Theatre managers have responsibility for the personnel, financial and administrative aspects of the theatre. They need to be commercially minded and may be responsible for leading marketing and publicity activities.
A theatre manager recruits and manages staff from the box office to back stage and will be responsible for HR processes such as training.
Customer care is also a crucial part of the role to ensure the public get the most out of their experience when visiting the theatre.
The role of a theatre manager varies depending on the size of the venue. In smaller theatres, the manager may be responsible for all of the areas mentioned above, while in larger theatres they may just be involved in one aspect while other managers take responsibility for specific sections such as finance or HR.
Ensuring that a theatre works successfully on a commercial and a practical level requires:
- a passion for theatre;
- a hands-on approach.
Typical responsibilities vary according to the size and type of theatre (for example, repertory or receiving) and the structure of the management team.
However, tasks typically include:
- planning forthcoming events, which includes applying knowledge of audiences, ensuring a balance between different types of productions, being aware of which productions have been well received elsewhere and accepting new work offered by reputable production companies;
- liaising and negotiating with production companies to plan the programme of work;
- getting involved in the commissioning of new pieces of work;
- taking responsibility for all staff in the theatre, who may be involved in areas such as marketing, finance and artistic production;
- overseeing training for front of house and stage door staff;
- liaising closely with the theatre's board of directors;
- ensuring that the theatre meets the requirements of legislation such as health and safety and licensing laws (theatre managers may act as licensees);
- attending marketing meetings and undertaking marketing activities;
- dealing with the budget and exercising ultimate financial control;
- negotiating with any charities and funding bodies providing financial backing;
- speaking and lobbying at arts-related conferences;
- networking with local industry, local communities, educational organisations, relevant bodies and the public;
- promoting arts participation in the community, which may include visiting schools, colleges, community centres and youth clubs to encourage the public to engage in professionally-led artistic activities;
- keeping in touch with other theatre managers and producers in order to stay up to date with developments and new productions.
- Starting salaries typically range from £18,000 to £23,000.
- Salaries for theatre managers with three to five years' experience can range from £23,000 to £30,000.
- Salaries for senior managers range from £25,000 to £35,000, rising to £50,000 plus.
There are no set pay scales for this role, although London salaries are often higher. Some managers start by working in the front of house at a small theatre and progress to larger venues and usually better pay. A good reputation in the theatre world may mean that some managers can negotiate their own salary.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally varied and unsocial, including regular weekend and evening work.
What to expect
- The work is office based, but involves a number of off-site meetings. Many theatres have little backstage space and offices can be small and cramped.
- Most jobs are full time and managers are employed by the theatre company, sometimes on a fixed-term contract. There are also opportunities for freelance consultancy work.
- Jobs are generally available in all parts of the UK, although most opportunities to work in the larger organisations are based in cities, especially London. There are, however, some opportunities in smaller community theatre companies around the UK.
- The job involves a large amount of responsibility and is often dependent on an uncertain theatre income. Growth in legislation, particularly concerned with health and safety and employment, has added to the pressure.
- Staff are often passionate about their role in the theatre and are prepared to give much of their own time.
- Geographic mobility is usually essential for developing your career, especially in the early stages.
- There is some travel involved both locally and nationally, which may include some overnight stays.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:
- arts management;
- arts administration;
- drama/theatre studies;
- business studies/management.
Entry is also open to all diplomates, although the following HND/foundation degree subjects may improve your chances:
- creative/performing arts;
- drama/theatre studies;
- arts in the community.
Entry without a degree/HND/foundation degree may be possible as practical theatre experience, dedication and enthusiasm are rated highly by employers.
Postgraduate study is not essential, although graduates with an unrelated degree may consider taking a postgraduate course in arts administration.
Search for postgraduate courses in arts management.
You will need to have:
- excellent communication skills;
- strong organisational abilities;
- business acumen;
- leadership abilities;
- teamwork skills and the ability to work alone;
- attention to detail;
- ability to juggle priorities;
- problem-solving skills;
- ability to work well under pressure and be flexible.
To progress into theatre management, you also need to demonstrate that you are dedicated, determined and resilient.
Previous work experience is important and most theatre companies expect to see evidence of at least some of the following:
- voluntary or paid work at a theatre (even work in the theatre bar or box office may be useful);
- work shadowing;
- membership of a theatre group;
- experience of performing in or managing stage productions, either on the artistic or technical side;
- involvement in theatre work through your university or college.
To help break into this career get involved in the theatre as much as possible. Go and see as many productions as you can and talk to the people who have developed them.
Gain experience in working with performing artists and keep up to date with what is going on in the theatre industry, on a national and local level.
Entry is not normally directly into a theatre manager post. You are more likely to work your way up through a range of work in theatres, including managing specific functions, such as front of house. There are many different routes in, for example through marketing or technical experience.
Some jobs are filled by word of mouth (reputations become known in theatre circles) or by advertisements appearing in in-house publications. Look out for alternative job titles, or jobs which include the management of specific areas within a theatre, for example:
- house manager;
- box office manager;
- general manager.
There are two main types of theatre in the UK. These are repertory theatres, which have a resident company producing its own work and presenting plays from a repertoire, and non-repertory or receiving theatres that buy in plays and other productions.
Typical employers include:
- national theatres;
- regional theatres;
- London's West End theatres;
- opera companies;
- dance companies;
- arts centres.
To find a list of small scale theatre and dance companies, through to major venues, touring networks and national performing companies in Scotland see the Federation of Scottish Theatre website.
For information on production companies and venues in Northern Ireland see TheatreNI.
Look for job vacanies at:
- Arts Professional
- Federation of Scottish Theatre
- Guardian Jobs
- The Stage
- Stage Jobs Pro - lists vacancies and allows professionals to upload their profiles.
- UK Theatre
Some individual theatres have their own websites with details of placement and job opportunities.
Full listings of contacts and venues in the industry is provided by the British Performing Arts Yearbook, which is useful for making speculative applications.
Training for theatre managers is generally on the job and there is no specific method or structured course of training that is followed in every theatre.
Many theatre managers start out from other roles in the theatre, including marketing, technical, artistic or front of house. Through this work they gain a great deal of background experience and understanding of how a theatre operates, and develop a wide range of relevant skills.
They may then specialise in their chosen field and eventually apply for a management job, or take on an assistant's role and gradually work their way up to management level.
Most training is informal, although occasional in-house courses may be provided. Seminars and training courses in areas such as arts marketing, business and finance and personal and management skills are run by UK Theatre.
It also holds conferences and a range of briefing and networking events.
Reading specialist press, for example UK Theatre's quarterly magazine, The Stage and UK Theatre Magazine, helps keep you up to date with the latest news and opinion affecting the profession and can be useful for anticipating future career opportunities.
Some higher education institutions offer postgraduate courses in arts administration on a part-time or distance learning basis, allowing managers to take the qualification while working.
Theatre managers usually work their way up through jobs in administrative or technical areas, assistant management posts or management of a specific function within the theatre.
Most theatre managers expect to spend between two and five years in their first job in order to gain experience. It is likely that they will then move on to a larger theatre or different type of organisation in order to enhance and develop the skills and expertise they need to progress in their career.
It helps if managers are prepared to move to any area of the UK and are willing to accept greater challenges with each new appointment.
Progression to larger, more prestigious venues is often dependent upon having an established reputation. This can be enhanced by:
- the artistic and financial success of productions;
- reviews in the media;
- a network of industry contacts;
- awards received from within the theatre industry.
Managers may also gain experience by accepting fixed-term contracts or project work opportunities, perhaps related to developing a new venue or organising a particular event or festival.
With experience, opportunities to move into freelance consultancy work may open up. Some theatre managers choose to leave the industry and move into roles within arts administration or cultural development, bringing their commercial knowledge and arts development skills to national arts development agencies or funding authorities.
Increase networking opportunities and awareness of developments in the profession by gaining membership with UK Theatre, which may lead to other job opportunities.