Can I switch to a theatre-based career?

I am a frustrated 30-something looking for a change of direction in my life. I currently work with children as a playworker, which I love. I also work part-time front of house at the local theatre. I have a degree in Childhood and Youth, a background in care and I am a qualified massage therapist. But there is something about the theatre that speaks to me. I loved drama and performing in school plays as a child but was discouraged as my mother felt that I was "too shy" (to the contrary I think it could have been a huge asset to me, but there you are). I love the magic and the cameraderie of theatre. I love the emotion and the escape. Above all else I love being around interesting, creative, dynamic people. I think I want to move towards something more theatre-based as a career but I am at a loss for what or how.

My current skills and qualifications do not appear to purtain to much that would be relevant to any creative career. I also wonder how location-dependent many jobs would be. For example, my little local theatre does not have a creative team in any capacity - that is all brought along as part of the productions. So to be part of that, I am guessing it would require to be in London or some other major city.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for how I might be able to switch to a theatre-based career from where I am now, what might suit me and if there is any way around the location-dependency, short of moving to London? Thanks so much.

— Jenny

Expert answers

Jonathan Kennedy 's reply:

While you dont have a direct theatre background it sounds as though much of your experience would lend itself to the arts. Your front-of-house volunteering plus work with children and young people are all really useful.

I dont think by any means you need to be London based to flourish in the arts.

I think you should consider what in particular you would like to do in theatre, at present you dont state this. Many theatres and arts organisations have outreach and participatory programmes. Sometimes run by in-house staff and freelancers and sometimes on more of an ad hoc basis. Your work with young people could be useful here. While your local theatre may not have this kind of porgramme see what others in your region do. You might want to request to shadow some outreach workshop sessions with theatres permissions to see what it means on the ground so to speak.

Having a strong and solid understanding of theatre making and different forms of theatre are important to be able to develop a career in the sector over the long-term. Sitting in on rehearsals, attending public dress rehearsals (when you can) all would help widen your experience albeit at once removed from doing it yourself.

I would strongly advise you mine the theatre you volunteer at for their advice and then connect with others to develop a network around you. This should help you focus on the areas of theatre you are most suited to and help you make a start on developing your career. Its a hugely competitive and crowded profession with little by way of structured career progression so the more you can be proactive in taking this in to your own hands the more you will be seen as someone worth bringing into the industry.

Hope this helps.

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