I’m going to be honest. Writing bios for playbills are the worst. There’s just something so uncomfortable about writing a short paragraph all about yourself in the third person (she says as she writes a blog about her personal interests, but I digress). However, while writing a bio might make you feel weirdly braggy, they’re so great in the long run. Not only does it give the audience more information about you and where they might have seen you before, but you never know when there might be a director or producer in the audience who likes your performance and can get more information about you from your bio. It might lead to your next role!
I’m going to show a couple different examples- a high school student actor, a college graduate actor, and a college student tech. At the end, I’ll show the finished bios, and then a couple of my own that I’ve used before!
In order to write your bio, it’s easiest to start small and gather your information first. There’s a few crucial things you’ll want to include, and then depending on your word count, you can add more information from there. So first, the important things.
Education and Training: Are you currently in school? Are you studying a specific field that pertains to theatre? Or are you taking classes or getting coached? These are all good things to know. Also, do you work in a theatre related field? It could be anywhere from working as a professional actor to helping out at your local dance studio. Write it down!
Previous Roles and Previous Work: If you’re an actor, this is where you can list some of your past productions. Highlight your most notable roles, and your most recent ones. this is a great time to say that you played Gabriella in HIgh School Musical last year, but maybe not the time to say that you played Tree #3 in your kindergarten play about photosynthesis. If you’ve been in a lot of productions, pick three to five favorite shows. If you need to narrow it down, stick to your most recent and your most local roles.
You haven’t played any notable roles? List just the shows you’ve been in. And what if it’s your first role? Then say it in your bio that it’s your first role! Audience members will be impressed by your big debut.
If you’re listing tech work, start by saying other shows that you’ve worked in the same field. If you’re the lighting designer for this show, start off by saying other shows you’ve designed lights for, and then move into other productions you’ve done tech before. Always start by listing the most recent work, because then there’s a better chance audience members have seen your work before.
Special Thanks: Is there someone you’d like to thank? List them! Mom and Dad for driving you everywhere? A friend for helping you run lines? Your director, choreographer, or music director for casting you in the show or giving you extra coaching? This is a great time to acknowledge the people who have helped you get to where you are. A lot of people will slide in inside jokes or special nicknames as well, just to make it more personable.
So now that you have your important information, it’s time to actually sit down and write out that information. You need an opening sentence, which 99% runs along the lines of “so and so is so excited to be in what’s-it’s-name.” You think I’m kidding, open a playbill and count how many times you see the words “excited,” “ecstatic,” or “thrilled” in the first sentence of the bios. But do you know what? It works! Feel free to use it if you can’t think of anything else.
Then take the information you have and write them out into sentences. See how easy it is to formulate your bio when you have your info? It all just sort of pops into place.
Once you’re done, count how many words you have. Sometimes you’re required to stay within a certain word count; sometimes you can write as much as you want. Err on the side of short and sweet. Too many words can come across as too braggy, and also you never know if your bio will end up being too long to fit in the program. Sometimes the playbill designer will edit it down for you, but I have seen bios that have cut off mid sentence. Shorter is better!
Once you’re satisfied with your bio, let a friend look over it for grammar and spelling errors. Nothing will be sadder than looking at the program on opening night and realizing you wrote “they’re” instead of “their,” or spelled your own name wrong. Best to get that second pair of eyes to take a look at it!
So here’s a few examples of what a bio can look like:
And just for fun: here’s a couple of my recent bios.
I hope this was helpful! Comment below if you have questions. And show me your super cool bios!