A Career in Performing Arts

Many young people dream about a career in performing arts; however it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve this goal.

Most people who enjoy success in the performing arts industry started to work towards their dream at a very young age and if you, or your child, are interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts, then you may want to consider the following bits of advice.

Skills Required for the Performing Arts

Those who wish to be involved in the performing arts (with particular emphasis on performance) will be required to show acting talent and creativity. Creativity will allow an actor to inject their own unique ideas into a character or a performance, even if that character has already been portrayed by hundreds of different actors in the past.

A good actor must be able to communicate with others in their team and they should be prepared to take direction from others. Actors should be humble enough to understand that the success of a performance also hinges on those who do not appear directly on the stage. It is important that they are able to learn and remember their lines and cues quickly. They should be able to adapt quickly if the playwright or director chooses to change parts of the performance. They must also be able to display discipline, resilience, determination and persistence.

Most actors will experience rejection and harsh criticism at some point during their career. Being resilient will enable them to keep trying, even though they may feel like giving up. Actors who work in small performances or smaller theatre companies must also be flexible enough to take on roles which are not normally associated with actors, such as marketing, publicity and set design.

Dance/Drama Clubs

There are a lot of dance and drama societies in Britain which are specifically designed to cater for young people. These clubs and societies are geared towards helping youngsters to develop their all-round performance skills. Participants are taught how to improve their skills and then given opportunities to take part in performances. These societies also help to give children important social interactions.

English Language and Literature

Although no formal qualifications are required for those who wish to become an actor or actress, it is a good idea for them to study English Language and Literature.

Studying English Language and Literature can help performers to develop a proper understanding of the source material that they are being asked to study. Being able to identify the narrative themes and the key messages that the author is trying to portray will help an actor to perfect their portrayal of the characters. As part of an English Literature course, students will normally have the opportunity to study a variety of different plays, from Shakespeare through to contemporary playwrights such as Arthur Miller.

University or Drama School

Many people pursue a career in the performing arts without formal training or a university degree; however there are plenty of drama courses and university degrees available in Britain. Whilst drama school courses largely focus on developing practical skills for the performing arts, university degrees often include a theoretical element as well. Theoretical studies help students to understand key concepts which are used in performing arts.

Doing a degree or a drama course at an acclaimed establishment can also help a performer to build their connections and help them to find like-minded people to collaborate with on future projects. Some universities and drama courses also help students to put on showcase performances as part of their final year project. These performances may be attended by industry experts and talent agents.

Amateur Dramatics

Gain further experience of real performances by taking part in local amateur dramatics performances. Most amateur dramatics performances still require regular rehearsals and dedication from performers, so they help performers to gain additional experience. Amateur dramatics performances are also a good way for an actor to increase their portfolio and acting resume.

Work Experience in a Theatre

It is a great idea for prospective actors to try to get work experience in a theatre or a performance space. Developing an understanding of the way that a theatre operates can help prospective performers in their future career. It will also allow prospective actors to network with industry professionals. People who are working in a theatre or performance environment are also likely to hear about opportunities which have opened up elsewhere in the theatre.

Industry Magazines and Websites

Those who want to make it in the industry should regularly read trade magazines and look at industry specific websites. These types of media are great resources for those who are hoping to find out about the latest casting opportunities. Casting calls for most small parts are advertised in local and national trade magazine or on trade websites, because casting directors wish to get a wide breadth of talent applying for each role.

Trade magazines also discuss exciting developments that are occurring elsewhere in the industry. Knowing what is occurring across the industry can help new actors to develop their styles so that they can remain competitive in the industry.

Find an Agent

Most casting calls for major productions are not raised on the “open market”. For larger productions, actors are normally only invited to audition if they have been recommended by an agent. Getting an agent can help an actor to open up more opportunities for themselves. However, an agent will subsequently take a cut of any earnings that the actor makes from an opportunity which the agent has provided them with.

Join a Union

Equity is Britains main trade union for actors and other professional performers. Joining a union can help performers to mark themselves as a more legitimate option. Equity also sets a minimum rate of pay for performers, depending on what they are taking part in. Non-unionised actors may be paid at a lower rate and they will not be able to get the support of the union in any pay or employment disputes.

Performing Arts Insurance and Compensation Claims

Although the performing arts are supposed to blend entertainment with freedom of expression, it is also important that performers take Health and Safety considerations seriously. As well as considering any relevant Health and Safety regulations, performers and those who are staging performances should also remember to take out adequate Performing Arts insurance.

Why is it important to think about Health and Safety?

Any company or solo performer who is mounting a production or putting on a performance should take the time to think about relevant Health and Safety legislation. Failing to consider the relevant Health and Safety legislation can put performers, production staff and the audience at risk.

Health and Safety legislation is designed to help to remove or reduce any risks that are associated with a performance. If someone is injured whilst working at or watching a production, the person or company that is mounting the production may be considered to be liable.

Examples of relevant HSE legislation

Lots of different pieces of HSE legislation apply to theatrical or film productions, and the responsible party should always consider all HSE legislation when they are mounting a production. However, there are certain pieces of advice which are more likely to apply to a theatre setting.

Advice about working at heights is often pertinent, because the stage and auditoria of theatre buildings are normally very large and deep. Whenever possible, employees should avoid working at height. Scenery and rigging should be lowered down to the ground for adjustment whenever possible. If employees must work at height, all possible precautions should be taken to reduce fall risks. Any gantries, bridges or catwalks which are used should be secure and must be safety tested. The Association of British Theatre Technicians has published its own guidance on working at heights in a theatre environment and other safety issues that can be found here.

Theatre workers must also be aware of any recommendations that relate to manual handling of items. Because of the confines of the theatre environment, workers may be expected to lift awkwardly shaped items in tight or confined spaces. However, poor lifting techniques can lead to long term injuries. Theatre workers should be trained in safe lifting techniques and must not be asked to manually lift anything which exceeds safe limits.

A full risk assessment must be carried out before any special effects are attempted. Strict guidelines must be adhered to if weapons or pyrotechnics are used. Care must always be taken for any scenes which simulate death or injury involving asphyxiation or drowning.

Who should consider special Performing Arts Insurance?

Performing Arts Insurance is designed to provide the perfect insurance cover for a number of different types of performers and business owners. Those who may want to consider taking out special Performing Arts Insurance include; theatre groups, circuses, dance troupes, musicians, orchestras, disc jockeys, variety acts and historical re-enactment groups. Drama schools, workshops and production companies should also consider taking out this type of insurance.

Most individual performers will be covered by the insurance of the organisation that they are working with, however solo performers may need their own insurance if they are solely responsible for their production or performance. Some performers may be required to pay an additional premium for their cover, depending on the nature of their work. Applicants may need to pay a premium for the use of pyrotechnics or aerial work over 3 metres high.

What happens if there is an accident?

If there is an accident, the insurance provider will seek to understand how and why the incident occurred. In most cases, the insurance provider will be able to cover any financial or legal costs that have been incurred because of the accident. However, if the insurance provider finds that the accident occurred because of negligence then they may not be prepared to cover the costs which have been incurred. This is another reason why it is important for performers and producers to make sure that they follow all appropriate health and safety regulations.

What if I have been hurt at a theatre or during a performance?

If you have been hurt in an accident at a theatre or during a performance, then you may be entitled to claim personal injury compensation. You should notify someone straight away if you are injured, and they should report this in an accident book. You should also seek professional medical help to treat your injury.

Most employees should be covered by their employers Performing Arts Insurance and may be able to claim directly. If you are unable to make a claim directly, you may want to seek independent legal advice from a lawyer to see whether or not you are eligible to make a personal injury claim for compensation. Explaining the details of any injury to the lawyer will help them establish who is at fault for the personal injury. It will also help them to work out how much compensation you may be entitled to. Once this has been established, they will may able to help you to launch a claim for compensation which in all likelihood would be a no win no fee claim. More on personal injury and no win no fee claims can be found here.