Stage Production Workers
The Theatre Communications Group reports that approximately 160,000 artists, administrators, and technical production staff were employed in nonprofit theaters in 2018. Stage production workers and technicians may be employed by theater, dance, music, and other performing arts companies. They more often receive full-time employment from companies that have their own facilities, although companies that tour year-round often need to keep technical workers on staff. In addition, managers of performing arts facilities, such as theaters, opera houses, arenas, or auditoriums, may hire full-time technicians. Often, technical workers are not hired by a single employer; many find work with different companies and/or facility managers on a freelance basis.
Competition is keen for nearly all positions associated with theatrical productions, so get as much experience and become as versatile a worker as possible. It is often necessary to begin working on a volunteer basis or start in a position unrelated to the desired field. Many people who want to work in stage production end up in other professions because of the great difficulty in securing satisfying jobs.
Job seekers should not be discouraged by the tight labor market. In New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, publications specifically about local activities in the theater and television industries are an excellent source of information that may lead to jobs. In many cities, local newspapers regularly list production plans for area community theater groups. Sometimes college internships in theater jobs or recommendations from drama teachers can lead to permanent employment.
Advancement opportunities vary according to the type of work performed. Workers advance by moving to different theaters where they handle greater responsibilities associated with more complicated productions. Those who develop good reputations in the industry may be sought out by other employers to do similar jobs in new settings.
Costume designers can work on larger theatrical productions or for television production companies. Alternatively, they may establish independent consulting firms and work for a variety of clients.
Competition for the best positions is so strong that many workers remain in the same job and consider salary increases as evidence of their success.
Tips for Entry
Learn as many skills as possible to increase your chances of being hired.
Volunteer to work on school and community theater productions.
Apply for internships or volunteerships with theater companies.
Look for job listings in local newspapers and theater-oriented Web sites. You can also subscribe to ARTSEARCH (https://www.tcg.org/Publications/ARTSEARCH/GetConnected.aspx) to access job listings in the theater industry.
Read American Theatre (https://www.tcg.org/Publications/AmericanTheatreMagazine.aspx) to learn more about the field.