A Job In The Performing Arts: Theater Office Manager

Name: Michelle Lockhart
Job Title: Theater Office Manager
Where: Seattle, Washington
Education: Bachelors - Boise State University
Years of Experience: 1+ years
Salary: 20-30K
Employer: Empty Space Theater

Theater Office Manager Job Description:

We’re a small staff, so I do all kinds of things. I manage the front of the house staff, ticket sales, subscription sales and group sales. I manage the experience that the audience has walking in the door, coming through the lobby, all the way to the theater where the artists take over. In the office, I assist with marketing, I help get the posters and programs together, I assist with any kind of special events, silent auctions and upcoming fundraisers.

I assist with anything that the development director and artistic director need. We're not the WaMu Theater Seattle, so with a small group like us, you really have to fill in anywhere, sometimes loading seats. I do just about anything I can to help the organization in general. I look for ways to promote visual and performing arts vocabulary.

What is an average salary for a job in the performing arts?

I make between $20,000 to $30,000 a year, which I think is an average salary of an office manager for a non-profit organization. I am just excited to have a position in live theater that I get to work full time, day in and day out.  I don’t make amazing money, again, it’s an average salary, but that’s obviously not why I’m here.

Is your background in the performing arts?

I had been working on the other side of the arts as a performer, producer and director; I did the acting school route. Then I moved to Seattle to start my own company as a young college graduate and, at this point, it really is important for me to understand our responsibility to the community and audience. And working in the office, day in and day out, has really challenged me to understand how to find the balance between the performing arts and business savvy; that’s really difficult to do in a non-profit environment.

What do you love about being a Theater Office Manager?

Live theater is just an amazing art form. It’s the only place that art takes place in that moment. It depends on the performers at that moment on that night, the audience at that moment on that night. It’s telling stories that have been with us for years and years, like Shakespeare, or a new daring play that brings back some of those themes that we continue to revisit. The performing arts are visceral, exciting, scary and fun. I love that. Ultimately the goal is to create a community within a couple of hours and have everyone walk away feeling that we have a lot more in common.

With a job in the performing arts, do any crazy things ever happen at work?

You have actors and crew running around, the set could be falling apart, the lighting board could be going kaput, but out in front of the house, you’re supposed to put on the “air” that everything is how it should be and the experience is the exactly same as it is every night.

From my end, we had a full weekend where our computer sales were not entered, where people went to pick up their tickets that didn’t seem to exist, but you just play it off as if it's part of the day’s events. People are usually accepting and understanding. I haven’t been here long enough for a true disaster, or anything truly strange to occur, but there’s plenty of room in the world of live theater.

Do you have any advice for people trying to find a job in the performing arts?

There are so many ways to find a job in the performing arts, keep plugging away, it may not be completely as you imagine it, or how other people imagined it. Find out for yourself and just keep plugging away it. You can work in this industry, just respect people and they will keep you working. Acting school is a good idea.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Having a career in the performing arts and an above average salary that pays the mortgage and the bills. This job certainly opens up the possibility that there are many ways you can get involved. 5 years from now, it would be nice to move into the artistic side of an organization, either working in literary or moving towards being an artistic director, hopefully in Seattle.

Live theater is what I do, there are several different ways I can stay involved in this, it’s difficult, but I can pull it off. That’s what I’d like to do in 5 years, continue working in it.

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