Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Working in the theatre

Expanding on thoughts I wrote about the other day regarding education and theatre, it seems like the more experience you have the more likely one will end up in commercial theatre. I think there are several reasons for this:
1- While there are good, even great, jobs for TD’s, there aren’t an overwhelming number (how many LORT theatres are there? Under 100? Not to say that only LORT is good though). People want to make a living wage, thus as they grow they move out of theatre when there isn’t jobs available to match their own growth
2- Commercial theatre can pay more competitively; have larger budgets, and more toys, relatively speaking. The downside is that there is often less “art”.
3- Commercial theatre has a great need for skilled technicians (theatre does too), but commercial theatre can do things to help that need (like pay higher salaries).

Lastly, despite all of what I am saying I need to be clear that I do believe that you can earn a decent living in theatre. While money and benefits are only one element in a happy life, an income healthy enough to live on can be possible. No, you won’t be a millionaire, but not every TD is starving, and truthfully, good TD’s are hard to find and can pull in more. Working currently on the commercial side, I sometimes get a little aggravated about this attitude that the only reason not to work in the commercial theatre is for the sake of art, and that you can’t make a decent living. Thus the choice is art versus sustenance. Yet, my standard of living hasn’t changed much since moving in the commercial realm. The pay is marginally higher, yet I have a new degree to pay for, and higher living costs due to locations. Thus, it is essentially a wash, from much of the work I was doing before grad school. Should I have skipped the additional education? No – while I plan on discussing the educational state more some other day, the fact is that currently it is difficult to get into some positions / places without advanced degrees. While part of the reaction towards theatre is that in many situations, particularly if you have been in the commercial arena for a while there is a financial difference. But also, it seems like many of these people have started in theatre and have not been able to provide for themselves in the way that they wanted to.

Nevertheless, I believe in one thing: what we do, weather onstage or off is a job. (I am excluding amateur / community theatre.) Just like in any job there are tradeoffs. Smaller companies offer different experiences and benefits than large companies. Some jobs pay better than other jobs. If you want to make a million by the time you’re 30, there’s a variety of jobs that probably won’t get you there. Is theatre art – sure, but I don’t think you need to suffer for it. But for another view check out the following blog:

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