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The curtain rises, and the audience applauds as Broadway actors transport them to another time and place. It takes hard work and dedication to get to Broadway. It's a lucrative career for a few. The estimated Lin-Manuel Miranda net worth – creator and original star of the smash hit "Hamilton" – is $10 million. Hamilton producers have also profited from the enormous success of the show. Most actors who make it to Broadway do not achieve that level of wealth or fame. They do it because they love performing on stage.
Actors bring a story to life by creating characters from a playwright's script and directions. Unlike acting for television or film, the theater is live. There are no second takes. Actors must memorize their lines and deliver them convincingly. Depending on the show, actors may be expected to sing, dance or perform stunts. Some actors study several roles to be prepared to stand in should an actor not be able to take the stage.
There are no specific education requirements for a Broadway actor. Some have formal training from acting classes or earn a degree in theater from a college or university. You can gain experience in local productions, beginning with high school and moving on to community and regional theater. Develop your talents by employing a voice coach and studying movement and dance.
Broadway actors learn lines on their own and come to rehearsals prepared to go through the script with other actors. They work with directors, music conductors, costume designers, make-up artists, hair stylists and other behind-the-scenes personnel. The work can be physically demanding because shows are usually performed nightly and may also have one or more matinee performances.
Years of Experience and Salary
The current minimum for Broadway actor salary is $2,034 per week, which is the base pay for members of the Actors' Equity Association. There are small increases for additional duties. For example, a performer earns another $8 per week if asked to move set pieces. A chorus or specialty role adds $20 to the weekly take, as does the assumption of "extraordinary risk" as determined by the union. The understudy for a principal role earns another $54.50 weekly, while an understudy for a chorus role sees an additional $15.
Actors with name recognition or years of successful shows under their belt make considerably more than the union minimum.
Competition for roles on Broadway is fierce. Hundreds of people can show up for an audition, and you can be dismissed if you don't fit a casting director's vision of a character, even before you've had a chance to show what you can do. Shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and "The Lion King" have run for years, while some unsuccessful productions are shuttered within a week. You never know how long you'll be employed, and there's no guarantee that your next gig is just around the corner.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.