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 clear. 
Organization
: 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.