Performing Arts Jobs in the Covid Era

After the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the theatre world in 2020, the future of the historic art form was uncertain. For a business whose revenue is primarily generated by in-person, live performances, there weren’t any straightforward ways to sustain the industry through an extended stoppage. 

Broadway and theatre districts around the world have cautiously begun the process of reopening. However, the job market remains packed with challenges. The market is especially unforgiving for recent graduates of theatre programs, those with performing arts degrees and lacking work experience. Ironically, the pandemic may have introduced new opportunities that could buoy theatre as it progresses towards normalcy.

As creatives sought new ways to make shows more accessible and bring in income, they embraced the internet in ways the performing arts industry has notoriously resisted in the past. Companies and playhouses put on digital theatre productions and streamed them online, actors took to local communities in mobile theatres, and playwrights channeled their storytelling through audioplays. 

Reimagining the theatrical experience for the internet has opened up more affordable access points for a younger, more diverse audience. The growth potential presented by digital media has led to new job creation outside of performance opportunities, and there’s a renewed outlook on existing ones. Whether you have some theatre education, a theatre degree, or you’re jumping right into the industry, here are a few performing arts jobs to keep in mind when updating your resume.

Audioplay Producer

Audioplay Producer
Audioplay Producer

Audioplays aren’t a new entertainment medium; they’re actually throwbacks to the radio drama era of the 1920s. But old trends often return, and audioplays are a natural combination of theatre and the growing podcast market. 

An Audioplay Producer develops and oversees the creative process of the audioplay. They have a hand in creating the overarching narrative and supervising the cast and crew. Audioplay Producers also assist in recording and editing and usually manage the distribution of episodic content.

Audio Engineer 

Audio Engineer
Audio Engineer

An Audio Engineer is responsible for the sound quality of an audioplay, live stream, or recording. Like a sound designer in  theatre production, Audio Engineers ensure the overall playback, effects, and music are as clear and dynamic as possible. In addition, they edit and mix the final version of audioplay episodes, videos, and musical theatre productions. As a rule of thumb, they are well versed in sound design technology.

Digital Marketing Manager

Digital Marketing Manager, Performing Arts Jobs
A Digital Marketing Manager

Digital Marketing Managers are responsible for raising awareness and visibility for productions online. They work in companies and theatres, developing marketing plans and advertising campaigns. They may play a dual role as a social media manager, overseeing social platforms and managing community engagement. With Gen Zers showing an increased interest in streamed productions, Digital Marketing Managers are more important to theatre than ever.

Set Designers

Set Design
Set Design

In technical theatre, Set Designers create the scenery for stage productions. They design the sets and backdrops meant to immerse an audience in an arena or auditorium. However, the job requires more versatility post-pandemic. Set Designers have to create a visual experience that can translate on screen for streaming and capture an audience in the same manner it would in person. They also need the handiness to build compact sets suitable for a mobile theatre or pop-up outdoor production.

Videographer

Videographer, Performing Arts Jobs
Videographer

Post covid, Videographers working in theatre have to wear different hats. Part cinematographer, part director, part stage manager, they are responsible for capturing high-quality footage to be used in visual media. In a conventional setting, theatre actors have the benefit of a live audience. 

The Videographer guides talent as they reinterpret their stage performance skills to fit a medium without instant reaction. They may work on a live stream or a recording. When working on recorded projects, Videographers may also edit in post-production. 

If you’re interested in any of the performing arts jobs above or other careers in the industry, check out Yellowbrick’s Ultimate Performing Arts Career Guide.

8 Theatre Careers in Demand Again

Broadway is back, and so are theatre districts around the world. As the performing arts take their rightful place under the bright lights of the stage once again, performance opportunities aren’t the only sought-after roles. Shows reopening means there are theatre careers in production that need to be filled. Whether you’ve recently graduated from a theatre degree program or a certificate program like Yellowbrick’s Performing Arts Industry Essentials, or even if you’re a veteran with tons of work experience, these theatre careers are worth your consideration.

Booking Agent 

When a show is ready to go on the road, the producer hires a Booking Agent to secure venues. First, Booking Agents schedule out the tour, so it’s cohesive and easy for traveling. Then, they negotiate the details of individual shows with venues, including riders, ticket sale percentages, and financial information between the venue and the producing company. 

Scott Illingworth, Theatre Careers
Scott Illingworth, Assistant Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You have solid negotiation skills and thrive under deadlines.

Average Salary: Booking Agents average an annual salary of $62,713 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Scott Illingworth, Assistant Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Box Office Manager

Box Office Managers supervise the ticketing office and box office staff. They also handle employee hiring and training on ticketing systems. Moreover, Box Office Managers oversee ticket sales and compile revenue reports for bookkeepers and accountants. 

In addition, they audit and reconcile cash drawers and sale receipts. They prepare financial statements to make sure all ticket payments and fees are accounted for properly. Box Office Managers are the first point of contact for patrons and handle any inquiries.

Ruben Polendo, theatre careers
Ruben Polendo, Chairperson and Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You have a background in customer service and a knack for numbers.

Average Salary: Box Office Managers average an annual salary of $45,337 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Ruben Polendo, Chairperson and Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Casting Director

Casting Directors are responsible for selecting actors and actresses for roles in a production. In addition, they collaborate with producers and directors to schedule auditions. They may also attend other shows and workshops to scout talent.

Bret Shuford
Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Bret Shuford, actor and Broadway Life Coach + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You are comfortable networking and enjoy collaborating with others.

Average Salary: Casting Directors average an annual salary of $70,103 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Bret Shuford, actor and Broadway Life Coach

Company Manager

The Company Manager is a theatre career that handles a multitude of duties to ensure a theater and production runs smoothly. They work with the director and liaise with other department heads to ensure the show is within budget. They also handle administrative operations such as payroll, transportation and lodging for cast and crew, and scheduling rehearsals.

Elizabeth Bradley
Elizabeth Bradley, Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You are a planner who can navigate a budget.

Average Salary: Company Managers average an annual salary of $51,524 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Elizabeth Bradley, Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Costume Designer

Costume Designers manage all wardrobe and costume pieces. They select, design, source, construct and shop for clothes for all the actors in a production. In addition, they organize costume areas backstage and handle alterations, fittings, and quick changes.

Gianni Downs
Gianni Downs, Theatre Arts Head of Design/Tech at University of Pittsburgh + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You are artistic, resourceful and can work in high pressure situations. 

Average Salary: Costume Designers average an annual salary of $40,631 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Gianni Downs, Theatre Arts Head of Design, Tech at University of Pittsburgh

Press Agent

A press agent is a theatrical publicist. They represent productions, performers, and venues in interactions with the media. Press Agents prepare cast and production crew biographies, write press releases, coordinate interviews, appearances, and cultivate relationships with media members for favorable press coverage.

Harvey Young, theatre careers
Harvey Young, Dean and Professor at Boston University College of Fine Arts + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You are a superb communicator who excels at building relationships.

Average Salary: Press Agents average an annual salary of $50,405 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Harvey Young, Dean and Professor at Boston University College of Fine Arts

Professional Dancer

Dancers use movement and body language to depict a character, plot point, or abstract idea to an audience. In most productions, dancers take direction from a choreographer. However, some shows require improvisation. Dancers may perform to the accompaniment of music or without.

Mandy Gonzalez
Mandy Gonzalez, Broadway Performer (Credits include Dance of the Vampires and In The Heights) + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You have athletic ability and musicality.

Average Salary: Professional Dancers average an annual salary of $68,000 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Mandy Gonzalez, Broadway Performer (Credits include Dance of the Vampires and In The Heights)

Stage Manager

Stage management is one of the essential roles in theatre. They assist directors during productions from initial rehearsals through the final curtain call. They handle the day-to-day management and coordinate communication between the creative and technical departments to ensure everyone is on task and schedule. Stage Managers also oversee the backstage and onstage areas during performances.

Shanga Parker
Shanga Parker, Academic Director and Associate Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts + Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor

You’re Off to a Good Start If…: You are adaptable and can solve problems quickly.

Average Salary: Stage Managers average an annual salary of $52,032 nationally.

Yellowbrick Expert Highlight: Shanga Parker, Academic Director and Associate Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

If you’re interested in any of these fantastic theatre careers or want to learn about the other many jobs in the performing arts, check out Yellowbrick’s Ultimate Performing Arts Career Guide.

A Good Broadway Audition Begins in Reflection

You’re good at acting. You know how to hit your mark and deliver your lines on time. Now you need a chance to shine, to show casting agents what you have to offer. Unfortunately, most actors are just like you. They have some experience and have learned the craft basics, but they’re still not sure how to get casting agents to notice. Bret Shuford, Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor and cast member of Wicked and The Little Mermaid, teaches how to pursue the process of auditions. 

Watch the video to learn about:

  • the different types of open auditions
  • how to have a create a healthy audition process for yourself
  • importance of reflection during the audition process 

There’s no shortage of ways to submit yourself as an actor, but one option may be more effective than the others.

Entertainment Careers Centers (ECCs) are locations where actors, models, dancers, and singers can go to have their headshots, resumes, and acting reels professionally critiqued. In addition, these centers often help connect aspiring performers with agents, managers, and casting directors. According to Playbill, Eligible Performer Auditions (EPAs) are only open to members of the Actors’ union, called Actors’ Equity, or to performers who are eligible to become Equity members.

You can go to ECCs, EPAs and even submit yourself online from Backstage and other websites. Unfortunately, while most people who attend EPAs are generally happy with it, they’re also not using this opportunity to its full potential.

Here’s how to get the most out of EPAs:

Get there early. The earlier you show up, the more likely you will get quality feedback on all your materials. In addition, you want to make sure that the people critiquing you have enough time to look at what you’re offering them. You want them to give you honest feedback on improving your materials or how you should present yourself when meeting a casting director or agent.

Why the audition process is a long-time pursuit:

“So you have opportunities to go to open auditions,” says Bret Shuford. “You can go to ECCs, EPAs, and even submit yourself online from Backstage and other websites. But what we have to understand is that when you’re in this business, and when you want to pursue this business, you can’t think of it as a short-term pursuit. It is a long-term pursuit.”

Using concepts he picked up from performing arts and performing arts education, Shuford goes on to explain, “You have to think of this in the long term. So, every person you’re meeting at an audition, every time you go to an audition, it’s not about booking the job. It’s about building relationships. It’s about showing people the essence of who you are.”

How to keep yourself motivated during the audition process:

Shuford says he always tells actors to start with the experience they want people to have. So here are questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What do you want people to experience when they’re witnessing you on stage?

Shuford wants people to see themselves and see the world differently. So, that means he wants them to open their eyes and experience joy and experience fun. And what is that for you?

This is just one of the lessons you can learn through an online performing arts education. For more information on the audition process and the performing arts industry, explore the Performing Art Industry Essentials course.

The Role of the Broadway Producer

Putting together a musical production is not an easy thing to do. There are several roles on Broadway, but one of the main ones you want is a producer. This is because it gives you more say in how productions and live shows are produced.

Producers put on stage plays, including Broadway shows and major productions. The producer plays a huge role in these productions — as a producer, you’ll be the one giving input about what plays you want to put on and how they’re performed. Jeffrey Richards, Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor and Broadway whose notable productions include Spring Awakening, August: Osage County, and Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, walks through the role of the Broadway producer.

Watch the full video to learn about:

  •  the impact of the Broadway producer
  •  a breakdown of roles a Broadway production needs
  •  what can you expect when putting together a production

What does a Broadway producer do?

The producer’s job is (1) to make sure all of the non-creative aspects of the show are taken care of, and (2) to protect the investment of the investors by making sure that all of those non-creative aspects are done as economically as possible (so that more money can go into making a good show), and (3) to make sure that each member of the creative team does their job well.

What roles support the Broadway producer?

In many cases, the producer will take a show from the beginning idea and then develop it into something ready for Broadway. They do this by securing rights to a particular play or musical, finding investors, and casting and rehearsing the players who will perform on stage. In addition, the producer often has a hand in marketing and determining when opening night will be.

Then you have a casting director that helps cast the play, though you have ideas of who the leading roles might be appropriate for and who you might wish to secure.

Once you’ve got your talented actors/actresses together, it’s time to begin rehearsals. Depending on how long your play or musical will run (most plays run for about 12 weeks), this could last anywhere from several weeks to several months.

In general, you can expect the following people to be in your production: playwright, director, casting director, finance manager, entertainment lawyer, cast, investors, marketing team, etc. These people will be integral to the production’s success. This is why some producers go above and beyond putting their names on the line. Producing on Broadway is not just about finding the money to mount a production. Many different players are involved, some of whom may never be seen by the public. The more you know about these people and their roles, the better equipped you’ll be for your next job as a producer.

Check out this career guide if you’re interested in all the career opportunities in the performing arts industry. Ready for your next steps? Learn about all the pre-production elements by checking out the Performing Arts Industry Essentials online course. 

Finding Your Performing Arts Career in Musical Theater

For many, a career in the performing arts is an intimidating prospect. But for those who dare, it can be one of the most rewarding and exciting professions. This is especially true for those who have careers in musical theater. For young people worldwide, the idea of performing in a musical on Broadway, the West End, or just down at their local theater is a dream come true. But what is involved if you want to turn this dream into a reality?

It’s not easy to succeed as a performer. But it’s just as important to have realistic expectations about what it means to have a performing arts career. Even people with exceptional talent and perfect preparation will often fail because they will be unprepared for the realities of life in the performing arts business.

So before you embark on this path, think carefully about the goal and the preparation needed for those long-term ambitions. Elizabeth Bradley, Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor, shares the different types of training you will need to embark on in your musical theatre career.

Watch the full video to learn about:

  • What training do you need as a musical performer
  • What training do you need as a choregrapher
  • What a triple-threat means for performing arts

If you want to be a musical performer in contemporary musicals…

It’s important to know that composers are writing things now that the average human voice can’t achieve. The common joke used to be that someone “sounded like they had a seven-octave voice.” However, human beings don’t have seven octaves in their voice boxes. As a result, the level of training, vocal care, and strategy that contemporary musical theater singers are more demanding than it’s ever been before.

If you want to be a choreographer for a musical piece…

The demands can be just as high. For example, in plays like Choir Boy, the actors would still have to meet all of those demands for choreographic and musical training. The old shorthand was calling someone a “triple threat,” which meant that you were equally talented in acting, singing, and dancing. Some prominent Broadway singer-actors can dance well enough to get through most of the choreography they might be assigned but perhaps not well enough to do a full-out Broadway number. Others, like Bebe Neuwirth, were, in some ways, dancers first and can do it all. 

Any career in a performing arts field will require hard work and dedication. Musical theater certainly isn’t any different. But with the Performing Arts Career Guide, you can be certain that you are heading down the right track for your artistic goals and ambitions. 

A Tour of Production In The Theatre Industry

Do you know the difference between a production manager and a production stage manager for the performing arts? Unfortunately, it isn’t always very clear in the theater community to tell the difference between these two jobs. A job seeker simply searching openings in a Google search will find many listings such as Stage Manager, Production Manager, Production House Manager, Opéra Manager, Stage manager, etc. None of these variations of titles makes much sense when determining what type of job title you are applying for. It can be a very confusing field that can leave any job seeker perplexed and frustrated.

Elizabeth Bradley, Performing Arts Industry Essentials contributor and professor at NYU, breaks down the roles of the production team in theatre companies. 

Watch the full video to learn about:

  • the role of a production stage manager
  • the role of a production manager
  • the similarities and differences between the two
  • what are other positions in the production team

What is a stage manager?

This role is filled in a theater when you have three, four, five, six, and seven shows simultaneously. In New York, the Public Theater would be a good example. This role leads the stage management team.

What is a production manager?

On the more logistical and engineering side of things, you have the position of production manager. They make sure that the practical elements of the show are available to the director and the actors when they are needed, and perhaps most importantly, on budget.

What other roles make up the production team?

Under the production manager, you have a technical director, costume designer, lighting designer, sound operator, and sound designer. 

The production manager and stage manager are vital members of the theatre team. Both must be able to handle a wide range of responsibilities. To sum up, these two roles work together to ensure that they can produce the show.

Interested in learning about all the career possibilities in the performing arts industry? Download The Ultimate Performing Career Guide.

Influential Women in the Performing Arts: Ntozake Shange

The theater is a pillar of the performing arts. For generations, creative thinkers have expressed themselves on stage through spoken word, drama, and dance. While the space has been an opportunity for women to showcase their art, men have typically been the benefactors of fame and success. 

Women earn 70% of bachelor of fine arts degrees and an estimated 70% of Master of fine arts degrees in the U.S. However, only 46% of working artists are women, and they account for only 27% of solo exhibitions. Yet, women have been able to make their mark in the theater world despite the enormous odds. Ntozake Shange overcame gender and racial inequality to create one of the most enduring works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Young Creative

Shange was born Paulette L. Williams on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. Williams’ work in race relations and societal equality started in her early years. At eight years old, she was one of the first black students to be bused to a segregated white school after the Brown v. Board of Education court decision. In school, she experienced racism and severe harassment. 

Her father was a surgeon, and her mother was a social worker. As eminent members of the local black community, they were friendly with prestigious and influential black Americans of the time. They were especially interested in black art. It has been reported that Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Dizzy Gillespie were frequent guests at their home. 

Ntozake Shange
Shange early in her career

Williams adopted their interest and was intrigued by poetry. She began writing as a teenager and studied writing and American Studies at Barnard College. During her freshman year, she married saxophonist, David Murray. Unfortunately, the marriage ended quickly, and Williams fell into a deep depression. Years later — after undergoing intensive therapy — she pulled from her experience to create her most profound work.

Broadway Debut

In 1971, Williams decided to change her name for a fresh start. After being inspired by the South African Xhosa language, she chose Ntozake Shange. Ntozake translates to “she who comes with her own things,” and Shange means “she who walks with the lions.” She completed her Master’s degree studies in 1973 at the University of California. In 1975, she was one of the founding poets of the Nuyorican (Puerto Rican New Yorkers) Poets Cafe in the Alphabet City neighborhood in Manhattan. 

Ntozake Shange
A poster for For Colored Girls

During this time, Shange began writing the 20-part choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf (often shortened to for colored girls). The play premiered off-Broadway in 1976 before moving to Broadway at the Booth Theater. The play won an Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award and was nominated for a Tony Award.

For Colored Girls

Although Shange became a prolific writer — completing 15 plays, 19 poetry collections, six novels, five children’s books, and three essay collections — for colored girls was her most well-known work. The play has been performed in colleges and universities, art spaces, and theaters worldwide for nearly five decades. After turning down overtures for many years, Shange optioned the film rights of for colored girls to Nzingha Stewart, a black director, in 2009. Stewart completed a draft of the screenplay adaptation for Lionsgate Entertainment. The production company asked Tyler Perry to come on as a producer. Still, he gave them an ultimatum to make him the project’s sole writer and director. Lionsgate agreed, and the film was released in 2010. The film features an all-star cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, and Loretta Devine.

For Colored Girls
A 2019 performance of For Colored Girls

Shange passed away in Maryland in 2018, but her work lives on. A year after her death, The Public Theater revived the play to rave reviews. On July 29, 2021, it was announced that the Public Theater’s staging of the play would be produced on Broadway in 2022. The production will be directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. Previews begin on April 1, 2022, at Booth Theatre, with the official opening night on April 20.

If you’d like to learn about a career as a Playwright or other opportunities in the theater, download Yellowbricks’ Ultimate Performing Arts Career Guide. If you want to hear from women who have broken through in the performing arts industry, check out our NYU x Backstage online course.