The Apollo, The Old Vic, The Lyceum; all these iconic theatres where millions go to indulge in their artistic curiosity or childlike wonder. As easy as it is to forget sometimes, it takes more than a talented actor to make a show worth its salt. Think about all your favourites, the ones you have seen over and over again, or the ones you have admired from a distance. Then, ask yourself what it is that made you feel the way it did. Theatre is not film and nine times out of ten it’s going to be an amalgamation of the lights, costume, an uplifting dance number or a set so realistic that made you stop, stare and question your own reality. It takes more than an actor to make the show - unless it’s a one woman show, that’s a different story altogether.
Knowing you could be a part of rich tapestry that is more than what you see on stage, is all the more reason to consider other careers the theatre has to offer. Very much like a model walking the runway; they make it look so effortless but they’ve had a team of designers, artists, stage crews and the like, working tirelessly for months on end for that thirty second window that could make or break them. Actors go through the same thing, and the amount of preparation and rehearsing they must go through to make that role perfect plays alongside teams and crews, on stage, backstage, on top of the stage and even outside of the theatre.
So, here are some alternative careers in the theatre you may want to consider, or check out Kickstart Your Career for more inspiration.
Turn your theatre enthusiasm into a career as an arts journalist. A review of the show acts as a window for the audience about what to expect. Our opinion could be the difference between a buzzing full house or rows of empty chairs. You get to keep your fingers on the pulse of the theatre and keep your readers up to date with all that happens in that world.
It doesn’t take a village, just a few versatile people dedicated to the craft and the smooth running of the show that can make all the difference. Backstage crew, or stage hands, assist with everything from building sets to dealing with technical faults and assisting the performers between scenes. Every day is different and not to be mistaken for the one screw that you can’t figure out where it goes, the show would not go on if it wasn’t for these backstage warriors.
Choreographers have the task of choreographing all the shows dance numbers. They analyse the script, the story and a scenes chemistry to create movement that aids the mood of the story as well as change its course.
Theatre costumes are full of expression and pizzazz. They can be over the top or they can be understated. They can create an illusion as well as bring characters to life. Costume design is for the artistic and the creative and the best costume designers can make a character out of the clothes alone. Not only do designers design pieces from nothing, but they too can adapt existing pieces to create something fresh, new and relevant.
It’s very easy to assume that actors who adopt personae of other dialects are extremely skilled. Although that might be true, it’s not uncommon for theatre companies to employ dialect coaches for their actors. These people help actors perfect their portrayal so that it is not only convincing, but accurate and authentic.
Where would the stage be without a little direction. Directors are the bread, butter and the cherry of any production. They are the ones with the vision who aim to lead and take responsibility for the overall creative process of the play. They lead, adapt, take criticism, ignore criticism and do whatever it takes to bring what’s been in their head for months, sometimes years, to life.
Front of House
Front of house staff are the first port of call for the audience. Their job is to ensure the audience is safe, happy and more importantly prepared for the exciting journey ahead. They are representatives of the theatre and they are as vital to the rhythm of the show running successfully as anyone else.
All those shifts in emotions you feel during a performance - that allows you to delve into the premise that you’ve gone from day to night, from happy to anxious or terrified without moving from your seat - that’s lighting. Something as simple as dimming the lights at a specific time to reflect a certain emotion is not simple at all. Lighting is a craft, an artform, even, and lighting designers or those in the booth on the night are the ones responsible.
Playwrights provide the story that is then later created by all those that have been mentioned. Every play starts with the playwright; whether they are pulling from their experiences, adapting a story that’s already been told or taking us on a journey of fantasy and wonder, there would be no play without the playwright.
The set designer is the creator of alternate realities. They can pull you in and out of a scene with the change of a backdrop and create worlds you could only wish to live in, or not. They work closely with the director and other creative teams to ensure what they are aiming to portray is in sync with the rest of the show. Set designers can create whole worlds from words on a page. There is no end to the immense amount of detail needed to transform a 2D sketch into a world you can reach out and touch.
Creative Career Advice
Are you all set for your next production? Trinity College London can help you stay organised and avoid last-minute stress with their handy checklist.
This article was first publisehd 11 September 2018.