London’s world-famous theater industry pays its directors a pittance

Art isn’t easy.
Art isn’t easy.
Image: Reuters/Herwig Prammer
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Theater directors work in a glamorous industry, but you wouldn’t know it from their paychecks. And it turns out that directors working in London’s famous theater scene suffer more for their art than counterparts elsewhere, according to a new report (pdf).

The average annual wage for a British stage director was £10,759 ($16,246) last year, according to recently-founded industry body Stage Directors UK. Median pay was just £5,000 per year, which pales in comparison with the national median of £27,000.

At all but a few top theaters, UK directors’ per-production fee languishes far below their counterparts in the US and elsewhere in Europe:

Image for article titled London’s world-famous theater industry pays its directors a pittance

How do directors survive on so little? The answer is, they don’t. Many work other jobs. Matthew Xia, associate artistic director of the Manchester Royal Exchange and a board member of Stage Directors UK, told the Guardian that he continues to work as a DJ, and is also supported by his higher-earning partner. Others find work in education, or in corporate jobs.

And some already have money. Stage Directors UK says that the profession is becoming increasingly closed to those without family financial support, fostering an elitism that it says “impoverishes the cultural pool.”