‘I started off cleaning stages and making teas.’
– Yamin Choudury, Artistic Director, Hackney Empire
Where do you start when looking for a career in the theatre industry? For many young people hoping to land their first job, TheatreCraft, the UK’s biggest careers event for off-stage roles, is a good place to start.
This year TheatreCraft came back with a bang and was the most inclusive, accessible event yet. In true covid-style, we had our masks at the ready for Panel Talks in the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House and our phones on the go for a rich array of online sessions with arts professionals on the Whova App.
There’s no straightforward routes into theatre. Gemma Nelson worked in marketing at a gym before taking on her current role as Membership and Marketing Executive at UK Theatre. Jennifer Tang made a bold career change in her late 20s before becoming Associate Director and Genesis Fellow at the Young Vic. Often, theatre professionals are multi-taskers, working in other sectors, like hospitality, to being involved in creative projects that may lead to paid positions. The key takeaway? Learn as much as you can in your current jobs as they all have transferable skills valuable to the theatre industry.
Speaking at the Insider Panel on Careers in Theatre Education and Participation, experts Shereen Jasmin Phillips from the Young Vic, Jo Sadler-Lovett from Blue Elephant Theatre and Suzann McLean from Theatre Peckham gave some great advice for early career artists.
The best thing you can do is to get connected and reach out to organisations and theatres that you are genuinely interested in for a chat. Participation is about people, community and audiences. Check out opportunities to volunteer to lead sessions at your local youth theatre to build your experience.
‘The industry is a lot more diverse than we let on.
The people working backstage are from all sorts of
backgrounds. It’s not just fancy actors and playwrights.’
-Daniel York Loh, Writer and Co-Founder, Moongate Productions
Off-stage roles in theatre vary from producing to movement direction, agenting, costume design, prosthetics, scenic art and event planning. There is a real demand for people working in these backstage theatre roles- a point stressed in the Super Panel hosted by Backstage Niche.
Andy Rowley, Executive Director at SMA, encourages stage management enthusiasts to use social media to research performances you want to work on. The more you know the better- especially at interview stage. See as many shows as you can and aim to get some practical experience to demonstrate your interest.
It is tough out there for aspiring creatives, never mind a global pandemic thrown in the mix. Sebastian Cater from UK Theatre led a fab online session on why the theatre industry is a good place to work. It’s not all doom and gloom. Theatre provides the opportunity to collaborate with talented people, travel, influence, win awards, meet your heroes and, most importantly, have fun. You could, like Sebastian, work at an artsy festival and make theatre happen by a lake on a floating stage at Latitude. During lockdown, his team made e-resources to support the wellbeing of the wider workforce. There is so much possibility.
‘With every job you have in theatre,
there is an opportunity to do something to change things for the better.’
-Sebastian Cater, Head of UK Theatre & Workforce Development
Blog by Sophie O’Sullivan
Photos by Jemima Yong