While actors are the ones the audience sees, they only represent about one-third of those employed by a theater company, according to one managing director. And it is the behind-the-scenes jobs that are hardest to fill.
That is why anyone interested in a job in theater — on or off the stage — should attend the 2011 NH Pro Theatre Auditions and Job Fair, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 26, at Plymouth State University’s Silver Center for the Arts.
It is the fourth year of the job fair, according to Lyn Winters, managing director of the Weathervane Theatre. Four years ago, the NH Pro Theatre Association was formed and theater companies could share concerns. One such concern was that summer theaters were always looking for staff. It was at this time that the connection between their need for people and the state’s great university system was made, according to Winters.
The first year the fair was only for on-stage talent, but it quickly expanded to technical staffers as well as faculty — people who teach theater during the school year and may want to work in the summer.
The connection between theater and the schools made sense, according to Elizabeth Cox, associate professor and director of theater at Plymouth State University. Cox said students who study theater all year could get a job in the craft over the summer.
“It gives the students an opportunity to get experience,” Cox said. “But they also make money, which can help pay for school.”
The majority of those who attend are students, but 15 percent are professionals or otherwise, according to Cox.
What people like so much about the event is its intimacy. Larger job fairs like StrawHat Auditions in New York City have thousands of applicants and it becomes a cattle call. At the job fair in Plymouth, applicants sit face-to-face with producers and directors and get to really know about different theater companies.
“We’re also presenting what we have to offer,” Winters said.
Last year 800 people worked in the state’s theater industry, according to the Department of Cultural Resources. Winters said the Weathervane Theatre employs 53 people in the summer, which makes it one of the largest employers in Whitefield. Many people have been hired directly from the job fair.
Many of those jobs have been for performers, but there are plenty more for technical people. Winters said one of the main goals of the fair is to highlight cross-disciplines. For example, a student may be a business major at university. What better way to use that degree for the summer than learning how to run a theater company?
“There are a lot of performers out there,” Cox said. “It is harder to find skilled designers or business administrators.”
It is also a great opportunity to network as theater groups from the east, west, north and south of the state will be participating.
“As a theater company up north we don’t often get a chance to talk with people from Peterborough and the seacoast,” Winters said.
Beginning in the Depression era, New York would close down in the summertime, according to Winters. With nothing to do, many actors came north to New Hampshire, and thus was established the state’s summer theater legacy. Now, as national tours often end in May, many professional performers still look to the state in the summertime.
“We receive résumés from people up and down the eastern seaboard,” Winters said.
The job fair has spots for 150 people and Cox said applications are already coming in. Visit www.oz.plymouth.edu.