Careers in theater

I’m a freshman in college, and right now my declared major is secondary English education. But my real dream is . . . theatre! (To be said with a great rolling of the eyes and a clutching of the heart.) I really love costume construction/design or some form of management. I was terribly involved in my high school’s drama program and was assistant producer/stage manager/costume designer/all-mighty-queen-of-the-drama-department. (I had a tiara and everything.)

Is there anybody out there who can give me advice, tips, and/or info on the job opportunities in theater now and in the future? Experiences would be appreciated too, if anyone wants to share. Thanks in advance.


Transfer to your school’s theater arts department. If there isn’t one, transfer to a school that does have one. Most people get their start in university theater. The next avenue is community theater, but… well… you did say “career”.


Break a leg!

Glad to hear that you want to work in the theatre. I did and I loved it. I was a stage manager. I will try to give you a few tips.
Just do it! Work wherever you can. Summer can bring work, or interships. Try to find a professional company. You may have to do as I did and be an unpaid intern at first but you have to start somewhere. I can’t say much good aboout community theatres but if that is all you can get, go for it. You need to learn from professionals.
Consider going to a college that specialies in theatre. I went to a school for the performing arts. I have my BFA in Design and Production. It helped.
Know that it takes a lot of time. It is not a 9 to 5 job. You have to work days AND nights 6 days a week. If you want to marry and have children then go join the part timers in the community theatre and play at it.
Know that New York is not the be all and end all. There is fine professional theatre all over the country.
Best wishes and have fun.

I am a professional Actor and have been one for 33 years. I am a graduate of a theatre school and a member of all the Unions. If you have questions you would like to ask me please feel free to do so.

I managed for most of 20 years to make a pretty good living doing props. Take as much art history and history as you can cram in. Learn every area of technical theatre you can. Be able to run a follow-spot and build a flat. Be willing to take whatever job you can get at first and do every job you can manage as well as you can. If you believe you are above any given job you will not get the next one.

You can make a much better living working at the regional theatres than you can in New York or LA. It also helps in the beginning if you have some secretarial skills and and a good relationship with a temp agency. Waiting tables skills helps too.

Nerves of steel helps a bit in the beginning too. A good family support system and ability to fill out unemployment applications helps. If you are a person that needs everything settled and has to know what is coming this is a bad choice of careers no matter how tallented you are. It can be a blast. Good luck.

First of all, I love the SDMB more than should be logically possible. It is the information fiend’s form of cocaine. Thank you all!

It’s probably not a good thing to be afraid of your academic advisor, is it? Mine’s kind of overbearing and doesn’t really listen, and just tells me what classes I have to take, without really telling me why. As a result, I’m a little timid about going and saying, “I want out. Let me out, you three-horned she-witch of the North!” There was a reason I started typing this paragraph, but I can’t remember it . . . argh.

I live in Milwaukee and grew up near American Players Theatre, so I know there’s good theatre everywhere. (Like the middle of nowhere with APT.) I guess I never have thought of New York as the end all and be all – there were just too many other places closer to home.

furlibisea, what was your time like when you worked in theatre? Why was it that way? Was it a matter of the people you worked with or the work you were doing? Are there as many primadonnas as you hear there are?

dinty, I guess my questions for you are about the same. Are there as many self-involved fussbudgets? Are there any ways to handles those people without letting them know they are being handled? I guess my main question is: What’s it really like? I know that’s something I’ll have to discover on my own, but teasers would be lovely.