Stagecraft / Technical Theatre

This pathfinder is for people who are interested in the backstage aspects of theatre, whether it be building sets, designing scenery, lighting a show, doing make-up, building costumes, or affecting the mood of a scene through music. This guide is divided into online sources (websites, mailing lists, newsgroups) and print sources.

Online Sources:
General | Mailing Lists, Web Rings, and Newsgroups | Search Engines and Web Indexes | Books and Bookstores | Sets/Scenery | Props | Costumes and Make-Up | Sound | Lighting.

Print Sources:
General | Sets/Scenery | Props | Costumes and Make-Up | Sound | Lighting.

Online Sources


Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms (
Hundreds of British (and American) technical theatre terms, explained. In alphabetical order. Soon to be sorted by category, too.

Stagecraft Frequently Asked Questions (
Frequently asked questions from the and alt.stagecraft newsgroups.

Drama Department Links: Stagecraft (
From the University of Exeter. The list includes costumes, staging, props, lighting, sound, and stage management.

Association of British Theatre Technicians ()
Includes information about training, publications, and other information about several aspects of technical theatre. (
Lists behind-the-scenes theatre jobs, mostly technical and design.

Entertainment Technology (ETEC) (
This site provides access to the magazines “Entertainment Design” and “Lighting Dimensions” about show business art and technology.

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General Mailing Lists, Web Rings, and Newsgroups

Technical Theatre Ring (
A ring of webpages with stage or technical crew content.

The Gaff Tape Web Ring (
Another ring of webpages with technical theatre content.

alt.stagecraft (news:alt.stagecraft)
Usenet newsgroup. If you don’t have newsreader software, you can read newsgroups by using a free web service, such as Google. (
Usenet newsgroup. If you don’t have newsreader software, you can read newsgroups by using a free web service, such as Google.

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Search Engines and Web Indexes

Google (

Argus Clearinghouse ( Search for “theat* or stage*” (without the quote marks)

Lycos Directory (

Michigan Electronic Library (

Netscape (

Open Directory ()

Yahoo (

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Books and Bookstores

It can be hard for the beginner to know where to find technical theatre books. Although the IPL does not endorse any particular bookstore, these are included here to help you get started. See also Print Sources.

StageCraft Bibliography (
List of theatre design textbooks and reference books. Includes short comments. From Northern State University’s Theatre 241 class.

Allyson &Bacon: Performing Arts: Theater and Dance (,4094,71737,00.html)

Drama Books (

FilmShop – Stagecrafts Books and Reference (

Books from Special Effect Supply (

Samuel French, Inc., Technical Books (
Samuel French, Inc.: London ( ( (
Search for “stagecraft,” “stage-setting and scenery,” “stage design,” “stage props,” “theatrical costume,” “stage makeup,” “sound effects,” or “stage lighting.”

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Sets / Scenery

Scene Shop Safety Manual (
Student safety manual from the University of Michigan’s Frieze Scene Shop.

Riggers Page (
Technical information about stage rigging equipment; includes rigging formulas. Illustrated.

A Few Notes on Scene Painting (
For the beginning scenery painter. Step-by-step instructions to create brick, wood panelling,and stripped wallpaper. From Northern State University’s Theatre 241 class.

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The Character Shop – FX Glossary: A compendium of common FX terms (
Glossary of terms and techniques used in movie, TV, and theatre special effects.

The Character Shop – Reference Information (
Answers to frequently asked questions about breaking into the effects field. Includes a reference list of books, magazines, and supply houses.

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Costumes and Make-Up

Costumer’s Manifesto (
Just about anything you need to know about costuming: advice and how-to, photo references, designs, and many, many links.

The Costume Page (
Extensive, categorized list of costuming resources online.

Milieux: The Costume Site (
Another list of online costuming resources.

The History of Costume by Braun and Scheider (
Online version, with color illustrations of “The History of Costume,” by Braun &Schneider, published in 1861-1880.

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The Aural Imagination (
A resource for students of theatre sound design. This is not a list of links. It’s more like an online textbook.

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Stage Lighting Tech Pages (
Glossary, technical data, and links to lighting equipment manufacturers and lighting-related organizations.

Brendan’s Lighting Page (
Miscellaneous links of interest to lighting designers: design and control software; lighting companies, organizations, and schools; and design portfolios.


Lighting Links Page (
Extensive list of lighting-related links, including links to organizations, lists of links, companies, forums and news sources, publications, safety, training, and reference sites. From the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts.

Stage Lighting Math Formulas (
“A collection of math formulas that can prove to be useful to lighting designers and electricians.”

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Print Sources: General; Sets/Scenery; Props; Costumes and Make-Up; Sound; Lighting.

Print Sources

Most American public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification system. If your local one does, look in the 792 section (Recreational and Performing Arts) for these and other books about technical theatre.


(see also Books and Bookstores)

Theatre Backstage from A to Z, 3rd edition by Warren C. Lounsbury and Norman Boulanger (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989. ISBN 0-295-96829-x; ISBN 0-295-96828-1 (pbk))
Definitions and drawings explaining the terms and use of stage scenery and lighting. Well illustrated with line drawings and some photos.

Practical Theatre – How to Stage Your Own Productions, Trevor R. Griffiths, Consulting Editor (Secaucus, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, 1982. ISBN 0-89009530-2)
For the serious amateur. Covers directing, stage management, acting, set design, lighting, costumes, administration, and make-up. Also has an introduction to building sets and props. Well illustrated with photos and line drawings.

Fun With Stagecraft, by Andrew McCallum (Hillside, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1982. ISBN 0-89490-008-0)
Basic information about set and scenery design and construction, props, lighting, sound effects, costumes, and make-up.

Theatrical Design and Construction, 2nd Edition, by J. Michael Gillette (Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1992. ISBN 1-55934-102-5)
For the very serious student or amateur. Easy to read, well-illustrated textbook. Thorough introduction to the theory, practice, and tools of several areas of theatrical design: scenery, props, lighting, costumes, make-up, and sound.

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Sets and Scenery

Scene Design – A Guide to the Stage, written and illustrated by Hemming Nelms (New York: Dover Publications, 1975 (reprint of 1970 edition). ISBN 0-486-23153-4)
Very helpful book for the amateur and student. Includes scenery, sets, models, principles of design, and painting scenery. Well illustrated, with line drawings.

Designing and Drawing for the Theatre, by Lynn Pecktal (New York: McGraw, Hill, Inc., 1995. ISBN 0-07-557232-x)
For the very serious student or amateur. Set design and drawing textbook. Well illustrated,with photos and line drawings.

The Theatre Student: Scenery, by W. Joseph Stell (New York: Richard Rosen Press, Inc., 1970)
From the Theatre Student series. Easy to read, basic book on designing scenery. Well illustrated, with photos and drawings.

How-To, vol. 1, by the editors of Theatre Crafts Magazine (New York: Drama Books Publishers, 1984. ISBN 0-916477-01-0)
A collection of hands-on articles from Theatre Crafts Magazine. Includes basics, platforms, scenic construction tricks and techniques, rigging, etc. Many photos and illustrations.

Stage Design and Properties, by Michael Holt (New York: Schirmer Books, 1988. ISBN 0-02-871343-5)
From the Schirmer Books Theatre Manuals series. A practical guide, for the student and amateur, to set design and building, scenery painting. Has one chapter on building props. The Schirmer books include a six-week production schedule that includes all technical production members, including director, stage manager, designers, choreographers, advertising, etc. Well illustrated.

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Creating Your Own Stage Props, by Jacquie Govier (Englewood Hills, NJ.: Prentice Hills, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-13-189044-1. ISBN 0-13-189036-0 (pbk))
For the low-budget but serious amateur. The first part of the book has step-by-step instructions for various techniques: paint, papier m�ch�, plaster, synthetics, paper, fabric, wood, and metal. The second parts applies these techniques to specific types of sets (e.g., historicals, ships). Lots of good line drawings.

The Theater Props Handbook – A Comprehensive Guide to Theater Properties, Materials, and Construction, by Thurston James (White Hall, Virginia: Betterway Publications, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-932620-88-4. ISBN 0-932620-86-8 (pbk))
For amateur and professional props builders. Explains the techniques needed to construct over one hundred props, such as books, blood, food, plants, weapons, etc. Extensive photographs.

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Costumes and Make-Up

Stage Costume – Step-by-Step, by Mary T. Kidd (Cincinatti, Ohio: Betterway Books, 1996. ISBN 1-55870-406x)
Practical, step-by-step instructions for designing and building professional-looking theatrical costumes. Easy-to-understand illustrations.

Costume and Make-Up, by Michael Holt (New York: Schirmer Books, 1988. ISBN 0-02-871345-1)
From the Schirmer Books Theatre Manuals series. A practical guide for students and amateurs to theatrical costume, from research through design, including some costume construction and make-up. The Schirmer books include a six-week production schedule that includes all technical production members, including director, stage manager, designers, choreographers, advertising, etc. Well illustrated.

Wigs and Make-Up for Theatre, Television and Film, by Patsy Baker (Oxford: Focal Press, 1993. ISBN 0-7506-0431-x)
Practical, detailed, step-by-step instructions for theatrical make-up, hair, and wigs. Detailed line drawings.

Stage Makeup, 6th edition, by Richard Corson (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-13-840512-3)
Practical guide and self-guided textbook of stage makeup. Covers basic anatomy, lights and colors, planning the makeup, and applying it. Extensively illustrated with photographs and drawings.

The Theatre Student: Makeup and Masks, by Ellen Terry and Lynne Anderson (New York: Richard Rosen Press, Inc., 1982)
From the Theatre Student series. For the student or beginning make-up artist. Also covers, at great length, the preparation and maintenance of the make-up kit.

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Sound and Music For the Theatre, by Deena Kaye and James LeBrecht (New York: Backstage Books, 1992. ISBN 0-8230-7664-4)
For beginning and professional sound designers. After explaining what sound design is and does, it covers everything from initial concept to research, plotting, recording, and performance.

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The Theatre Student – Practical Stage Lighting, by Emmet W. Bongar (New York: Richard Rosen Press, Inc., 1971)
Everything about stage lighting for the beginner. Explains the uses of the different types of lights, care and maintenance of lighting equipment, and how to use lighting plots and cue sheets.

This pathfinder created by Betsy Vera.

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