In the business of making musicals, whether you’re a new writer, director, producer or actor this is a business where it pays to “know people.” And some of the most important people to know are the ones who run the theaters. They’re also the most busy and while it’s always good to get in front of them for coffee, to hand off your new musical demo, or at an audition, it will be hard to make a lasting impression because of the sheer number of people they come in contact with every day. Having run a theater company for many years, here are 5 tried and true methods to get started in the business.
I don’t mean be an usher (although you MUST see their shows and it can be a great way to see shows for free). Figure out how you can help and make yourself available to do whatever is needed. Just make sure it’s a job where you’ll be in the vicinity of the staff members who are in your area of interest. I know it’s hard to find the time but if you make friends “on the inside” you’ll start moving to the front of the line because you’ll be front of their mind.
2. Once involved, do a good job
While writing a 20 minute musical for a teen camp, or working in a lesser capacity than your dream role may not be your highest form of artistic expression, if you screw it up, they won’t trust you. Don’t miss deadlines or not give it your all because “it’s just a kids show” or “not that important.” This is your trial period and if you don’t nail it, it doesn’t matter how qualified you are or how well you’d do the real thing.
3. Know your stuff
No amount of schmoozing is going to get you the ongoing jobs if you don’t have the goods. At the same time you’re building relationships, make sure you’re polishing your skills, so when you do get the call, you’re ready to knock it out of the park.
4. Broaden Your Reach
While a company may have an artistic director that is the bottom line for most decisions, there is generally a multitude of other staff members who are actively guiding the decisions. Sometimes it’s a person in the organization who you may never have expected to have that much influence. Go to lunch or coffee with more than just the top folks. Talk to other people who have worked at the company in a capacity similar to what you want to do. Learn what they’re looking for, who really makes the decisions and what their hot button issues are. These things aren’t secrets but they are often impossible to uncover unless you dig a little.
5. Keep it positive
If you do all 4 things above but then go around to your friends and complain about how under-appreciated you are or spreading negativity, you’ll have undermined all your hard work. The theater community is small and your attitude won’t be a secret for long. If, however, you are upbeat and complimentary and word gets out that you’re a great ambassador for “xyz theater,” then you’ll have cultivated a reputation that will make those in the theater community want you around that much more.
So get to it. Go be unavoidable until you become indispensable!