Author Topic: First Jobs  (Read 4420 times)

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samharman1989

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First Jobs
« on: Jan 13, 2011, 09:00 pm »
I'm just about to finish University and enter 'Real World' and have the daunting task off trying to work my way into the realms of professional theatre management. I understand there is a mountain of advice in these forums, but I was wondering if anyone had some interesting 'First Job' stories?

How did you find your way into the theatre? What was your starting wage? Who helped you along the way?

Sorry if this topic isn't appropriate for this forum, I'm a newbie and still learning my way around  ;D

nmno

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #1 on: Jan 14, 2011, 12:09 am »
My first job:  I was originally supposed to just sub in a few shows for the ASM but at the last minute, there was some staff reshuffling, the ASM became the Company Manager of the theatre and I got the gig full time.  Can't remember what I was paid, something like $350/week.  I won't get into the gory details but it was a horrible experience.  I didn't know what I was doing, the PSM was a little crazy (I've had people comment "Oh, you worked with her? You can work with anybody...") It was unbearable hours (with my commute, I was only getting a few hours of sleep a night. Showed late to a day of tech because I was so stressed and tired that while getting ready to go in, I started throwing up...). I hated it.  I finished the show but resigned and didn't do the second show (they never had me sign a contract.)  I was done with theatre. After 1 show.

About a year later, I got a call from another theatre about a job.  I knew I couldn't go though that again.  But my boyfriend at the time (a very smart man) knew that I'd feel like a quitter and kick myself wondering "what if".  He encouraged me to take this one-more-show.  If I still hated it, then I'd know theatre/SM wasn't for me.  3 years later, I got my Equity card.  3 years after that, I was working on a Broadway production.  3 years after that, still working...

missliz

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #2 on: Jan 14, 2011, 07:41 pm »
I was the box office manager in a summer stock theater. The SM for the season had to take off early, and the artistic director found me, said "you've stage managed, right? you like it?" and handed me the script to Amadeus. Been doing it ever since.
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco

dallas10086

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #3 on: Jan 14, 2011, 08:09 pm »
I decided to take a year off before going to college, to make absolutely sure that theatre in the real world was what I really wanted to be doing. I took an internship at North Shore Music Theatre near Boston Mass. I remember it being a big deal, especially because I had never been away from home for a significant amount of time, and I was going there from Phoenix AZ. I think it paid $200/week and they found me a room for rent at $75/wk. I had a car but had to fill up with my mom's gas card. Poor, but loved it!

PSMKay

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #4 on: Jan 14, 2011, 11:51 pm »
Good topic, Sam, and I love your Dissertation topic as well!

I was a theatre brat, my dad was a community theatre director and I was doing all kinds of performing work from a very young age.  The first theatre-related paycheck I received was actually for pit orchestra & rehearsal piano in high school, but I was doing onstage & backstage work outside of school situations in grammar school.  I actually founded my own theatre company during the second half of high school and directed a couple of shows.

First paying SM gig was between 2nd and 3rd years in college for the AEA summerstock spinoff of the college mainstage.  I think I earned $200/wk?  Something like that.

I'd have to say the most helpful folks along the way were folks I met in green rooms and pubs along the way - supervisors and fellow SMs didn't really do much to point me in the right direction, but tangential conversations and just listening to ongoing discussions around me did a lot more in the way of both educating me to the local scene and acquainting me with the people who'd lead to my next gig.

Tempest

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #5 on: Jan 15, 2011, 01:15 pm »
I was also a theatre brat.  My dad did community theatre all through my childhood, and I often helped out where I could.  At nine years old, the theatre's box office was in our living room, and I'd answer the phones during after school cartoons!

My first paying theatre gig was a summer internship at Beef and Boards dinner theatre as a stitcher/spot op/carpenter.  I was making something like $8/hr and working 14 to 16 hours days.  I was 16; I had the energy, and what did I know?

First paying SM job was as ASM for a Christmas show put on by the community theatre next town over, in college.  $150 a week the wrangle 16 kids.  It was definitely "doing a favor for the SM" type of gig.

People who've helped me?  Everyone I meet.  I still cannot walk into a theatre or chat with a theatre professional without learning something useful, almost instantly.
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

Balletdork

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #6 on: Jan 15, 2011, 02:51 pm »
My 1st job as a paid SM was in a community summer stock~ I was paid $1000 for 6weeks of work as the Stage Manager of MY FAIR LADY back in 1996. My first AEA job was as the intern back during the 1997-98 season, and I made $255 per week!

I always knew I wanted to have a resident position- a seasonal contract, not freelance; and I've been lucky to have always had that! I always say to students to 1st decide what kind of SMing you want to do~ theater, dance- opera? There are very different paths into each of these genres! Now- go out and get an internship! The best thing you can do is go out and do it! You HAVE to be pro-active in your career; no one is going to give you a job; you have to get it. The more people you know and meet the more likely they will think of you when jobs come open.

Every single person in the theater world can and will help you, one way or another!  :o

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samharman1989

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #7 on: Jan 15, 2011, 08:16 pm »
Thank you for some top quality answers everyone, It seems the key to making that first step is being pro-active & persistent. I hope my future co-workers are as knowledgeable and supportive as you lot  :)

BeckyGG

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #8 on: Jan 15, 2011, 09:22 pm »
My first paid job was a non-AEA assistant stage manager for an U/RTA summer stock company.  I can't remember what I was paid ... I just recall it being a small stipend for the summer plus housing.  My college mentor got me the position and I cannot thank her enough for the opportunity! 

I my first stage management job between my freshman & sophomore years in college, when I was still figuring out what exactly a stage manager was.  That summer, I learned much from the stage manager I worked with and then ultimately became (and still am!) friends with the other stage manager there that summer.  Along the way, I've picked up some stage managers who I cherish as mentors - some still in theater, some note; I've learned both what to do and what not to do from most of the stage managers I've worked with; I've been mentored by production managers; friends who are general managers; actors (both good and bad).  I've listened to stories over many a beer, and eavesdropped on conversations and those have also been great learning lessons.

My first Equity contract was replacing the ASM on a large off-Broadway production on which I had been the PA.  That was on a LORT contract, and I was paid minimum which was around $625/wk.  I've had lots of jobs since then that have paid far less.  :)
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Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish to the crowd.

Maribeth

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #9 on: Jan 15, 2011, 09:45 pm »
My first paid stage management job was between my junior and senior years of college. I worked at a bookstore for 6 years before that and it was hard not to go back- I liked the work and the people I worked with, I had worked my way up to a good wage, and it was really difficult to turn that job down. I knew that if I wanted to do theatre for a living that I had to start working at it, so I looked for jobs and internships and finally settled on one.

I was an ASM /SM for a small summer opera company- I had very little opera experience and my opera mentor had referred me to the job. A friend/classmate of mine was the stage manager for the first show- I remember when they hired me they asked if I would feel comfortable SMing the second show after ASMing the first. I said yes, while secretly being very very nervous at the prospect. I think it paid 350-400/wk- after taxes, I made just enough to pay rent and buy food.

I learned a TON from the SM- she told me a lot of the little opera tricks and quirks. One of the choristers taught me the basic rules of Italian pronunciation, which I will be forever thankful for. I learned a lot about dealing with different personalities- from the diva who refused to come onstage to start the last act before she was good and ready. The lighting designer was a great mentor and someone I've come to appreciate working with when I have the opportunity.

It was hard- I mopped the dressing rooms out when it rained, the crew was made up of college students who were a challenge at times, the roof leaked onto the stage management console (I had to rig up a tarp), etc. But, I got a lot of out of it and went back for a few more shows after that year.

maximillionx

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #10 on: Jan 16, 2011, 12:25 am »
My first paid theatrical experience was as PSM for a summer stock production of Les Miserables between my junior and senior years of college.  I saw the job posting on a flyer on campus, cold called the producers and introduced myself.  I found out they were going to be at a job fair I was already planning on going to.  I met them there, handed over my resume, talked them up and got the job.  It was a 2 week rehearsal period, 1 week of tech and 2 wees of shows.  I got $425/week plus I was put up in a hotel for tech weekend (loved that little negotiation).
My funny little story for the run is that I had actors asking me my age because they couldn't tell.  Best guesses were 25, which really made me chuckle since I have a baby face and still to this day get IDed for scratch tickets every once in a while.
It was a great gig.  Worked with some great and friendly pro's, including some IATSE and AEA members.

SMLois

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #11 on: Jan 16, 2011, 04:29 am »
My first PAID SM gig was between my 3rd & 4th years of university.  It was the "Emerging Artist Production" at a local Semi-professional company.  I think I was the only one actually getting paid - and I was getting paid $400/week and community 1.25 hours each way.  It was crazy, and I'm pretty sure the director had me in tears the day before opening.  He was also the playwright and the AD of the company and was insisting on giving out re-writes the day before opening.  And my protests were certainly not listened to.

Prior to that, I had worked as an ASM (for free) on a handful of professional/semi-professional productions, as well as paid work as a theatre tech - hanging lights, running cable.  It was doing those theatre tech gigs that I learned a lot.  The TDs & PMs that I was working with were always ready to tell a story about something crazy they had lived through, and usually it was helpful.

It's now 6 years since my first paid SM gig and I am an equity member and make my living solely off of theatre.  That's not to say that there aren't still co-op shows on which you make $56 for a 3-month commitment...there are.  But things always seem to balance out over the course of the year, and my rent still gets paid every month.

And as for the story maximillionx shared about actors guessing his age - I've never once had an actor correctly guess my age.  They inevitably guess at least a couple of years older than I actually am.  Which was nice the year that Q2Q fell on my 19th birthday.

Bwoodbury

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #12 on: Jan 18, 2011, 01:50 pm »
My first paid gig was a DC Fringe show that I got paid a cut of the house to SM between my junior and senior years of college. It was an all a cappella musical about, well, a cappella groups. Got a big mix of people in the cast (a lot of a cappella singers have no experience in theatre itself) and had a particularly crazy venue, but I learned a TON!

...this is assuming you don't count the children's camp version of Chicago I was paid to stage manage between high school and college. Which I try not to.

BeccaTheSM

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Re: First Jobs
« Reply #13 on: Jan 21, 2011, 11:52 am »
My first paying theatre job was when I was 16. I was in (thats right, performing IN) a dinner theatre production that traveled around North Jersey. I think I got like $50 or $60 per show.

My first paying SM gig was with Bristol Valley Theatre in upstate NY during the fall semester of my Senior year of college. In planning my tech assignments for senior year, I wanted to try a few other skills out during the first half of the year, so I had specifically decided AGAINST SMing anything that semester (much to the chagrin of the directors and the TD). I was to be LBO/ME for one show and LD for the second. Well, the department gets an email that Bristol Valley is in need of an SM for their show that was part of FallFest at GEVA Theater. The department secretary emailed me, and I was available. I made $200 for the whole thing, but it was totally worth it. I learned so much, and I had a professional credit to my name.
Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos. - Stephen Sondheim

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