When you hear â€œcareers in theater,â€ acting is probably the job that comes to mind first. As the most visible participants in a theatrical production, thespians can really hog the professional limelight. But treading the boards is a notoriously tricky career, filled with long hours, low wages, and studio apartments.
So what are some of the otherâ€” less visible, but also less insecure (read: more pay)â€”professions that make the magic happen on stage? Here are five to consider:
1) Stage Managers
Stage Managers are the air traffic controllers of a play. During rehearsals, they work with the director and designers, recording the lighting, sound, and actor cues. When the curtain goes up, they call the cues from the light booth, coordinating with the backstage assistant stage manager to make sure the production runs smoothly. Since most professional directors do not see a show after it opens, itâ€™s the stage managerâ€™s task to ensure that the directorâ€™s original artistic vision is reproduced night after night.
Must have: Patience, authority, and organizational skills.
Most have: A BA, usually in stage management, theater, or theater design.
Show me the money: Stage managers work on a project basis, but the salary can be high for a theater job, clocking in between $42,890â€“$111,250.
2) Lighting Designers
If youâ€™re a more technically minded person, a career in lighting design could be a good match. Lighting Designers plan out the placement, movement, and timing of each light on a theaterâ€™s grid. Working alongside the director and other designers, their goal is to create a cohesive aesthetic for a production.
Must have: Creative vision, electrical skills, and an eye for detail.
Most have: Experience in the field (a BA in theater or lighting design wonâ€™t hurt, but itâ€™s not necessary if youâ€™ve got the professional chops).
Show me the money: On average, lighting designers bring home between $49,338â€“$82,054.
3) Sound Designers
Sound Designers create the audio experience of a show. Depending on the requirements of a production, they might spend time mixing music, recording or finding sound effects, or working with the director to explore how the sound elements help heighten the audienceâ€™s experience. Alternatively, some sound designers focus on the technical side of things, placing microphones, balancing volume, or equalizing the bass and treble.
Must have: Keen hearing, creativity, and in-depth knowledge of sound equipment.
Most have: Experience in the field (like lighting designers, sound designers often have a BA, but a degree is not required).
Show me the money: If a sound designerâ€™s working on Broadway, the benefits can be high, but most make between $32,450â€“$67,010.
4) Costume Designers
Costume Designers are a crucial part of the production team; costumes are the fastest way to give visual information, like the economic status of a character or the time period, to the audience. Whether re-purposing clothing from past performance or creating new outfits from scratch, costume designers are in charge of all the worn pieces and props.
Must have: Style, historical knowledge of clothing design, sewing and garment construction skills.
Most have: At least a 2-year degree in fashion or costume design.
Show me the money: Costume designersâ€™ annual salary generally hits between $44,110â€“$90,020.
Director positions come in two major areas: Directors of specific plays, and Artistic Directors who oversee the entire season of a theater. Both positions are highly collaborative: Directors work closely with actors and designers to bring their vision of the production to life. Artistic directors are the strategic thinkers responsible for developing and executing the mission and vision of a theater company. They guide the selection of plays, the development of budgets, and the overall brand of the organization.
Must have: Vision, organizational skills, and people skills.
Most have: At minimum a BA in theater or arts administration.
Show me the money: With yearly wages between $42,890â€“$111,250, directing roles are often the highest paid positions in a theater company.
Annie Rose Favreau writes and works for Inside Jobs, a career exploration site â€œwhere people can explore what opportunities exist and learn what paths can take them there.â€ Check out our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Want to find out more about careers in theater? Go here.
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