A vast majority of the film and TV work may be in Los Angeles, but New York remains the place where a beginning actor finds the tools and training to become a working professional. To remedy that imbalance, on April 26 performers on the West Coast will be able to attend Back Stage West's 3rd Annual Actorfest, modeled after the similar annual event in Manhattan.
The festival, which runs from 9 AM-5 PM at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, 5855 West Century Blvd, will also offer an exhibit hall structured something like a college job fair. Performers can talk to casting directors, agents, managers, directors and working actors, as well as video demo producers, photographers and representatives from acting schools.
The first seminar of "An Inside Look At The Casting Process" will feature moderator Beth Hymson Ayer, of Hymson-Ayer Casting (TV's "Hercules, Zena: Warrior Princess") and panelists Robin Stoltz Nassif, C.S.A., of Stoltz-Nassif Casting; Mark Teschner, C.S.A., casting director for ABC's "General; Hospital," Stanley Soble, C.S.A., casting director for the Mark Taper Forum & the Ahmanson Theatre, and Jaki Brown-Karman of Jackie Brown-Karman & Associates, ("Waiting To Exhale" and "Miss Evers' Boys.")
The second panel for "Casting Process" will be moderated by Jerry Franks of Jerry Franks & Associates, C.S.A. (He's a C.S.A. past president). Speaker panelists include Melinda Gartzman, C.S.A., (TV's "Sunset Beach"); Rick Millikan, ("The X-Files," "Married With Children") Danny Goldman, Commercial Casting Director of Danny Goldman and Associates, and Nicole Arbusto of Dickson/Arbusto Casting (New Theatre for Now festival at the Mark Taper Forum).
Another panel is "Dues & Don'ts: Successful Actors On Building A Career," in which veteran performers recount the roles they traveled to establish careers. "Dues" is moderated by Jerry Franks of pranks & Associates, C.S.A., consultant for network daytime/episodic programming and feature films. Speaker panelist, Meryl O'Loughlin, C.S.A., is Casting Director for CBS' "Young & The Restless." She'll offer strategies and warnings on how to develop the acting craft while negotiating the business. Appearing at the latter panel will be Kathleen Noone of TV's "Sunset Beach" and Peggy McCay, an Emmy-winner for "The Trials Of Rosie O'Neill." Also on-hand will be actress Shawnee Smith (To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday in Los Angeles), Dan Lauria, artistic director of Culver City CA's PKE Theatre (and best known as the dad on TV's "Wonder Years"), and Larry Thomas, best known for his appearances on TV's "Seinfeld" as the dreaded "Soup Nazi." James Reynolds, of TV's "The Days Of Our Lives," and David Groh, of Broadway's Twilight Of The Golds and TV's "Rhoda," will also speak.
Three Star Trek stars are also beaming in for the panel: John De Lancie ("Next Generation"), Armin Shimerman (Next Generation" & "Deep Space Nine") and Robert Beltran ("Voyager"). Beltran is also founder and co-artistic director of the East Los Angeles Classic Theatre Group. Rounding out the panel will be John Holly, an actor, producer and director with over 250 productions to his credit.
The event is sponsored by Back Stage West, the California arm of the NY actor's newspaper, Back Stage. Previous Actorfest participants have included actress K Callan, agents Bill Melamed and Craig Wyckoff, and casting directors Fern Champion ("The Naked Gun") and Tracy Lilienfield ("Dream On," "The Naked Truth").
Also in the mix will be three free play readings of works by cutting-edge West Coast playwrights, read by veteran regional theatre actors. Among those works will be Raymond J. Barry's Back Then Back When, starring Thomas Draper and directed by Martha Gehman.
Tickets are $25 for an all-day pass (2 seminars plus the exhibits) or $15 for one seminar and the exhibit). The plays are free but require reservations. For information on Actorfest call (310) 474-6161; for information on the readings call (213) 525-2356. For an overview of the November NYC Actorfest, please see Playbill On-Line's story, "Actorfest '96 Offers Tools and Services for Thespians Nov. 2."
--By David Lefkowitz