Whatís a Theatrical Resume Supposed to Look Like?
(reprinted by permission The Actors' Center, Washington, DC)
Every profession has its forms and rituals, its little ways of doing
things that separate those in the know from the neophytes. Show Biz is
no different. One of the fastest ways to get pegged as being new to the
Business and not very savvy is to present a producer or director with a
resume that is not formatted properly. And itís such an easy mistake to
avoid! You should make it your business to find out how an actorís resume
should look and then set yours up accordingly. Even if you donít have many
Ė or any! -- professional credits, even if all your experience was in college
or community theatre, if you lay out your resume clearly and correctly,
youíll be a step ahead. Believe me, the auditors at the League of Washington
Theatres (LOWT) Auditions, stage and film/video directors or casting assistants
in the various talent agencies notice resumes that donít conform to the
basic professional format. While a good audition may still get you the
job, youíre making it harder for yourself if your resume looks like it
belongs to Mr. Clueless!
So, what should it look like?
Your name, phone number and union affiliations, if any, should be right
at the top. Most people center this information, but whether you do or
not, it should be prominently featured! Most people have this info bolded
or in large type, so it stands out better. After all,
this is how a potential employer is going to reach you to call you for
an audition or offer you a job. Make sure they can see your name and number
easily. Actors who are EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) often note that
fact, which is especially appreciated by the SPT (Small Professional) theatres,
who hire a mix of union and non-union talent for their productions and
want to know if you are accruing points toward union membership. Iíve seen
people put "non-union actor" or the like at the top of their resume if
they arenít yet a union member, but this frankly puzzles me. Does that
mean you donít ever want to join? If youíre not affiliated with
AFTRA, SAG or Actorsí Equity (AEA) in any way, just your name and phone
number will do. You donít need some other label under your name.
If you are doing a stage audition (or a big call like the LOWT Auditions
or Baltimore Theatre Alliance Auditions), list your phone number,
not that of any agency you may be signed with. If an agency submits your
photo/resume, they usually want their phone number as the contact number,
but if you are doing a stage audition or interview which a casting agency
did not send you on, make sure your personal number is listed, so
the potential employer can reach you.
Nowadays, many people include their e-mail address or fax number among
these vital stats at the top of the resume. Thatís fine. However, I strongly
advise against including your street address. After all, who knows who
might root around in a producerís file and decide to pay you a late
night visit to answer the come hither look they perceived in your resume
photo? Iíd never really thought about that, until Jerry Manning, who used
to be Casting Director at Arena Stage, mentioned the inadvisability of
letting the whole world know where you live. But it makes sense, doesnít
it! Especially for the young and lovely of either sex. Until youíre hired
and under contract, thereís no need for just anyone to have more than your
phone number or e-mail.
And another big no-no is your social security number. For heavenís sake,
donít include that! Several auditors at the recent LOWT Auditions noted
that some resumes had the actorís SS# prominently displayed. Thatís another
one that no one needs to know until theyíre signing your paycheck. Plus,
in these times of identity theft, donít make it easier for the bad guys.
Usually, actors list their height, weight (be honest!!), and hair and eye
color above the credits. It helps directors figure out how big or small
the rest of you is Ė you know, the part from the neck down that usually
isnít part of your resume photo. If you sing, note your range (e.g. "alto")
but I personally advise against noting your "age range," as in "20s to
50s." Let the potential employer decide if you look right for the role
he/she is casting. You risk typing yourself out of a role if you note the
range you assume you are right for.
Theatre XYZÖÖÖÖÖÖLady Number ThreeÖÖÖÖÖÖ.The Best Play Ever
Others choose to list the play first, theatre second and role
third. It doesnít really matter, as long as you list things simply and
clearly. That goes for stage, film or any other kind of acting work. If
you have been directed by a particularly prestigious director and thereís
room, itís OK to list that, but make sure itís someone who really is
well known. (Director: Michael Kahn, for example, not Director: Laura Giannarelli!)
Credits should then be listed below all these vital statistics, as the
body of the resume. There is no one correct way to list them. Some actors
elect to list:
Credits Rule Number One: Donít Lie! No matter what people might tell you
about padding your resume, donít. You never know when youíll find
yourself auditioning for the director from XYZ Theatre who knows that she
cast you as the lead in last yearís Spring show. Honesty is the best policy,
even when youíre starting out and donít have many credits. Just list what
credits you legitimately have and hold your head up proudly.
Credits Rule Number Two: Donít even "Stretch the Truth." You know, you
did a scene in the Actorsí Center Showcase the year it was at Studio Theatre,
so you put on your resume that you did Meg in "Crimes of the Heart" at
Studio Theatre. Wrong! First of all, a scene is not an entire production;
and second, Studio didnít produce that play, now did they?! Itís
perfectly fine to list AC Showcase credits, if youíre just beginning to
build your resume, but list them honestly as such. Donít try to inflate
them. After all, especially here in the D.C. market, all of the producers
basically know each otherís production history. Theyíre going to know
Studio never did "Crimes of the Heart"; ergo, youíre a liar. (See Rule
Number One.) The same applies to a performance in a ten-minute play in
the Washington Theatre Festival, a.k.a. the Source Festival. Don't suggest
by careful omission that the performance you were part of at Source was
a part of their full, regular season. A Festival show is a nice credit
to add to your resume, but it's not a main stage show, so don't misrepresent
it as such. OK?!
A big mistake Iíve seen on many resumes is clutter. Once you pass that
stage in your career when you have only a handful of credits and use really
type to fill up the white space and make it look like youíve got plenty
on your resume, many actors are afraid to delete
So, after a few years, theyíre printing their resume in really
small print that most producers have a hard time deciphering! And
making the margins reeealllly narrow to
fit more in. The better solution is to edit your resume each time you print
out a fresh copy for a new audition. Decide what roles you should retain
(Hamlet in Hamlet might be a good one to hang onto!) forever, and
which ones might be ready to rotate off your resume (maybe "third-maid-from-the-left,"
if youíve graduated to bigger parts lately). Some actors choose to label
their list of credits "Representative Roles" to indicate that this isnít
absolutely everything theyíve done, just the best stuff.
"What to list---fighting ability, (don't lie) driving--truck and cars
(good for movies) , what I call leisure dancing (ballroom, etc.) juggling,
languages (if you are really fluent I'd put that at the top--again--don't
lie) (also if you are Certified in fighting I'd put that at the top.)"
If youíve done different kinds of show business work, divide up the sections
of your resume accordingly: Stage, Film/Video, Voiceover (some people call
it Audio), Cabaret, Dance, etc. Also list any theatrical, voice or film
you have had. Thereís no particular correct order in which to list these
different credits, but generally people put "Training" last.
into detail about degrees and accomplishments in your non-actor life, unless
it might be particularly applicable to a role Ė accomplished pianist, MD,
juggler, speak fluent Hungarian, good at accents, etc. Many list this kind
of stuff under "Special Skills," down at the bottom below "Training." But
unless you dissect frogs as part of a cabaret act, donít bother sharing
a lot of routine "special skills" that lots of people can do. And make
sure what you include is relevant to a theatrical resume. Ann Norton of
the Washington Stage Guild told me that the Special Skills section of peopleís
resumes came in really handy when the Guild was casting for the "Magical
Mystery History Museum", a childrenís play. According to Ann,
A big "donít" is putting an "Objective" on your resume. Iíve seen people
put this at the top, under their name and phone number. Usually, itís something
like, "I want to be a successful actor in theatre and film." Well, thatís
fine, but while a business resume often includes oneís ultimate career
goals as part of the accepted format, theatrical resumes just donít. Itíll
peg you as an amateur. Delete it!
Another "donít" in my book is printing your resume on ornate, patterned
or colored paper that draws attention to itself. Save the gilt paper for
a letter to a loved one. Your resume should be on neutral paper Ė white,
cream, pale grey. You want the potential employer to be reading your credits,
not considering whether to print party invitations on this kind of paper.
I now actually run my resume photos through my printer and print the resume
right on the back of each photo, circumventing the problem of what kind
of paper to use altogether. (I print it out on my printerís "fast" setting,
using the least ink possible, so it doesnít smear. My advice is to let
the photo/resumes dry before you stack them for a big call like the LOWT
Auditions: The time I didnít the ink bled all over my "face.")
Never laminate your photo/resume. I only saw this done once, but aside
from the considerable expense, most directors want to write on your resume,
you know, like: "Call her back for the lead!" Donít make it difficult for
them to make notes on your resume. Plus, it just isnít done.
If all of the above sounds familiar, your resume probably looks just fine.
However, if any of it surprised you, Iíd suggest a trip to the AC office.
Drop by sometime during office hours and browse among the resume file kept
there. Or volunteer next time the AC or League of Washington Theatres needs
people to sort resumes for a big audition. Look at how other actors lay
their resumes out. Notice what you think works and steal the ideas you
like. Also notice what doesnít work, what looks cluttered, unclear
or confusing and remember that next time you redo your resume.
If you have printed your resume on separate paper, you must attach it
securely to your photo. A standard resume photo should be 8
by 10 inches. And while Iíd have thought it unnecessary to say this, the
paper youíve printed your resume on needs to be cut to the same dimensions
as the photo. Iíve seen too many sloppy looking photo/resumes with raggedy
edges. Cut it to the precise size of the photo! Once youíve done
that, all four corners should be stapled to the photo. Some people use
glue, but in the heat that can melt and cause your resume to stick to someone
elseís, or come unstuck altogether! I prefer staples. However, whichever
attachment method you prefer, the resume must be attached at all four
corners. Using only one staple in the upper left hand corner, or even
two just isnít the way itís done. And why would you want to risk your resume
getting separated from your photo? Take the time to do it right.
See you at the next audition!