Wednesday, February 22, 2006

If a New York actor does a gig in Spokane ...

... is there a detectable sound?
Well, yeah, at least hereabouts.
Michael Weaver reports that, helped by his connections with Tralen Doler and others, he's venturing to NYC next week to catch some shows and audition actors (three minutes at a time for 11 hours) for ARt's 2006-07 season. He was advised to include two phrases in his *Backstage* ad: "salary and housing" and "Patty Duke." (After all, ARt has only announced the one show for next year.)
The results? Three hundred phone calls and 400 e-mails.
Spokane as completely uninteresting theatrical backwater? Not entirely.


  1. Kinda of a silly post. Let’s figure there’s a minimum of three million actors in the United States. Conservative estimate. Backstage has two major sections for the country (Backstage-West and Backstage East). Let’s also be conservative and say half of the actors in the US live in or around Los Angeles and New York and every young aspiring actor is packing their bags to move to one of those two cities as two young actors in Spokane have done in the last month.

    Now given that Backstage-West and Backstage-East can be obtained either in print or online subscription, many actors on the east and west coasts have access to it. Many companies advertise in it for the annual season (Ashland, Seattle Rep, etc.). Now of the three million actors in the country, most of them are UNEMPLOYED. Many for years at a time. Several do their church plays, are told they are wonderful move to New York and be a star. Many of which end up selling hotdogs on a sweltering NY summer day, or worse.

    Let’s say there are conservatively 700,000 actors living in driving distance of NYC. And another 300,000 live in a three to four hour drive of NYC, like Boston and Delaware. They may very well subscribe online to Backstage East. So of the 1 million potential actors of that area, 700 responded. Are they working in NYC? Have they worked? Have some of them never had a paying job?

    Let’s also bear in mind that, conservatively, 50% of the actors trying to “make it” are between 14 and 30 years old. Many of whom, have no responsibility and live at home with mom or in a dorm room. So, salary, room and board, and a chance to rub shoulders with Patty Duke? Nonetheless, the numbers speak.

    On the eastern seaboard, and even as far east as Ohio and Pennsylvania, 700 of 1 million actors responded. That’s about .0007% of the potential actor market in the east in driving distance of NYC. Also, of those one million actors, how many do you think actually get paying work in NYC? The shows run a long time and if there are 200 paying theaters in NYC (very generous) and casts averaging 5 that would be 1000 actors working per show. Some of the shows run for years. (That’s .001% of NYC potential actors working) at any given time. So, over 99% of them are available for PAY!

    700 calls from driving distance of NYC really isn’t that many when money and lodging is mentioned. Unless you can post with who those actors that called really are, the post is pretty silly and meaningless. I’m fairly sure that NYC resident Robert DeNiro or Julia Roberts won’t be amongst them.

    This isn’t a negative post, just a little light on what seems to be small town mentality. If the same ad were placed in NYC or LA, I’m sure there would have been many more calls and emails (Actually, they wouldn't give a phone number). I have heard that for every 1 line part in a movie in NY or LA that is sent out to the agency breakdowns, 500 actors are called in to read. 1 gets the job. A professional theater in NY or LA or Chicago or Ashland, wouldn’t find the need to blog the response to such an ad. By the way, the people who subscribe to Backstage West online, can also access the Backstage East ads.

    So, what’s the point of this post of NYC actors? Are they really? 90% of actors in NYC and LA, are from other places. So what is Art (Is that American Repertory Theater in Boston), trying to communicate to the Spokane actors about with this communique' for blog publication to Bobo?

  2. I think perhaps Mr. Bowen was interested by the discussion we were having on an earlier entry and wanted to keep it on the page. The earlier post has dropped off the bottom.

  3. As a clarification: Bobo talked to Michael Weaver yesterday on the phone about several things.
    Bobo wrote this post, not Weaver.
    Because it seemed like good news and newsworthy, Bobo posted it.
    Turns out that Weaver would just as soon Bobo had not done so.

    Bobo seriously doubts that one of every 100 Americans is an actor so passionate about his or her craft that he or she regularly consults either the online or print versions of industry call sheets.
    And the law of diminishing returns: Hollywood auditions 500 people because it can. How often does it find a _significantly_ better actor for that one line after the first 50 auditions?
    The point being: At what point does it become worthwhile news? When 10,000 people contact ARt? The point is that, out of hundreds of responses (and they specified age 20 and up, by the way) there are likely to be dozens of talented people, not seen before around here, who will likely enrich that production. It's good news -- not earth-shaking, but not worthless either.
    And what purpose does sniffing at it serve? "Obviously, we travel in very different theatrical circles."
    Every waiter in L.A. is an actor. The ones I knew would have _known about_ this ad, but would have dismissed it as too far away.
    The regional theater movement won its victories long ago. Just in our corner of the country, Seattle Rep and Intiman, Portland Center Stage and OSF in Ashland, present productions as good as Broadway's. None of Spokane's theaters play in that league. But there's a trickle-down effect. Response like this takes us up several notches from the days when Bob and Joan Welch kept hiring a Portland actor by the name of David Heath season after season in the early '90s. Enthusiastic talent that's new to us? Why undercut that? Why not be pleased about it?

  4. The first thing that crossed my mind when i saw the posted comment by Bo Bo was "Waiting for Guffman".Gush,gush,gush ooooo big New York City.Thankyou for your very refreshing and right on reaction anonymous number 1.For God sakes.

  5. It strikes me that ARt may be getting picked on because it's unique around here now in actively seeking out actors from outside the area. CenterStage makes much of its policy of employing only (?) local personnel; the Civic and all other community theaters around here are naturally (and quite rightly) engaged in drawing their personnel from the area; and lately Interplayers, because of its travails, and as a cost-saving measure (perhaps), and because (as Troy put it very well) a lot of local actors have stepped forward to help it, has been using predominately local folks.

    And there's a kind of dual prejudice at work here. "Actors from around here must not be very good." Nonsense. There are at least a dozen folks from around here who appear on our stages a lot and who I would pay to see anywhere. (I'm not going to name names or engage in rankings.) I respect them deeply as people and as actors. There is a kind of magic about them. We're lucky to have them around. It is simply not true that they can't hold water next to out-of-towners.

    (I interviewed for a job at a rural Calif. community college once. They made the point that, far from being a cultural sinkhole, in a situation like that, the best and most talented people from miles around in all kinds of disciplines somehow made their presence apparent. We have a craving for art; we have to express it. The "fly-over people" do art, too. Often it's not nearly as good as that produced in our cultural capitals; sometimes it is.)

    "It's just snooty to go after out-of-town actors. We've got everything we need right here." Not always. Some roles have unique requirements. We can learn from others' interpretations of a given script. We should welcome it -- actors are always talking about being devoted to their craft, wanting to get better with every performance, etc. In the past few years, some "outside" actors in Spokane have been instructively good; others haven't been at all. With the former, we ought to rise to the challenge; with the latter, you're damn right, we should have employed somebody from around here. But theater is an experiment, and hindsight is always so perspicacious. (I can't even say that word, but there it is.)

    I think local theater (nearly all theater, in nearly any location) is best served by a mix of local and regional and even national talent (however all that may be defined). ARt is doing that. Interplayers used to do so, and here's hoping they rebound to do so again. And the Civic and CenterStage, to take just two examples, give repeated opportunities to people Spokane is lucky to have.

    As Troy suggested: Less sniping, more supporting.

  6. When counting actors in the US, you must include teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, librarians, preachers, preacher's wives, etc. I think you'll find well over 3 million. If you're referring to people who make fifty thousand or more every year as an actor, you'll be lucky to hit 15,000. The elite of that number can fit in the Shrine auditorium. The non-elite are pulling national commercials consistantly.

  7. Searching for talent both in and out of Spokane will greatly benefit the theatre scene. Bringing in actors from other parts of the country brings fresh ideas, faces, acting styles and energy.

    These actors/directors/designers also spread their 'Spokane' experiences around the country. We can only hope that these experiences will be mostly possitive.

    In just the last few weeks I've had dozens of emails and calls from actor friends who have seen CDA Summer Theatre's posting and Art's posting in Backstage, asking all sorts of questions about the area and the theatres.

    I think it's great that the theatre scene in Spokane is moving toward finding a ballance between out of town jobbers and those talented actors who live in the area.

    It's a win win sittuation for the actors, crew and audience.

  8. perhaps art is getting picked on for a completely different reason, bobo. it could be that though you recognise only twelve actors worth seeing in spokane, art recognises only four or five including weaver himself. i can’t think of a performance in there two seasons that required a unique sort of character or talent as you mentioned. there also appears to be duplicity going on with art and the blog - the phony one to the community of talent and the inner truth. where in one previous comment on this blog art alluded that boasting of an actors residence in print is more or less stupid, in this blog thread they fall right into that trap.or in your phone conversation or in the comment no one saw that apparently fell off the end of the blog. its difficult to support a clique in disguise with a penchant for casting the inner circle and out of town talent?? in doing this, they make a quiet statement to the community of talent in spokane. and if they can constantly brag about their organisation on this blog, then bloggers should have equal time to let them know where they fail.

  9. Art could use a little humility.

  10. Bobo was ill for three days and missed work -- but since I instituted the no-anonymous-comments policy, he believes there have been a grand total of three comments. They've all gone past me for months -- and have had to be approved by me for weeks. But clearly the lack of an Anonymous protection has curtailed lots of comments.