Ask Playbill.com is a weekly Playbill.com column that answers questions about theatre, generated by readers and Playbill.com staff, every Thursday. To ask a question, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com. Please specify how you would like your name displayed and please include the city in which you live.
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This week's question comes from Frank Badowski of Brooklyn, NY.
Question: When I read an actor's bio in Playbill, most actors have acted all around the country. When New York actors get a part in, say, California, are they provided with a place to live while in the production? Do they get traveling expenses? Answer: Playbill.com spoke with Anjanette Maraya-Ramey, company manager of the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, to obtain one perspective on this situation.
Currently, La Jolla Playhouse is home to the racially charged and rock-influenced musical Memphis, about the first white deejay to play "black music" in the early 1950s. In the past, numerous shows have received stagings at La Jolla and then transferred to Broadway, including Cry-Baby, The Farnsworth Invention and Jersey Boys. A large percentage of the actors cast in La Jolla productions, especially leads, are based primarily in New York, so when these performers change coasts, they obviously need somewhere to live.
"We have company housing," says Maraya-Ramey, "one-bedroom apartments that are approximately two miles away from the theatre. The company management provides transportation to and from the apartments, and we pay their rent, utilities, cable."
Do the actors have to fly themselves out to La Jolla? "No, we set them all up and arrange for their transportation," says Maraya-Ramey.
In a way, going to La Jolla to perform in a show is a little bit like going to summer camp. There's a checklist that company management receives from Actors' Equity stating what the apartments are required to be outfitted with — that checklist is then passed on to the actors. "We communicate with them a couple of weeks before their arrival," says Maraya-Ramey. "(They receive) a welcome packet with what's going to be in their apartment so they can pack and plan accordingly."
So, what are these apartments like? Actors' Equity requires that the apartments be furnished with all the basic amenities, such as a kitchen and a private bedroom with a bed. In that kitchen, the actors will find gadgets such as can openers and a set of four spoons, forks, and knives — "all the necessities for them to survive," says Maraya-Ramey with a laugh.
Since they most likely will not have cars with them, actors are also provided with round-trip transportation twice a week to run such errands as going to the supermarket, laundromat and bank. La Jolla Playhouse has 28 units of company housing, and when those are filled by an exceptionally large cast, the overflow is set up in hotels or corporate housing.
"Corporate housing is temporary housing, too," says Maraya-Ramey. "We have a vendor that we work with, and they provide all the same things that we would. They are all one-bedroom apartments, and the vendor uses the same checklist that we do."
According to Maraya-Ramey, being able to house all the actors in the same place with the same equipment makes her job as company manager easier. If only finding housing in New York City could be so straightforward.
Lindsey Wilson, who is temporarily filling in for Zachary Pincus-Roth, is a theatre writer whose work has also been seen in The Syracuse Post-Standard. She can be reached by emailing LindseyAnnWilson@gmail.com