The Agent Game; An Adult Asks; Finding a Monologue

The Agent Game; An Adult Asks; Finding a Monologue Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses how to deal with an agent with an attitude, Midwest theatre auditions, life choices about acting, and ways to improve your audition selecting skills. I invite actors of all ages to continue to write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses how to deal with an agent with an attitude, Midwest theatre auditions, life choices about acting, and ways to improve your audition selecting skills. I invite actors of all ages to continue to write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
I have a question about agents.
I have managed to find some acting jobs in a few student commercials, and student films. My main interest, however, is in the theatre and I am NO LONGER a student. I live in a very small city with only one agent. I have talked with and auditioned for this gentleman before and he offered me the normal three year deal that he offers all of the local actors. My problem is his attitude. He seemed uninterested in me as an actor (or any of his other actors). He told me that any actors that want to work in this town "have to go through him if they want to work." Furthermore, I have talked to more than five actors that he currently represents that seem unhappy with his services, claiming that he never sends them on auditions, etc. I have only talked with one actor who seems happy with this agent.
So should I sign with him or not? Or should I drive two hours to a larger city (Detroit) and find an agent there?
It's been about a year since I was offered the "contract," but I just cannot make up my mind.
Thanks in advance,
Sherria

Dear Sherria,
Great to hear from you again.

This agent thing certainly is a tricky situation. It's a good sign that you've been contemplating, and you didn't just sign with him out of fear that you'd never work if you didn't.

My suggestion to you is to have a meeting with him. First, while keeping in mind everything you've heard about him, also give him the benefit of the doubt that he is a good enough agent to meet your needs. Then, take this as an opportunity to play the very real role of the CEO of your company. Get ready for a business meeting. Ask yourself what you want from an agent, and give specific and detailed answers (even things you think you won't get), then find a way to express them. You may want to practice on a friend, or acting teacher; someone you trust. Go into this meeting knowing that you are the one in charge of your career and you deserve everything you want.

You may want to tell the agent honestly how you feel about working with him and why you have been hesitant. Find out if you can work with each other. Negotiate. Is he willing to work with you? If he is consistently unresponsive, arrogant, disinterested, or does anything that really rubs you the wrong way, then you know he is not the agent for you. Do not buy his power game about being the only the only way--you have already gotten work without him!

The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work, in which case I would continue to get work on your own, and search for another agent -- if you feel strongly that having an agent is what will help you further your career at this point.

One last question, Blair...

How can one find out about up coming auditions for Equity and non-Equity auditions in the Midwest? I'm interested in auditioning between January and June.

To answer your second question, Sherria,
Sometimes Midwest and other regional auditions are listed in Backstage, but it's mostly New York listings. Chicago's trade magazine is called PerformInk. Here's my suggestion: Contact the regional theatres themselves. Find out the names of the casting directors for the theatres that have them, and write them. Call them. Make your presence known and, without knocking it down, get in the door.

Just from the contacts I made from working in one Chicago regional theatre, which I got into through another contact, I got auditions at the Goodman and the Steppenwolfe theatres.

To help your research, you can purchase the Regional Theatre Directory online, at http://www.genghis.com/theatre.htm. (Playbill has no affiliation with this publication) Good luck, Sherria.

Question
Hello Blair...
I've enjoyed reading your advice column online, but much of it seems to be geared to youngsters starting out in the biz and students. What advice would you give a 30-year-old woman looking for a career change? Currently I work in advertising but was a theatre major in college and have remained very active in local community theatre -- I love to perform! Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to give up my well-paying job and move to NY to try out the audition circuit -- that's not to say that I wouldn't quit and move if a great theatre job came along. I'm in a real catch-22. What would you advise?
Thanks
Laura

Dear Laura,
Thank you for writing me. It is always exciting to hear from people in different age ranges :>.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you totally bored at your job? Do you really love acting? Are you most happy when you are working on a show and performing?

If you've answered yes to these, while I wouldn't suggest you quit your job today and move to New York, why not seriously start thinking about it and moving your life in that direction? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the theatre job you are waiting for to come and save you from your current life will present itself. I don't know what your familial commitments are, but there are many responsible ways to make a life change like this, and I say go for it. There are ways to make a decent living and act if it's what you really want to do.

If you really like your job and want to do more acting, then find local ways to expand. Start your own theatre company!

Good luck, Laura. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Question
-Blair-
I am a high school student with two questions: audition material and directing. I am terrible at finding monologues, songs, etc. for auditions :( I'm also very interested in the management area of theatre, but there aren't many opportunities in my area. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks,
Susan
Dear Susan,
Thanks for your sweet question.

The good news is that the process of finding monologues gets easier and easier. There aren't that many monologues around for people your age, so that's the first thing in your way. Here are some tips for picking monologues and songs:

1) Pick only pieces that make you come alive when you read them. Make sure you can relate to the character's struggle.

2) Avoid choosing pieces that you don't like, think you're supposed to like, or that have been done by everyone and their mothers (unless of course, you REALLY connect with the piece).

3) Pick characters that are close to you in age.

4) When auditioning for a show, before you audition, discover the flavor, the qualities of the character you want to play. Pick a monologue or a song that is similar to that. For example, if the character you want to play is charming and funny, do a monologue from another play where the character has those qualities. If there's a key scene in the play where the character you want to play has a big epiphany, choose a revelatory monologue with a similar theme.

I hope you can use these tips to select better material that gets you the work.

Now, you used two terms for your next question: directing, and theatre management--and I am not clear on what you mean. If you mean directing, well, why not offer to direct a small high school production? Get some kids together who are interested in being in a production of a script that you love. Let it be small, maybe a one-act. Get your high school drama teacher to help you. That's a great way to start.

If you mean stage managing--offer to stage manage your high school productions. You'll definitely learn a lot about theatre management from that experience.

Good luck, Susan!

Question
Blair:
My college aps are in, but questions still ring in my head.
Attending a residential high school for the academically gifted, I have discovered a love of mathematics as deep as my love for drama/theatre. Hey, I like Calculus!
Now the question: college starts next fall, and I still wonder what I should pursue, drama or math. Do I go with the sure thing, math? Will I be unhappy for the rest of my life if I don't go for the thing that I have loved most, drama/theatre/movies/television? Can someone with as little professional training as me make it?
Right now, I am probably going to do a double major in Drama and Mathematics. But, as a professional, what is your opinion?
Thanks,
Kristy

Kristy,
Thanks for your question.

I think you're really on the right track. If you love both--do both! There are so many things you could discover if you follow your connection to math and drama--like --maybe you'll be the first math teacher to use dramatic techniques to explain math to your students?

Who knows. The two things seem like opposites, but somehow they complement each other.

Don't let the fears about not being good enough to make it get in the way. If you really want to be a performer--go for it! Just know there's a lot of work to be done--and nothing is really a "sure thing."

I hope this helps. Have a great first year at school!