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Career in Drama

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Overview

Theatre comprises more than the actors, producers and directors who receive most of the publicity. There are many more people involved in a theatrical production. Electricians and sound engineers create and handle the light and sound effects. Scenery and props are built, arranged and moved by technicians and are designed by set designers.

Practical aspects of production are organized and run by the stage manager and his/her assistants, the contume designer takes care of the clothes. In essence, there is much more activity behind the stage than there is before the audience. The actors, directors and producers express ideas and images in theatre, making the words/story come alive in front of the audience. There are also publicity managers and other managerial and organizational staff typing up various loose ends coordinating between the varieties of professionals involved in a theatrical production.

Although many people have the technical skills and training to enter theatre, very few receive the opportunity to display their talent.

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Nature of Work

Producers are the entrepreneurs. They choose the plays, arrange financing, and decide on the size cost and content of the programme. They are responsible for raising the money for the production.

Directors interpret the plays. They are in charge of the actors, dancers, designers, singers, technicians, etc. Working in consultation with the producer and playwright. They are responsible for the performance of the actors and also approve the scenery, costumes, choreography and music.

Designers are responsible for the sets and consumes. They work closely with the director and produce drawings of sets and costumes. The scenery and costume departments then work from these drawings and also from scale models of the sets.

Actors entertain and communicate directly with the audience through their interpretation of dramatic roles. Although actors may prefer a certain type of role, they usually try different kinds of roles before they can get established enough. In fact, there are very few actors who ultimately find a toehold in the profession. The imitation or basic development of a character for presentation to an audience often seems like a glamorous and fairly easy job. In reality, it is demanding, tiring, work requiring a special talent and to be contemplated by those who feel they could not possibly be happy doing anything else. Being an overcrowded profession, almost all actors require a second source of income.

Stage managers are responsible for the smooth running of rehearsals and productions ensuring that properties and contumes are ready when required. They are responsible to the director, during rehearsals for implementing of his/her instructions. Many directors start as stage managers. During the run of the play stage managers are in charge of everything on stage and backstage.

Lighting designers in a large production work with sophisticated equipment and are part of a team headed by an expert who will design a lighting plan. Electrical qualifications are important.

Production staff takes care of the various production workshops; in a small production one person may handle the various jobs.

Production staff takes care of the various production workshops; in a small production one person may handle the various jobs.

Work Environment

Theatre demands total commitment. Work hours tend to be irregular. There is not much guarantee of steady employment. For an actor, flawless performance demands tedious memorizing of lines and repetitive rehearsals. Directors, producers work under stress most of the time trying to meet schedules, stay within budgets, and resolve personnel problems while putting together a production.

Specialisations

In an ideal situation, actors, producers, lighting designers, set designers, costume designers would like to specialise in one genre of period dramas, comedy, tragedy or modern plays. But to continue to get work in an area of choice is not possible so most actors, producers, directors and others who love to work in theatre end up working on a large variety of roles and plays and in the process develop versatility.

Physical and Psychlogical Requirements

Passion for drama, creative ability, keen interest in the performing arts are common character traits for those who wish to work in theatre.

Producers require tact, persuasiveness, sound business sense, flair for organisation and a clear intuition of what will ‘sell’.

Directors need creativity, a strong character, a strong sense of theatre, and the ability to direct and weld together a team of people to unfold the play in front of an audience.

Theatre and costume designers must have thorough knowledge of period settings and costumes, a sense of style, the ability to work within budgets and to adapt to a variety of stage shapes.

Stage managers should have good organizing ability, tact, calmness in crisis, good memory, an eye for detail, a practical approach and an interest in both the literary and the technical aspects of a theatrical/dramatic production.

Study/Training

For actors, directors professionals training in the dramatic arts is essential. However, there are many people who enter without it. Working in colleges and school plays and participation in drama productions has been the training ground for a number of entrants into theatre. Using local opportunities to work with small theatre groups is the best way to start.

Drama schools and universities offering Dramatic Arts programmes are the formal learning opportunities but skills have to be refined and upgraded through personal study, experience and research, Entry point is either Plus
Two or graduation.

The foremost theatre training institution, the National School of Drama has a comprehensive, well-planned syllabus. Students are given a thorough grounding and a wide perspective of the art of theatre. They are exposed to a systematic study and practical performing experience of Sanskrit drama, modern Indian drama, traditional Indian theatre forms, Asian drama and Western drama. Admission to NSD is only after graduation.

For University Drama courses

Educational qualifications required are either Plus Two/equivalent level of education or graduation. In certain cases, admission into the Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) is after matriculation.

Other selection criteria include a good command over language, preferably Hindi and English or regional languages and English or Hindi.

Duration: Full-time formal acting courses normally last 2 to 5 years depending upon the level of entry. Admission is through an audition, interview and aptitude testing. Previous participation in drama productions at the school level and/or with amateur organized groups is either preferred or a prerequisite depending upon the institution.

Entrance Test [wherever applicable] is expected to include a written test to assess an applican’t knowledge and an awareness of the world of theatre as well as his/her power of expression in a language. The aptitude test may include an oral analysis of plays provided to the applicant, enactment of dramatic passages, display of skills in dancing, singing, playing of instruments, yoga etc.,

These indications are meant to help you to be mentally prepared for the selection to drama courses. Real education starts in the actual workplace, while a formal course is helpful to understand and study techniques, refine skills and learn the ropes of the profession.

Employment Prospects

Prospects are not very bright except for the exceptionally talented and lucky few. Recently there has been a noticeable revival of interest in theatre. Innumerable opportunities exist but the number of aspirants is so high that there are very few who are well established and have carved out a niche for themselves in theatre. Salaries in theatre are not high.

Career Progression

As the reputation of actors, directors, producers, and other theatre professional grow, they are able to work on larger productions or in more prestigious theatres. Actors may be able to get lead or specialised roles.

In theatre growth or existence of opportunities does not mean much since there are always many more actors, directors and producers than there are work opportunities. Although many actors, directors, producers and others may continue to work in theatre all their life, they almost always have a second source of income. Many leave theatre after a short stint, not finding enough work to make a living.

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