How do I get a job with a theatre company in New York City?
November 1, 2006 6:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I get a job with a theatre company in New York City?

I graduated from Arizona State with a degree in Theatre. I spent several years on the Student Production board which manages and operates the Prism Theatre Company. I directed several projects in Phoenix with some minor acclaim. How can I parlay this experience into working in the city? I have a more office job type resume here, and a theatrical tech resume here. Where can I go? What can I do?
posted by idledebonair to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
a) get a job at Starbucks
b) once you've done a), try to find a job at an off-off-Broadway theatre - try Playbill
c) once you've done b), try to find a job at an off-Broadway theatre
d) once you've done c), try to find a job at a Broadway theatre
e) once you've done d), visit Starbucks and sneer at aspiring actors and directors working there
posted by jellicle at 6:36 PM on November 1, 2006

What type of job are you looking for? At what type of company? (Do you have any particular companies in mind)

When you say "a job with a theatre company" it sounds like you mean a salaried positon. In my experience, for many companies in NYC, the founder(s) or artistic director(s) are the only staff (plus maybe an office manager) and may not even be full time themselves. Companies with resident artists tend to be founded by those artists and they pay themselves on a project-by-project basis.
posted by winston at 7:39 PM on November 1, 2006

I worked at an off-Broadway theatre in NYC for 2.5 years (with shows that went on to Broadway) as a freelance props artisan and prop manager's assistant before taking a salaried position for 1.5 years at a large urban theatre in a different state. Since moving back to NYC last summer, I've freelanced for three off-broadway shows at three different theatres. I'd say your approach depends on what position, exactly, you are interested in.

If it's the production side of things, try and put together an excellent portfolio of work you've produced and play up your technical skills. Get the names of the production managers at the theatres you are interested in and make sure your portfolio finds itself on their desk. If, for example, you are an adept stage carpenter, there's always need for those on a freelance basis. The important thing is to get some sort of flexible part-time job so you will be available to snatch up opportunities to job-in at area theatres on a minute's notice. Most large off-broadway theatres in NYC keep a list of freelancers at the ready, and it pays to take the odd job here and there to establish yourself as skilled and dependable so that you are first on the list when someone needs to call in extra help.

While you are waiting for the calls to come in, keep busy and expand your skills by offering to intern a day or two a week for off-off broadway theatres or experimental groups that can't afford to pay staff.

The theatre world is very, very small, and if you are professional and hard-working and easy to get along with, that news can travel very quickly to organizations with budget s large enough to pay you. Be advised, that pay is low and sporadic if you aren't a full-time staff member (and even then the pay is barely enough to survive on in NYC), but having been out of the theatre world and in the corporate one for the last 6 months, I'd trade my much higher paycheck any day in to go back to the trenches and engage in that glorious, frustrating, struggle.

My email is in my profile if you'd like answers regarding my own experience with specific production companies.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:34 PM on November 1, 2006

Best answer: This is not necessarily a good place for this sort of info because most MeFites don’t make their living from the theatre. There are a few of us though.

I am not in NYC, so I can’t give you specifics. I have been there many times, and toured there, so I have an idea of the place. In some ways it seemed both more difficult and easier to get a job there. More jobs, great, but also a lot more people who want those jobs.

Anything like directing, technicians, stage management, etc, are for the most part freelancers. Administration / publicity / marketing that sort of thing more likely salaried. What sort of work do you want to do? What sort of work are you willing to do?

No one is going to hire you as a director unless they have a pretty damn freaking good reason to do so. (There are always exceptions), but right now any directing you do is going to have to be pro bono. You’re have to create all those pretty damn freaking good reasons and get people to see them. Work as a technician or stage manager can be more available.

How to be a freelance theatre artist is really tricky. If you can handle that, you can handle the theatre game. How does one pay the rent every month? I find freelancing like one big Tetris game – I just hope I can get the gigs to line up, hopefully providing enough money to keep the wolves at bay. In Canada I find many theatre people come from middle class backgrounds – they have some protection in the form of available funds. I have borrowed money from friends, my RRSP from Equity, from my parents. Everyone has been paid off by now and I’m happy to say I almost feel self sufficient. But I never know what might happen next season. This is after 10 years of figuring it out.

Mamet is right: the theatre chooses you. You want it bad enough you’ll figure it out. And I hope you do. It’s has some of the best highs.
posted by miles1972 at 10:42 PM on November 1, 2006

The American Theatre Wing has a Theatre Intern Group- a networking/learning group for people involved in theatre internships. Can you get one? Generally, they don't pay well enough to live on (heh), so you'd need to get a second job or have some other financial support, but if you could get your leg in the door that way, you'd be on way to having some connections.

Are there any alumni of your school working in NYC? You need to call them- ALL of them. Most of the people I know working in theatre are still in touch with the theatre people they knew in college who moved to NYC.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

also, check in daily at the job postings on playbill:


These are largely NYC based postings, and since they are free (unlike ArtSearch/, which contains more salaried positions -requiring more years of experience) you'll have a better chance of finding freelance work that will help you build your resume and allow you to participate in interesting projects.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2006

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