Stage Management Salary: Does Your Job Opportunity Pay Enough?
I just saw a post for a gig all over the Stage Management Facebook boards that looked super intriguing to me. The show is called The Hurricane and it’s a devised, experimental piece. I love these kinds of shows, guys. They are literally my favorite. My entire Master’s degree study revolved around them. Then I saw it.
It didn’t have a lot of details but it was mid-March to mid-May – stipend available. And my heart dropped. Stipend available, especially without the stipend listed is always a bad sign.
To be fair “devised” and “experimental” doesn’t often = a lot of $$$$
And I do know that.
So I started doing some calculating. I mean, if it’s stipend work and the commitment is that long, it’s possible it’s evening and weekend rehearsals. But I live in New Jersey, which means I always have to take NJ Transit and MTA into account, which means for me to even just get into the City and home each day costs $25.
I’ve done a few stipend gigs in the City and they did pay enough to make it worth that, but the fact is, even if the company just covered my travel expenses for two months, you’re looking at something like $782.
That’s if I agree to work essentially for free.
So for two months of work, a gig like this would need to offer at least a $2000 stipend for it to be worth it to me.
I totally get how people get sucked into crazy situations to stay afloat though if they let their passion dictate their career. For a hot second there I thought, if the rehearsals are just in the evenings, I can substitute teach each day and since I make about $65 a day doing that, that’ll cover the travel costs.
So… now I’m looking at doing one job I hate to fund one job I love, despite the fact that I call the latter my career.
I’m fairly sure The Hurricane just became a hobby. Especially since I would be shocked if the stipend is even $782. To be honest, I’d probably lose money working on it. And while we could argue, I should move to NYC, then I wouldn’t have to factor in such a high commuting cost, the cost to actually live in NYC would leave me even further in the hole.
Also, I hate NYC.
So, now that I’ve vented about this sad lack of opportunity due to crappy stipends, what do I look for in a gig?
There are really two types of jobs I look for.
The main ones that take up most of the year need to pay a minimum of $700/week. And that’s bare minimum, the higher the better, clearly. And this minimum holds even if housing is provided. Actually, at $700/week, unless a show is on my stage management bucket list, I’m probably not taking it without housing.
I can’t say for sure how the magical job wheel that spins in the sky, parceling out jobs to the applicants, works, but I do think that setting yourself up with a mentality that this is your career and you’re only going to take work that actually pays like it’s a career actually does help.
So now, if I manage to spend most of the year in a career-level paying job, then there are the second types of gigs I take. Gigs where I don’t lose money. Yup, that’s pretty much the only goal.
These gigs either let me do something I love (devised, experimental stuff), teach me new skills (opera, music related stuff) or have amazing people working with them somehow (Metropolitan Opera maestros, Broadway directors, etc.).
As long as I’ve hit my financial goals for the year with the career jobs, I feel it’s fine to take some of these lower paying jobs.
I also think these lower paying jobs are fine for filling in little gaps in your schedule. The career paying gigs are usually much bigger commitments. If you have a one month layoff during the career gig, go do something fun or learn something new, just don’t lose money doing it.
Published in Collaboration with brokeGIRLrich