When it comes to breaking into theater acting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some professional actors begin their careers as children, performing in school or church-sponsored events, while others do not consider acting in the theater until they are well into adulthood. However, while there are things a person can do to improve his or her chances of landing a professional theater acting job, in many cases the hiring process is influenced factors other than training or experience. A person’s physical appearance, ability to sing or dance, or other intangible factors can all be used to cast them in a theatrical role. Many professional actors in television and film begin their careers “treading on the boards,” a reference to legitimate theater acting.
Taking advantage of every opportunity to perform locally is one way to get started in theater acting. Many community and amateur theater groups hold open auditions for upcoming productions, and actors of all ages may be needed. These auditions are commonly advertised in local newspapers and word of mouth. The show’s director and/or producers will appear at a predetermined location, usually an empty auditorium or workshop, and request that interested actors perform a short prepared monologue or a scripted scene from the play. Because some roles require a strong singing voice, a performer may be required to prepare an acapella song or provide background music. All of these requirements for an open audition should be included in the information packet or advertisement copy.
While community theater can help actors gain confidence and experience, many professional theater companies prefer to cast actors who have completed an accredited training program. This type of professional acting training can be obtained enrolling in a college theatrical program or enrolling in private acting classes taught professional theater actors. Some theater majors can enter the workforce with a Bachelor of Arts degree, while others may choose to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree before entering the notoriously competitive field. Students should be able to learn about the history of theater as well as the mental and physical demands of the profession through theatrical training.
Breaking into the professional theater acting world can be difficult, and many aspiring actors must rely on other sources of income. Working actors must have some flexibility in their schedules, as a role in a professional theatrical production may require travel or a demanding performance schedule. Some actors find it easier to break into the industry working in regional dinner theaters or other non-union venues. Many professional actors are strongly encouraged to join an actor’s equity association or union, and many professional theater companies will only hire actors who are members of one. A new actor may also want to find a qualified manager or talent agent who can set up auditions and connect them with influential directors and producers. Theater acting is a collaborative effort between an actor and others who rely on his or her abilities, training, and charisma to make a production a success. It can also be a world of feast or famine, so anyone interested in pursuing a career as a theater actor should expect to make a number of sacrifices before achieving professional status.