Job Description: Faculty in drama and theater departments teach in various sub disciplines including acting, costume design, directing, drama/theater education, musical theater, playwriting, screenwriting, theater history and theater design. Many theater faculty members perform or have close ties to professional theaters or to the film and television industry.
Training and Educational Qualifications: Four year colleges and universities usually consider PhD’s for full time, tenure track positions, but they may hire master’s degree holders or doctoral candidates for certain disciplines such as the arts, or for part time and temporary jobs, including theater. Many professors in this field have a master’s of fine arts (MFA) in acting, which is the terminal performance degree. Others have PhD’s in other specialties like general theater, theater history theater education, or performance studies. In two year colleges, master’s degree holders fill most full time positions.
Job Outlook: Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. A significant proportion of these new jobs will be part time positions. Job opportunities are generally expected to be very good although they will vary somewhat from field to field as numerous openings for all types of postsecondary teachers result from retirements of current postsecondary teachers and continued increases in student enrollments.
Salary: Earnings for college faculty vary according to rank and type of institution, geographic area and field. According to a 2006-07 survey by the American Association of University Professors, salaries for full time faculty averaged $73,207. By rank, the average was $98,974 for professors, $69,911 for associate professors, $58,662 for assistant professors, $42,609 for instructors, and $48,289 for lecturers.
• Opportunities for postsecondary teaching jobs are expected to be good, but many new openings will be for part time or nontenure positions.
• Prospects for teaching jobs will be better and earnings higher in academic fields in which many qualified teachers opt for nonacademic careers.
• Educational qualifications for postsecondary teacher jobs range from expertise in a particular field to a PhD, depending on the subject and type of educational institution.
High School Theater and Professional Workshop Teacher, Faculty Member at Oberlin Theater Institute, Director of Good Clean Fun (an educational theater company), Assistant Professor, director of plays in New York City and regionally over the last 20 years.
Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?
I studied the Meisner Technique with Master teachers William Esper and Maggie Flanigan (they opened my eyes) for my basic understanding of the technique that I now teach. But it was Barbara Marchant, a Master Acting teacher of the Meisner Technique, who also has a real understanding of how to teach it to young people, who taught me how to teach the technique. I observed her in class at Rutgers and at Esper’s private studio in New York City. She mentored me and gave me the courage to apply it for myself. I also studied directing with Harold Scott, Amy Saltz, and Michael Warren Powell at Rutgers, and they prepared me for a career in teaching directing and directing theater professionally.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
It’s very difficult to secure an internship teaching acting. Most people who do this job have studied the practical application of the technique and then stay on and observe their teachers after they’ve graduated (if the teacher will take you on). It’s not likely to just walk in off the street. Regarding directing, there are a few reputable companies or organizations that offer workshops or internships. New York Theater Workshop, Lincoln Center Theater Lab, and The Labyrinth Theater Company, all in New York City, come to mind.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
Teaching the art of acting, directing, or theater studies can be done anywhere. There are countless colleges, universities, high school programs, camps and summer institutes that offer such work. It is not necessary to live on either coast to do this job; there are some fine institutions in the middle of the country, and one must be willing to relocate because of the love of the work. The real trick is getting the job. It’s not only what you know but also whom you know in this field. Theater is a collaborative art form and one is constantly meeting people. Be a good collaborator because you will meet those people again. Or you will meet someone who knows someone with whom you’ve worked. Don’t
underestimate the power and importance of recommendation. When your friends are working, you’re working.
What is your typical day like and what are your job responsibilities?
I teach in a conservatory so my students have three days a week when they are immersed in their field of study (the other two days are theater academics history, dramatic literature, script analysis or liberal arts requirements). I teach the Meisner Technique to the first year students, and I direct the second year students in a performance ensemble class in which they create their own performance pieces using theater games, improvisation, ensemble building, playwriting techniques, outside research, etc. I also teach a class called Actor/Director Relationship to the fourth year students, I co direct the fourth years in their Actor Presentation (Showcase) for the industry at the end of the year and I produce the festival of senior thesis productions. I am the head of the BA Acting program, so I have faculty workshops and meetings and I oversee the curriculum. On my two off days from Rutgers, I am usually reading or watching something related to my field or I am working on a play I am directing professionally or working on a new script as a dramaturge. I do a lot of advising.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It’s pretty hard not to feel like the whole thing is amazing. We’re blessed to be doing our dream as our livelihood. I never understand people who work in the theater and still show up grumpy. I always want to say to them, “You’re in the wrong job.” You might as well go work in an office cubicle. Then you can be that guy who hates his job. But we get to do this magic for a living! I guess my favorite part is when my students don’t need me anymore, as strange as that may sound. We really are working to make ourselves obsolete. I love showing up to observe my students in rehearsal and essentially saying, “Well, that’s it. You’re doing it. Nice job. Now I can go home.”
What do you dislike about your job?
I hate writing evaluations. I am constantly in the process of evaluating my students, critiquing them, giving them notes, holding face to face evaluation meetings with them. I have no problem with this and they actually crave it. But, when it comes to writing it down, something just balks in me, maybe because of the permanency of it. Acting, and the process of learning, are fluid and flexible and want to be left alone. I hate having to track every single movement of the journey. But it must be done.
Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
Like all kids who fall in love with the theater, I thought I wanted to be an actor. That’s because when you go to the theater all you see is the actor. It doesn’t occur to you that someone lit the thing, or wrote it, or is backstage pulling on ropes, etc. Later, when I started doing theater, I became fascinated by all that goes into it and I knew I was more drawn to directing. I wanted to be responsible for the whole story. Later still, doing theater in the schools, I saw the audience response and realized how powerful theater can be as a teaching tool. It was a short jump to knowing that I was a teacher or director, not an actor.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
This will sound awful, but I originally went to a college that had a terrible theater department and our acting training was bad. So after hours, we students used to stay in the building and I would teach in the little black box theater (I was eighteen!). I had been studying Viola Spolin’s theater games with a wonderful teacher named David Braucher, who was a professional actor. I would simply do at night with my fellow disgruntled students the games he had taught me during the day. Everybody loved it, we felt the joy of acting freely, and I realized I had some aptitude for teaching. I knew I wanted to do it as my career and I’ve always managed to do some form of teaching in my work since then.
How did you get into this industry?
Like all actors, I auditioned for roles and won the parts. So I was an actor for a while. Community theater, small professional jobs, whatever. But I also always found a way to teach: church groups, synagogues, high schools, and colleges. I worked with an educational theater company wherein we would not teach theater, but teach through theater. We’d use plays as a way of getting the students to analyze social situations. There were a lot of different learning styles being employed there. I was always fascinated by the way different individuals process information. I knew, however, I could not be taken seriously as an educator unless I got an advanced degree. Consequently, I went to Rutgers and got an MFA, which I knew was necessary to teach acting in a conservatory program. While I was in my final year, I made it known to the director of the BFA Acting program that I was interested in teaching. She saw something in me, took me under her wing, and mentored me. I observed her class and once she let me sub for her. That was a big step. I graduated, got some very valuable experience in the world of professional directing, and a year later, a position opened up in the BFA Acting program at Rutgers. I was offered the job. It should be said, however, that during that year, I sent my teaching resume out to hundreds of organizations and was rejected by each and every one. It is extremely difficult to land a college teaching job cold.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
We’ve had quite a few students go on to do extraordinary work professionally. Our students have film, television, and Broadway careers award winners who are seen by millions. However, I am equally proud of my students who go on to have careers in what would be characterized as Indie Theater, what was once called downtown or off off Broadway. They are less interested in the commercial world and are more concerned with developing a theater community that speaks in a challenging way to an audience of one hundred people at a time. I’ve also had students who, after training in this particular discipline, leave it for other things. I recently wrote a letter of recommendation for a former student who joined the Peace Corps.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
I have no aptitude for anything else. If I didn’t do this, I’d be dead.
To what professional associations do you belong and what do you read?
I am not in any professional arts unions like Actors Equity or the SSDC. I am in my union at Rutgers the AAUP (American Association of University Professors). I read American Theater and www.NYTheater. com.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
Study. Study. Study. You must be well versed in everything, especially the history, sociology, psychology, etc. of the human species and of this particular art form. Eastern Theater. Western Theater. African Theater. You must know it all. You must remain curious for your entire life. You must bring wonder, fascination, and awe to your daily existence. Also, you must have diligence and fortitude because this is not a job for the weak hearted. You will meet with many rejections and disappointments. People will put you down so you must be good at lifting yourself up. Finally, to paraphrase Peter Brook who answered a young director asking him how to become a director, “There is no such thing as an out of work director. Unlike actors who must beg people to let them be in their play, a director must simply get a script, get some actors, and direct them. Do it in your basement if you must.” There is no reason not to be practicing your craft if your craft is teaching acting. Get some actors and work on something. Do it in your basement if you must.