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The Student Has a Question(s)

August 28, 2012

I love college. I go to this great school that’s up and coming in the theatre education world. I major in theatre. I do lots of theatre. Yay college theatre!

But this summer was a glimpse into my future reality, of when I have to do what I’m learning. I’m working as an Assistant House Manager for a theatre company and I love it. I can see myself coming back next summer and doing this after I graduate to. But house management isn’t the only thing I want to do with my life and who knows if I’ll get hired again? Last spring, I sat down with one of my professors to talk about post-college and what I should start to look into. Talking to my professor was good and what I needed to hear but I realized today that he’s not the only industry professional I can ask questions.

So let’s turn the tables on the readers and my fellow bloggers. I share my experiences as the wanna-be-professional, share yours with me! I’m a student, I’m supposed to learn and I want to learn these answers to start with:

How do theatre companies work? (and how should they ideally work?) Can you name some good companies?

Where are good places to do theatre besides the obvious New York City? Are there are Canadian actors out there who can talk to me about Ottawa and Toronto? Especially Ottawa for non-Canadian citizens.

And speaking of New York City, when do you think is a good time or way to move there?

Do you also write plays? What else do you write? Do you find jobs because of your writing?

Do you (or know someone) who successfully works as Non-Equity or do they all eventually get their Equity card?

I’m finding myself getting interested in online work and webseries, what do you know about that?

What do you end up doing immediately post-graduation?

I’m assuming for House Management positions, I’d have to go through the theatre and not by the show to find work. Are there a lot of House Managers out there, or just usually in the bigger theatres? Is there a union, or a way to go about working house management?

What’s your experiences with doing your own work, creating your own art?

What skills do you think are overrated and what ones are more important? (Dance, stage combat, driver’s license, accents, etc.)

So that’s all the questions I have currently…plenty of things for me to investigate more about! And if you just want to tell me the answers, that’s fine too. Can you think of any questions I’m not thinking of?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2012 8:28 pm

    I don’t have answers to everything you asked, but here are my two cents:

    Other places besides NYC for good theatre — Chicago and Seattle.
    Don’t move to NYC without a little chunk of savings, even if it means moving home for a summer first. It is very expensive to live here and crap will come up!
    I don’t really consider myself a “writer” per se, but if you do, there are all kinds of ways to make money with it — copywriting and social media work come to mind immediately, among tons of other things.
    I do know people who successfully work non-union a lot, but not in the major metro areas.
    The skills you will use will vary depending on what path you choose, but everything counts. Make yourself as well-rounded and interesting as possible as a human being.

    And this one’s a freebie: you are doing the exact right thing! Taking internships in different areas is the best way to figure out what path you want to take and what you’re good at. That’s how my husband unexpectedly fell into a love affair with casting. My advice is to dabble around in college and do everything until you find one thing you love and are great at, then specialize in that and do mostly that until you’re important enough to branch out 🙂

    Most of all, keep asking questions! There’s always so much to learn, and so many people willing to share their journeys.

  2. August 29, 2012 8:37 pm

    Wow! lots of questions, but I’m so glad you have the guts to ask them all (the worst thing is to be too proud to ask)

    a few thoughts from me:

    -theatre companies, there are a gazillion. But to start, in NY, TRU is a good organization for up-and-coming companies and good place to network and learn.

    -This past winter, I went to the Wildside Festival in Montreal and loved the shows I saw. I don’t know anything specific about how Canadian theatre “works”, but maybe you could check out a festival and network with many companies at once. Wildside was really cool (and cold, as it was January)

    -I love NY, so I’d say, “come as soon as you can!” But Redheaded is right, it’s smart to have some buffer funds, so you don’t get discouraged. like three months expenses….

    -yes, I write, radio drama and short films. I’ve never gotten acting jobs because of writing, unless I’ve written a role specifically for myself….which I do… but then I have to pay myself, so….. I also write the occasional magazine or online article for pay. But pursuing writing for money is just as much of a full-time job as is pursuing acting….When I say I write the articles now and then, this is because I worked for many years as a journalist before returning to graduate school for theatre. (see my previous posts) So I have loads of contacts and have “dues paid.” This isn’t to say it isn’t possible to earn some money from writing without many years’ experience. But, there are many people in NY who are pursuing ONLY writing as a career, so if you are splitting your time between pursuing theatre jobs and writing jobs, you may find yourself running in many directions without getting anywhere. That being said, I’m happy to suggest a few places to start writing if you’d like. Let me know . Because I also believe you should try everything you want to try, at least for a while!

    -Unions: agreed with Redheaded.. outside major metro areas maybe you can make a living as non-union. But I’m not sure it’s possible in NY. I could be wrong. Anyone out there have a different experience?

    -Everyone in NY is “working on a webseries.” (but how many make it online?) I myself have had at least five brilliant series ideas that I never wrote! But I have worked on many others who did manage to put pen to paper. Some are great, some not so. But I think overall, webseries are a GREAT way to express your voice and to create. If you follow Bonnie Gillespie, on Actors’ Access you’ll see her huge belief in self-producing. I have to agree with her. And I have to start writing one of those five I’ve neglected…..

    -post-grad (in London): I got a job in my last month of school, for very little pay on a play that was a thesis piece for a woman finishing her MFA in directing at another school. It was a Singaporean play and we performed in English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese (my speciality.) It was a wild experience and had I loved every second. I think I made about 50 pounds sterling for weeks of rehearsal and performance, but it was an actual contract I had to sign (it was a profit-share deal, which is common in fringe theatre in the UK) and the first night on stage as a “professional” actress, I was in heaven. And I’m still in touch with the director from that play and have visited her in Singapore. That visit to her inspired a radio play I just finished writing in June, which I submitted to a huge radio playwriting contest so….you never know what one small, profit-share, multi-lingual play will lead to!

    The one thing I missed, though by not going to a US school was the summer stock theatre experience. I think that seems a great way for new grads to get involved? Am I right?

    – I regularly see job posting for house managers on

    -my own work/art: I guess that’s what I often write about here on this blog, so check it out.

    -special skills: Lots of casting directors have written about this, check casting director interviews. I think they usually say that “driving” is not interesting to them unless it’s a motorcycle or hot-air balloon or something (though I believe that’s called “piloting”)

    Anyway, long answer to your post I know… are you sorry you asked? 🙂

  3. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    August 31, 2012 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the answers! In retrospect, I should have added Syracuse and Buffalo to my list of cities to ask about since I’ve becoming more familiar with them in the last few years.

    Redheaded: I’ve had some friends do the Chicago route I could talk to but I haven’t met anyone (except my cousin) who’s worked in Seattle before. I’m not at all familiar with the West Coast though and I’ve hardly left NY (although I’ve certainly seen every inch of the state by now!).

    Granted, I’ve been seriously considering the webseries idea (especially with the access to a lot of friends with filming expertise) as something I want to do before I graduate. I’m hoping this semester’s writing class will help me get that on the page. As far as pro writing for anyone besides myself, I’m not ready yet but I wouldn’t mind knowing where to look down the road. Gotta put that creative writing minor to good use! Wildside is a great suggestion, thanks! The cold doesn’t scare me, I grew up on the Canadian border and regularly had -30 degree winters!

    Yes, summer stock for theatre students! Although it was surprisingly rare that I met another student working with me this summer. I’m working on a Summer Stock blog post right now. Actually, I’m considering myself very lucky right now — if things work out for the best with me and this company, I would see myself staying on for a few years after I graduate, until I feel I’ve got the security to try out NYC (unless something better works out my way. What’s that they say about the best-laid plans….?)

    And I’m going to repeat a question, adding a little bit more emphasis to it this time: On special skills and stage combat skills; how often do you come up with a job that requires some combat know-how and how often do you meet a SAFD pass or recommended pass actor? Valuable skill to have or just a neat trick to keep on your resume?

    • September 1, 2012 5:52 pm

      I am SAFD certified, but I can’t say it’s landed me a job thus far. I think it can be useful, but ultimately, it’s rarely a make-or-break thing. And this is definitely sexist (but true, which is why I share it), but I think it’s generally more useful for men…damn it.

      • The College Theatre Dork permalink
        September 1, 2012 6:10 pm

        Hmm…I never considered that since most fight roles would be played by men, it would be a more useful skill for male actors to have. So I’d be a minority in a minority field then but I have to admit, I love the contrast of my short femininity with unarmed and (hopefully?) sword skills in stage combat. Maybe someday there will be that one role where they need a short woman to kick some serious ass and I’ll be there…and it’s fun 🙂

        • September 4, 2012 7:59 am

          Totally agree, do it for yourself. I like to do the same thing. Just saying that unfortunately, it hasn’t landed me a job so far. Hopefully in the future! 🙂

    • September 10, 2012 6:17 pm

      Hi, an answer to your writing question, as you probably have heard a lot in school, it’s that crazy double-edge sword is that you need published clips to get hired, but you need to get hired to get published clips…. But you are doing a great thing by blogging, which can be great examples of your writing. I would also look at craiglist… though it can be a wasteland of porn-disguised-as-real-job postings, (no offense to porn people, I’d imagine it’s difficult work, but…) but if you dig around the writing gigs postings, you can find some interesting online places or small magazines that are looking for contributors. They sometimes pay nothing to pennies a word, but at least you would get a few clips published. Then go from there. Also, of course, if you write for college publications that’s great too. And there is still that old-fasioned Writers’ Digest, which has a great online presence, but if you can get your hands on an actual hard-copy in your library or bookstore, I’d check it out. The info in the actual book could be out-of-date a bit, but just flipping through the lists of topics and publications can really spark your imagination and give you ideas on who you can write for.

  4. September 2, 2012 7:15 pm

    A couple sentiments prompted by your questions:

    Chicago,Boston, Washington DC , and even LA have bustling theatre industries. NYC has the most going on but you can have an artistically fulfilling life in any city.

    Once you decide on a city, jump right in! I think the sooner, the better. Personally I don’t see the point in waiting. I say just get there and get going.

    Yes, if you can write, write! The key is to create your own work and you can really do this is any capacity even outside of theatre. No matter what it is, “don’t get it perfect; just get it going.” Create your own opportunities. Generally these even end up being the most fulfilling because your more invested in them and since you’ve created them, you’re the boss and you make the rules. That’s what I did with my around the fringe in 20 plays project and that’s what the redheaded actress did in creating the greenroomblog!

    Theatre wise create ur own stuff too. Write plays, do readings with friends etc.

    Find the theatre you believe in. If you don’t love it, aren’t proud of it , or are not having fun, don’t do it.

    Make your day to day life your own business. Schedule designated time to be creative, rent out studio space to rehearse audition stuff with a friend,
    schedule time to research theatre companies you’re interested in.

    Live simply. Do what you love and follow your gut.

    Great job in thinking ahead! I encourage you to do your research as its really important but, honestly you won’t truly start learning until you jump in and start experiencing!

    I’m excited for ya!


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