a lovely meal after a busy get in! The Production Assistant is also on hand to help out with any other duties as required!

Front of House by Emma Burford and Esther Muschamp

Front of House is a very important role as you are the ‘face’ of Southside for the evening. It is a very busy role for short periods when the audience arrive and during the interval and involves lots of problem solving from running out of wine (disaster!) to dealing with latecomers. It is very rewarding as you get to chat to the audience and listen to their reviews of the show and also chat to and encourage potential new members.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere for the audience is essential. The front of house team would be led by a front of house manager who would be in charge of buying the stock for the bar during the get-in weekend and check that all the front of house bar, posters of past productions and the cast and crew photos are all positioned at the venue and to make sure that money is collected for the front of house floats.
On the nights of the performance, the front of house team may be required to do one of the jobs:
1) to man the box office and take money for tickets
2) Sell programmes
3) Sell refreshments and also take orders for interval drinks
The front of house team would also look after any latecomers making sure they get to an appropriate seat at an appropriate time within the production – this would be decided by the director.
At the end of the evening, once the audience have gone in for the second act, money is counted, float set up for the following evening and it’s off to the pub with the cast and crew or home.