Building a Theatre Management Career

Careers ebb and flow down all sorts of unexpected paths – perhaps a building a successful career in theatre management is part of your professional journey. If that is the case, there are plenty of ways to establish a connection to the field. While theatre management degrees exist, you don’t necessarily need to have one to join a theatre’s administrative team. You can forge your own way into the industry, celebrating the expertise you already possess as you build on your skill set.

Theatre Management casts a wide
umbrella over potential career options; development, finance, marketing,
audience services, and production all happen within that larger title. Your
first job will be to discover what departments you don’t like. Then
you’ll start to find what does resonate. If you don’t like asking for
money, you won’t like development – but if you love talking to strangers, you
may succeed in audience services and front of house management.

Below, you’ll find a list of
professional skills, both obvious and possibly unexpected, that are important
in every department.

Important Skills to Wield

Communication: A successful team member should be articulate and
Maintain your schedule, keep track of time, be aware of your workspace
Interpersonal Relationships: You won’t need to be friends with
everyone, but be kind and respectful to all.
General Financial Knowledge: Stay sharp when handling finances; track when money
moves in and out.
Keeping Your Cool: Remain calm under pressure so you can think clearly in
difficult situations.

Unexpected Skills to Bolster

Hospitality – Service: Much like the restaurant industry, theatre management
requires patience and flexibility because every guest is different. A
background in hospitality will help you in a management career more than you
may expect. Theatres
build reputations for the success or failure of their
management teams. Brainstorm how you can use tips from hospitality to
contribute positively to a reputation. Public Speaking: Theatre managers are constantly speaking in front
of new people for many reasons, from ticket sales to donor cultivation. Make
sure you feel comfortable speaking to groups of different people. You may not
be the performer everyone came to see, but you should be able to perform a
basic sales pitch or curtain speech at a moment’s notice.  Leadership Skills: Theatre management relies heavily on leadership
skills and self-starter tendencies. This career requires the ability to lead
guests to a stress-free experience, to lead donors towards important
initiatives, and to lead other staff members to effective modes of behavior and
communication. Detail Orientation: Detail transforms a theatre from average to
competitive. This requires the whole staff to collectively think about every
interaction the public has with the
organization. If each interaction is treated with care and sincerity, the
company will transform. (Read
this to get a sense of the detail
required just within a segment of the box office’s duties).

Where to Start

Internship: Internships are fantastic places to get your feet wet in
the world of theatre management. Find a theatre that will encourage you to
contribute to every department in broad strokes, especially if you aren’t sure
what department fits you best. Express in your interview what you want to get
out of the experience by the end of the internship.

Friends in the Industry: Rely on your friends in the industry already (but maintain
balance between friendship and career and respect their professional
boundaries). Ask what your friends wish new professionals knew about the
industry. Ask them what they think is currently successful in the theatre
community. If you can, make time to speak with contacts from every department
in theatre management, as you decide what you’d like to pursue.

Ultimately, your career rests in your hands. Be
diligent and resourceful. Rather than focus on what skills you lack or what
degree you don’t have, think creatively about how your existent skills can
contribute to a theatre.

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