Monday, May 4, 2015

Producers & Theatre Makers: 3 Tips to Make Your Passion A Career

As a theatre producer, you know there is new theatre being made every day but only a small percentage of theatre has a lifespan longer than a few months, resulting in fleeting careers. Having worked in theaters in Chicago and studied theatre at Northwestern University, I have been introduced to every model of company and seen the strengths and weaknesses of them all. I found these two articles that helped me get a better sense of what is happening in the theatre industry and how the path to success is changing.

Rebecca Novick's bluntly honest piece "Please Don't Start a Theater Company!" in the journal for the Grantmakers in the Arts talks about the current trend of theatre-makers starting their own theatre companies in order to produce the work they want to see. Most importantly she urges our generation to stop doing this. She examines the pitfalls of this career path and proposes alternate solutions for artists to create the work they love and actually maintain a career in the arts. These include the increasing amount of apprenticeships in major theaters and repertory programs for new work.

The Guardian, a newspaper based in the United Kingdom, posted this article by Lyn Gardner about a new initiative that the city of London is doing in order to create a stage for the best theatre in the country. They are trying to unite productions from across the region in a unified season of work. The great theaters in London are participating and shows a support for this new work and other less established companies. This proposes an innovative solution to some of the problems small companies face and a new structure that can provide new art as well as new, sustainable jobs.

As a graduating senior and former intern at multiple regional theaters, my review of these two articles leads to three action items you should consider when starting a career as a theatre maker.
  1. Find a Passion Community. Find your people, your niche community, your home. Locate the city you feel at home in and what theatre excites you the most. Put yourself near the work you love and find others that are driven by that same passion.
  2. Establish Yourself. Get your hands dirty and do some work. Don't worry if it isn't exactly the job you want to be doing, every one has to start somewhere. Find what you can and make yourself indispensable.
  3. Stay Connected. Meet people. Theatre is about who you know, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Once you meet the artists you want to work with, cultivate those relationships and keep them going. Go to coffee, lunch, a show, anything to keep that communication line open.
There is no need to start your own company to make the work you want to see. Chances are there is a company doing exactly that in a city near you. Get involved. Don’t be afraid to work your way up to the job you want instead of gunning for it right away; experience is the best education for theatre. Meet the people working at that company and begin networking. Before you know it, your dream job will land in your lap.

Brannon Bowers
I am a Northwestern senior majoring in Theatre and in the Integrated Marketing Communications program. I previously ran the nation's largest student theatre company for two years and have worked at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and Redmoon Theater. I will be working at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, next year as their Producing/Casting Intern.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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