The Ultimate Guide to How to Make a Theatre Resume That Steals the Show
When I was in theatre school, we learned a lot about how to perform a dream role once we’ve been cast. We didn’t necessarily learn a lot about HOW to book that role. The actual technical details about auditions and the business side of being an actor somehow got neglected. One of the things that surprised me when I was teaching a lot more during the pandemic was how much help aspiring performers still needed with their resumes. Theatre resumes are different than standard ones and upon googling for answers the first results are poorly formatted examples of what not to do. So here is my complete guide on how to make a professional theater resume that sets you up for success. There are four or five basic sections depending on the artist so let’s start at the beginning.
1. FIRST SECTION - The Bio Section at the Top of the Resume
This is the header of the page that lets casting and creatives know who you are and how to reach you. It should include
Your professional name (Stay consistent with what name you use. Using your professional name on your resume but using a different name on a name tag or a sign-in only dilutes your recognizability to casting.
Your phone number and email address (Please do not include your address on your resume)
Your union affiliation if you have one
Your agent information if you have one (If you are represented by an agency they will most likely require you to use their letterhead or logo and information on top of your resume)
Your Stats (Height, Weight, Hair Color, Eye Color, Pronouns (optional)
A Thumbnail Photo (Ideally an opportunity to show casting another side of you in addition to having a visual of you ever-present as they look at your resume during the audition without having to flip back and forth between front and back.
Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to include age range or vocal type. Often times actors box themselves in unnecessarily so let casting decide what age you can play or what vocal parts you can sing when you audition.
2. SECOND SECTION - The Section Where You List Your Credits
This is the section where you list what roles you have played in shows. If you have any experience in TV/Film then add a separate section for those. You are going to use three columns to clearly define Name of Show, Role Played, and Theatre.
Show Title Role Theatre
If you want to include the director then you can either add the name directly after the theatre with a “/“ or divide the section into four columns instead of three.
Show Title Role Theatre/James Darny
Show Title Role Theatre James Darny
I recommend doing this only if the director is fairly known. This can start to take up a lot of space very quickly and affect the cleanliness of your resume so make sure you are including the names of directors with intent. When choosing which credits to include, always lead with the more well-known shows even if you had a smaller role as opposed to a show no one has heard about where you played the lead. Casting won’t know you played a lead even if you do decide to list it because the name of the character isn’t recognizable.
Also worth mentioning, don’t cite credits you could not believably play right now. A good example from BENTON WHITLEY is when a college performer cites “Daddy Warbucks” as a credit. The actor obviously wants to highlight his experience playing a lead role but it is truthfully pointless because no matter what, he will not be playing that in the professional world. That is just wasted real estate on the page that could be better used for something else.
(HOW TO CITE UNDERSTUDY CREDITS)...
Understudy experience should be noted directly after the role in parenthesis as the abbreviation “u/s”.
Show Title Role (u/s) Theatre Director
If you actually performed as the understudy you can use a symbol to let casting know or you can put “perf.” after “u/s” abbreviation.
Show Title Role (u/s, perf.) Theatre Director
Show Title Role (u/s*) Theatre Director
I personally prefer using the asterisk symbol and putting
at the bottom of the resume.
2. SECOND SECTION CONTINUED -The Section Where You List Your TV/Film Credits
Listing your film credits are a little different than listing your theatre credits because instead of citing the name of the role you are listing the ROLE TYPE. Here is a basic breakdown of the types of film roles and what they mean.
Lead - Is your role the central component of the story? Do you appear in most scenes? Would there be a story without your role? This is basically how you would cite a main character.
Supporting - This is for when the actor appears in one or more scenes and is extremely important to the storyline even though they are not the main character. They are not just random characters with lines. They help to move the story along.
Principal - Technically, this is usually how to refer to basic a speaking role.
Featured - This is when the actor has lines that are not substantial enough to be a supporting role decision could be easily cut from the final edited version of the film. The existence of this role will not affect the integrity of story.
Title of Film Principal Glass House Prod./Dir. Jake Hesh
There is no need to make two additional separate sections for TV and film unless you are going in for something very specific and want to highlight certain credits. I often recommend making little tweaks here and there for important auditions. Usually it is more than fine to group them together in one section. We still list role TYPE as opposed to NAME of role but the terminology is different for television.
Series Regular - This means that the actor is under exclusive contract to appear regularly in the show or be paid even if they don’t.
Recurring - The actor does not necessarily appear in every episode but at least appears in multiple.
Guest Star - This is when the actor appears in a single episode as a guest whose character is central to that specific episode.
Co- Star - The actor appears as a one-episode guest star whose character isn’t necessarily crucial to that particular episode.
One quick note about how to list commercial experience - instead of making a separate section for commercials you should make a separate “list” or “commercial resume” and put “List Available Upon Request” somewhere after you cite your credits either at the bottom of the resume or right before the section for training. Even if you only have one commercial, it’s better to let casting assume you might have more instead of putting down a single credit. Also, the main reason we do this is to avoid any potential conflicts with the brand/company you are auditioning for. Listing commercial experience will follow the same formula of
Commercial Title Role Production Company
3. EDUCATION AND TRAINING - The section where you share where you went to school and any notable instructors you’ve worked with.
There are numerous way to cite the numerous training programs you might have had but a basic formula is usually
Dance: Suzy Whitman, Donald Freely (Eastern Dance of Conn. - 2yr Program)
On-Camera: Bob Macky, Parker Mills
This section should be brief and only a few lines long compared to your credit sections. Try to think about what would really matter to casting when reading over your resume.
4. SPECIAL SKILLS - The section where you inform casting of any unique skills that could be potentially useful in a show.
I recommend not putting any accents you cannot do well on command. It’s also a good idea to include funny skills that can serve as conversation starters in the room. I have been asked by casting multiple times in the room to show off my “seagull noise” or my ability to produce goosebumps on command!
That’s it! Those are the basic sections of the resume! It might sound a bit overwhelming here but it is actually super simple. Now that we’ve talked about how to write the resume, let’s talk about how to format it.
RESUME SPECS FOR FORMATTING
8” X 10” is how we format resumes to match the size of headshots which are also 8” X 10”. You have two options here to avoid the unnecessary headache of trying to constantly trim your resume without looking messy. You can either purchase 8” X 10” paper to print on
which is a lifesaver or you can set your margins.
Left and Top Margins: 0.5” Right Margin 1” Bottom Margin 1.5”
Setting these margins easily allows you to easily trim the excess resume paper from the right and the bottom only. I also recommend using a paper cutter whenever possible to ensure a professional impression. This becomes less and less relevant as digital video submissions take over and as casting becomes more able to print out color copies of headshots and resumes with ease.
A Few Last Notes...
Only use legible fonts. No matter how plain you think your resume looks, creatives would always prefer a plain but easy to read resume as opposed to a fancy once. Keep fonts no smaller than a 12 point.
Don’t design your resume with any colored ink or any “fill” boxes of color. It’s not necessary but more importantly it can be a nightmare when trying to print since it takes up so much colored ink
Any credits having to do with anything other than performing like directing, choreographing, or experience as a crew member should be on a different resume. There is no need to include these on the same resume because you will not be considered for any of these positions at an audition meant for performers.
How you separate sections of your resume is up to you. There’s no hard and fast rule about using lines as opposed to page breaks or exactly how big your name should be. (It should obviously be big but font size will vary.) Just remember the name of the game is to be able to easily read the information quickly.
Lastly, make sure that you are saving your resume as a PDF to upload for submissions and even to make available for download on your website.
The biggest piece of advice I always give students is that LESS IS MORE. The tendency for aspiring artists is to stuff the page full of as many credits as possible to make it seem like they have more experience. Trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing that screams “rookie” as much as a resume with almost no white space.
It’s giving “overcompensation” and the fact of the matter is that casting isn’t expecting everyone to have a ton of credits. Lead with confidence and remember that your audition is your chance to show them who you are, not try and be good enough for whatever project your hoping to book. Break legs, xoxo.