The Stage has recently published its Ultimate Guide to Theatre Jobs 2015. It lists the roles – backstage, front of house, onstage and behind the scenes – with a short description and a star rating. Not only are the descriptions reductive and sometimes inaccurate, but the star ratings are incredibly biased towards certain creative roles. This creates a profoundly negative depiction of the theatre community and suggests that the entire creative team who are responsible for productions are unequal. To have this idea projected by the most influential industry newspaper is unacceptable. I therefore call for The Stage to recall their starred ratings.
For example, the musician is described as follows:
There have been many great self-taught musicians, but in order to make a living in theatre, most will need to be able to read music as well as to play with other musicians in an orchestra or band in a variety of different styles.
To me, this seems extremely reductive. Any professional musician will have worked extremely hard. I am an amateur musician who learned to read music when I was seven years’ old and can play in variety of styles – I would never call myself professional. The description is patronising.
To compare the star system, then. The Stage describes it as ‘the difficulty of getting your first paid job in each profession’. I would suggest that all jobs in arts and culture are very difficult to get into, which the omnipresence of unpaid internships is exploiting. Nonetheless, I would suggest that the starred rating will be perceived as creating a value attributed to each role (as a starred rating would in a piece of theatre criticism).
A comedian is given just one star. I’ve been on stage most of my life but there is very little chance of me ever doing stand-up. Why? Because it’s one of the most difficult things to make people laugh: comedians are extremely clever offering witty social commentary. To add insult to injury, other onstage professionals such as actors and dancers are given just two stars.
‘Other Roles’ – including Front of House and administrative roles are also given one star or two stars. Excepting financial roles which are given three stars. This appears very arbitrary: why is it more ‘difficult’ to work in finance that in marketing? To then compare with directors, composers and producers, who are weighted much more strongly with four stars we meet the real problem.
Jack Williams, Lighting Designer at the Royal Court, said:
Emma Robertson, theatre professional and blogger, said:
The attributing of star ratings to theatre professionals – all of whom are integral to the production of performing arts experiences – is demeaning to the profession. It suggests that, say, a lighting designer is less worthy than a director; a marketing professional less necessary than a producer. I therefore ask The Stage to recall their starred ratings.
You can read The Stage’s article here.
Image: Lance Bellers/shutterstock via The Stage.