Management Frequently Asked Questions

Theatre at GV

Max Bush Workshop

Nova Scotia


Management Frequently Asked Questions

Theatre management includes all the paratheatrical ("non-artistic support") activities necessary for presenting plays and artistic programs in educational, community, and professional settings. It's part of the general field of "arts management," and normally includes production, planning, fundraising, managing, marketing/advertising, and overall organizing of theatre and other arts events.

What exactly is theatre management?

Is theatre management really a professional field, like becoming a lawyer or accountant or journalist or something?
Of course. There are arts managers of various kinds in all sorts of institutions across the country, from entry-level taskers to highly-paid professionals and consultants. You can read up on what they do and where they work in some of their professional trade journals, such as THE JOURNAL OF ARTS MANAGEMENT, or the INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ARTS MANAGEMENT (both are available online); or by visiting arts management websites at or In the past, people who produced and organized theatrical events were never formally called "arts managers." They came from all sorts of different backgrounds, and basically they just had a knack for raising money and getting things done, either because they liked the arts, or they were artists themselves, or simply because they wanted to make money. Nowadays, though, in this age of increasing specialization, more and more arts managers with M.B.A. or M.F.A. (graduate) degrees fill positions and undertake very specific tasks in art museums, repertory theatre companies, big city performing arts complexes, and similar places.

What does a typical theatre manager do?
Some write brochures, conduct marketing campaigns, or organize volunteers as they explain the mission and needs of an arts organization to people who may be potential donors, subscribers, or audience members. Others run actual events, such as stage managers and their assistants, facilities managers, box office supervisors, organizers of audience receptions and fundraising dinners, or managers seeing to the transportation, housing and other needs of the artists. Many others might schedule rehearsals and work calls, or supervise the design and writing of audience programs, or even oversee the financial and accounting operations of an organization. As you can see, the list of jobs necessary to successfully produce arts events can be quite long.

Is theatre management a "major" or "minor" at GVSU, with a specific set of requirements?
No, GVSU's Theatre's Management program is an "emphasis area" that students develop as part of their Theatre Arts major in the School of Communications. Just as other students may emphasize acting, design, stage management and other skills in our Theatre program.

What exactly is the School of Communications? Is that the same thing as the Theatre program?
Yes. At Grand Valley, Theatre is one of eight programs "housed" in the School of Communications which was established more than twenty years ago to strengthen students' understanding and appreciation of common values, purposes, and applications among the many fields of communications today. It is now the University's largest academic unit, with more than a thousand undergraduate and graduate students pursuing any one of these eight degrees under the banner of "Communications."

Can I study theatre management as its own separate discipline, as a separate "major" in college?
Normally not as an undergraduate. Practically all "self-standing" theatre management programs in the U.S. and Canada exist only at the graduate level. As an undergraduate, you need to learn some basic skills such as scheduling, accounting, publicity, audience development, human resources and the like; and also gain an understanding of what this broad field involves. Then you can can focus your particular interests at the graduate level.

What if I study for awhile in this program and then want to do something else? Can I? Or is the program too specialized for me to change-over?
GVSU's arts management training is a very flexible program. Theatre, of course, has always been an excellent liberal arts major for embarking upon many types of careers. But majoring in Theatre Arts within the School of Communications means that a lot of your classes will be applicable both to all-college requirements as well as to other major fields within the School of Communications if you want to "change over" during your four-year college career.

Are there any jobs in this field?
Yes, an incredible number. All arts organizations-theatres, museums, opera companies, symphony orchestras, city arts centers, etc.-have a pressing need today to plan, promote, and manage their programs effectively. But they are hard-pressed to find trained and competent people to help them do this, mainly because these same people often find a much more lucrative market for their skills in the commercial sector: the entertainment industry, corporate communications, advertising and public relations firms, and the like. Check-out the leading employment bulletin for arts practitioners: ARTSEARCH. A recent issue lists TEN PAGES of Management positions open, and only three listings for Artistic positions!!!

If I study theatre management, will I also be able to learn about managing other kinds of art programs, like musical events and dance? Or will I just be learning about Theatre events?
Your training and experience would be concentrated principally in the area of Theatre, although our program also fields musical events and lectures, holds fundraising dinners, and integrates musical theatre and dance events with our season of plays. At Grand Valley, you can also work with a lot of student groups who are involved with film and video showings, art exhibitions, and other types of public events. And during your final two years at GVSU, you can also find internships and perform senior projects in a wide variety of community arts organizations in the Grand Rapids area.

Do a lot of students want to enter this field? Is your program crowded?
Not at all. There's a lot of opportunity for students interested in theatre management studies at GVSU because most undergraduates want to go on to the stage and become actors. To many, "arts management" is unknown territory, it's not as well defined as acting or stage directing or lighting design.

How large is GVSU's Theatre Arts program?
Theatre is the smallest program in the School of Communications, largely because of the highly competitive nature of the career field. That is, it's a lot harder to find work as a theatre artist than it is to build a career in film, television, advertising, or corporate communications. Hence, most students in the School of Communications are attracted to some of these other areas. At present, there are about seventy Theatre students, although the Theatre program involves more than 200 students annually from all areas of the University. Only 2 - 3 are interested in Theatre Management.

What special skills do I need to enter this program?
For the most part, theatre managers need to be excellent communicators, orally and in writing. They also need to have a sound appreciation for and understanding of the unique nature of artistic creation, artistic production, and the special role that art plays in society. Finally, most theatre managers have good organizational and "people skills" that enable them to enjoy and relate well to the general public who come from all walks of life.

How long has GVSU offered training in theatre management?
Eighteen years ago the Theatre program established its annual Shakespeare Festival and created a number of management positions to help train students to run this year-round event. Since that time, numerous connections have been established on- and off-campus to strengthen the management training of our students, including internships, coursework, and international studies programs.

How successful have theatre students been at finding work for themselves in this field after they leave the University?
Many students have been very successful as a result of their training with us. Some can be found in local and regional school theatres and schools, municipal offices, community theatres and performing arts centers. Others have gone on to graduate school where their chances of employment are immensely greater. Our students work for multinational hotel chains and publishers, regional arts centers and other venues. What special advantages does GVSU offer students who are considering careers in Theatre management?
One advantage is the fact that ours is a "combined" arts program where you can learn about music, film, dance, television, communications and other fields as part of your theatre training. In addition, GVSU Theatre not only provides play production experience as part of its training, but also a regionally-acclaimed annual Shakespeare Festival offering a lot of management opportunities with fundraising, public relations, educational outreach and other activities. Finally, with the lowest faculty-to-student ratio of any Michigan state school, GVSU boasts a high degree of faculty-student contact. In brief, GVSU can offer not only a well-rounded arts program, but also one that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Click here for a list of the most prominent Arts Management Graduate Programs in the United States

Click here for a national article on employment situation for Arts Management

Click here for information on Management Studies at GVSU

Click here to read the February 2015 Grand Rapids Business Journal's article and see how your Theatre Arts training stacks-up in the 2014 West Michigan jobs marketplace!

Page last modified August 13, 2018