Does the idea of taking to the boards or playing to the camera make you heady with desire? Has acting been a long-held dream? If portraying other people for the entertainment of an audience is your ideal job, it’s important to know what to expect in order to succeed in this exciting industry. Interpreting a writer’s script for money won’t make you rich as soon as you set foot on stage, but once you’ve acquired a few rolls, you’ll find the pay is above average nationally for entry level positions that don’t require a college education. Your cost of living can be significantly higher depending on where you plan to play, on a stage or behind the camera. The answer to how much do Broadway actors make can be determined by analyzing a few factors.
HOW MUCH DO BROADWAY ACTORS MAKE PER YEAR?
The answer to this inquiry can vary depending on many factors, from experience to location.
A member of the ensemble, chorus or minor character can earn roughly between $1,500 and $2,000 a week on stage. This base hasn’t changed much in the last decade for these theater positions. An A-list actor can earn upward of $30,000 a week, depending on their name recognition and the role.
HOW MUCH DO ACTORS MAKE PER HOUR ON BROADWAY SHOWS?
The 2015 median pay for actors was about $18 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average, the base salary for an actor with less than five years of experience is about $50,000.
According to Payscale.com that number takes a dip in an actor’s mid-career and stabilizes after about 15 years of experience on stage or in front of a camera. Those who stick to it for more than 20 years can expect a pay increase of around $20,000.
The Actor’s Equity Association has a policy to keep its members’ information quite confidential, however they do negotiate a minimum weekly salary for its actors based on the cost of living in that city. For instance the weekly stipend for a Broadway actor in New York may be higher than that of an actor in Los Angeles acting in one of the many smaller theaters that populate that city, but not by much more than the average minimum wage to start.
Actors tend to work part time as a whole, according to collegegrad.com, with 1 in 3 actors needing to find other part time work. An actor’s hours can be chaotic, with weekend, holiday and late night gigs being the norm. Finding a good fit for a second job can be difficult, which is why many turn to teaching.
THINGS THAT INFLUENCE AN ACTOR’S SALARY
While a degree is not required to call yourself an actor, an associate or bachelor’s degree in film, screenwriting or other related field has become more common, according to the BLS. A few added skills can give you a boost in the cattle call, but the voice is one of the most valuable tools of an actor. Being able to control pitch, tempo and volume make you more desirable to hiring agents and directors. A good voice can also get a hungry actor extra income with voice over and announcer work.
A good sense of timing is a valuable asset as well. Improv classes at a comedy club or college can help you improve your timing and awareness of other actor’s needs onstage.
Going from an unknown to a household name takes time, and perseverance, both physically and mentally. Make a point to keep your physical form in shape and your mental capabilities sharp. Taking classes to continually improve your inherent talents can also give you opportunities to explore your weak attributes.
HOW MUCH DO BROADWAY ACTORS MAKE BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA
Depending on the city in which you find yourself working, the average hourly amount of around $18 may not cover your housing, groceries and other incidental costs.
If the trained theater actor is working on a Broadway show in Las Vegas, the minimum salary of roughly $1500 a week can go far in providing for housing, food, insurance and other lifestyle amenities. However, if the theater actor is working on actual Broadway, housing in that area is significantly higher than the base weekly salary allows. Actors will often bunk up with other actors, which keeps costs down and increases networking possibilities.
The Actor’s Equity union in Los Angeles recently attempted to move its actors up to at least minimum wage for plays with short runs in the many smaller theaters that crowd that city. However, the $5,000 to $20,000 short-run plays often only pay their actors about $7 an hour, and usually nothing for the weeks of rehearsals because they simply don’t have the income of a Broadway musical that usually need $10 to $15 million to produce in those much larger spaces.
The number of jobs in 2014, the last known statistic, was just below 70,000, with that number estimated to rise only about 10 percent through 2024. That growth number is low compared to all other occupations, which is about 14 percent growth expected through the next 7 years. The BLS in 2012 noted that TV and movie roles will expand, but Broadway would be a bust. Many small theaters are sprouting up in entertainment meccas such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but they have a much more difficult time securing funding. Web and app opportunities are expected to carve a larger niche in paying employment for actors, but those mediums are still in their early stages of development.
WHAT DO BROADWAY ACTORS DO?
Aside from portraying fictional people, actors need a few other people skills as well. They particularly need to be able to listen and take direction well. A good actor can take criticism well to improve their craft. They need to take in and expand on outside instruction for any given job. Being in good physical shape is helpful, considering the long hours and days or weeks of rehearsals needed to peg a part. An actor will also need to learn new things on a regular basis as each role carries different requirements of the person playing it.
An actor is constantly perfecting their craft, studying voice inflections and facial expressions. Being able to quickly memorize pages or paragraphs can give an actor an extra boost during auditions with sometimes thousands of fellow actors aching for that role. Being persistent and constantly creative are also important qualities for an actor as they make their way from high school play to La La Land or the Great White Way.
How much do Broadway actors make also depends on the hours they are willing to put in, at any time of day. The irregular and extensive hours make teaching an ideal second job for actors. This brings in extra cash as well as allows them to hone their craft during off hours. Either from their home, at an actor’s school or credited college, teaching seems to be the preferred part-time position for actors. It fits well with their chaotic hours and casting calls and offers networking opportunities.
Many actors in film and TV join the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). This can help them to secure bigger parts with larger pay on a regular basis. However the dues, based on a sliding scale, can be expensive. The annual base dues are around $200 and additional dues are 1.575% of your individual earnings, according to SAG-AFTRA.
The Actor’s Equity Association is also a good source for those just starting out in the industry.
HOW MUCH DO BROADWAY ACTORS MAKE IF THEY’RE SUCCESSFUL
How much do Broadway actors make when they are in the big leagues? The most publicly well-known base salary for a Broadway star would possibly be for the stars of “The Producers” on Broadway in 2001. Nathan Lane and good friend Matthew Broderick both pulled down about $100,000 a week for the hit show that ran for 2,502 performances.
Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman are a close second with more than $50,000 a week for their run in “A Steady Rain” on Broadway. The boys also pulled in a percentage of the production grosses while starring in the play, pushing their weekly earnings well over $100,000, according to Broadway Tour.
Julia Roberts made $150,000 a week for her role in “Three Days of Rain,” which only ran about 70 performances in 2005. Compared to that, some film actors can earn considerably more.
Perseverance, strong presentation, confidence and an ability to take constant criticism will make an actor shine among the throngs of others auditioning. How much do Broadway actors make is largely based on the actor’s gumption. Finding work outside of auditioning and playing part-time roles will inspire your work, and add to your wallet. You may not always get the part you pine for, but you will continue to grow creatively as you plan for your next career move in this constantly changing and artistic field.
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