Working on Broadway
The theater district in New York City is home to many of the world’s most famous stage plays and musicals. Working on Broadway can be a challenging, rewarding and lucrative career. The audition process can be long and competitive.
If you want to work on Broadway, your best bet is to get a talent agent. Some agents specialize in casting Broadway shows.
There are 42 theaters on Broadway, and each one needs performers to fill various roles. The show’s director and other members of the creative team choose which actors to bring to the stage. The choice is not always easy. The casting process can be long and competitive, especially for lead roles. It can also be frustrating because many people want to be in the show, and not everyone is a fit.
Actors must be members of Actors’ Equity Association to audition for Broadway shows. At a typical audition, an Equity monitor arrives an hour before the posted start time and signs in performers based on their union status. Full Equity members have priority, followed by Equity candidates. If there are still slots available, nonunion performers may be allowed in to audition.
Some Broadway shows have specific audition requirements, such as having a college degree in acting or musical theatre. It is also important to have professional training and experience, particularly in a musical or dance.
It is a competitive industry and only a small percentage of performers who audition for a Broadway role actually get cast. You can increase your odds of getting cast by studying and training, networking, attending open calls and being persistent. The most successful actors take it seriously and do everything they can to land a coveted job on Broadway.
Many Broadway actors are members of Actors’ Equity Association, which is the union for stage performers. Those actors have a priority at auditions. Auditioning for a Broadway show without an agent is difficult, and you may be turned away for being late or “typed-out,” which means that large groups of people are kept away from the audition room based on their appearance or body type.
To be a Broadway actor, you must have significant professional acting experience and training, as well as strong singing and dancing skills. You must also be willing to work long hours and travel for rehearsals and performances. You will also have to learn from your fellow actors and be a team player.
Working on Broadway is serious business – and hard work. The show may run for years, but it can also close within a week, leaving performers out of work. And the pay isn’t exactly a fortune, despite what you might think from watching Lin-Manuel Miranda command millions for his role in Hamilton.
In general, actors who perform in unionized shows (which require membership in Actors’ Equity Association) earn a minimum of $1,750 per week. That amount can be adjusted based on the size of the theater and its capacity. There are additional bumps for special cases, such as moving set pieces or understudying the lead, and even more for performing certain roles that put the actor at physical risk.
Named stars are also allowed to negotiate a higher weekly salary. This is called “overscale.” A one-year rider in which the performer promises to remain with a particular production for a year can bring in an extra $2,600 per week.
The requirements for becoming a Broadway actor include talent, training and persistence. There are few vacancies for performers on the Broadway stage, so casting directors receive thousands of audition tapes and resumes each year. It’s difficult to get a leading role on Broadway, but an actor who is cast in a supporting role can make quite a bit of money.
Attend a top acting or musical theater school to learn your craft and develop a portfolio of headshots, a resume and performance experience. Become a member of Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) to ensure you can perform under union contracts. Members must have professional headshots, a resume and performance experiences to be eligible to audition for Broadway shows.
You can find upcoming Broadway auditions by visiting the official website of the American Theatre Wing. Depending on the show, you may also be required to attend an open call. A monitor runs each audition. He or she assigns performers to an audition time slot based on their union status and whether they are a full member or a candidate.