What I intend to present here is a series of templates and principles that should make the task take under five minutes and be a relatively low stress endeavor.
The purpose of the bio is to let the audience (including other industry professionals) know a bit of additional relevant information about you. While to some degree it can serve to establish the credibility of the artistic team, if you are early in your career (or even doing your first show) that is also an interesting bit of information to an audience. (With that in mind please realize that no one worth knowing is going to judge you harshly for being new to the field, so don't worry about having a short bio.)
This post is particularly aimed at people early in their careers. Remember that you'll be getting more credits as you go, which means that your bio can change constantly throughout a season.
These are all fairly flexible and geared for short bios. Long-form bios are basically expansions on the template. (I have bios for several of the disciplines I work in throughout my site).
Jane Doe (role/design discipline or whatever) is delighted to be making her debut with X Company. Recent/Favorite credits include A SHOW with A THEATRE COMPANY/SCHOOL, ANOTHER SHOW with ANOTHER THEATRE COMPANY, and PERHAPS ONE MORE. She also recently CONTRIBUTED TO A SHORT FILM. She has a DEGREE (OR IS A STUDENT) in SOMETHING from A SCHOOL (and has also trained with SOMEPLACE COOL). LINE ABOUT UNIONS/PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IF APPROPRIATE. More at WEBSITE IF THERE IS ONE. She is an INTERESTING DAYJOB for A COOL ORGANIZATION (if you want to mention it).
For actors: It's fine to mention readings if you don't have many credits yet. Remember that if you are new you will be getting more credits and changing this as you go.
Your First Show Ever
John Doe is delighted to be performing/designing/whatever in his first production. He is a STUDENT at SCHOOL/MAJOR IN X (first show in a school as a student)/POSITION at INTERESTING DAYJOB/BATMAN.
Debut in One Discipline After Practicing Another
John Doe is proud to X for the stage for the first time after spending many years (or something) doing Y. He has previously done Y for A, B, C. EDUCATION LINE, PROFESSIONAL ORGS, WEBSITE.
First Show Solo After Assisting (Design/Tech)
NAME comes to SHOW after ASSISTANT WHATEVERING for SHOW at VENUE and OTHER SHOW at ANOTHER VENUE. (Name of person assisted optional).
Multidisciplinary Bio (this is my usual template)
Jane Doe is proud to be working with FICTIONAL THEATRE COMPANY again after having done X for ABC and Y for DEF. She has previously done Y for A SHOW OR SEVERAL at OTHER FICTIONAL THEATRE COMPANIES, and X at PERHAPS SOME MORE. EDUCATION, ORGS, WEBSITE, Etc.
Variation: Mid-Season Multidisciplinary Bio
John Doe (HAMLET OR SOMETHING) appeared in SHOW at VENUE, OTHER SHOW at DIFFERENT VENUE and SOMETHING ELSE at YET ANOTHER THEATRE earlier this season. Later this season he'll be playing A REALLY COOL PART at SOME THEATRE SOMEWHERE. Also a DESIGNER/PLAYWRIGHT/DRAMATURG OF SOME KIND, he has designed for SHOW at VENUE and SOMETHING ELSE. EDUCATION, ORGS, ETC.
Playwright Specific Variation for Writers in Multiple Genres
Jane Doe (Playwright) has had her work performed at XYZ, and has been published in ABC. Also a poet/journalist/short story writer/illustrator/whatever, her work has appeared in SOME PUBLICATION OR WEBSITE and she has won/been nominated for SOME AWARD. EDUCATION, WEBSITE, ETC.
There are of course other variations, but these will fit the standards of most theatres. Bio writing is a professional skill that is fairly simple to acquire and should be relatively low stress. It helps to both humanize the artists and broadcast their accomplishments to audiences.
Some other thoughts:
Your bio is not the place to list your entire resume (I was guilty of this for a period of my education). List either your most recent credits or your favorites or some combination. Many theatres will have a word limit, adhere to it.
Some theatres will offer a template, many do not. Stick with their template if they have one.
Interesting personal facts and such are very case by case. "Recently completed her first marathon" or "Is a volunteer firefighter" or "Holds the world record for one-handed pushups" can be interesting and humanizing, but ask the person responsible for the program about fitting the appropriate tone of the organization.
This is true about hometowns and such as well. Some theatres include that in their template.
As for jokes, this is also about the tone that the producing organization finds acceptable. By way of example, I have used "Meron adheres to the wisdom of the great samurai Miyamoto Musashi, who wrote: 'Be well versed in the arts of pen and sword.'" when transitioning between playwriting and fight directing portions of my bio, but ONLY when the producing organization specifically said that they wanted the tone of their program to be lighter.
Joke bios are a whole other genre. They are usually not appropriate for professional settings.
I have mixed feelings on thanking people in bios. Some organizations specifically tell you not to, others include it in the template.
Your headshot might appear with your bio. Keep that in mind.
Your bio can appear in multiple places related to the production, including the program, the company's website, and possibly the hall display. All the more reason to keep it simple, short, and professional.
Read the programs for shows that you attend. Pay attention to your own reactions to what you read. Adjust your writing accordingly.
Do not lie in your bio. Ever.
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