The world of theatre arts is one of bright lights, busy stage settings and seemingly endless hours of practice. The following article may help you decide if a career in theatre arts is right for you and includes information about employment outlook, salaries and educational options for aspiring professionals.
The term theatre arts is a broad one that refers to the study of drama, dance and lighting or scenic design. In addition to acting, sub-specialties can include choreography, directing, stagecraft and playwriting. Costume and set design or stage management are also part of the theatre arts. Musical theatre, which requires performers to sing, dance and act simultaneously in a single performance, is another form or dramatic expression.
A program in the theatre arts can help you acquire an understanding of the human experience and learn how to replicate it on stage. Working as an actor, director, playwright or technology specialist can be rewarding, especially if you're interested in showing how theatre can serve as a reflection of culture, politics, religion and society, particularly in a global context. In addition, a major in theatre arts can also introduce you to the power of storytelling and how it can be combined with costume, performance, sound and scenic design to create a powerful message for a live audience.
You'll no doubt be surprised at the number of opportunities open to theatre arts professionals. For example, you may pursue a career as a member of a theatre company or dance ensemble, or in film and television production. The field is a highly competitive one that typically involves long and irregular hours or periods of unemployment. If you're pursuing a career as an actor or dancer, you'll need to be physically fit and able to deal with the rejections associated with the audition process.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that actors were paid a mean hourly wage of $41.94 in May 2013, while producers and directors earned an average fee of $43.38 an hour or $90,240 a year. Professional dancers and choreographers employed in May 2013 were paid mean wages of $20.00 and $24.00 an hour. According to the BLS, a slower-than-average increase in jobs is expected for actors, directors and producers nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Dancers and choreographers can look forward to an average growth in opportunities during the same 10-year period (www.bls.gov).
You do not necessarily need a degree to start pursuing a career as an actor, playwright or director. However, formal and intensive training programs can help you develop and refine your skills and become more competitive in the theatrical arts business.
A Bachelor of Arts in Drama or Theatre Arts program can provide you with a general introduction to popular theatre and its history, performance styles, playwriting and scene work. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theatre Arts with a concentration in musical theatre might include coursework in costume and scene technology, singing or the different approaches to dance and performance. BFA programs that emphasize design and production are one way for you to acquire training in costume, lighting, scenery and sound technology. Core coursework might include topics in costume history, furniture studies, stage makeup and textiles.
Once you've completed your undergraduate degree, you may want to look into a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, which can also allow for concentrations in acting, directing, dramaturgy or playwriting. Specializations in stage and theatre management are also available; concentrations in design and technical production can help you pursue advanced positions as an art director for film and television, costume designer or lighting expert. As a graduate of an MFA program, you may also be qualified for a position as an educator at a college or university. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in theatre are also available.