If someone asks me, “What is the best way to get on a sitcom?” I can answer that. Or “What kind of training do I need to do musical theatre on Broadway?” I can answer that as well. But it's hard to give any kind of helpful answer when the question is vague.
So, let's make this post about getting work in live theatre. To get started in a theatre there are several different approaches you can try. You're not going to be starting out on Broadway – unless you've had a lot of training and you live in New York. And even then you will be expected to have some off-Broadway, or at least a bunch of off-off-Broadway shows on your résumé. Of course, if you're a movie star, producers will be happy to give you a role on Broadway because they know that audiences will come to see you.
But let's say you're just getting started, or maybe you've moved to a new town and want to get involved with a theatre there.
Most colleges and many high schools have a drama department and you can enroll in their classes. Or you could Google “community theatres” in your area and then call or email them to find out when they're going to have auditions. You can do the same with larger theatres in your area, however, many large theatres outside of New York bring shows in from out of town, with the cast already in place, so usually a smaller theatre will be your best bet in the beginning.
Many theatres have companies that you can audition to join, and they choose most of their cast for their plays from company members. And some theatres have classes – so join one of those!
Another alternative is to call a theatre and volunteer to help build or paint sets, work in the box office, be an usher, or help in some other way. Just like joining one of their classes, this will get you involved in the theatre and you will start meeting other actors and the people who run the theatre. It's a lot easier to find out about up-coming auditions when you are already a part of the theatre.
What if you don't have a theatre in your town? What many actors have done is to start their own theatre. No – you don't have to find a building to rent and all that stuff (unless you have a lot of extra money you want to spend). I mean finding a space – maybe even a garage or backyard (for an outdoor theatre) and doing simple plays that don't require a big expensive set.
This is called “DIY” (Do It Yourself) and a lot of actors – even some famous ones – are doing it this way. Why? Because they can do the kind of plays they want to do without having to wait for somebody else to create a show for them to be in. If you read the bios of some of your favorite actors, you will see that there are quite a few that started out this way – doing plays for family and friends.
Be careful of using plays that somebody owns the copyright on, especially if you charge money to see the show. The best way is to either find plays in the public domain, or royalty-free plays, or, even better, get together with some friends and write your own. This is really the best way, because then you can all write in parts for yourselves and you don't have to worry about violating copyright laws.
NOTE: To find royalty-free plays click on my link to Samuel French and search for “royalty free.” On the site you can even filter for the number of males and females in the cast.
I hope this gives you some ideas about the possibilities of getting involved with some live theatre. We will be discussing a lot more about how to get involved with film, television, and internet video and how you can DIY them. DIY is great because it means that you aren't just waiting around for something to happening – you're making it happen! And if you really want to make it in this biz, you can't wait around for the phone to ring.
Have other questions about getting started or getting work as an actor? Use the comments or email me and we'll talk about ways to get film, television, and internet work as well as anything else you want to discuss about the world of acting.