Maybe you’ve had a look at a range of different roles on a theatre production team, and you’ve got your sights set on one - but how do you land a job on a theatre production team?
If you’re unsure what type of role you’d enjoy, check out the Production Team section of Get Into Theatre’s Complete list of jobs in the theatre industry! Company Manager Antonia Collins advises that even if you have your sights set on a particular role, "don’t be afraid to try other roles". For example, taking on a Followspot Operator role even if you aspire to be a Deputy Stage Manager will help hone your transferable skills and build your network and relationship with the team you end up working with at the venue.
The first place to start is to look for current opportunities and vacancies in the industry. Like any other industry, there are a couple of key places to check out, where employers (often Producers, Production Managers or Company Managers) will share roles they’re looking to fill on a production team. These include association and union job boards (including Equity UK, the Stage Management Association (SMA), the Association for British Theatre Technicians (ABTT), and more - check out AAPTLE), or websites like Mandy. However, many of these job boards are behind paywalls (meaning you’ll need to be a member of the union/association in order to access it), which may not be particularly accessible if you’re just starting out.
Other free places to look include:
Antonia stresses the importance of networking, particularly in expanding your own personal reach and getting to know professionals currently working in the industry and projects in production. This can be as simple as saying hello to someone by shooting them an email for a coffee or popping along to a social event hosted by an association. A lot of people working in theatre are extremely friendly and are willing to give up a bit of their time to chat to someone starting out.
The next step after setting your sights on a job is to go ahead and apply! Most opportunities will request a CV (or ‘curriculum vitae’), a cover letter, and sometimes a portfolio. Portfolios tend to be requested when putting yourself forward for design-based roles - check out Get Into Theatre’s tips for lighting, set, and costume portfolios.
If the employer likes the look of your CV and cover letter, you might be invited to meet for an interview. You might be asked questions about your past experience and why you’re interested in this particular role, project and company. Always do a bit of preparation and research in advance; Antonia recommends having some answers prepared based on the nature of the role. For example, if you’re interviewing to be an Assistant Stage Manager, you’re likely to be asked about props.
Company Stage Manager Ali Wade notes that interviews really depend on the role you’re applying for. For example, if you’re looking for a role as an Automation Technician, the person interviewing you might be less worried about your people skills than your capability to fix complex broken things. However, “a sense of humour never goes amiss”, and it’s important that you’re positive and enthusiastic.
Don’t be disheartened if a rejection lands in your inbox - you just might not have been the right fit for the team or company! Ali’s main advice is “don’t try to run before you can walk. Don’t be disappointed if you get rejected for a position on a big, commercial musical - the idea is to start smaller, build skills and confidence and work your way up to the bigger productions - you will probably be a better Stage Manager for it.”
Written by Misha Mah
Misha Mah is an early-career Production Manager and Producer, with an interest in immersive work and live events. She is a graduate of the University of Birmingham’s BA Drama and Theatre Arts course, and will be commencing on the MA Stage & Production Management programme at the Guildford School of Acting this fall. She is currently the Social Media Manager for The SM NEST, the network for early-career stage managers.
Company Manager Antonia Collins
Company Stage Manager Ali Wade
Published: 6 October 2021
Blog photo: Alex Brenner