What Types Of Theater Jobs Exist?

"I know a lot goes into making a play but I don’t really understand all the kinds of work available in the theater. I have a lot of interests and skills, and I am very interested in being a part of show business. I love the magic of theater. What are some of the jobs available in theater?"

asked by Jenny from San Diego, CA

There are many different jobs in the theater world. Even a small production requires several people to create all of the elements to run the show. A large professional company employs hundreds of people full-time to make the magic of theater. While not all productions or companies use all of the following people, here are many of the jobs available in theater.

Onstage, there are the actors and actresses that tell the story. They are the visible part of the production, but they are truly only the tip of the iceberg. Depending on the show, there may also be singers, dancers, musicians, and puppeteers.

To craft the original idea, there are the playwrights. While Improv shows are a part of the world of theater, most shows are written. Musicals also have a composer and sometimes a lyricist.

To plan the production, there is a team of designers. Scenic designers, lighting designers, sound engineers, costume designers, choreographers, and makeup designers all work within the vision of the playwright and director to make the story come alive through the set, sound, lights, and costumes. These people will work for weeks, sometimes months, to craft the plans for a single show.

To construct the elements of the play that the designers have planned, there are carpenters, technicians, sewers, a crew of builders, and specialists in a variety of fields. Some shows require special training for the actors, and dialect coaches, movement teachers, fight choreographers, or speech therapists are occasionally needed.

For the actual performances, in addition to the actors and musicians; there are the stage hands that move set pieces and props; the lighting and sound technicians that run the boards that control the lighting, music, and other sound; the dressers, makeup artists, and backstage assistants that help the actors prepare; and the ushers and box office people that care for the audience. If it is a musical, there will be musicians and a conductor. Some roles are specific to the show, such as a fake blood wrangler for Dracula or a fight captain for Romeo and Juliet.

Stage managers see to the fluid running of the entire show. They are the ones who handle all the details before and during performances. Stage managers are truly the backbone of a production, supporting the director during rehearsals, facilitating communication between the various departments, and making sure all the details are in place. During the run of the show the stage manager, or his or her assistants, will “call the cues,” which is how everyone knows when it’s time to go onstage, change the lights, move set pieces, play a piece of music, or perform any other action in the play.

The over-arching vision of the play is provided by the director. Directors often envision a production for months or years before casting and rehearsals begin, finding a play they want to bring to life onstage and gathering all of the people to make it happen. Directors, in conjunction with the producers and artistic directors, have final say over the designs, cast, crew, and all other elements of the play. A good director can communicate and execute his or her vision in a way that inspires and empowers everyone involved while still holding to the original idea.

Producers manage the financial and logistical aspects of the production. They do the fundraising to pay for the show, handle the publicity, and take care of the budget.

Agents and casting directors interface between professional actors and directors or theater companies. They help the actors they represent get work, and ensure the theater companies find the actors needed to fill available roles.

And last, most theater companies have artistic directors. These people hold the over-arching vision of the theater company, often deciding what plays will produced in a season and hiring the directors and designers for those plays.

Many people with a variety of skills have jobs in theater. While the work can be very different, they all share a passion for the magic and beauty of creating live theater.

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