GET INTO LIVE SHOWS
Live Shows are one of the absolute best ways in which you can put your Parkour skills to work. Paid work.
Working in live shows was one of the best times of my life. Keep in mind, I am not claiming to be an expert on anything. All of this information is just what I have learned from my personal experience and interactions with other professionals. I am going to discuss the types of live shows that I have encountered in my career and how you can get in on them!
First thing's first: I'm da realest
• Location, location, LOCATION: Same principle as any other career, right? If you want to work in a certain field, you have to move where the work is. Unsurprisingly, the cities where you'd have the most potential to work in live shows are:
- Orlando, Florida - theme parks
- Los Angeles, California - smaller theme parks, performance companies
- New York, New York - performance companies for-hire on all kinds of events (Known as "gigging")
Which location is the best for live shows? In my opinion, Orlando. Orlando has larger, more reputable theme parks with more shows. Being centralized to Orlando also gives you the option to drive up to Atlanta and down to Miami to hustle for additional stunt work (don't worry, we'll get more into stunts later).
• Useful Skills For Live Shows: Your parkour specialty will certainly set you apart and give you an edge, but you'll have a much greater chance of making it into live shows if you expand your skillset- especially in the following areas:
- Stage Combat
- Acting- Dancing - more specifically, the ability to pick up choreography and understand 8-counts.
- Circus Arts - do you know any aerial disciplines? Are you FLEXIBLE!? And a WOMAN? A WOMAN that's FLEXIBLE???Cha-chiiiinggg $$$$
• THEME PARK SHOWS
Several theme parks around the country have stunt shows that hire general acrobats, and an increasing amount of them are looking to tap into that hip new "parkour" stuff these days 😏
Here are the pages that I know of where you can find auditions for several theme parks. If the option is available, make sure that you sign up for email notifications- however even if you do, make sure you still check the audition calendars every once in a while anyways. I became aware of several auditions by checking the calendar that had either not been sent by email notification or went to my spam folder. Keep in mind that theme parks like Universal and Disney also host auditions for their international parks overseas!
- Universal Orlando Resort: universalorlandojobs.com/auditions/audition-schedule-2/
- Disney World (all parks): https://jobs.disneycareers.com/auditions
- Universal Studios Hollywood: universalstudioshollywood.com/auditions/
- Cedar Point Ohio: cedarpoint.com/live-entertainment
- Knotts Berry Farm: facebook.com/KnottsAuditions/
Some parks such as Six Flags get the word out for auditions through other means. In addition to their calendars, many parks, including Disney, use Backstage.com. I used Backstage for around 3 years and it's legit. It incurs a $100 annual fee and lists auditions for all sorts of things all across the country.
If you are going to audition for a theme park, here is what you can usually expect: You show up, often at a gymnastics center, along with dozens of other people. You hand in your resume (with your headshot printed on the back) one by one and sign in. Auditions then generally consist of several rounds of cuts, with men and women auditioned separately. Some people may be cut before anything physical begins if they do not fit the look for the characters being casted.
Typical audition requirements:
- pull-ups (8-10)
- rope climb
- shoulder rolls
- any show-specific moves like basic vaults
- basic fight choreography
- reading a character side
Other shows such as those owned by third-party companies and specialty shows (like a trampoline show) will have different requirements that are more show-specific.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
• WORKLOAD: The first and most important thing you need to understand about working in theme parks is that you are generally not going to get a full time job out of it (unless you land an abroad position in a park overseas)- at least not right off the bat. Most, if not all roles at theme park stunt shows are "seasonal." That means you basically work intermittently when the contracted artists are not available. The pros are that you have the flexibility to swap around your schedule with your coworkers and take extended time off when you want to. The cons are that you are only going to work every once in a while, and a seasonal position in a single show is almost always not enough to live off alone (most of us worked up to three shows at a time at Universal).
• WARNING OF INJURY: Be warned- the repetitive nature of live performances (combined with the fact that most acrobats don't take sufficient time off to recover) makes many live shows injury machines. This, of course, also depends on the show and how demanding it is. The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad was a really chill show where the incidence of injury was relatively low, whereas the Flying Fish Market was super fun but also a goddamn people destroyer.
- You can go to the theme park whenever you'd like
- You are periodically offered a limited number of guest passes for friends and family
- Some Disney shows make you EQUITY eligible after a certain amount of time working there (usually a year)
- High likelihood of a rather flexible schedule
• PERFORMANCE COMPANIES
A PERFORMANCE COMPANY
is a company that gets hired to provide athletes and acrobats for short-term shows, single performances, and sometimes long-term installments. For example, The Flying Fishmarket (pictured) was a third-party show. It was performed at Universal Studios Orlando but was owned and produced by a separate company called AntiGravity.
Note that a performance company is not an agency. The company will have a talent roster and the talent is generally hired on a per-job basis and paid a flat rate.
Performance companies provide talent for things like:
- Theme Park Shows - Either temporary like a summer show or long-term
- Corporate Events - Like rich people who want to spice up their powerpoint presentation or company retreat 🤷♀️
- Award Shows
- Live Movie Promos
The most common application for a Performance Company is definitely at Corporate Events. Events planners for big-deal corporations will hire a performance company to provide talent to entertain as ambience and/or in scheduled performances during their private events.
The performance company usually provides the talent, stage, props, and anything else they would need to put on a well rounded show.
Most performance companies are affiliated in some way with circus arts. These are the skills most commonly solicited from Performance Companies:
- Stilt Walking - Ideal if you can provide your own. You could easily get jobs just from owning these.
- Skips (Bouncing Stilts)
- Hand Balancing
- Pole - Dance Pole, Chinese Pole, et al.
- Aerial Hoop or Silks - Most often used for ambience. Like... maneuvering about a hoop looking sexy for half an hour while people drink and talk below you
- Parkour - Now that performance companies are starting to learn about parkour, they're quickly realizing how useful it is. It's new, it's hip, and can often be incorporated with a minimal setup depending on the layout available.
AUDITIONS for performance companies like AntiGravity are varied and are often only spread by word of mouth or recommendation. Networking is important, people!
To find a performance company, you can google things like "live performers," and "circus company" - but your best bet is honestly going to be just asking around at open gyms and training facilities.
• CIRCUS & TOURING SHOWS
are one of the many entities that have also caught "action sport" fever. That said, it is still the type of live show on this list with the slimmest of pickings in terms of opportunity. That's why this section is so short.
The most common application of your action sport in the circus world is via performance companies as stated in the section above. However, some circuses are direct-casting specifically for action sports specialists nowadays.
You can find auditions for various circus jobs through these sites:
- Circus Talk: circustalk.com/jobs-and-auditions/search?location=all&category=auditions
- The Circus Project: https://www.thecircusproject.org/auditions
- Backstage: www.backstage.com/casting/
- Cirque Du Soleil: cirquedusoleil.com/casting/disciplines/action-sports
If you are seeking to audition for Cirque Du Soleil, it is recommended that you create a profile and fill it with your information on their casting website. You can also sign up to their email newsletter for audition notices.
With Circus, fluency in any additional circus arts could help (refer to the sections above) but more than anything, it is far more important that you are physically capable enough to participate in other areas of circus shows. For a woman, that means being flexible. Circus flexible. For a man, that means being reasonably flexible and having strong acrobatic or strength skills. That doesn't mean that you can't get hired for a circus without those things (I can barely reach my toes y'all)- but it can improve your chances of getting hired and being retained drastically.
It is also important that you have a strong stage presence and plenty of charisma.
are also generally few and far between in terms of hiring parkour-type athletes. Just like circus shows, most are staffed and produced via Performance Companies. There is one performance company in particular that seems to have a monopoly for the touring shows that notoriously hire parkour athletes in North America- and it's this one:
- Feld Entertainment: feldentertainment.com/performer-auditions/
The tours that I've heard hire the most parkour athletes are Marvel Universe Live and Jurassic World.
Auditions practices and requirements will vary from company to company and show to show. The most common skills that you will need in addition to your parkour specialty for touring shows are stunts (high falls, pratfalls, wrecks, et al.) and a decent proficiency in martial arts/ stage fighting.
And that's all folks! If you have any questions or feel like this piece is missing any additional information, please let me know!