Making It To Broadway, Part 4

We wrap up our series today with the fourth article based on the Broadway Survey. In the summer of 2014, 100 actors in Broadway Musicals were asked a series of questions about Educational and Environmental advantages in their journey to Broadway. The results have been intriguing and I am delighted that the Musical Theatre Training blog started with this inspiring information.


NYC, Just got here this morning, Three Bucks, Two bags, One Me (-Martin Charnin)

I want to address something that I’ve treated as a “given” – New York City. I don’t want readers to think that NYC is the only place to do theatre. You can create a satisfying theatre career in many cities – especially in my current town of Chicago. Musical theatre talents can work all over the world in a variety of industries – including opera, commercial music, regional theatre, education, cruise ships and theme parks, Film/TV/Commercials and beyond. But for Musical Theatre performance contracts, the majority of jobs and paychecks still originate in the Big Apple. You may not be working as an actor in the city – but you will need to audition there. If you’re not sure about moving yet, sublet an apartment and stay there for the summer – try it out. A quick glance at the audition listings in New York vs. any other town, will illustrate where most of the professional shows are hiring actors that sing and dance.

Getting your union card is another big issue for young actors. Many of my students want to know when you should join Actors’ Equity Association. The truth is that there is no right time – it varies for everyone. The actors in our survey were basically split with just a slight majority (52%) that had their Equity card before they moved to New York vs. the 48% that did not. I often say, “You’ll know”. You can earn your card by getting offered a union contract, working your way up through the Equity Membership Candidacy program, or buying in from SAG/AFTRA. There may also be additional dynamics to consider when turning union in a city other than NYC. Will you get less work? Maybe. But you can get seen at all of the union auditions with your Equity card – which is a huge advantage in a city like New York with many more actors. The alternative is to hope they are seeing non-union performers at the end of the day – or at some other open call. To be clear, there are also many non-union auditions: Non-Equity tours are completely cast without Equity members, and regional and/or summer stock jobs usually cast their shows with a mix of union and non-union talent. Go to the Actors’ Equity Association website for more information:

Our responders were asked about other parts of their lives too. They’re not always going to be in a Broadway show – and if they are, they still have time to do other work. Most of them have artistic careers in multiple other areas. They also work in TV/Film (57%), Voice Overs (25%), Commercials (23%), as Directors/Choreographers (15%), in Photography/Web Design (5%), and the other large group also worked Teaching and Coaching (52%).

At the end of the day, actors are just people. They want to be loved, have a family, and maybe buy their apartment or house. And why shouldn’t they? Many people think actors are exotic gypsies drifting from show to show. Some are – but most are working very hard to be at the top of their game. Just because they love it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly difficult, exhausting work that takes years of training and constant physical and vocal discipline. When asked if they owned their homes 26% said yes, (5% also owned a second/vacation home – lucky them!) and 69% said not yet! 65% are married or in a committed relationship while 37% are not. And 11% have children – which must be especially challenging with evening performance schedules. But they making it work. The majority (62%) plan to stay in New York permanently, while 38% are getting out of dodge.

I hope you find all of this information useful. I trust that it gives you a clearer perspective on what it takes to make it to Broadway – and what life is like for those that do.

I’ll leave you with the final question: Regarding your journey to Broadway, what is the smartest thing you’ve ever done?

This is what they said…

  • Followed my heart. Not taken a job for money.
  • Fostered good professional and social relationships
  • Not Sure, LOL
  • Be nice and polite! Everybody knows everyone.
  • I stopped trying to fit the musical theater mold and trusted myself and my training.
  • Nurtured contacts
  • Attached myself to a choreorapher who continually works
  • I have learned that it is all fleeting and can be gone in a moment, so it’s important to cherish it while it is still here!
  • Waited my turn
  • Returned to school to complete my education (after leaving to do a national tour)
  • Kept training
  • Kept at it and forged my own path. Also, say yes to every opportunity in your early career.
  • College
  • I did a lot of things for free early in my career for people who are now very successful and took me with them!
  • Study
  • Be easy to work with and make lots of genuine friends. Everyone knows everyone and no one wants to work with someone difficult!
  • Been kind to every person I work with
  • Gotten married
  • Staying determined and showing up.
  • Left the road (stopped touring)
  • Take one day at a time
  • See as much theatre as possible
  • Stayed positive.
  • Trust God
  • I was extremely dedicated to being prepared. Dance technique, vocal preparedness, and acting chops.
  • Summer stock
  • Always say yes to everything starting off
  • Take classes continuously… Keep learning
  • Taken loads of classes, whenever I’m stuck I take class…
  • Kept going
  • Be myself
  • Kept in touch with important people in the business
  • I once got fired from a Broadway show (not included in the list above) and decided not to leave the business.
  • Got involved with an acting studio with a phenomenal teacher
  • Stuck with it.
  • Never gave up. 🙂
  • Took classes to get to know casting directors
  • Always keep training and challenging yourself.
  • Watched and listened to the people with whom I’ve worked; directors, choreographers, fellow actors
  • Allowed myself to grow and change as a person.
  • Followed my heart
  • Left my pride at the door and auditioned for everything that i could.
  • Learned to play multiple instruments!
  • Move to New York City.
  • Not given up, and been as prepared as possible
  • Be my own advocate. Don’t rely on agent to do everything for you.
  • My advice: really train your craft in school and then make yourself as available as you can after (singing for benefits, making new friends and participating in their projects, going to dance class where the teacher is in a position of casting people for their shows). Observe as much theatre/art/life as possible and continue to learn from that (as well as advice and stories from people who have been in the business for some time) and apply what you learn to yourself. Most importantly be passionate about what you do. It’s very important that your heart is in it because it will show in your performance.
  • Pragmatically, my parents making sure I always had solid training (vocal, acting classes/private coachings, dance) is what has most prepared me for a Broadway career (which I now continue as an adult). Mentally/Emotionally, having a strong understanding that this business comes with no guarantees, and taking it month by month, year by year, and putting my faith and trust in God!
  • Dropped out of college and worked
  • Audition all the time – at first!