the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why am I Counting Actors?

So my Counting Actors Project has gotten some notice recently.  (Here and here are a few of the bigger ones). And new people are reporting in. I'm really excited to see how much I'm getting for the August list. I want to thank everyone who is helping to spread the word about the project, and everyone who is contributing a count of a show they've seen or participated in.

But also, people have been wishing me well as I work on my "report" or hoping that I have good luck with my "study".   In my mind this isn't either of those things.  I'm just counting and collecting.

Why am I counting actors (and directors and writers)?  Because I couldn't find anyone else who was.  Equity isn't.  Theatre Bay Area isn't.  None of the local companies are (or maybe they are, but not publicly). If you're at a party or social event with other artists, it seems like someone eventually mentions something like "all the good roles go to people from out of town." Or "no one hires a woman to direct." Or "the only plays with roles for women in them are by women writers." Or something else.  But no one has the numbers to back things up.  They aren't out there.

So, with your help, I'm counting what I can.  I'm making totals.  Monthly ones for now, but I'm planning to put it together when I get to 6 months and then to a year.  I can only hope that someone will use this data for a report or a study or to advocate for change in some way.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

counting actors reminder

If you've seen a show in the Bay Area this month, will you go here and follow the instructions?

August results will go up between Sept 1 and 5. 

Thank you!

Monday, August 22, 2011


As I've said before, I love reading books about history and historical people.  Here's a few ones I've read recently that were really great.

1)The Long Song by Andrea Levy is fiction, and set in Jamaica towards the end of slavery and British rule and just after it.  A great picture of life in colonial times.

2) Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden.  In the early 1900's the author's grandmother and her best friend went from New York to the frontier in Colorado to teach at a country school.  I tore through this book.  Frontier life came alive for me very strongly in this book, as well as the extraordinary choices these college educated women made - to have an adventure when most of their peers were getting married.

3) To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by by Adam Hochschild.  I am halfway through this book, but it's about WWI, and specifically about several British people who were dissenters at a time that not many dissented from popular opinion that war was just and right.  So far, this is also a really interesting book, with info about the Boer War, the fight for women's suffrage in Britain, and the Christmas truce in the first year of the war.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Joan Rivers on 'Louie'

Do you watch 'Louie'?  It's an often very offbeat, dark comedy about a divorced stand-up comedian who lives in NYC, and it's written, directed by and stars Louie C.K.

Joan Rivers is in a recent episode, and is just amazing!  She's got a great scene where she and Louie talk shop that is candid and blunt about a comic's career path (and could be applied to an actor's).
I can't find a link to the excerpt, but the 20 minute episode is really worth watching.  It's on Hulu for probably the next two weeks or so.  Probably available longer if you've got Hulu+
Episode here.
Note that Louie is TV-MA - language in this episode is definitely NSFW.

If you don't have time to watch the episode (or are reading this post after the episode link expires), here were my takeaways from Joan and Louie's conversation.
1) this business sucks - you go up quickly but back down just as quickly.  And just when you think you've got it all figured out, some kind of game changer happens (like Betty White!).
2) But if you love it, you love it and you're called to do it, so you do it anyway.
3) Probably the best bit - learn people's names while you're on your way up - you'll need those people in your corner when you're on your way down.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Auditioning related epiphanies

Early in my career, I had this one - I came in to do two monologues at an audition.  The director asked me to do another one "Do you have something where the character is less confident?" Oh crap, I thought - I'm doing this wrong.  So I did my monologue of the less confident character.  Then the director asked for something else, and I did another monologue - all the time thinking I was being asked for more because my original monologues were no good, and I'd made bad choices in material.  Later I realized that being asked for more, for different emotional colors is a good thing.  Auditors often spend less time w/people they're less interested in and more time with those they're more interested in. 

Here's a more recent one.  You're in the audition, and read the scene and then are given an adjustment.  "can you show less of her vulnerability, more of her elegance, flirt more but as if you never learned how, etc."  The adjustment isn't about being right or wrong.  It's about your creative instrument responding to the direction.  The auditor isn't looking for yes or no, true or false.  They're looking for how you respond.  They want to know what you would think and do in response to what they say.  It's not about doing what they want (and thinking that what they want is located in a finite answer).  It's about showing them what is possible and letting them learn what it would be like to work with you.

The adjustment is like a mini-rehearsal, I've realized.  Rehearsal is full of making adjustments - taking suggestions/guidance from a director and then making shifts in the performance of the character.  Going through the adjustment is letting the director know what it's going to be like in rehearsal with you.

So, moving forward, I'm going to be letting go of trying to show them what I think they want to see, or getting the 'right answer'  Instead, I'll be using the adjustment moment to show what I'm like to work with and how I take notes, let them inspire me, and inspire changes my performance of the character. 

In a nutshell my shift in thinking about the adjustment - it's not a question of  'are you a good actor?' but rather 'what kind of good actor are you?'

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just because I'm an actor...

Just because I'm an actor, it doesn't mean that I'm too flaky or irresponsible to work at your office in an admin capacity.  I appreciate when you're flexible about hours and when the work gets done, because I get auditions really last minute sometimes (like around 4pm for 10am the next day). It doesn't mean I'm lazy, and it doesn't mean I do something else as my real job.

It definitely doesn't mean you should ask me out when I audition for you.  It absolutely doesn't mean I want to pose as your lawyer when you're meeting w/your landlord or as your girlfriend at a party where you know you'll run into your ex.  Even if you paid me to do it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to write a casting notice

I've been reading some notices lately that are really awful!  Leaving out important information (like character gender and age), or weirdly rambling or full of errors.  So here's a quick crib sheet that I hope will get into the hands of the people who need it.

What to include:
1) the dates of the project - when you're shooting or when you're rehearsing and when the performances are.  You might not know all of this yet.  That's okay.  Be as specific as you can.  If there are dates/times that the actors absolutely must be available or you can't hire them, this should be in there.
2) where the project will take place - this can be a city if you're shooting multiple locations, and should include both rehearsal location and performance location for a play.  Again, if you don't have all the details hammered out, as specific as you can be would be great!  If your location has quirks (outdoors, somewhat off the beaten path) or perks (close to public transportation) that would be great to mention too.
3) what you're looking for - for each character, the gender, age or age range, ethnicity.  If these are open, it's fine to put 'any ethnicity' 'any age' etc. It's great to also let us know the size of the role for a film or unpublished play - lead, supporting, featured, extra.  If there's a special skill required of this role - dialect or foreign language, singing, dancing, stunts, playing a musical instrument, list that too.  If the character takes their clothes off, smokes, or uses excessively vulgar or offensive language, it'd be nice to know that too.  And a short description of the character beyond this would be great too - their relationship to the other characters, their occupation, a short descriptive phrase.  If the role or character is similar to a celebrity or famous character, that might be a helpful way to describe them too.
4) details about the audition - when and where will it be, what you want the actors to prepare for the audition.  If you want to just collect headshots/resumes/links to reels now, and then screen that and choose who to invite to auditions later, that's fine too, but let us know that's what you're doing.
5) who you are and why you're doing this - a URL with more info about you, your production company or your IMDB credits or your theater company will provide some legitimacy for what you're doing, and it would be great to have this in your audition notice.  Where do you want to take this project once it's completed?  Are you submitting to festivals?  Do you have the backing of a cool grant to fund the project?  Let us know these things too.
6) what you're offering to those who are cast - is this project credit/copy/meals, or is there financial compensation as well?  If so, how much is it?  The word 'stipend' doesn't convey much info - I've booked jobs that paid stipends of $50 and of $1000, and everything in between.  If you're still working out how much you'll be able to pay people, give us a range. 

What not to include:
1) grammatical and spelling errors - if you don't take the time to proofread your audition notice, what does your script look like?  How much of an eye for detail will you have when on set?  Some personal peeves: the phrase 'female actress' and the word 'casted' (as in 'this role is already casted').
2) crew/backstage/designer/tech/project volunteer positions - put these in a separate notice.  If the actor is also a lighting designer or wants to do DP work or volunteer to usher for you, they'll look for those notices too.
3) rambles/diatribes/manifestos about your art - save this for your website.  And on your website, make sure it's clear, concise and professional rather than something that makes you seem unhinged and dictatorial. I'd love to know a little about your influences and passions, but not when I'm trying to determine if you're looking for someone of my type.

Did I leave anything out?  What else is essential (or inessential) in an audition notice?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Counting Actors July 2011 Results

This is a project I started in June. Look back at those stats here.

8 Shows counted:
Tigers Be Still/SF Playhouse
2012:The Musical/SFMime Troupe
Lend Me a Tenor/Shakespeare's Associates
Macbeth/Shakespeare's Associates
The Pride/New Conservatory Theater Company
Macbeth/Marin Shakespeare Company
The Complete History of America, Abridged/Marin Shakespeare Company
Working for the Mouse/Impact Theater

6 female directors, 2 male directors
1 female writer, 10 male writers (Complete History has 3 writers credited)
66 total actors
42 men, 24 women
18 Equity actors, 48 Non-equity actors
11 Equity men, 7 Equity women
All 66 local actors

In June I counted 4 shows, in July this doubled to 8.  Because I had help.  Roselyn Hallett, local actor, and Melissa Hillman of Impact Theater both followed the instructions here, and you can too.

August results will show up between Sept 1 and 5.