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, January 3, 2012

Why Kneehigh?

For those of you who closely follow the monthly Counting Actors post, and wait breathlessly for its arrival each month, you may scratch your head when you see the next one.

Because you remember reading this post, but you'll see this show in the December count.  And both shows are British in origin.  Why is one outside the count, and the other one included?  What's the difference?

Richard III was a commercial production on a national tour.  There were no opportunities for local artists to participate artistically in the show, and there never would've been.

The Wild Bride is being produced at Berkeley Rep,  a non-profit theater.   A Bay Area based company, with its own performance spaces, administrative offices and staff all here.   And this is why the show goes into the count.

Berkeley Rep often, but not always, works with local artists.  Directors, designers, actors, and writers based here in the Bay Area.  One of the many purposes of the Counting Actors project is to track what choices our local companies are making - when do they choose to hire local actors, and when do they hire actors from out of town.

The local artists/non-local artists issue is a huge one that I first became aware of when I heard actors make jokes about having to move to New York to get hired at XXX (large local regional company).  As someone living in the SF Bay Area, I'd like to have opportunities to be hired by local companies.  At the same time, productions using artists from other regions can be artistically exciting and challenge and inspire us to make richer work here in the region.  I have been inspired by seeing SITI Company's Midsummer produced at San Jose Rep, the co-production of Time of Your Life at ACT directed by Chicago's Tina Landau and featuring actors from SF, Chicago and Seattle, and Tadashi Suzuki's Tale of Lear at Berkeley Rep, which featured actors from 4 different US regional theaters who had all gone to Japan to train, rehearse, and create their production of King Lear with the renowned Japanese director.

My metaphor for this issue is the local food movement.  Lots of folks have gotten super excited about eating food that comes from within 100 miles of where they live.  Supporters of local food say that by eating locally, you're keeping your money in your community.  Fewer resources are used to get the food to the eater, which also saves money, and decreases pollution.  The food is fresher, therefore tastier and more nutritious.   The first two points here are also good arguments for supporting local artists.  The money stays in the community, and the theater doesn't have to use its resources to transport artists or house them once they get here. 

A big con of local food is that it lacks variety.  People in Kansas wouldn't get to eat lobster, and no one in North America would get to have coffee, chocolate or bananas.  You lose the opportunity to try new things and broaden your palate - like when I went to my favorite Burmese restaurant, and my favorite dish, the fermented tea leaf salad, was off the menu that week, because they hadn't been able to get any of the main ingredient in from the homeland.  So, I appreciate artists from outside the region too.  They broaden my artistic palate.

Here's what I'd like to see:
1) A greater awareness in the region of who the local artists are and what companies are using local artists - perhaps a symbol in the programs (like an Equity *) that means the artists live somewhere in the 9 county Bay Area, and have done so for at least 1 year.  My grocery story puts a state of California icon next to items that come from within the state - it could be kind of like that.
2) A greater level of consciousness on the part of companies about their choices to hire folks from out of town - is that Florida strawberry going to be better quality than the one grown near Pescadero? Maybe, maybe not. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of noting who local actors are in the program!