"What you will get here is an overview of the theatre, as a business, as an occupation, as a life style and even as a dream."
|"What We Do - Working in
the Theatre" will
now be part of the curriculum at:
Rehabilitation Through the Arts, New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, The Glenn Alterman Acting Studio, Rosie’s Broadway Kids Library;
Tallmadge High School Theater Arts Career Academy, Chesapeake College, Kansas State University, University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill,
And is being considered by:
University of Detroit Mercy, Columbia University School of the Arts, SUNY Geneseo, Appalachian State University, Collin College,
University at Albany, Morehead State University, Troy University, Barry University, The Ohio State University, The University of Texas - Arlington, Buffalo State College,
University of Central Florida, University of Akron, New Mexico SU Theatre Arts, Wake Forest University, Capital University, University of North Dakota,
Northwestern State University, Eastern Illinois University, Slippery Rock University, University of Texas - El Paso, University of California - Riverside, Troy University,
American University, Portland State University, Western Illinois University, Plattsburgh State, Bloomsburg University, Texas Woman’s University,
University of California - San Diego, University of California - Davis, SUNY College - Oneonta, Montgomery College, Grand Valley State University,
University of Arkansas - Little Rock, Gallaudet University, Grambling State University, University of Colorado - Denver, Florida Atlantic University, University of Vermont,
University of West Georgia, California State University - Northridge, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Binghamton University, University of Michigan - Flint, University of Toledo, Cameron University, Columbus State University, Texas Christian University, West Chester University, Emporia State University, Florida A&M University, Emporia State University,
University of Northern Iowa, College of St. Catherine, Harding University, Marietta College, University of Washington, Hunter College Continuing Education, Wagner College,
Indiana University Northwest, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Somerset Community College,
Univ. of Texas-Pan American, California State University San Bernardino, San Diego State University, St. John Fisher College, University of West Georgia,
University of Michigan Flint, Thomas More College, Hermantown High School, Cascia Hall Performing Arts Center, Pinewood Preparatory School, Baruch College,
Drake University, Kirtland Community College, University of Southern Indiana, Fayetteville State University, Western Kentucky University,
University of N. C. School of the Arts, Edinboro University of PA, Northeastern University,
National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Centre Theater, Thunder Bay Theatre, StrawHat Auditions, Sacramento Theatre Company, Exclamation Theater, Philadelphia Theatre Workshop, Florida Repertory Theatre, Theatre of Western Springs,
A. D. Players, Quincy Community Theatre, Senior Theatre.com, Growing Stage Theatre, Seaside Repertory Theatre, Peninsula Community Theatre
The US Review of Books
What We Do: Working in the Theatre by Bo Metzler Infinity Publishing
reviewed by Carol Davala
"What you will get here is an overview of the theatre, as a business, as an occupation, as a life style and even as a dream."
For anyone with theatrical aspirations or even a modicum of interest in theatre arts, Bo Metzler has written an invaluable book, offering a general yet extremely thorough introduction to the who, what, where, and how of theatre. Drawing on over forty years of experience from his own multi-faceted career, the author's overall compilation provides practical knowledge, forethought, and a wealth of personal insight. Throughout this intimate and artful portrait, Metzler candidly expounds the ins and outs, and rudimentary elements of the theatrical arena.
In a clever playbill type format, the reader is introduced to all the key players. From writers and producers, to actors and directors, choreographers, designers, and stage crew, Metzler details the inherent role of each individual in their attempt to shape a major stage production. Clearly the author's forte is revealed in his ability to provide an insider's point of view. To avoid a textbook dryness that one might associate with this subject matter, Metzler incorporates personal stories, a touch of humor, and descriptions that are so on-point that the reader is given a true sense of the daily struggle and grind, the hustle and bustle of activity, the toil and tears, and the excitement and energy that all lead to the mounting exuberance of a production's "Opening Night."
What We Do: Working in the Theatre would be a fine addition to any theatre curriculum reading list. Initially Metzler intended the book as a gift for family and friends, so they might better understand his chosen career path. With the recent success of Smash, a popular new TV series with a storyline focused on the making of a Broadway musical, it appears that theatre is alive and well. Herein, Metzler's book is a timely compendium, as well as both a practical and enjoyable read outlining the full scope of professional theatre.RECOMMENDED by the USR
Volume 20, Number 1, March 2010, pp. 86-87
What We Do: Working in the Theatre by Bo Metzler
Anyone who has been asked by family or friends, “What IS it that you DO in the theater?”, should be handed this book. Written in a style any neophyte or “lay person” can easily grasp, it chronologically explains the nuts and bolts within the intricate machine that is today’s commercial theatre. Metzler brings over thirty years of employment experience to a comprehensive and well conceived volume focusing upon theatre produced in New York City.
Utilizing appropriate theatre terminology, the text is organized into “acts” and “scenes” rather than chapters. Each scene in Act One describes a specific job and its usual duties and responsibilities, beginning with the playwright’s first impulse through the final events of post-production.
The first scene describes the solitary task of writing, the process of submitting a play for production, the difference between a composer and a lyricist and the relationship those who write have with the producer and the artistic staff.
Segue to the next scene, “The Producer,” and so on. The reader soon realizes that the success of any production relies upon many individuals working together toward a common goal. Metzler is quick to remind us that if just one person “drops the ball,” the whole house of cards could fall. The scene about the producer is particularly informative as many, even some “theatre people,” are unaware of the complexity of the producer‘s responsibilities. Clear explanations of how funding is obtained to begin production go well beyond a quick viewing of The Producers. The producer options the script from the writer then seeks capital from numerous investors and backers. Laws which apply to raising capital are explained as are the budget requirements for producing a Broadway show. Workshops, backers‘ auditions and other means of attracting investors are discussed. We also learn that in addition to choosing the play and playwright, the producer hires the director and has veto privileges concerning the set, lighting and costume designers, general manager and stage manager. Given that the average Broadway musical costs $3,000,000, one soon realizes that a producer must first be a businessman with a secondary passion for the arts. The buck stops and starts with the producer. Without a skilled producer the show will never get off the page.
“The Crew” will be particularly informative for readers unfamiliar with the backstage life of a Broadway show. Who is the crew and what do they do? Many outside theatre do not realize that a running crew can outnumber the actors 2 to 1. An average audience is usually unaware of the unseen people who report to work daily, keeping a production running smoothly from curtain up to curtain down. Among them are stage managers, carpenters, electricians, fly men, wardrobe crew, house managers and dressers. If their jobs are done well, they remain unnoticed. These trained professionals are unionized journeymen and highly employable in the field often moving from show to show, year after year, because of reputation alone. The author, having held many of these jobs during his career, carefully explains the responsibilities of each.
The first half of the book is dedicated to who we are, and what we do in the theatre community. Many, when thinking of the theatre might only consider playwrights, actors and directors. We leave Act One knowing so much more.
Act Two takes the reader beyond Broadway, examining the many theatre venues and support systems for those who work in the theatre. National tours, bus and truck companies, regional theaters, Off Broadway, Off-off Broadway, and small professional theaters are defined, and the varied contracts and pay scales associated with each are explained. The role of labor unions, professional trade papers, talent agents, and managers in the life of the theatre are each given their due.
Metzler‘s quest to explain who we are succeeds. Fearing this to be another “how to” book for the aspiring artist, I was happy to find a fluent, refreshing approach aimed, for the most part, at those not in the business. I was impressed by the author’s ability to convey the diversity of career choices available in the industry. The reader leaves understanding that theatre is a series of calculated risks. It has a bottom line and must turn a profit to survive. A smash hit on Broadway is simply a successful business venture attached to art.
Two weaknesses should be noted. A scene titled “Waiting” draws a picture of the frustrated artist enduring years of unfulfilling menial labor and survival jobs awaiting the “big break.” “The Epilogue” ineffectively addresses the unnecessary question of why we do what we do. Why does anyone do what they do for a living and who cares? Somewhat self -indulgent and maudlin, the material veers from the earlier positive message and diminishes the dignity of the profession so carefully established.
As a text this book would be ideal in an introductory course for college majors or non-majors, as well as high school drama classes. Well organized and easy to follow the instructor could easily construct an entire course around it. I personally would like to have been able to hand this volume to every nervous parent I’ve encountered over the years whose child chose theatre as a major. It might have helped to relieve some of their anxiety that their daughter or son’s decision would lead to endless unemployment and unrealized dreams.
There are many ways to earn a solid living in the theatre. It is not an indulgent hobby or a pipe-dream for the Peter Pans of the world. Hmmm! Perhaps I will buy a copy for my parents as a Christmas gift.
Assistant Professor of Theater, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
Reprinted from: The Johns Hopkins University Press
nature, cause confusion. Think how perplexed the first
human was who saw a platypus. Part handbook and part
memoir, Bo Metzler’s What
We Do: Working in the Theatre may create a
similar unsettling first impression. This will likely
give way to an appreciation of the book’s genuine
value as a source of information and a similar
appreciation of its mixed contents, entirely
appropriate to the impure, one could almost say
mongrel, nature of theatre. . . . Young people
entering the profession, who may envision a linear
path to stardom, will find [Metzler's] actual career
path both grounding and inspiring. . . . .
Although he doesn’t aspire to or reach the level of
specialized texts on technical theatre, he has created
a work of considerable value to the aspiring or
neophyte theatre artist. Even those with much
experience will learn new things. (For me, it was the
definition of “ballyhoo,” which he tells us is
“swinging a follow spot beam around in a figure eight
pattern.”) Without question, beginners in the field
will be grateful to have the difference between
“theater” and “theatre” spelled out as clearly and
authoritatively as he has done. . .
. Considering the vast territory
Meltzer has staked out, each chapter is a marvel of
economy. The whole is well-articulated and
comprehensive, while encouraging the interested reader
to pursue each separate topic in greater depth. . . .
. Metzler’s coverage of the profession is
solid . . . he comes across as earnest, sincere,
hardworking, adaptable, and incredibly guarded. Surely
in such a long career there have been some outrageous,
hilarious, heartbreaking, or even confrontational
moments. Anecdotes about these would give the book
some spice. Young readers could profit from them. . .
We Do fills a need. It’s an informative and
entertaining read. Its real worth, however, may be as
a stimulus to further reading."
(Full Review) Dave Williams, Theatre Design & Technology (Spring, 2009)
|"Author Bo Metzler
has had varied experience as an actor, stage manager,
dresser, carpenter, electrician and prop man with such
shows as Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables
and The Lion King. This unique perspective on
the who, what and how of professional theatre in New
York is at the heart of his new book, What
We Do: Working in the Theatre. By
explaining the various roles played by different people
in putting on a professional production, he provides
considerable insight for young people seeking a
professional career on stage or behind the
Stage Directions, March 2009
|"Bo Metzler, a co-founder of the
The book was written to answer, once and for all, those questions posed innocently by relatives and others ‘back home’ as to ‘what exactly it is that you do.’ We've all struggled to answer these without staring with Adam and Eve - Bo's written the book.
He briefly sketches all the main jobs in theatre - from playwright, to producer, to director, to designer, to performers, to technical staff. We also get types of theatre, from Broadway to summer stock (I’m so glad - I've been wondering for years what it means), how they all get work (or not) and who works in what type of theatre, regulated by what union.
It's brilliant! Not only is Bo able to write clearly and concisely - I found myself immediately drawn into the book - but I think he's also inadvertently written an international bestseller.
Even though I know a fair amount of US stage managers; have read books by and about US SMs; and have spoken to
That’s precisely, though, what this book does. I've always assumed that when we say ‘theatre’, or ‘stage manager’ in the
This therefore is the must read book If you're going on tour or transferring a show to the
The value of this book, here in the
Ah, and one more thing - every single type of Equity contract he mentions has stage managers paid at a higher rate than performers. Maybe we should send British Equity a copy, too...."
Barbara Eifler - CUELINE (A Publication of the British Stage Manager's Association.)
others ways to have a career on the New York stage,
and the story of Bo Metzler is a case in point.
He did just about every job
possible, in every type of theatre, from actor to
stage manager to driver to props to electrician, in
productions from Broadway to non-Equity tours to
dinner theatre in Omaha. He even worked as a dresser
to Harry Belafonte and as a stagehand for rock
Such a breadth of experience is unusual and Mr. Metzler decided to set his knowledge down in a book. The result is a sort of layman's guide to how things get done in the professional theatre.
What We Do is not a practical guide to working in the theatre: many such books already exist which cover the different aspects in much greater detail. It's more of an armchair introduction for people who enjoy attending the theatre but have limited or no practical knowledge of what happens behind the scenes. It will also be useful for high school and college students considering theatre as a career, because it describes many non-obvious jobs and explains some of the ways Broadway theatre differs from the school or community productions they may be familiar with....
Metzler writes in a pleasant, conversational style and What We Do is a quick and entertaining read. He often uses examples from his own career to illustrate points, and conveys a real sense of what it means to survive in professional theatre if you don't become a headliner.” talkinbroadway.com
Akronite lifts curtain on plays"We all know what an audition is, and an usher. But how about a gobo, or Blackwrap? Akron native Bo Metzler, with more than 40 years in show business, says his trips home from New York were filled with curious friends and relatives asking him questions about the nuts and bolts of
With What We Do: Working in the Theatre, he answers them all. It’s not an advice book – it won’t tell aspiring actors how to get jobs – it’s a reference book by an insider that explains just about everything a layperson could wonder about.
Metzler, who most recently was working with props for the elaborate Broadway show The Lion King, begins with describing the roles of people like writers, producers and directors; when he gets to stage managers, designers and crew, the information gets more technical, with facts about lighting equipment and union rules.
Though Metzler’s writing is mostly objective, he does add some personal anecdotes and a rant about ‘‘critics who seem to hold the entire theatrical industry hostage,’’ suggesting that theatergoers should decide for themselves and support struggling shows.
What We Do (239 pages, softcover) would be a fine introduction course for someone considering theater as a career or avocation. It costs $15.95 from online retailers." Akron Beacon Journal
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - -
What a blessing would
Mr. Metzler’s book have been in 1952, when I first
dreamed of working in theatre?
How many trials and false starts might have
been avoided? Years
later, after I had stumbled through various theatre
experiences and obtained academic degrees, I began
teaching in universities. Former
students told their own stories of making a life in
theatre. Mr. Metzler’s
book captures the essence of those experiences in an
entertaining narrative. He
does not profess to teach acting, nor any of the
other myriad disciplines of the theatre world. Rather he gently reveals
what he learned to do to get work. He explains
unions, auditions, working conditions and what life
demands for most theatre disciplines.
His focus is on professional theatre in
Daniel Hannon BFA, MFA,
PhD. -- Distinguished Professor
Emeritus of Theatre --
Fun, useful, and informative"Bo Metzler actually accomplishes what seems to be an impossible task: writing a book that is fun and informative for people at every stage of their theatrical careers, from the absolute beginner to the Broadway veteran (or even for theatre people to share with our families to help them understand what our world is all about). "What We Do" should certainly be required reading in every "Introduction to the Theatre" class to inform students about all the different types of jobs available to them in the theatre and how all those various jobs work together. But the book is by no means just for students: I've performed in principal roles on Broadway for three and a half years and yet there were many things I understood much better (or for the first time!) after reading Mr. Metzler's very entertaining book." Tony Freeman (Broadway Actor and Acting Teacher)
A "Must-Have" book for theatre people
"We all wished that someone would get around to writing a book that explains what all the terms and professions are in the world of the theatre. And Bo Metzler has conceived a brilliant compilation of the whole process of "putting on a show" and explains it all with an amusing touch. It's more than a mere dictionary of terms. If you've been immersed in the theatre world all your life, or curious or just putting your big toe into the ocean of theatre, you need this book. Dive in and get this book! His preface is worth the price itself!" Michael Brittain Hollywood CA.
|"Bravo! This is
a valuable book for anyone considering a career in
The book is well planned, intelligently organized and easy to read. I recommend it."
Marty Dick, CBS Lighting Director
Performer's Must-Have Book!
"I just picked up Bo Metzler's new book, "What We Do -- Working in the Theatre," for my fresh-minted performing arts graduate daughter, but, as a former actress and singer, I couldn't wait to dig into it myself. Wow! There is stuff in there even I didn't know (or remember ;-0). Bo's easy-to-read, accessible style was chock full of information that every actor needs, especially younger actors. But even old hands will learn something.
Thanks, Bo!" Ruth Sherman, "Communications Consultant to the Stars"
A Valuable Teaching Tool"As a long time Broadway Production Prop Supervisor and theater professional, I, too, have also been at a loss to explain to people not in the theater business exactly what I do and how various aspects of the theater work. Bo Metzler's book WHAT WE DO gives clear and understandable explanations of what actually goes into putting on a Broadway show. Anyone who is interested in theater should read this book - audience members to gain a further enjoyment of the theater experience, anyone thinking of making the theater a career to see how it really works and people already in "the Business" for insight and anecdotes about what we do." Bob Adams, Broadway Production Prop Supervisor
Inspiring Teaching Tool"As a choral conductor and musical theatre director for over 35 years, I have found Metzler's book, "What We Do, Working In The Theatre" to be an inspiring affirmation of all that we teach in music and theatre education, as well as an excellent resource for academic colleagues,
administrators and aspiring actors' parents and families.
Prior to the book's publication, I was asked by the author to read, review and critique it, and honestly found nothing with which to disagree!
Metzler's clear and concise descriptions and explanations of each and every "role" in theatre arts have proven to be invaluable to me as I have taught, coached and directed many aspiring actors, directors, producers and "techies". Metzler's candor regarding the processes involved with every aspect of the theatre gives a clear picture of what our students may expect, should they decide to pursue such a career. School administrators (and subsequently the theatre arts programs in their schools) will benefit by gaining a clear understanding of the academic work demanded by such programs. Parents and families will gain an understanding of the field, with which they can support their students' theatrical endeavors.
Every performing arts teacher/director should read this book for wonderful teaching examples and real life experiences which they can share with their students." Peg Weber, Theatre Educator
"Congratulations! Indeed, there are many "professional" folks and students
and even teachers who do not know WHAT WE DO! It continues to be an honorable profession
when you are influenced by folks who are respectful of every part of the physical production
and what it takes to sustain the live art of story telling for the stage. This is an amazing resource!"
Rebecca Spencer, Broadway Actor/RecordingArtist
|"What We Do...
is my new Bible
Bo Metzler's "What We Do" is the new essential book for everyone who is interested in show business, would like to be in show business, or who, like me, has been in show business all their lives. Seasoned professional or not, you'll learn new, valuable things about this industry. Everyone in show business has been asked by family & friends, "So what exactly is it that you do?" Metzler, having experienced this, has written a book detailing the hierarchy of theater--a "who does what" approach that will inform novice and old pro alike. There have been a lot of books about how to be a good producer, good director, good actor--but to my knowledge there has never been a compendium which outlines the basic responsibilities of everyone who works in theater.
Along with being a director and producer and actor in theater as generally defined, I am also a director with Rehabilitation Through the Arts -- the breakthrough theater program taught in New York's maximum and medium security prisons. The process of theater--from writing to full production--is the most powerful rehabilitative tool I know. The people in our programs change the direction of their lives simply through the process of studying acting and putting on a production right in the middle of a big prison.
I am using "What We Do" as the text for a class I'm teaching in a prison this winter. I know that learning about the structure of theater organization in this way is going to have a great effect on our future productions. I hope that "What We Do" becomes an industry standard."
Brent Buell, Actor, Director, Producer
|"I thought your book
extremely informative and comprehensive.
At the moment I'm teaching a Daytime Drama class at the NYCDA - I will gladly put your book on my list of recommended reading.
When I teach another theatre class I will put it on the required reading list.
Much luck with your release and thank you for writing such a love letter about the theatre world."
Christopher Cass, New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts
|"I like the book. Currently looking at it for an intense summer theatre design and management course." Richard Peterson, Chesapeake College|
WE DO - Working in the Theatre
©2008, Bo Metzler
258 pages - including glossary || softcover: 5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
Illustrations by Rob Hamilton
all rights reserved