What kind of job can I fit into my busy theater student life?
September 3, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm an theater student in Houston. Twenty one years old. I've got a lot of theater on my resume, but I've never had a real, you know, jobby, job type job. What are my options and where do I start looking?

My situation: I'm a full time student, which means I'm usually busy in the mornings though my schedule changes a bit from day to day. I also need to maintain my flexibility in the evenings, because theater is my first priority, and I'll need to schedule any work I do around rehearsals. (I'll rehearse four days a week for two months, usually 6-9pm, then nothing for two months, that sort of thing.)I'm usually totally free weekends.

I've got zilch apart from theater work on my resume, very little of that paid. Up to now, my parents had been supportive in the extreme to the point of encouraging me not to get a job and to focus on school and theater. This was great until recently when I found I need more money than they're able to give me. With grad school on the horizon and therefore no end in sight for the busy theater schedule, I'm not sure what kind of job will be worth my time and still be flexible enough for me to be able to actually do it.

I don't want a McJob, I'm an intelligent person and my time is worth something. However, I'm not looking to start a lifetime career either. I just don't know what sort of job an intelligent and articulate (if I do say so myself) but inexperienced person can reasonably expect to get, and where I should start looking. Suggestions/personal experience appreciated. Non-food-service related is a plus.
posted by raygan to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get a job on campus or a work-study position? They usually try to be flexible seeing as how most students have the same issues. Since you have weekends you could try doing some retail at a mall in the area (they try to have more people on the floor on the weekends since that's when more people frequent said malls) but you'll make very little money. Are you really that opposed to food-service? It's better money than most other hourly-wage jobs. You could also try bartending, so you could work late after rehearsals, but that depends on how early you need to get up in the mornings (most bars, you have to stay at least an hour after closing to close up). Your best option is to find a job you want to do, tell them your schedule, and see if they are willing to work around it. Good luck. This is an age-old problem for most busy students.
posted by greta simone at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2007

Look, with those kinds of hours, your prospects for a 'real' job are pretty close to zilch. You might be able grab a job as a waiter or something for your two off months, then drop it once you're back in a play.

Work-study on campus is always good, as are gigs like web design, if you have the knowledge.

Can you schedule all your classes on, say MWF, leaving you free to work day jobs T/H?

This is a common college problem, and for many students, the only real solution is to tighten your belt and get used to the ramen.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2007

I've seen people in similar situations work it out with the following gigs:

- Freelance web design, graphic design, photography, editing, or copy-editing
- Writer/photographer for a small alternative paper
- Personal assistant or research assistant
- Babysitting

These jobs can be great money, very flexible, and even fun -- but you'll have to work your connections a little bit. Ask around, tell everyone you know that you're looking for a gig, and if an opportunity falls into your lap, grab it fast.

In the meantime, the easiest answer to your question is: retail, retail, retail. You should be able to find something flexible, part-time, and not completely boring. Just find a small, hip, boutiquey place where the employees dress like you, and put in an application.
posted by ourobouros at 6:27 PM on September 3, 2007

If your application looks lean, leave them a copy of your theatre resume as well. I used to do this and it worked for me really well-- it presents you as an active and responsible person, especially if they have any idea how challenging theatre is.
posted by hermitosis at 7:06 PM on September 3, 2007

I was in the theatre world for a long time. You are compounding your problem because you are a student as well, therby totally limiting the hours you can work. The most forgiving positions tend to be working at a theatre in an admin capacity [box office, group sales, stuff like that]. I've also known people who developed a great day-job career as an accountant/book keeper, and this helped them do theatre their whole lives. Plan for your lifetime, not just for these few years, especially if you are an actor or director. I also know a lot of theatrical nannies.

I'd strongly advise not going directly into an MFA program. A few years out on the street doing theatre full-time will determine what you want out of life.

I also enjoyed working hotel front-desk when I was doing theatre and school.
posted by Mozzie at 7:07 PM on September 3, 2007

So... I am also a full time theatre person.

There is a reason why theatre people end up waiting tables, and thats because its flexible and you make cash nightly.

You could also usher at a local theatre or movie theatre. I used to usher when I was in school and it was easy and semi-theatre related. If you worked in a movie theatre I would imagine you would get to see free movies, which is a plus.

And- while it wasn't your question, I would second the not going straight into grad school. As an actor, the younger you are the more marketable you are.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2007

Non-food-service related is a plus.

If you're hoping to move to NYC to pursue theatre full-time, you really need some food service experience. Most of my actor friends do catering or work in restaurants; the few who don't have their own business (web design, etc.)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:19 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you considered voiceover work? I find actors often work out great as voiceover talent because they can interpret scripts and work well off other people. You might start by calling some area production houses to develop a demo. Then, if you're good, word will start to spread. Producers are always on the lookout for new voices. Believe me, if you're demo shows promise, the engineers will drop your name. Here's the good part. You'll work days and for just a few hours at a time. I don't know about where you are but a non-union voice person in Philadelphia can make $300 for an hour or two of work during the day and still make rehearsals at night. Don't get me wrong, irt's not as easy as it looks to do that job well. But you sort of have a head start and might want to try it.
posted by lpsguy at 8:08 AM on September 4, 2007

If you're a full-time Theatre person, why not try to get on some crews or overhire stagehand/stage electrician calls? I know for a fact that there are lots of rental houses in Houston that would probably entertain you as a stagehand or overhire person. I assume from your experience and classwork that you know the terms and vocab associated with stagecraft and lighting, and being that you probably have these skills, you're a lot more qualified than some of the people in the world who make this their full-time employment.

Do a google search for "houston stage lighting" and "houston stagehands" and start calling EVERYONE you find. Some people won't post that they use overhire, but a lot of companies do. Get yourself on the IATSE local extras board for Houston/Galveston as well; the work might not be regular, but as long as you manage your time and get on lots of company lists, you'll work steadily. The more you work, the higher your IA hours will be, and you'll be able (eventually) to get your IA card and work as a union stagehand anywhere.

YMMV, of course. I haven't worked a job outside of the entertainment business in ten or so years. It can be done. Keep on it, and good luck. There's nothing wrong with being a performer who can build scenery or hang and cable a light plot - I'd be thrilled to see you could do both.
posted by jimmyhutch at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2007

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