Getting started with theatre
Susan Elkin is the author of 'So You Want To Work In Theatre?’ – a guide for young people who want to work in the theatre world. She shared five pieces of advice about careers in theatre.
1. There is more to the theatre world than performing
Theatre is like an iceberg. It’s easier to work below the waterline than above it.
For every person you see performing on stage, there are several more people working out of sight and backstage to create the production, even on a very small show.
These include stage managers, lighting and sound technicians, and the creative team including director and designer. There are front-of-house staff, too.
Theatre is like an iceberg – and it’s a great deal easier to get training placements or work below the waterline than above it.
2. Drama schools don't just cater for performers
You can train for stage management and technical theatre – scenic arts, prop making, costume, lighting, sound and so on – in many drama schools.
There are also some good university courses and some excellent apprenticeships.
Some technicians – especially in areas such as scenic arts or costume – begin their training in art colleges or in university fine art departments.
3. It takes a wide range of careers to run a theatre
If your strengths lie elsewhere but you are interested in theatre, there are plenty of ways of working in it.
Large companies such as the Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre employ large numbers of people in jobs which would not immediately be associated with theatre.
These include accountants, company administrators, health and safety advisers, security staff, PR and marketing people, and education managers.
If your strengths lie firmly elsewhere but you are interested in theatre, there are plenty of ways of working in it.
4. Many people start in theatre by volunteering
Many of the people who work in any given theatre building have done some form of volunteering.
If you are drawn to a career in front-of-house work, or want to work in the stage door office, volunteer to sell programmes or help with the cleaning or catering.
When job opportunities come up – often with prospects – someone who is already regularly in the building has an advantage.
5. Almost any job in theatre pays better than performing
This is true for most people most of the time.
Furthermore, some technicians and skilled craftspeople can earn excellent reliable livings, even though most are freelance.
Feeling inspired? What would you like to do in theatre?