Broadway may be the ultimate goal for many aspiring theatre performers, but it certainly isn’t the only way to make a living. Here are some avenues worth exploring:
1. Everything That’s Off-Broadway — Literally!
There are so many performing options in the heart of the Big Apple, so why not take a bite performing in the following types of projects?
- Off-Broadway (theatres with 100–499 seats)
- Off-Off-Broadway (intimate theatres with 99 seats or fewer)
- Showcases and workshops, where many new works and up-and-coming shows get produced Cabaret
- Immersive theatre (check out Punchdrunk, Speakeasy Dollhouse and Third Rail Projects)
- Theatre festivals, such as Broadway Bound Theatre Festival and New York Musical Festival
All this and more exists as performing options when you start to pound the pavement in New York City, and they can be great stepping stones toward landing that coveted Broadway gig. And, if you’re lucky, the work is sometimes great and transfers to Broadway, such as the previous production of “Rock of Ages”.
2. Travel the Country on a National Tour
All across the country, performers are having the time of their lives as part of national tours. Big musical hits, recent or currently running Broadway musicals and numerous other theatre shows with different audience bases tour the United States all the time. If you love to travel, want to get paid to perform and don’t mind long days and nights on a tour bus, this is a great gig for you.
3. See the World Sailing the Open Seas
The cast of “Hairspray” on the Oasis of the Seas certainly gave a stellar performance when they had the amazing opportunity to perform at the Tony Awards several years back. Though this may have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this video does give an inside look into how cruise ships now offer some of the most elaborate musical revues, cabarets and even shortened versions of recent and currently running Broadway hits. If you are willing to sail the open seas for six months or more (and, not to mention, see the world for free), this is a great place to perform, gain experience and build a hefty financial nest egg.
4. Theme Parks Aren’t Just for Your Inner Kid Anymore!
It’s safe to say this is an amazing rendition of “Let It Go” from “Frozen Live” at Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park. With entertainment ranging from cabarets and musical revues to full-blown production shows, both U.S. and international theme parks are a great place to show off your talent and get paid for it. Keep in mind, this does mean you’ll have to do numerous shows a day, and the turnaround is usually pretty short, but it’s certainly worth it to build your resume. As an added bonus, think of all the fun you can have on your performing breaks!
5. Regional Theatre
Paper Mill Playhouse is one of the best regional theatres in the country. In fact, it was honored with the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2016! Its previous productions of “Newsies” and “Bandstand” originated here.
The “Regions,” as theatre folk like to call it, have some of the best theatre around and often offer productions that rival Broadway. Keep in mind that most seasons consist of a mix of union and non-union talents (whom they job in from auditions held in New York City, Chicago and/or Los Angeles) as well as local performers to round out the cast in their shows. Seasons vary in length and performances, as do pay scales.
6. Summer Stock, Dinner Theatre and Melodramas, Oh My!
The Muny is one of the oldest and largest outdoor summer stock theatres in the country. Its previous production of “The Wizard of Oz” certainly goes over the rainbow.
There are hundreds of summer stocks, dinner theatres and melodramas across the United States, and while much of it tends to be seasonal, it’s a great performing outlet. Keep in mind that each venue is very unique and the skill sets that will get you hired vary greatly. You may work outside, in a fast-paced, barebones environment, in numerous productions at once or gain experience in more avant garde performing styles of the past you would otherwise only read about in a textbook. You can even learn the special skill of waiting tables, should your dinner theatre venue require this type of multitasking. Regardless, it’s all a plus if you’re gaining resume credits and the possibility to perform with some of the big-name Broadway talents who often grace these stages in starring roles.
7. Kid-Friendly Theatre
Theatreworks USA is one of the top companies that produces shows for the younger set, but it is not alone. Theatre for Young Audiences is a huge market and can provide ample opportunities for actors. There are numerous theatres and touring companies that produce this work. If you love to work and/or perform for children and potentially tour the country, this is the gig for you!
8. Corporate America Loves Artists
Corporate theatre, industrials and brand ambassadors are very lucrative work for performers, and depending on what you’re doing, potentially fulfilling as well. It could involve anything from hosting team-building events and conferences to selling products at trade shows or even doing a musical theatre interactive revue, such as The Water Coolers seen in the video above. If your skill set includes the ability to improvise, memorizing large amounts of dialogue and the ability to work a crowd or even alone, this is a great place to keep up your performing skills while raking in the dough.
Even if you aren’t on Broadway, there are plenty of opportunities to flex your performing arts muscles. Let us know where you’ve performed in the comments below…