Four Acting Roles You Could Make into a Career

Americans adore film and theater. The actors who whisk audiences away with their craft challenge and delight with the new realities they seem to effortlessly conjure. But theirs is a heavily sought-after profession, and good roles are hard to come by. So how does an actor get started in the business?

The U.S. motion picture and TV industry film on location around the country. Annually, the industry supports nearly 1.9 million workers, actors included, generating $47 billion in wages. In 2014, 1.27 billion movie tickets were sold, generating nearly $10.5 billion in revenue, and so far 2015 sales have already outpaced those figures.

The American theater scene is a bit of a different animal, but also popular. More than 12 million people attended 2013-14 Broadway performances, generating approximately $1.27 billion.  Not-profit theaters are also enthusiastically supported across the US; 36 million people attended shows at non-profit theaters in 2012 and 126,000 people, including actors, were employed by non-profit theaters that year. There are more than 2,000 non-profit theaters and nearly 8,000 community theaters across the US.  

The demand is clear. The challenge lies in finding your place in the world of film and theater. Entry-level acting gigs tend to be low-paying, but they teach you about the trade in a very hands-on way. If you want to make it in any creative field, you have to be open-minded and flexible. You also have to practice your craft as much as you possibly can. So embrace every opportunity that comes your way. As you learn the ropes and grow to understand the industry, you will find that you are refining your craft as you go.  

You also may find that the best way to explore your affection for the stage is by working in an industry that supports it–perhaps a community theater or a children’s theater will prove to be meaningful day jobs while you hone your acting skills at night. Maybe you are a great writer or fundraiser and can use those skills to support your local theater while also contributing to the theater’s productions as an actor.

Your affection for theater can serve you in a variety of ways professionally:

Character Actor

As Halloween approaches, there is a lot of work for zombies, ghouls and ghosts on the haunted house circuit. Be ready to celebrate the season by creating a terrifying experience for visitors in haunted houses, barns, corn mazes, etc. Some postings are looking for actors simply poised to scare; others request full performances with monster song and dance numbers.

In addition to this seasonal work, there are also steady roles as heroines, princesses and superheroes. Be prepared to don a fantastic costume and make a statement at a birthday bash or special event and impress the guests with your nobility and crime-fighting prowess.

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Museum Interpreter

Transport museum audiences with your spirited enthusiasm. Use costumes, dance, song and storytelling to inspire the audience. In some cases, interpreters have the chance to prepare their performances by writing scripts and securing props and costumes. Often the material is scripted, and the interpreter’s role is purely presentational. Either way, this job may require improv skills as you interact with the audience.

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Theater Tutor/Teacher/Acting Coach

If you have formal training and a solid resume, others will want to learn from your experience. There are plenty of opportunities for one-on-one work, helping to hone skills to train budding actors to successfully handle auditions. There are also classes on the high school, college and university levels. In addition to a more formal setting, you will also find community courses where students are looking for a fun experience and a creative outlet.  

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Theater Director

Use your love of the theater to inspire others’ affection. In this role you strategize about how to use acting, dance and music to create spaces where children, teens and adults can fully embrace their creative selves. This role may include facilitating classes or acting camps that may culminate with a performance. It’s a fun and dynamic role that requires more than just your acting prowess. 

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Your creativity will serve you well as you transform your love of the stage into a job that makes ends meet.