It's the Woodstock of the acting biz, the college career day of working thespians, it's Actorfest `96, which bills itself as "the most comprehensive marketplace for performance-related tools and services in New York."
Saturday, Nov. 2, will bring experts from New York's film, TV and theatre world to the Marriott Marquis Hotel (West 45th St. at Broadway) to share tips of the trade. Participating in seminars and panels will be agents, casting directors, and producers.
Two seminars, produced and hosted by Back Stage editor Sherry Eaker, will also offer insight. "Getting An Agent" (11 PM-12:30 PM), paneled by representatives of three talent agencies plus a casting director from Johnson-Liff casting, will explain how to make "the all-important contacts necessary to break into the business."
Seminar two (2:30-4 PM), "Making It In The NY Film & TV Industry," will feature Sylvia Fay, of Sylvia Fay casting, and the executive producers of "Homicide" and "Law And Order," shows that constantly use New York actors for small roles and walk-ons.
Also greeting visitors to Actorfest `96 will be an exhibit hall of 75 booths on the fifth floor, filled with acting, voice and dance coaches, headshot photographers, trainers, and temp agenty reps. Budding thespians can even be professionally videotaped. The motto behind the project, now in its fourth year? "Actorfest `96 will provide participants with the information they need to find work, master their skills, manage their finances, and survive real life while working towards stardom."
Sherry Eaker, editor of Back Stage magazine and producer/moderator of Actorfest `96, told Playbill On-Line, "I love doing this. I really feel for the New York actor; it's so tough out there. And this is the first event of its kind -- it's a trade show, one-stop shopping for the actor."
Eaker stressed the specificity and practical importance of both seminars. "Out of 16,000 actors in New York, only one-quarter have agents. That's why we're doing `How To Get An Agent,' with major people from the business -- one specializes in commercials, another in legit. We also have a performer, Florence Lacey, who can give her point of view."
S. Epatha Merkerson of "Law and Order" will be a member of the second panel.
"This is our second year at the Marriott," Eaker continued. "Each year we get larger and larger crowds. Seven hundred people came to each seminar last year, and we're expecting more this time."
In his story for the New York Times about last year's Actorfest, Adam Nossiter noted that much of the proceedings were geared towards helping actors find a marketable niche for themselves. Posted on a billboard, in big block letters, was the question, "WHAT TYPE ARE YOU?" (An amusing irony is that since then, Master Class opened on Broadway, and its most celebrated moment has an imperious Maria Callas stressing to her cowed charges, "Very nice, but you don't have a look. Get one!")
Tickets to the whole shebang, including the exhibit hall, are $35, or you can visit each seminar separately for $20. Separate admission to the exhibit hall, sans seminars, is $10.
For information, call the Actorfest `96 Hotline at (212) 536-1465, or write (money order only) to Back Stage Actorfest Tickets, 1515 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10036.
-- By David Lefkowitz