A Guide to a Career in the Performing Arts


Do you dream of starring in the West End or on Broadway? Or directing the next record-breaking musical performance? Or even working in theatre design? Well, it sounds like you want to work within the performing arts.

The performing arts industry is a truly rewarding career. You can express yourself and show the world your creativity, all with the benefit of getting paid! However, to succeed in this industry, you’ll need to work hard. But, once you’ve made it, it’ll be the best feeling in the world.

Here’s everything you need to think about when considering a career in the performing arts:

Choosing your career

Let’s go back to the start – you need to have an idea what sort of role you’d like in this industry.  You could become an actor, scriptwriter, or dancer. Or maybe a behind-the-scenes role, such as a costume or set designer, or even designing a theatre itself.

Designing a theatre is an essential role that is often overlooked in this industry. It involves thinking about the stage, lighting, the theatre seating and its layout, and creating an overall luxurious building.

There is also the role of a theatre director; which means that you would be responsible for the performance, ensuring that stories are brought to life on stage.

Get the right qualifications

Once you know what career you want, you need to find out what qualifications you need. Formal qualifications are not always required in the performing arts industry. However, completing a course at college or obtaining a University degree, may give you a competitive edge over your peers and help you land your dream job. Once you know what qualifications or training you need, you can put plans in place to achieve them.

Check you have the right skills

To be successful in the performing arts, you need to have a number of skills. According to UCAS, you should have technical ability and performing talent, physical fitness, attention to detail, strong communication skills, and creativity. It’s also important to have discipline - people will expect you to be organised, arrive at auditions and performances on time, work long hours, follow strict procedures, and know what is expected of you in this demanding industry.

Build a portfolio of experience

Work experience is vital in the performing arts industry. If you want to be successful, then you need to start gaining valuable experience as soon as possible. According to Prospects - “Performing artists generally supplement their training, generate opportunities and enhance their creative knowledge through work experience and by participating in voluntary projects. Contact your local community centre or search the internet for details of community projects in your area.” You could also get involved in charity projects, or organise your own acting or dance workshops. These unpaid projects provide valuable experience and create opportunities to meet and network with industry professionals. Gaining experience and contacts is the best way to get your foot on the career ladder.

Put yourself out there!

As goes with any type of career, networking is one of the best ways to find opportunities. Visit the theatre as often as you can, as watching performances will give you a proper insight into the work that goes into a play, thus helping you decide which type of role interests you. You may even meet people who are already working within the performing arts - many theatres offer events and workshops which are perfect for aspiring performers and directors. Keep an eye out for these.

Know where to find work

Lots of performers are self-employed, working at festivals, corporate events, and theatre. If this is the route you want to go down, then it’s especially important to make contacts in the industry and know how to market yourself. Fortunately, advancements in technology mean that you can now easily search and apply for auditions online. Securing your first couple of roles will probably be difficult and may take a long time, but don’t be discouraged - remember that persistence pays off! After a while you should be able to find work based on recommendations and referrals.

Don’t give up!

The most important thing is not to give up! To make your way into this industry, you will need to determination, perseverance, creativity and, most importantly, passion. With these skills, you will surely find your place in within the preforming arts.

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