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How Do I Become a Theater Manager?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Kenneth W. Michael Wills

Reputation and the size of a theater will often determine the requirements to become a theater manager. For smaller theaters, a two-year degree and some experience might suffice, while for prestigious theaters for the performing arts might require a graduate degree, in addition to experience working with various aspects of theater. Regardless of educational requirements experience is demanded of almost any vacancy, as the theater manager is expected to walk into the job and perform. Aspiring managers can gain this experience in a variety of ways from full-time positions, internships or even assisting with management of a college theater while attending school. Progressive theater responsibilities and management roles may ultimately position a candidate for a highly public role of managing a well-regarded theater production house.

Some form of education is essential to become a theater manager in most cases. Theaters found in small communities, in public school systems or small colleges will usually require either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in theater and/or performing arts management. Larger, more regarded regional theaters involved in high-visibility productions will usually require a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Arts Management. Focus of study usually centers on cultivating creative skills as well as the economics and operations of theater and performing arts. Graduates of master's degree programs often participate in hands-on management experience as part of their program requirements.

Box office.
Box office.

Gaining experience with performing arts from the perspective of marketing, operation and production is crucial to performing effectively as a theater manager. Therefore, while education can get future managers in the door with organizations, only demonstrated experience in addition to education can pave the path to become a theater manager. Professional experience can be gained through a variety of avenues. Most master's degree programs will include an internship as part of the requirements for graduation, where graduates are expected to demonstrate management competence. Those with undergraduate degrees will need to focus their efforts on entry-level jobs that give them exposure to production, marketing and box office experience.

Theater tickets.
Theater tickets.

Culmination of this education and experience on the resume of a candidate seeking to become a theater manager conveys an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes of a theatre production. Additionally, it also conveys an intimate knowledge of how to bring together the various components essential to theater production and make them work in-tangent to create success. Such components include interactions with the community, backstage operations, media interactions, production, accountability and scheduling.

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