Author Topic: Where do I begin?  (Read 4005 times)

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deserted

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Where do I begin?
« on: Mar 20, 2009, 04:36 pm »
Hey all. I'm a senior in high school, about to go off to college to study technical theatre in college, in hopes of becoming a stage manager or a production manager on Broadway.

The thing is... I don't know what to expect! I come from a country where theatre is practically nonexistent and I'm moving to the States to pursue my dreams. But after my 4 years of college, I have no idea what to do or what to expect.

So what happens once you graduate college? Will I start out with as a PA on Broadway, or is that too much of a stretch already? What kind of jobs did you use to get by in the earlier years, if any? How long until you can finance yourself just on your stage managing job? Will there be any companies willing to sort out my visa issue? Are there people out there who are actually crazy enough to date us stage managers? ;)

I'm sorry if these questions are stupid! I love stage managing with all my heart, but I just want an idea of what I should be expecting after college.

Thanks!

crazylady

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 20, 2009, 06:26 pm »
I love your enthusiasm! Nice start! You should apply anywhere and everywhere regardless if you think they will reply to your or not. You never know what they are looking for really, so just apply. I think the first summer I started work after college I applied to 25 places and had 3 responses - i did get a job btw. But anyway, the point is apply. It's not going to be easy and you will probably get rejected a lot more than not - especially at first, but that's just how it is. Your questions are not stupid - I wish I had asked more.
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lauria

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 20, 2009, 11:16 pm »
It will depend on your college experiences. If you can afford to do low-paying internships during your summer to get professional experience under your belt, I highly reccommend it. Get to know your professors. They are wonderful resources for future jobs. You never know when a professor might had heard of a job that you would be perfect for.

I graduated college two years ago and am struggling to find work. There are others who have never had to take an outside job. You're obviously willing to travel which is in your favor.

Yes, there are people who are crazy enough to date and even *gasp* marry us stage managers. You never know if you might end up with someone inside the biz or from a completely different field. I'm sure you'll make friends and get out to meet people.

Meeting people and getting along with people is so important to networking and finding future work. Use your years wisely. Work on projects that challenge you and help you to grow into a better stage manager. Work, work, work. Volunteer to work in the scene shop or costume shop or wherever. The more you know about how the theatre works, the better a stage manager you will be. Use your advisor to help you pick out suitable classes. I definitely reccommend taking an acting class, directing class, and design classes. These classes will help you understand what everyone in the theatre does and improve your communication between departments. These skills will help you find jobs.

I would definitely try to get going in the theatre department your first semester if possible. Right at the start of the semester, go to whoever is in charge of the stage managers for the theatre department and say that you would love to ASM. If the ASMs are already picked out, get yourself into shops and volunteer. Look for student productions you can SM. The more you can do in those short four years (they seem so long, but really they fly by!), the better prepared you will be to step out of school and find work and jobs.

Although I'm stressing work, don't forget to have fun! College is exciting and overwhelming. It's a good time to learn your breaking point and how to step back and say, "No." when your plate is too full. College SMing is very different than professional SMing. It was so much more stressful for me in college. I was jugling a full class load, SMing a mainstage show, working 30-35 hours a week, and in a committed relationship my junior and senior years. It was absolutely nuts. I once figured out how many "productive hours" I was using and how many "productive hours" we're supposed to have a week. (I believe it's 60-80?) I was WAY over the limit so it was no wonder there were nights I would come home and break down. Now, I'm doing one job. It's still exhausting and still long hours, but I'm not juggling nearly as much. So remember in the dark, scary times when you want to give up and go home, but still need to finish a lighting plot, that there were many more who came before you and many more that will come behind you. You are not alone and you will get through it.

*Whew* That turned out to be a lot of advice. Try not to worry so much about what the future is. College will turn your plans it upside down, and that's a good thing. Make the most out of your four years and your future will figure itself out from there. :)


Tempest

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 21, 2009, 02:28 pm »
I second everything the above posters have said.  Also, this is going to sound odd, but make friends with your theatre department's secretary!  S/He is usually the first to see the new editions of ArtSearch and other job search publications, knows exactly who you need to talk to about what it is you need help with, and depending on their personality, will sometimes help you with stage managment clerical tasks, like photocopying, or getting contact information for your contact sheet.  In college this pearson is a GREAT resource, just be sure to be sufficiently appreciative.
The Theatre and Dance department at ASU had "Elaine Day" where all the students gave her a gift certificate to go out for a nice lunch, and all popped into the office when they weren't in calss to do her job for her.  And, we kept moving the date, so it was always a pleasant surprise.
Aside from that, apply for lots of summer gigs, and make friends with everyone there, as well.  EVERYONE you meet in theatre, even in college, is a possible resource for later jobs, latest news, or help.  Keep up that enthusiasm, and try to present a competent and willing image, and break a leg!
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MatthewShiner

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 21, 2009, 07:23 pm »
I am unsure about when you graduate what your status will be to work in the states.  I don't know many non-American citizen stage managers to know how they went about dealing with the paperwork and status.  (I know a bit about people from other AEA unions working in the states, but not much about your current situation.)  I think that would be the more pressing issue.  Being that theater jobs, especially paying theater jobs are a challenge to come by, the additional work to deal with someone who has a different work status may be just enough of a red flag to keep someone from hiring you.    At my theater we do hire quite a bit of non-American directors and designers and the paperwork can be a challenge - enough to have my production manager tear out her hair at times.  I am not sure how it work on an open ended project.  I guess a lot will depend on how you go about dealing with citizenship.  And American AEA might have a say in this too - as they would be an advocate for hiring an American Stage Manager over a foreign stage manager.  You know most about your situation, but you should do as much home work as possible on this issue.

I know that you can do an internship after college and usually stay in the USA on a student visa, so I would recommend, since your goal is to work in NYC, trying to get an internship in NYC so you can make those connections.
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ljh007

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #5 on: Mar 22, 2009, 12:17 pm »
Your visa status will be a major concern when you enter the professional arena. Very few theatres will be willing and/or able to help you with your application, especially as you will be a young SM without much experience. You should think about your options now and learn all you can while you are still a student so that you can take the best steps quickly when you graduate in order to stay in the country and secure SM jobs.

There are ways to coordinate a work visa through another "day-job" type employer, or to secure consistent work with a foreign director or designer who can include you as a member of his/her team when they are brought into a theatre for a production (this happens only at larger, professional theatres; it happens a lot in opera). You may want to consider taking steps to remain on a student visa in some way - as a part-time student or pursuing some variety of fellowship - so that you can take low- or non-paying SM gigs to get experience in the time after graduation.

It will be quite a challenge to secure a valid visa status, get work, and make a living when you graduate. But it can be done! If you learn all you can (in school and about the US visa requirements), understand all your options and keep your enthusiasm going through all the difficulties, you can find a way to make it all work for you. Good luck!

Jessie_K

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #6 on: Mar 22, 2009, 05:09 pm »
When I was in college, my roommate was a foreigner and was allowed to stay for 1 year after graduation for work purposes.  I imagine that this would apply to many situations.  Are you from Europe?

She was able to find an employer to sponsor her for a work visa after that first year.  However, she is criminal therapist not a theater person. I don't think it is likely that within a year you could find a theater job willing to sponsor you for a work permit with your experience level. 

If you are intent upon staying in the United States at this time, I really recommend finding another field where you are more likely to make a living and more able to sponsor you for a work permit.  You can still gain experience by working theater on nights and weekends.

deserted

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #7 on: Mar 27, 2009, 01:59 pm »
Thank you everyone for the great advice. It looks like volunteering in theatre/internships will be invaluable during college. And I knew the visa would be a problem... Guess I'll have to figure some way out.

Actually I had a question related to that. How exactly does SMing as a side job work? I believed that SM would be so time-consuming that it would be impossible to do as a side job. I definitely wouldn't mind doing a main job to support myself until I can SM full-time without worrying about finances too much.

I also have to serve a 2 year mandatory military service within the next 10 years. I planned to do it after my sophomore year at college, then return 2 years for my junior year. Is this bad for networking and creating contacts, which I know are vital in this field?

Thanks!

Bwoodbury

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Re: Where do I begin?
« Reply #8 on: Apr 09, 2009, 02:33 am »
Some quick input: I think it's a good idea to come back and do at least 2 years of college before you go to work. I've been making some amazing contacts at school, but I find that if I haven't met or spoken to the person in more than a year or so, they have no clue who I am.

 

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