#Hamilton files: Good HR Recruiters should hire a Theatre Major


“Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to.”  — Willem Dafoe

Sounds like how high-performance teams must work now.  Let me tell you why.

I finally saw Hamilton in Chicago.  OMG.  My theatre nerd came out of me in all directions.

I got tickets as a Christmas present, so have been anticipating the greatness that is Hamilton for 8 months.  It was worth the wait.  I’ve had  the soundtrack for months, I know the lyrics and obviously knows how it ends.  With that in mind, I felt certain there wouldn’t be tears as I watched.  Wrong — at the end I was holding back a semi-ugly cry and at one point I started welling up because the production quality was just so good.

As I watched, I thought, if these guys didn’t make it in Theatre, what would their profession be?  I for one would hire them.  Why?  Let me tell you why… most were theatre majors, or in the very least learned professionalism through working in the theatre.

We often hear managers make leadership and teamwork references to sports.  My God! Enough already.  Expand your horizons and think differently.  Frankly, the same analogies can be made for those in Theatre.  Traits for those lucky enough to be in Theatre include:

Commitment: Theatre folks of all disciplines, from actor to director to lighting technician have to dedicate large amounts of time to rehearsing, auditioning, and keeping relevant.  If they flake, a show could be jeopardized.  I mean, there is no “not showing up” or “I’m feeling sick today”, or “my throat hurts”… you show up or someone will take your place.

A quest to be the best:  Theatre professionals have no choice.  The market is too full, competition is fierce and yes, there is no-cap on personal ambition.  No one can tolerate a bad production.  Or a patronizing clap.  Anathema.  Hubris.

Ability to take rejection:  A part of the quest to be great in the theatre means getting OK with rejection.  A lot of it.  This translates well in the professional world as well.  I mean, have you worked in the corporate world?  Jesus, enough said.

Teamwork:  Putting on a class-A production requires many separate teams to collaborate daily, through the entire rehearsal process and production.  This can be 3 months to many years. If the costumes don’t match the vision of the director, if the lights don’t actually follow the actors or enhance the mood of the play, if the sound technician forgets his cues and mics the wrong actor, if the guy who pulls the curtain up and down at the right time jacks it up, if actors forget anything, especially when not to stand in front of pyrotechnics, not only is it dangerous, but the production is screwed.

Ability to have each other’s back:  If a light cue does go wrong or an actor forgets their lines, the show must go on.  Other members must seamlessly “have their back”  and just like sports teams, all must trust the others have their back.

Ability to give away the spotlight to others:  Scenes only work when performers know when it is time to “give” the scene to their partner.  This means, it is appropriate for the actor to step back, focus attention on the other, and listen.  Sounds like a high-performance team, right?


Have passion and purpose:  Folks in the theatre have passion for what they do.  If they did not, theatre would not be worth it.  The life is too hard.  Also, sorry, without passion an actor just isn’t an actor (or a good actor). And passion and purpose are big motivators to the modern workforce.  Win.

What does an actor in the workplace need from leaders: 

  • Continuous feedback
  • Praise when deserved 
  • To be heard

So, if you are one who love to hire athletes, you should flip your script and hire those in the fine arts.  Not only will you have folks that work well in high-performance teams, but you also may have someone who can entertain you daily, which in today’s workforce certainly can’t hurt.


Published by

Dawn Hrdlica-Burke

VP People & Culture/ Talent Consulting at Kinetix. Advisor. Speaker. Writer.

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