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Careers in the Theater  |  Writing Activity: Apply Today!

Careers in the Theater

Theater draws upon a wide cross-section of abilities, from performing to carpentry to accounting, so career options are exciting and varied. Here are just a few of the choices:

ACTOR  |  Being an actor requires a background of technical skills, an understanding of dramatic literature, and special skills such as singing and dancing. Actors audition for parts, search for openings and positions, and continually work at their craft. Being an actor requires talent, flexibility, and persistence.

BUSINESS MANAGER  |  A business manager for a theater must balance the books. He or she must work with expenses and income and must be familiar with tax issues. Most business managers have college degrees, and many have master’s degrees in business administration.

CHOREOGRAPHER  |  A choreographer creates movement on stage. We usually think of choreographers in terms of dance, but they also script actors’ movements in fight scenes and even stunt sequences. Choreographers must be inventive artists and good communicators.

COSTUME DESIGNER  |  Costume designers are visual artists who must understand fabric and color. They are also craftsmen who invent, improvise, and recycle. Most costume professionals have extensive training from colleges and apprenticeships.

a director at work DIRECTOR  |  The director is the person who creates a connection between playwright and actors. Besides a broad knowledge of dramatic literature, a director must have an understanding of the actor’s craft and must be able to work closely and communicate effectively with actors. A director must have great versatility; often, directors have gone through the same educational process as actors. They also have an exceptional understanding of every facet of performance and production: set design, lighting, makeup, etc.

ELECTRICAL/LIGHTING TECHNICIAN  |  A career as a lighting technician requires a solid understanding of the basic principles of electricity, mechanics, and physical science. Training beyond high school, such as a degree from a technical school, is usually required. A successful technician must be able to solve problems by applying what he or she has learned to new situations. Sometimes technicians learn while working with an established professional in an arrangement called an apprenticeship.

MAKEUP ARTIST  |  A makeup artist is often a visual artist. Some are trained in schools of art or design, while others develop their techniques by working in school and community theater productions.

MUSICIAN  |  Career options for musicians are diverse. Instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and recording engineer are all possibilities. Most professional instrumentalists and singers started learning music early in life. Many have studied music formally. Generally speaking, formal training is required.

PLAYWRIGHT  |  Being a playwright requires hard work, talent, luck, and persistence. Writing for the stage is demanding. A playwright creates characters whose personalities are revealed through dialogue and action. The scenes a playwright creates must be both plausible and exciting. Successful playwrights have a keen interest in people and how they behave. Most have had experience as actors or directors, and most have attended drama school.

SET DESIGNER  |  A set designer must have both imagination and practical skill and must be able to meet a variety of challenges. Sets must work in the context for which they are designed—for instance, having doors that really open. But a set must also achieve an artistic effect that fits with the overall theme of a production. Set designers often start by working on high school productions and then move on to college or graduate school. After college, most go to drama school to study the theory, practice, and history of set design.

STAGE MANAGER  |  A stage manager takes charge backstage during rehearsals. A good stage manager keeps track of all cues and effects and makes cue sheets for the stage crew. In the professional theater, a stage manager has to be versatile and experienced in all phrases of theater production, including acting and directing.

TEACHER  |  Understanding the history of drama and how it mirrors the history of other disciplines is valuable to people who want to be teachers. In elementary school, most teachers teach all the basic subjects. In middle school, teachers often specialize in language arts, social studies, or the sciences. In high school, the specialization is more focused. A person who wishes to work full time in theater might consider college teaching.

And how about ...

WEB SITE DESIGNER  |  Scores of regional theaters now have their own web pages with calendars, events, ticket information—and job openings! (You’ll find links to lots of these sites on the regional theaters page from KET Distance Learning’s Humanities Connections.)

Source: The Stage and School. Glencoe McGraw Hill: New York, 1999.


Careers in the Theater  |  Writing Activity: Apply Today!


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