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Answers for a reader

July 12, 2013

We received this letter from a Green Room Blog reader:

I am a 42 year old UK actor recently moved to San Francisco and I have just transferred my UK Equity to USA Equity which is great but … I don’t know where to start! In the UK all theatres are within a couple of hours max by train and/or one hour by plane so it makes sense to attend any audition if possible.However there are thousands upon thousands of professional theatres and film and TV opportunities all over the USA.
Simple question:
How does an experienced USA actor prioritize what companies/auditions to go for/attend and which geographical areas to focus on.
The answer seemed obvious to me at first but actually it isn’t. For example I am 6’7″ tall and that often goes against me but when it is an advantage it is worth hopping a flight *if* director is actually *looking for* a tall actor.
So over to you: how do you prioritize what types of jobs to go for and in what geographical area?
Trevor R

Because I’m based out of Los Angeles, but spend my time doing mostly theater, I do a TON of travelling. Theater in LA doesn’t pay well, but there are lots of audition opportunities in the cities just outside of LA, and lots of far away theaters that come here to hold auditions.  For two years I was commuting 100+ miles on a weekly basis to attend LA auditions. I finally moved so I could be closer to where the audition-action was. The two years of commuting and the work I was booking really helped me figure out which auditions were worth my time, and what theater companies I enjoyed auditioning and working for. Unfortunately a lot of this is trial and error. BUT, I definitely have more of a system now to figuring out where and when I audition. It goes a little like this:

Did my agent get me the audition? I go to the audition. I take off work, I arrange work around it, I learn the material. No questions asked.

This is pretty obvious.  But there are some auditions that my agent can’t get me an appointment, or maybe it’s a lower paying contract so my agent doesn’t submit me for it. Then I need at least two of these questions to be answered with a yes:

1. Is it a good role for me?

2. Do I know anyone involved with the production that will help me be remembered at the audition?

3. Is the audition within a 30 mile radius of my house?

In the case that I can only say yes to one of these (maybe the audition is ten minutes from my house but I don’t know the show or anyone involved) I go if I don’t have work scheduled or it isn’t my only day off in months.

Sometimes things are more difficult. Let’s say the audition is a 3 hour commute. Then the questions are these:

1. Does the contract pay well enough to take time off from my life in LA for the length of the show?

2. Is there housing? What is the housing like and how far is it from the theater? If there isn’t housing does the contract pay well enough to find my own housing?

3. What are the opinions of people who have worked at this theater? Does the work done by the theater company have value or will I be miserable for the length of the contract?

4. Would this show/role/theater/contract/director help me move forward in my career or is it stopping me from getting to my goals?

I have to have a positive answer to all of these questions to make it worth my time and gas money. Trevor, in your case, I think that your being Equity and being tall will help you fit into a smaller category. You will be more limited by what auditions you can attend, but that will also help you focus and not feel like you are missing opportunities. Being in California, make sure you are taking advantage of electronic submissions like Backstage and Actor’s Access. Video auditioning is HUGE and is so helpful when you are in the middle of a contract and unable to travel. As for geographical areas, I think you will find ample equity auditions in San Francisco, and if you are willing to take the train down to LA you can audition for the big stuff that happens here as well. As you start to work here and do some networking you will (hopefully) figure out which city feels like a theatrical home.

More questions? or thoughts on this subject? Comment below!


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