The neon lights of Broadway have dimmed – no, actually, they’ve gone dark. For actors, that means no more two show days, passing by the marquee to head through the stage door or hearing the familiar call for places. Broadway is considered the pinnacle of success for many artists and where many long to be one day. It is the ultimate collection and collaboration of the best and brightest all in one place, to accomplish one mission: to provide an unforgettable experience by bringing art to life. Well, you made it and now, the lights are out. Unemployment has run out for many, and so has time. Many have had to move out of New York City and others are barely holding on.
The question remains, ….
Can you still have a career? What would you do? What transferrable skills do you have? These questions loom in the minds of all of those who have spent much of their life with all of their eggs in one basket. By now, you may have explored other career options and may have found something for the time being, or for the foreseeable future. As you discover where you may be able to use your gifts and talents to go beyond making ends meet, consider one more option: Project Management.
Project Management is a perfect match for life beyond Broadway. Ok, seems like a broad topic. What is project management? Project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” (Project Management Institute (PMI), 2020).
That may seem like a lot of “gibberish”, but the truth is, the life cycle of a show can be quite similar to that of a project.
When getting your start in a theatrical production, you sign your contract, receive your script, read it over and begin to outline the journey of your character. Similarly, in project management, you initiate the project with a statement of work to be done and a charter to provide proper authority. Gathering for the first reading in theatre is similar to a project kick-off, as both entities will meet and set ground rules, and commit to seeing the effort through until the end.
Project Management and (Theatre) follow the same phases of a project and production in the cycle: Initiating (Read-Through), Planning (Line memorization/Blocking), Executing (Show time), Monitoring and Controlling (Clean-up and Re-blocking) and Closing (Curtain Call). In this simple illustration, you can see that both a project and a theatrical production can have a similar life cycle. Is it more complex? Depends on the project, just like it depends on the show. Both require organization, passion, dedication, quality control and the willingness to take and apply lessons learned for future improvement.
It may not be necessary to make a full switch from the theatre life to project management, but if you’ve made your second job the typical side hustle of waiting tables, you may need to re-think your strategy and find a new “through-line”. Project management, as a career, is a reliable and rewarding through-line. If you want to remain flexible, taking on projects as a consultant or contractor can allow you the opportunity to free up time for shows and other forms of creative expression.
Artists are known for their dedication to their craft. They know their material, demonstrate great poise and presence, speak well, understand their audience, and can adapt to changing circumstances. These characteristics are a great match for something that you may have never thought of previously that can range from Information Technology to Construction, Finances, Healthcare and so much more. In my experience, having this out-of-the-box thinking and creativity is a breath of fresh air that employers have come to appreciate and are proactively seeking to round out their organization. It bridges the technical and strategic aspects of the project and creates synergy all around. Project Management could be your next gig, and your next standing ovation!