Welcome to "Ask Blair," a weekly online column of practical advice for actors, written by Blair Glaser.
Once again, hello and thank you to all you creative advice seekers. Be sure to read the column this week for more essential summer stock audition information, as well as advice for actors concerned about moving-- moving to New York, moving on with their careers, and moving on in general.
I have gotten regional work from combined auditions and as of January I will have been doing it since I graduated from college this May. I am wondering if you have an opinion on the benefits of doing regional work versus going right to NYC and auditioning/training etc. I realize it is mostly a personal choice, but I wonder how soon to take the NYC "plunge."
Thanks for your great question. I think it's great that you have been working so consistently since you graduated. I do have an opinion about "going right to NYC" and taking the plunge, and that is, if you haven't already, don't.
It's true, New York is ultimately the capital city for the stage actor. However, moving to New York, while it can be incredibly exciting, can also be traumatic. The huge city, despite all its cultural advantages, can also be overwhelming, abrasive, lonely, is extremely expensive, and inhabited by thousands and thousands of actors.
I don't say this to discourage you from moving to New York. I say this to awaken you to the realities and to suggest that if you are working the regional circuit and doing well, enjoying what you are learning, and able to survive financially, then I would stay there for a while. The experience of working on full professional productions with professional actors and directors, is an invaluable one that many New York actors do not have.
Your regional work is also an opportunity to learn about specific styles, playwrights and characters, to make great connections with show people, especially directors, and in some cases, can get you to New York. For example, if you get cast in an enormously successful world premiere at a regional theatre, there is a chance that the show, along with the original cast, will move to Broadway or Off-Broadway.
If you begin to feel unchallenged by your regional work, and yearn for more training, it may be time to make a move. But first talk to other actors and make sure you have friends living in New York before taking the plunge.
Thank you for the info. on the auditions for summer stock ("Ask Blair," 10/24), but I need more info. on places that can hire non-Equity performers. I'm in college and I'm not Equity Eligible. Do you know of any companies that do?
Thanks for re-asking me your question. First, I want to refer readers who aren't familiar with terms such as "Equity Eligible", to previous "Ask Blairs" (accessible through a button at the bottom of the column on the website, or elsewhere in Theatre Features on online services). I sought out more specific details on summer stock auditions for you and all others interested in spending the summer on stage.
StrawHat auditions are open to non- Equity performers. In fact, I contacted Jay Spadone, one of the leading organizers of the StrawHat auditions, who gave me the exact criteria for screening actor applications:
StrawHat receives thousands of actor applications for some 800 appointments so screening is important. Here are some criteria:
First, a complete application. There is a 2 page instruction sheet that comes with the application. Applicants should make sure all they have provided everything requested or the application may not be processed.
Second, an attractive headshot and resume. The picture should be a black and white 8x10 headshot that is natural, looks like the applicant and makes us want to meet you. Shots that attempt to be provocative or glamorous rarely succeed. The resume should be neatly typed and attached back to back to the picture.
After these basics, we look for solid experience in acting, voice, dance in reputable schools or training programs; then roles in education productions or professional theatres. Many theatres look for people willing to work both on and off stage, so technical, administrative, musical and other skills are very much in demand.
Finally, we like interesting people, so indicating other professions, experiences, hobbies, skills, etc. help.
Also, William, here is a partial list of theatres who attended last years auditions seeking acting and technical talent:
American Stage Festival
Bristol Valley Theater
Cedar Point Live Ent.
Cortland Repertory Theatre
CT Repertory Theatre
Dorset Theatre Festival
Downstairs Cabaret Theatre
Downtown Cabaret Theatre
Fort Salem Theatre
Goodspeed Opera House
Great American Melodrama
Main Street Theatre
Maine State Music Theatre
Mount Washington Valley Theatre Co
New Bedford Festival Theatre
New London Barn Playhouse
New York Renaissance Festival
Stage One Productions
Timbers Dinner Theatre
Williamstown Theatre Festival
If the StrawHat auditions are not convenient for you, Jill Charles, the editor of Theatre Directories, contacted me last week about her books that contain info on all the regional auditions around the country as well as info on 380-plus summer theatres, theme parks, etc.
The books provide many opportunities for non-equity performers. The 1997 Summer Theatre Directory will be out in December, and can be ordered on line after Nov. 1 at the American Theatre Works website: http://www.genghis.com/theatre.htm
I'll be graduating in the spring of 1997 with an undergraduate degree in music/theatre. I'm currently applying to graduate schools/conservatories. I would truly love to perform without the school part, but it's risky. What route should I take?
If you "would truly love to act without the school part," I say go for it! If you really need more training, the schools will always be there.
Furthermore, I want to take this opportunity to point out, that if you are concerned about risks, you'll have a tough time in this business. Get used to taking risks, in fact, challenge yourself to take them-- without being self-destructive or reckless, of course. The whole art form is about risk: You have to risk your sense of comfort onstage and off. Making strong choices for a character requires that you to show up fully and follow through, is risky. Approaching a famous director in a restaurant is risky. You may discover you made a mistake or feel you made a fool out of yourself, but that's the worst that can happen. And when you win, you really WIN big.
I always remind people that I strongly disagree with all this "right way/wrong way" thinking in the acting world, because everyone who's made it as a performer has a story that is different. Many do not have even an undergraduate degree in their history, so graduate school, however helpful, does not equal, or even guarantee success.
Case in point: I remember how scared I was to face the dog-eat-dog world of acting directly after college. Like you, I didn't really want to be in school for two more years at all, nevertheless I auditioned hopefully for Yale right before I graduated Northwestern. During my audition, the Acting Department Head, Earle Gister, sat me down right in the audition. After giving me some feedback on my monologues, which I was lucky to get, he said (and I don't quote exactly), "Go out there and act. Get a few years of experience out there. We mostly want people who have lived and done some work before they come to us."
Incidentally, the same year, a very talented girl from my graduating class who had studied pre-college with a Yale Drama School professor, was accepted into the program.
Go figure! Good luck, Greg!
I have just finished The Diary of Anne Frank at the Caldwell in Boca Raton, FL. It was a great experience. What is the best way to let local regional theatres know that I want to audition for more plays?
Dear Boca Actor,
Congratulations on your Caldwell run! That's a very prestigious theatre.
First, I would make sure you keep in contact with the people you worked with at Caldwell, by stopping in and sending little cards and such from time to time. Don't overdo it.
Secondly, I would find out the names of the casting people for each regional theatre you are interested in working in, and then send them a headshot with a cover letter. Offer to audition for the theatre at their convenience. Then make a follow-up call, hopefully get in contact with the casting director, and make a date to do some monologues for them.
Don't forget to keep apprised of the local auditions through your local trade or newspapers.
Good luck, Boca!
Sincyberly to all,
-- Blair Glaser
Blair Glaser coaches actors privately in NYC. For Blair's bio or information about classes, click here.