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What you need to know BEFORE you graduate

by Doug Shapiro

I am fortunate enough to have in my circle of friends Jonathan Flom of Shenandoah Conservatory and Kate Arecchi of James Madison University. They are part of the movement teaching business strategies at a collegiate level, and they are making amazing things happen.

On several occasions, I have had the honor and privilege to work with their students, the next generation of Accelerated Artist Business Owners, and at the end of the three master classes, they were solid on their business fundamentals, their personal brand, and the most effective methods for building their support system.

Here are actual questions from the bright young talent about to enter the market in a city near you. Since there were so many great questions, parts 2 and 3 are coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled for the big finale.


"Is it more beneficial to aim high and expend my energy toward big New York auditions for tours/broadway/off-broadway etc. or to target smaller regional theaters right out of college?"


 This is a very personal decision based on your values. Here are some items to consider: You can do great work and have a successful acting business in markets all over the country. (Vast generalization alert…) Chicago is great for new, edgy straight plays as Minneapolis/St. Paul is for music theatre. I know Philadelphia actors who work full-time as actors and have a house, kids, and a backyard. When I was a Boston actor for seven years, most of my colleagues worked a flexible day job and enjoyed their theatre work around it—they were also kind and supportive of each other’s work.

Before you have any roots in one particular place, I think it’s great to audition for regional theatres and touring companies. This Busch Gardens Williamsburg veteran would definitely add theme park to that list in order to learn stamina and the importance of keeping a performance fresh.

You’ll make great connections and be able to explore various acting markets to find the best match for you.

That said, if New York City is calling to you and your research shows that Broadway’s current productions match your youthful brand, then that is a responsible business decision.

"Is it better to take a small, poorly-paid theatre-related job or a better paying, non-theatre related job?"


It’s a very romantic notion to leap right into the theatre scene and create brilliant works of art, subsisting on ramen noodles and smelling the sweat of passersby for nourishment.

This is also a lousy business plan.

That said, if the small, poorly paid theatre related job is a role you are BURNING to do AND it is an EXCELLENT business move (i.e. a director, theatre company, fellow cast member that will look great on a resume), then go for it.

It is important to name the criteria which decide whether or not you will accept a job and to use them as a checklist. Here’s a link to my article “Find Your Inner Stockard”.

On the other hand, taking a day job for a year can be part of an excellent business plan if you have a set amount that you’re saving towards your career and you’re making sure to do your market research and make Industry connections along the way. Then you can hit the ground running when you’ve hit your financial goal.

What it comes down to is this: how much money do you have and how much do you need to live?

Take some time to examine your feelings about money and come to terms with them, sit down and make friends with your financial situation. Then start writing down your financial plan based on data, not fear.

Just to throw it out there, why are these the only two options? Dump the “starving artist” mentality. There is no reason that you will not be landing a well-paying theatre job. Set your standards. It’s your business.

“I am a freshman in college, should I be auditioning for summer stock or should I be doing more training/ learning programs over the summer?”


I say get out there and start honing your craft. Get those credits on your resume. Learn about the different areas of the country. Start building and maintaining those relationships with other theatre professionals.

There is no need to pay for an internship with a summer stock either. Even if it’s a small amount, they should be paying you.

And this Busch Gardens Williamsburg veteran repeats: Don’t rule out theme park work! It pays well, builds stamina, challenges you to keep work fresh, and you get to be of service to customers who have been saving their whole lives for this vacation.

 “There are a lot of opportunities for graduates to go straight into a long-term job, such as a 10-15 month internship, or a 9-month tour or cruise, and these are so enticing for those of us that are jumping into to an industry where jobs like that seem like gold compared to the typical 2-3 month Summer Stock seasons or the 6-week engagements. But what about the connections we make during our final semester of college? We get seen by agents and casting directors, make numerous trips to New York, and work hard to build up our contacts and name. I think the biggest concern, and the biggest question I have, is if taking such a long term job can actually be counterproductive to our advancement. Does leaving the eyes of "the business" for a long stint just as we are gathering steam stunt our growth and our careers?

- Ryan

Be true to your goal.

If you want name roles in name shows on your resume, go for the summer stock gig or the tour.

If you want to grow your art by observing experts practicing their craft (and it works with your financial plan) and make those connections, go with the internship.

If the financial situation of your actor business requires you to save money in order to pursue your goal, go with the cruise ship or long-term tour.

Yes, you will disappear a bit from your new contacts if you’re out of sight, out of mind, but you can keep them updated on your work with a postcard every 6 weeks and you’ll be able to say, “I’ll see you in the city in 3 months.” “One month” etc.

Think of it this way--if you booked a job right out of college, that looks great. People want to work with people who are working!


And, to all my Accelerated Artists who find themselves many moons past the college days of your youth, I urge you to go to that ‘Just About to Graduate’ place. Now, same as then, a world of opportunities still lies before you. As these amazing students reminded me, we are all creatives and our passion, and entrepreneurial spirit will power us through and remind us, that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.


Feel it? Great. Now activate your plan. Reach out for a 20 minute consult, so we can talk about me teaching your students the Accelerated Artist Way today!


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