What Is the Job Description of a Theater Production Manager?

Does the idea of developing a team of diverse theater professionals to run a show excite you? Would you love to work with a crew, create a show budget, and coordinate the production aspects of a play? If these interest you, you may want to consider a job as a theater production manager. Schools offering Show Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Theater production managers, also known as PMs, are responsible for the success of the backstage operations of a theater. Overall, the PM is primarily responsible for the theater production's budget and allocation of resources. Production managers create timelines for work completion and schedule meetings with different production departments (e.g., technical, costume, set, and lighting design). PMs are ultimately responsible for the quality of the show itself since they have worked with the crew every day to ensure the various directors' visions have been realized. Finally, it is up to the PM to ensure that everyone works safely.

Before work on a show can begin, the production manager must contact a royalty house or production agent to secure the rights to the show. The PM typically has the final word on hiring and firing decisions, although the show's directors usually select their team's staff. All production staff contracts are negotiated with the production manager. The PM must create a budget, then have it approved by the show's business director or producer. Once it is approved, the PM is responsible for making sure the finances are appropriately distributed and utilized to put on the highest-quality show possible.

Important Facts About Theater Production Managers

On-the-Job Training Apprentice programs available
Key Skills Clear spoken communication, organization, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, negotiation, time management
Work Environment Heavily dependent upon their current project; hours can be long and irregular, including evenings, weekends, and holidays
Similar Occupations General/operations managers; business managers; directors of operations; executive directors; operations managers; operations supervisors

Community, Professional, and School Theater

Depending on the size and venue of production, the job duties of the PM might blur with those of a producer or a stage manager. For instance, in a community theater where a show's budget is smaller, the production manager might act as the producer, overseeing the big-picture financial and technical aspects of the production of the show. In professional theater, where the production budget may be larger, there might be a line of production managers who divide the responsibilities. Many colleges and universities have theater departments in which the PM also serves as a liaison with the school administration.

Education and Experience

There is no one specific path to becoming a production manager. You could have a background in acting or business management. Most often, production managers start out as stage managers. While degree programs specifically for production managers are difficult to find, you could pursue a bachelor's degree in theater or arts management. Your prior experience in theater or arts management is important to success as a production manager since you need to know what all of the various departments are doing and how to help them succeed.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth outlook for directors and producers was projected to be faster than the average for all occupations from 2016-2026, with a projected increase in employment of 12%. Producers and directors earned a mean annual salary of $71,680 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Your salary will depend on the production's budget and whether you work for a community, professional, or university theater production.

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