What does an Actor/Performer do?

Actors or Performers are people who entertain an audience by acting, singing or dancing. They play characters on stage and act on the direction of the creative team to bring a text to life. Their primary focus is to engage audiences through their acting skills, expressions, and performances in a live theatrical setting.

What are the main responsibilities of an Actor/Performer?

  • Learn lines, songs and/or dances
  • Research the play/character
  • Attend all rehearsals scheduled
  • Attend costume fittings
  • Take direction from the Director and/or Choreographer
  • Work with other Performers
  • Attend technical and dress rehearsals
  • Perform the show to an audience
  • Use props and costume during the performance
  • Perform other duties laid out in the job description depending on the kind of show

What qualifications do I need to be an Actor/Performer?

Whilst there are no specific qualifications needed to be an Actor or Performer, here are some courses you may want to consider to gain knowledge and experience:

  • Acting
  • Musical Theatre
  • Drama and Theatre Arts
  • Dance
  • Actor-Musician
  • Voice

Gemma Dobson didn't go to drama school, watch her vlog to see how she got into acting. 

Here are some subjects that you can study at school which will teach you some useful skills for becoming an Actor or Performer:

  • Drama
  • Theatre Studies
  • Dance
  • English
  • Languages
  • PE
  • History
  • Music 

Find acting opportunities to help you get into theatre here

What skills do I need to be an Actor/Performer?

  • Ability to take direction
  • Ability to work as a team and also individually
  • Good time keeping skills
  • Reliability
  • Ability to learn lines/directions
  • Confidence in being in front of an audience
  • Experience in improvisation/ad-libbing
  • Ability to work unsocial hours (evenings and weekends)
  • Clear vocals, ability to project voice
  • Emotional range and empathy - in order to access and express a wide range of emotions authentically 
  • Movement skills 
  • Listening and reacting 
  • Resilience 

Find out how Amy Trigg became an Actor by watching her vlog here. 

What does a career in Acting and Performing look like?

There is not a straight path within performing. You are nearly always employed on a freelance/contracted basis and the responsibilities can vary depending on the company and how long the production runs for. Sometimes Performers start out in fringe or small-scale theatre or create their own work, there can be ensemble roles in larger companies or understudy parts. However some Actors and Performers may start in a lead role if they are the right fit for the character. Often Performers will need to do a number of jobs to financially support their acting careers. Find out what you can do between acting jobs with our blog 'What jobs can you do in between theatre jobs to earn' and our Misconception Series blog on having a second job to support your career. 

Agent representation for Actors and Performers

Many Actors are represented by an Agent. An Agent puts their clients up for roles they think they are suited for and are often given breakdowns for castings that are not readily available to the public, they will take a percentage of the pay, often between 10% and 20%. You can gain an Agent by writing to them, inviting them to shows that you are in, or asking for a meeting. It’s a good idea to research Agents and apply for those who have ‘open books’, meaning they are actively looking to represent new clients. However, some Actors don’t have an Agent and apply for castings themselves. Read this blog on whether you need an Agent.

How much can an Actor/Performer earn?

Starting pay can be very low, with some fringe productions employing ‘profit-share’ models, but a small number of star Actors and Performers can receive extremely high wages – for example a pantomime star or West End lead can be paid tens of thousands of pounds per week.

Equity minimum for 2024/2025 is £573 per week, plus food, travel, accommodation and relocation costs. 

The above is a guide. Pay, salary or fee can vary depending on the theatre or company, as well as your personal experience. National institutions or commercial productions can pay in excess of the above, with profit-share or community theatre paying less.

You can find theatre jobs via The Stage Jobs here 


Updated: 9th June 2024

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