Cross Training In Theatre: Bridging The Gaps
By Shmem Geddes
Cross training is inevitable in this industry. Whether it’s something that is sought-out by individuals, curious to learn new skills or something that circumstances make a necessity, we will all encounter it at some point or another. The differences come when it’s a vocational challenge versus an operational demand.
Many technicians find themselves becoming a little stale in the roles they have, and so ask to learn new tracks or new disciplines not only to help keep things fresh but also to add more skills to their resume.
Some others find interest in their chosen field wavering or discover a new passion and so make a transition from one to the other. This, in my eyes, is vocational cross training. Generally, requests come from the technicians to upper management for opportunities like these but it’s not unheard of for someone to be asked if they are interested in cross training as certain traits they have, lend themselves to certain jobs.
On the flip side, there are times when it is required to have technicians learn tracks or roles that they may not necessarily want to do.
If you have a small team, for example, and need someone from day crew or another department to learn a console to cover in case someone goes out sick. On the West End there are paid deps and in Vegas, there are on-call technicians that can be called in should such an event occur but other shows or tours do not have such a luxury. In times like this, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you know the technician may not give it 100% due to their lack of interest but on the other, you need to have someone that can step in should the need arise.
Varying skills and attitudes towards the job can make this scenario particularly difficult. Sometimes it may seem like the candidate offered is not particularly the right person for the job but as they say, the show must go on. I’ve had several instances like this, sometimes you’re proven wrong and the technician exceeds your expectations and sadly, sometimes you’re proven dead right. It’s the luck of the draw when there is no one stepping up to the plate voluntarily.
I am a huge advocate of cross training. I believe the more you know, the better you can understand your show and how every aspect comes together.
As such I will always try to facilitate any requests for it wherever and whenever possible. In truth, I suppose you could say that my career in automation was born of cross training, however, I made the full-blown leap from one department to the other without a buffer in between.
My take on it is this; if you have the opportunity to cross train or help someone to do so, take it. It’s rarely going to do you any harm.
If you have to do it out of requirement do the very best you can because, at the end of the day, it’s rarely going to do you any harm.