Career Week kicked off for the Lorain County Community College Theater Department on March 3. Despite the intimate audience of two people, the session was filling for both minds about the future of the theater world.
“Show business is a business,” said David Cotton, a professor at LCCC for two years, and a member of the theater community for 50 years both as an actor and a director, among other positions. “Whether it is acting or the artistic side of theater, it is a collaborative act,” added Jeremy Benjamin, the director of theatre, production manager and technical director at LCCC and lead the discussion on “Careers in Theater: It is More than Acting”. “The Performing Arts is the largest employing in the country.”
The list of possible careers is as wide and is it long, and any past or present educational experience can contribute to any of them, artistic, technical or administrative. An undergraduate liberal arts degree, with classes such as art history, film appreciation, and architecture and drafting can lead to apprenticeship or internship.
The artistic side of theater holds jobs for directors, choreographers and designers.Directors require a broad based knowledge, willingness to research and “understand all aspects,” according to Cotton. “They wear multiple hats and they are the go to person, a key skill needed is defending your position.”
The profession of choreographers is growing, with the advancement of ballet and modern dance, along with tap and jazz.Designers, the largest and most versatile members of the crew, can be made up of costumers, set builders, prop masters, sound and projection artisans. “The more you can do, the more valuable you are,” said Benjamin.
Diane Papp, the costume designer and costume shop supervisor, as well as a member of the LCCC theater department since 1996, expressed her ideals about the creative and constructive side of a showcase.
“There is more room for free thinking,” Papp added. Papp also discussed the safety purposes of her job, such as catering to allergies of certain fabrics and makeup and costume sizes to prevent injuries while on stage. She suggested key skills to bring to the job are basic sewing and the ability to draw and convey the ideas to others.
“I am guaranteed people will get to see my work on stage,” Papp added about the advantages of working for the stage instead of fashion. “A good prop, like a good costume, can empower a character.”
The virtual side of theater, such as lighting, music and projection are all jobs you need little to no experience or theater degree to work in. “You don’t need a set or stage, but you cannot have darkness,” said Benjamin on his preferred discipline. “We paint with light. The lighting can make you feel warm or cold, happy or sad.” Projection has also helped with the visual feels to sets, by including the sights of indoor and outdoor activities.
Musicians, both with or without composition skills, have a place at the table of set design, by composing scores and recording any sound imaginable for upcoming productions. “Never throw out recordings. You might have to combine the sounds of monkeys dancing to Hava Nagila one day,” Benjamin added.
If these jobs don’t spark any personal interest, and there is a desire to wear a suit and tie on a daily basis, there are plenty of management jobs out there for theater geeks. Business manager, public relations, accounting, lawyer, concession stand and box office attendees can suit those fancies.
If New York is too big, theater jobs are popping up in Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles. “There are long hours, need for strong work ethic, not always the best pay, you might miss holidays and your families. You want to do this job for the love of theater, not for the money,” Benjamin added.