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Money Matters

January 13, 2014

I am lucky that it is not my goal to make a living at theater, because I do not know how anyone does it.

I have joked about earning “high triple digits” as an actor, but it’s true — in the part-time performance I have done in the Washington, D.C., region, I have not yet broken $1,000 per year, and still do more unpaid than paid work.

American Theatre magazine recently asked followers of its Facebook page to share the “biggest paycheck you’ve ever gotten for theatre work.” Most said something less than $2,500 for an entire run, or a few hundreds dollars per month. Many said they had never been paid in theater. One wrote, “Wait, what??? People in theatre actually get paid and do not just get taken advantage with b.s. internships, empty vapid titles, etc.?” And one succinctly wrote, “Paycheck for theater? F**k you!” (That comment received multiple likes.)

A British actor who tweets under the handle @ProResting and who tracks the worst and wackiest of casting calls on her Casting Call Woe Tumblr recently wrote on her blog that on one day this month, “one casting site had listed a meagre 37 paid roles and a rather staggering 293 unpaid roles. And that was just the jobs that had been listed that day.” This did not surprise her much.

There has been lots of online debate in recent years over the practice of the Huffington Post and some other large, for-profit websites to primarily use unpaid writers, “compensating” them solely with exposure and possibly, just possibly, the chance to eventually get paid to write. In my earlier incarnation as a blogger and essayist, I would often write for free, and yes, it did result in my getting paid to write in the end. But I knew I was being exploited, and I knew that by writing for free, I was undercutting other writers and making it harder for any of us to be compensated for our craft.

It seems this is all too true of theater as well.

Peter Sig

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One Comment leave one →
  1. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    January 13, 2014 4:38 pm

    All too true. Imagine my frustration in job/internship searching to not only find unpaid internships but ones where you would have to PAY thousands of dollars to get!

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