Careers in Theater: Are They Scarce?

As soon as I became a senior in high school, and they asked me what I wanted to major in, I already knew that I was going to take the notorious path of less security and go for a Bachelor of Arts. English Literature was my passion, and I wanted to turn my passion into a job, regardless of the constant reminders that it was at the risk of financial security. I was aware of the countless believers of the risky nature of such a journey, my dad made sure to let me know.

At the time, all I could think of was that it could be worse. I wanted to tell my dad that I could be majoring in Theater instead of English Literature. My dream could be becoming a live theater actress, and not a writer. 

The heavily criticized theater major stuck with me since then, and I could not help but wonder if the lack of theater-watching across the country played a role in the job industry’s amount of job openings. Because as opposed to other fields, the live theater field is conditioned to the number of watchers across the country.

There are always going to be sick people to treat if you go into medicine, there are always going to be people to educate if you go into teaching, there are always going to be people to guide if you go into social work, but are there always going to be people interested in watching live theater? At least enough to ensure a career for the thousands of students majoring in theater every year? Theater is an industry that is dependent on people’s preferences and hobbies. And the myriad of people saying that theater is a dying art must play a role in people’s inability to find jobs and high schooler’s refusal to major in it, mustn’t it?

According to a senior backstage professional, the under-appreciation for this field seems to have affected theater workers’ motivation to contribute to it: “this country has maltreated the majority of the lowest paid workers for so long that they’re quite within their rights to go ‘fuck this.'”

This is seen in the reveal of a theater hiring crisis by Alice Saville. Saville of Exeunt Magazine talked to people on the frontline of the theater’s hiring crisis and found out the extent of the situation:

“This sudden staff shortage is an industry-wide problem, affecting everyone from fringe productions to high-profile shows that would normally have no issue finding staff. An anonymous senior backstage professional mentioned that touring musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks is ‘having to take out quarter page adverts in The Stage to fill what you think is an incredibly juicy, exciting job.’”

And Heather Doole, a production manager, also expressed concerns: “For the first time I’m going, ‘I’ve got the budget, but I can’t find the people.’ It’s so strange”

However, although we receive the information that the theater industry is desperately looking for employers, another source of information tells us about the extremely competitive nature of a theater career: “You’ll need to carry on competing for work even once you’ve established a career… working for different employers on different shows, rather than having a permanent job”

There is a type of inconsistency within the theater job industry that may be what confuses students into backing out of their dream theater job. That, on top of the constant reminder by surrounding family that the theater is a dying art in a digital world.

Which is being reminded to us with the rise of streaming services that make it easier for us to watch plays and movies from our own home.

While the theater is undergoing a hiring crisis, it is also a competitive lifestyle, and that accompanied by the fact that many theaters, according to Forum Theater, are struggling to stay afloat, suggests an extremely risky and declining job industry.


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