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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

To write or not to write: New Year's Resolutions

I've written in the past about my usual end of year ritual in terms of resolutions.

Then I saw this list of things happy people do, and these look like things I should be doing too.

And, there's this list of resolutions, written in 1942 by Woody Guthrie - I wonder how he did with them...

In addition to being clean, taking care of himself and loving the important people in his life, I'm particularly fond of items 17-20:
17. Don't Get Lonesome
18. Stay Glad
19. Keep Hoping Machine Running
20. Dream Good

May we all keep our Hoping Machines running as we dream good in 2012.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recent Gender inequality stuff/Reminder for Counting Actors December

Two recent news items to point out:
1) A British theater company that puts women's stories onstage may lose its funding. Read that here.
2) Forbes does all kinds of year end lists of actors in relationship to how much money they make and how much their films make - the highest grossing actor of the year - Daniel Radcliffe.  Their 'best actors for the buck' list - which compares a star's salary to how much their film makes - starts with Kristin Stewart and Anne Hathaway at #1 and #2.  This is great, but you could also call this list the 'not agressive enough negotiators' list.  The list that struck me as most interesting (and it's written about here). is the list of 'The Hardest Working Actors' list - from 2007-2010, counting movies (not animated) that earned over $20 million, these actors names appeared most often: 1) Jason Bateman 2) George Clooney and 3) Matt Damon.  Morgan Freeman is the only person of color on the list (at #4) and the only woman on the list is Amy Adams at 8.

And, if you've read this far, maybe you've got something to contribute to Counting Actors for December?  Send it in!  Go here to read how.

And, this is my 101st post! Happy Holidays and thanks so much for reading so far. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

recent reads

Two terrific recent reads for me are John Lithgow's autobiography, and the Esther Freud novel Lucky Break.

In Drama: An Actor's Education, Lithgow covers his childhood and early years as an actor through his first films and Broadway success.  A fascinating small detail: the future Coretta Scott King was one of his childhood babysitters!  His stories of growth and learning, whether through playing Lenny in Mice and Men through many student matinees or from watching the actors work at the Shakespeare festivals run by his father, are moving and honest and also well told.  While I read it in just a few long sittings, some friends have said this is a great backstage book to read in the 10 minutes you can grab here and there.

I learned about Lucky Break after reading an interview with Esther Freud.  Esther is not only one of Sigmund's great granddaughters, but turned to writing while she was a struggling actor as something to do between gigs. She wrote Hideous Kinky, which became a film with Kate Winslet, and from that point became more of a writer than an actor.  Lucky Break is a novel about the lives of a group of actors who attend the same drama school in London, then move through the various highs and lows of their careers.  It reminded me of the old Theatre Shoes (and other Shoes books) by Noel Streatfield, only with more of the daily life (family, relationships, paying rent) included.  Freud is very candid about how difficult the business is for women, and a lot of the book is tedious and heartbreaking, but very very realistic.  Required reading, especially for the starry-eyed younger actors who want to know where they might be when they're 30.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Louis CK is his own middleman

If your attention hasn't been drawn to this yet, let me take you there. 

Comedian/writer/actor/director Louis CK is selling downloads of a recent comedy live show via his own website for $5.  His question "If I put this out here like this, will people buy it, or will they steal it?"

And people are buying it, overwhelmingly so.  At about 1 week after release, his profits have reached $750,000. 

The implications here are huge for the individual artist.  Yes, having a hit series on fX has helped Louie become visible to tons of fans.  But even on a smaller scale, the artist/creator-performer has access to distribution like never before thanks to the internet.

How are we going to use it?

More to read on the Louis CK thing:

his own statement

some NY Times articles here and here

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now taking requests

Just wanted to point out that I've added a note to the sidebar - I'm fielding questions and topic suggestions from readers - see how to suggest, or question by scrolling down!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Me and my agents: auditions

More thoughts about agents in the Bay Area, this time a bit more personal.

So this is my agency.  They've been my agents for about 3 years, and represent me for on-camera work, voiceover, and print.

Looking back through my audition tracking spreadsheets, while I've had some dry spells, it averages out to about 1 audition every 3 weeks. This past week I had 4 auditions through my agency - 2 voiceover, 1 print, and 1 industrial.

My agency sends audition information via email.  For an on-camera audition, they send me the time, location, character/wardrobe, sides to prepare (if there are sides), potential callback dates, and shoot dates.  Sometimes there's additional character description or direction.  Usually the email comes in the early afternoon and the audition is the following day, and the email has a specific appointment time.  Sometimes, if there is a lot of text to prep, it'll be a day or two before the audition.  But it's up to me to keep my schedule flexible enough that I can fit in those auditions.

For a voiceover audition, I'm expected to record it myself, using my own equipment.  The email they send has a lot of the same info as on-camera does, but instead of telling me when I need to audition and where, it tells me where I'm supposed to send my sound file, how to name it, and when I'm supposed to send it in by - usually I've got 24-36 hours to get it done.

For print auditions I get a similar amount of notice as for on-camera auditions, but sometimes I get a range (show up between 10 and 12) instead of a specific time.   Every once in a while, especially with the hand modeling stuff, there's not even an audition, just a call or email checking if I'm available for the shoot date.  This doesn't mean I've booked it, but that I'm being considered, based on my portfolio.

If I'm not available to do auditions, I 'book out' with my agents.  This means that I let them know I won't be available for auditions between day x and day y.  Usually this is because I'm out of town, but sometimes it's because of a tech or shoot schedule for another project, and every once in a while for an intensive teaching/directing project.  I probably book out between 1 and 3 weeks total per year.

Being available for auditions means keeping track of a lot of things.  I've got to keep myself and my audition wardrobe looking good - regularly scheduled haircuts and other grooming appointments, keeping my business suits clean and making sure they're not at the dry cleaners at the wrong times.  I need to be able to juggle what I've got scheduled for the day - I'm thankful to have employers who understand this part of an actor's schedule, and a day job that's around the corner from a casting agency, which makes it easy to pop out for a half hour, do the audition, and then get back to work.  I need to be able to absorb new material fast - for one of the auditions this week I had 3 hours w/the audition sides before the audition.

I remember asking at a Q&A panel with agents several years ago something along the lines of "what are some of the mistakes actors make after they've signed with you?"  And the answer that they all agreed on was when actors are consistently not available for auditions because of other commitments. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Counting Actors November Results

This project began in June 2011.  Links to results for past months (as well as how to send in a report in the future) are here.

10 Shows counted:
The Internationalist/Just Theater
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds/Custom Made
Pelleus and Melisande/Cutting Ball
Race/ACT (although ACT hires union understudies, and pays them a weekly salary, that's not included in the count)
Sleuth/California Conservatory Theater
Parade/Palo Alto Players (there are 2 writers credited on this project - book writer and music writer)
A Man, His Wife and His Hat/AlterTheater (world premiere)
Mauritius/Pear Ave
The Chalk Boy/Impact

The Stats:
5 female directors, 5 male directors
3 female writers, 8 male writers
63 total actors: 32 men, 31 women
14 Equity actors, 49 Non-equity actors
10 Equity men, 4 Equity women
58 local actors, 5 non-local actors

Folks who shared results this month include actors, producers, and audience members.  Thank you Lauren Bloom, Alona Bach, Roselyn Hallett, Kathleen Antonia, Sofia Ahmad, Ray Renati, Jeanette Harrison, and Melissa Hillman

Thanks for reading.  If you are working on a show, or see some theater in December, please share the results with me so I can add it to this list.  I'm looking forward to a Christmas Carol by Christmas Carol comparison, if I get those results!

Look for another round of results between Jan 1st and Jan 5th.

Monday, November 28, 2011

how is success like flossing?

I urge you to run over here and read what Chris Brogan has to say about success as a daily practice. It's a fantastic blog post and it's right on for the working actor.

Here's a quote:
"Success, near as I can tell, comes from daily effort.  It's not always sexy and it's not always fun, but it's what I do to accomplish some of my goals."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On-Screen Gender Inequality/Reminder for Counting Actors

Wow - USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism looked at genders of speaking actors in the top 100 films of 2009 and found 67.2% were male, 32.8% were female.  More of their findings (including percentages of actors wearing swimwear and revealing clothing are in this LA Times article.  I did a little more digging and found that Professor Stacy Smith has been looking at gender representation in film for over 5 years.  More about her (incl. links to articles and info about other studies) are here.

I don't have a research grant or a major university behind me, I just have you.  So, did you see, perform, design, stage manage, direct a show this month?  If so, I wanna hear about it! Go here to get the short and simple Counting Actors form, and send it in!

And, if you don't open until December, send that too.  I'll put it in next month's list.  I'll publish Nov results between Dec 1st and 5th.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Resources: Keeping Current

I've just finished my monthly profile/resume check.  I'm so glad I've finally got this cumbersome task in manageable shape.

Here's what I do:   I've got an automated task reminder set to come up once a month on the 20th of the month.  In that reminder, there's a list of all of the places where I've got an online profile, (8 including my website), as well as the different versions of my resume (3 acting ones, 1 teaching one, and the CV/Master List).  I go down the list, visit each profile, and make sure it's up to date - all of the credits are on the resumes, my current projects are still current, and my latest news is still the recent stuff.    Sometimes I get all 12 done in 1 sitting, sometimes it takes 2-3 days, but when I finally mark the task 'complete' it's great to know that I've got it done, and no one's looking at stale outdated info if they try to find me online.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Agents and the Bay Area: The Basics

Based on some questions I heard recently, I thought I'd post some info about how actors and agents interact in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1) where do I find a 'good' agent?
Depends on your definition of good, of course.  SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) lists agents here.  Scroll to the bottom of the page, and then select 'San Francisco' as your city.  There are 9 franchised agents, and one listed as non-franchised.  I'm not sure that franchised/non-franchised makes a big difference for non-union talent.  Given that SAG has chosen to list their contact info, I don't think any of these agencies are going to scam you.  Some only rep very specific types, so doing a little further research into each agency and who they represent before you do a submission would help you know who to submit to.

2) can I have more than one agent at once?
While this may be the practice in other markets, where one agent reps you for commercials and another for voiceover, that doesn't really happen in SF.  Your agent is your agent.  Some people do move from one agency to another as their career grows and changes, but they still only have one agent at a time.

3) do you need an agent to audition for theater in SF?
Nope!    If you're looking for theater auditions, start at Theatre Bay Area, but also check the websites of the theaters you want to audition for.  Many hold general auditions at least once per year, often open to anyone who signs up.

I've been repped by an agency for close to 3 years now.  They mostly send me on auditions for on-camera industrials and commercials, but I also audition for voiceover work (again mostly industrial and commercial, every once in a while a video game voice), and sometimes for print - not high fashion runway stuff, but projects where people are supposed to look 'real'.  I also work every once in a while in print as a hand model.

I think a big assumption that a lot of folks make is that once they get an agent, they can sit back and the auditions and jobs will just roll in.  Even with agency representation, you'll still need to work to build relationships, practice skills and develop craft.  The difference is that now you've got someone else on your team who can put their foot in the door for you, and negotiate better compensation when you do get a job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

blogs to check out

A blog by actors for actors that looks interesting to me and I just added to the 'roll over there on your right.

Playbills vs. paying bills - not only is it a super clever name, but it's a 3 writer blog - an actor in NY, an actor in LA and an actor in Chicago, writing about what they're learning as they pursue their careers in their respective cities.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

books - biography & autobiography edition!

Roger Ebert's Life Itself - Ebert's memoirs are incredibly articulate and elegant, not only about the good times, but also the more recent and difficult ones.  If you haven't been following his story, after several surgeries related to cancer in his salivary glands, Roger Ebert was left with a disfigured face, and is unable to eat or speak.  Since 2006, Ebert has turned to writing and web-based communication for communication with the rest of the world.
My favorite bit of the memoir comes from when he was a young sports reporter in Urbana, Illinois.  A colleague who had a few more years experience than him watched him struggling to write a story, and said:

"One, don't wait for inspiration, just start the damned thing.  Two, once you begin, keep on until the end.  How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it's going?"

Ebert goes on to say:

"These rules saved me half a career's worth of time and gained me a reputation as the fastest writer in town.  I'm not faster.  I just spend less time not writing."

Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein by Julie Salamon felt a little bit sensationalistic at times - one of the major themes is that Wendy was a very secretive person, and that many of her secrets are in the book.  Really exciting to learn a few things though: Peter from Heidi Chronicles is partially based on her friendship w/Christopher Durang!  Wendy's nanny was in a little late night show about spelling bees that she'd made w/her friends, and Wendy saw it and then introduced her friends James Lapine and William Finn to the nanny and that became 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
I'm also trying to imagine what it would've been like to be at Yale Drama School at the same time as Wendy, Christopher Durang, Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep. 
The ending of Wendy's life, and therefore also the last few chapters of this book, were a pretty tough slog.
I did come away though thinking that I'd love to see a revival of Uncommon Women and Others, Wendy's breakthrough play about college students at Mt. Holyoke in the late sixties grappling with mixed messages about feminism.

One other side thing: my website is finally on the other side of its major overhaul.  Take a look, won't you, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Counting Actors October Results

This project began in June 2011.  Links to results for past months (as well as how to send in a report in the future) are here.

10 Shows counted:
Sticky Time/Crowded Fire (for this show, the writer and director are the same person)
The Magic School Bus Live! Climate Challenge/Bay Area Children's Theater (after performances in the Bay Area, this show will go on a national tour - the opposite of RIII)
Bellweather/Marin Theater Company
Hanging Georgia/TheatreFirst and Bootstrap Productions (non local actor in this production is also non union)
Delicate Balance/Aurora Theater
In the Maze of Our Own Lives/TJT (this show also has the same person writing and directing)
Clementine in the Lower 9/Theatreworks (show also has 3 onstage musicians who are all members of the musicians union; didn't include them in the count)
Almost Nothing & Day of Absence/Lorraine Hansberry Theater (entire cast of this show is people of color; also these two one acts were by different authors, but directed by one person)
The Underpants/Custom Made Theatre Co
Blackbird/Aluminous Collective

The Stats:
 3 female directors,  7 male directors
 2 female writers, 9 male writers
 66 total actors:  31 men, 35 women
 38 Equity actors, 28 Non-equity actors
 19 Equity men, 19 Equity women
 56 local actors, 10 non-local actors

Folks who shared results this month include: Tiffany Cothran, Nina Meehan, Sasha Hnatkovich, Maryssa Wanlass, Cassidy Brown, Jayne Deely, Alona Bach, Melissa Hillman and Carla Pantoja.  This group includes producers/artistic staff, cast members and audience members. 

Thanks for reading.  I'd love to see more folks within the region made aware of this project. If you feel motivated to share this blog post via semaphore flags, skywriting, smoke signals or much faster electronic means like social media tools, email or your own blog, I'd consider you a super-fantastic person.

Look for November results between December 1st and 5th.  That'll be the 6th month of Counting Actors!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Counting Actors - special RIII edition

The results for October will be up next week sometime (so you can still report on shows today or tomorrow - would love to get stats for Honey Brown Eyes, How to Write a New Book for the Bible and more south bay/peninsula shows up in here).

I'm listing Richard III separately, and here's why.  It's a national tour.  It didn't do any hiring/casting here, and didn't rehearse here. Local/non-local hiring is pretty much a non-issue for things like this or the recent tour of Billy Elliot and current tour of Hair. 

Ray Renati sent stats for Richard III, the first stats I'd gotten for one of the big touring shows, and I thought about it, and realized that if what the Counting Actors project is about is looking at who gets local jobs, men or women, union actors or non-union actors, local hires or non-local, then counting tours doesn't make sense.  So I've added that info on the Counting Actors page.

Before I get to the stats, a quick digression.  I've been asked about why I'm not looking at ethnicity of actors, writers and directors as part of Counting Actors.  My original answer was that I wanted to keep things simple, and take on a project I could manage.  I'd love to see tracking of who gets the stage management, design, and crew positions on top of adding ethnicity to the mix.  It seemed not only like more than one person could handle, but that counting ethnicity requires self-identification, not an outside eye saying 'this person is Asian, that person is African-American, etc.'  I feel uncomfortable looking at others and putting labels on them, and in asking those who are reporting to do the same.  I do hope that someday the tracking that is happening in the Counting Actors project will get taken over by an organization with the bandwidth to handle following all of these variables, and more - age, people w/disabilities, etc.

And now, the RIII stats.

Richard III/The Bridge Project
Male Director, Male Writer
27 actors: 6 female, 21 male
All union, all non local.
Notes: the cast was made up of American and British actors, so while all were union, 15 were members of AEA, and 12 were members of BAEA(British Equity).  Two male characters, the adolescent princes Young Edward and Young Richard, were played by adult women.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seen a show?

Or directed one, or acted in one, or worked crew, designed, etc?  Does it have October performances?

If I didn't count it in September, I'd love to get the info for the Counting Actors project.  Go here for how to report.  Those who've done it already say it's super easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

And if the show won't open until November, but you've already got the details, go ahead and send it, and I'll get started on the November count.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reel Resources

Bonnie Gillespie answered some questions yesterday about actor reels in her terrific Showfax column, and linked to some great resources worth checking out - additional info as well as links to docs that actors can get filmmakers to sign to specify details about the copy they'll be providing.

I'm pretty happy w/my recently edited reels, which you should be able to see here.  The editor I worked with is Deva Blaisdell-Anderson.  I had a great time working w/her and she was very helpful, insightful and knowledgeable about the tech side of things.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

links to check out!

Even John C. Reilly doubts his own talents.

Colleen Wainwright (aka The Communicatrix) says some really smart things about taking good photos.

A super smarty pants article from the NYTimes about confidence in judgements/decision-making  The examples it uses are mostly from the world of stock trading, but all I could think of were auditions, script submissions, and other related theater stuff.

Money quote (if you don't have time for the whole article):

In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monologue inventory

Last week I inventoried my monologues. I looked back through my audition tracking spreadsheet to remind myself what monologues I've been doing in auditions lately, and to help figure out what type of monologue I should be looking for to learn next.

Over the years, I've rotated monologues out of my repertoire for a number of reasons, including that I've done them too much, they've grown stale for me acting-wise, I've outgrown them, or that they weren't playing the right way w/auditors outside the context of the whole play.

And, when I rotate things out of the repertoire, it's time to rotate something else in.  But what?  That's where the inventory comes in.  I categorize and describe what I've got, and then look for the holes.

I categorize by time period, and I use three - classic (Greeks to Moliere or so, incl. Shakespeare), modern (approx Ibsen/Shaw/Chekhov through Odets/Williams/Miller), and Contemporary (written in the last 20-30 years).  Then, I categorize by tone - comic, serious, or serio-comic, keeping in mind that the tone varies  a bit with the time period - a comic classic piece might simply be one where a character talks about falling in love (like Viola in Twelfth Night) but a comic contemporary piece might be much more jokey (think Neil Simon).  After that, I look for where pieces fall in terms of physicality - does this character sit in a chair and talk the whole time or do they run around the stage and pretend to sword fight?  I also look at dialect work, and try to have one piece ready to go in a dialect I'm good at and would get to do onstage (usually a British or American Southern as opposed to Carribean/West Indies or Japanese).

After I look at these things, categorizing gets more creative and fun.  I look at things like character status, are they talking to one person or addressing a crowd, is their internal rhythm slow or fast, are they a city mouse or a country mouse, where does this character fall in terms of my age range?  Typically, I think a character seems young if they're experiencing something new or for the first time, and a character seems older if they are giving advice, or remembering a past event.  I may also look at the character's profession - sometimes the character is primarily a lawyer/doctor/businessperson etc. and other times their relationship parent/child/spouse is in the foreground in the piece.

My current inventory includes:
1. contemporary comic, fast rhythm, low physicality, violinist on a first date
2. contemporary serious, slow rhythm, low physicality, parent of a teen w/cerebral palsy
3. contemporary comic, variable rhythm, medium physicality, stressed out political aide talking to small group
4. contemporary seriocomic, medium rhythm, medium physicality, sister of the bride doing wedding toast for large group
5. contemporary seriocomic, medium rhythm, low physicality, waspy wife attempting apology to cheating husband
6. classic serious, slow rhythm, medium physicality, king's widow about to be taken as war prize
7. classic comic, variable rhythm, high physicality, queen falling in love under a spell
8. classic comic, variable rhythm, medium physicality, maid showing her master that he's marrying his daughter to the wrong man
9. classic comic, variable rhythm, high physicality, drunk getting two reluctant fighters to duel
10. classic serious, slow rhythm, low physicality, conquered queen begging for her son's life

So after the inventory, my biggest hole is in the modern category.  I need to do my looking there.  I don't have any dialect pieces right now, so looking at something like Shaw or Wilde would be a good place to start.  It'd also be great to look for pieces that emphasize physicality.  In terms of high or low status, age of character and those types of variables are really open - I've got a lot of different things covered, so I can probably find something that pairs well with other monologues that I've got already.  I might want to think about looking for someone who is talking to a group - overall, more of my monologues are characters talking to one or two people.

Okay - now I'm off to the library!

Or, if anyone reading has a suggestion for me - post 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The actor's closet

I've written about wardrobe and wardrobe choices a bit before. 

But because of some recent industrial work, I'm thinking about it again.

I'm thinking about how it's helpful for an actor to know what colors they look good in, and to know what colors and clothing styles work well on camera. Lots of us know this already but thanks City of Alberquerque for spelling it out so clearly!  To their page I'd add the following: avoid logos/writing/images on your clothing, but everything else they're saying is spot on.

For industrials in particular, it's helpful to know the difference between formal business attire and business casual.  This page has some great descriptions and images, maybe a little bit more for women than men.  Here in the Bay Area, with Silicon Valley's influence, we're sometimes asked for a slightly more hip version of business casual, so you may need to ask for clarification if things aren't clear.  Another great way to figure out where your current project or audition falls on the formal to casual spectrum is to go to the website for the client company or to companies w/a similar culture/industry, and see what the people are wearing in photos on their site. 

I'm not the most conservative dresser in my everyday life, but I keep a few pieces on hand for things that I'm often asked to do.  I have my mom slacks (light colored khakis) and a few sweaters, as well as a few business suits, with the appropriate accessories.  I've watched for when the suits go on clearance at department stores, and taken a few runs through places like Nordstrom Rack, H&M, etc. to round out what I need.  Clothing swaps with friends have also helped me round out these areas of my wardrobe.

I make sure that I keep all of this stuff clean and ready to go too.  It sucks to have to spend extra money on a rush turnaround at the dry cleaners. 

And last of all, I've got a garment bag for hauling too and from set!  It's always surprising to me when people show up w/stuff jammed in grocery bags, or just carrying a bunch of shirts on hangers in from their car.  Both you and the clothes look better and more pro when you can bring it all in in a good bag. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

More on Gender Equity: UK edition

I recently wrote about an Australian production of Queen Lear, part of a Melbourne theater company's attempt to move toward gender equity in the face of public calls for equity to be part of the criteria to receive government arts funding in Australia.

Now I read that similar public calls are happening in the UK. 

Again, I'm wondering - is this the way to go in the US?  Should gender quotas be a part of the criteria to receive NEA funding?  Would this lead to more jobs for women in theater, more plays by women writers receiving productions, and more women being cast in shows? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

making habits, getting productive

I've started using a tool called iDoneThis to help me track my progress.  It sends me an email once a day, and I reply to that email with the things I did that day.  It saves them all in a calendar that I can go and visit and after I did it for a week, it started sending me a second email that told me what I did last week on that day.

It's fast, it's easy, and it's helping me stay on task.  Thought I'd share....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

For the casting department

I had a theater callback recently where I heard something surprising: "the cast list for this show will be posted on our website by such and such date."  The date was within a week of the callback. 

When so often we are told "thanks for coming in" and nothing further about a casting timeline, getting this level of clarity and specificity was a welcome change. 

I wish that more theaters would adopt a system such as this one - a voice mailbox to call, a list on a website, maybe even on a backchannel URL if you don't want to make the info public to your patrons or the press too soon. 

I know that casting folks are often too busy to contact everyone they're not using to let them know about it, but a system like this, where the company puts the info where actors have access to it, would make a big difference in terms of the watching phone screens and hitting send/receive on email that so many of us do the day or two after a callback. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

where performance lives

'She likes to juggle.  Instead of balls or batons, she practices with four or five perceptual experiences at once.  She drops balls but it doesn't matter.  She retrieves them when their absence is noticed. The director should know she prefers juggling to catching the ball.  There is no time to capture or translate when someone is juggling.  This freedom from knowing arouses the curiosity that precedes question-making. And this is where she feels performance lives.'

Deborah Hay, my body, the buddhist

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Counting Actors September 2011 results

This is a project I started in June. How to participate is explained here, and here are results from June, July, and August.

If you want to share info on a show for October, please go here to learn more.

15 Shows counted:
Night Over Erzinga/Golden Thread
The Cherry Orchard/Hapgood Theater
QuatreVingtQuatre/Parker Street Odditorium and Dirty Swan Projects Presents (in this show, a male character was played by a woman)
The House of Blue Leaves/Jewel Theater
Phaedra/Shotgun Players
True West/Expression Productions
Taming of the Shrew/CalShakes (in this show, a woman played Pedant/Curtis/Widow - 2 male characters, 1 female)
Why We Have a Body/Magic Theater
Smokey Joe's Cafe/Center REP
Picasso at the Lapin Agile/Town Hall Theater
Patience Worth/Symmetry Theatre (this show was commissioned by the company to support their mission of onstage gender equality)
Sister Cities/Dragon Productions
August: Osage County/City Lights
Fifth of July/Pear Avenue Theatre

The Stats:
8 female directors,  7 male directors
5 female writers,  11 male writers
112 total actors:  57 men,  55 women
36 Equity actors,  76 Non-equity actors
19 Equity men,   17 Equity women
107 local actors,  5 non-local actors

Folks who shared results in September include actors, producers, and audience members.  Thanks to Roselyn Hallett, Nina Meehan, Erin Hoffman Moro, Jason Hancock Torres, Brian Herndon, Jessica Powell, Ray Renati, Kendra Oberhauser, Dale Albright and Melissa Hillman for sending me counts in September!

Thanks for reading and for talking about and sharing the info from this project!  If you are working on a show with October performances or see a show in October, I hope you'll take a few minutes to send in a count.  I'm also happy to count forward - if you're working on a project that is already cast, but won't start performances until after October 31st, go ahead and send the count, and I'll include it in the appropriate month. 

Come back and see October results between Nov 1 and Nov 5!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Send me your Counting Actors info for Sept!

I'll publish September results between Oct 1 and 5.  If you've seen or worked on something with performances in September (that didn't get counted in August), can you go here and send me the info?  I'd especially love to get some South Bay shows in here.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Melbourne's Queen Lear: stats and more from Australia

Thanks to one of the arts news aggregator blogs I look at, I caught this article yesterday.  

Gist: In Melbourne, a woman will play King Lear this season because the theater was (italics mine) ordered by its governing body to designate an equal opportunity officer when only one mainstage production was given to a female director.   

While I was intrigued by the cross gender take on the classic (somewhat novel, Mabou Mines, anyone?), I was even more intrigued by the whole business w/the governing body and the equal opportunity officer.  So I googled, and found some more interesting info.

My thoughts were similar to what I saw at No Plain Jane's blog post, and I appreciate the stats collected there. And yes, 'one woman in the role of one man will not tip these scales'

I found a Sydney Herald article, about some writers who would like to see quotas established in Australia, saying:

"Any theatre company that receives public funding should be compelled to report annually on their gender representation in their program and processes that they are pursuing to achieve equity,'' 
Would this fly in the US?  Should companies that receive NEA funding, or funding from their state arts council be required to represent both genders equally?

Monday, September 26, 2011

My September Gig

In the mix of gigs and jobs this past month, I got asked to take on something new: I coached a kid actor in her first professional production.  The show is up now, and on reflection, this job had several really cool parts to it.

First,  it was a real hybrid of my skill sets - teaching artist, actor, and director.  Teaching artist me did some skill building, like theater vocabulary, cheating out, and projection/enunciation.  Actor me got to walk the role at a few rehearsals, exploring what my impulses might be in terms of stage movement and intention within those circumstances.  Director me got to work one on one with another actor to clarify moments and find keys to unlock the characters for an audience.

Something I hadn't thought of beforehand was that theater etiquette/professionalism was a big component of the process.  For someone who's never been in a professional production before, there's so much basic stuff to unpack! Signing in on the board, thanking your stage manager, having your pencil and script ready to go at your call time were all new concepts for this young actor.

Best of all though, was the point during tech week when the kid actor turned to her mom and said, "Do you think when this is over, instead of going back to my tennis class, I could maybe take an acting class instead?" 

Friday, September 23, 2011

links to check out!

Local Theater: a few good essays from Portland.

Howlround is on fire right now with great conversation and ideas! Taylor Mac talks about ending auditions (and shouts out Lily's Revenge at the Magic) and the Playwrighting and Parenting essay is terrific too.

And Dallas Travers has terrific practical advice on How to Talk to Casting Directors on Facebook.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arts in Education Week

For one of my day jobs, I'm the admin for an arts education program.  And Sept 11-17th is National Arts in Education week, so I thought I'd talk about some of what I see firsthand.

1) Good arts education isn't about making professional artists.  It's about the life skills that come from arts-based learning, whether that's how to work with others, taking turns and problem solving in groups, or about confidence when speaking in front of groups, or learning a variety of communication tools to articulate your point.
2) Arts get kids excited to be at school.  It's a reason to show up.
3) There's a scary spiral thinking in our public schools.  School funding is tied to test scores.  Jobs are tied to school funding.  When test scores are low and jobs are on the line, the mandate becomes teach the test and nothing else.  It's drill baby drill and no room for 'extras' like arts.
4) Classroom teachers, especially at the elementary school level, work HARD.  Does your job require you to be 100% present with the task at hand for 6-7 hours with only a few short 'breaks' where you may still be supervising others?
5) There's almost nothing more amazing than a breakthrough in student growth.  I've got a classroom teacher partner who still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about a shy student who spoke actual words in front of the whole class for the first time in one of our workshops from two years ago.

Also, I wrote a letter to the editor about arts education, and it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 9/10/11.  A link to the letter is here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Acting Prep Rituals

So, because I'd just read the third book in this post, I finally saw the amazing Peter Weir film Gallipoli.  And it wrecked me up. Still is.  See it sometime.  However, here was my takeaway relating to acting.

One of the main characters in Gallipoli is a runner.  And, before he runs, he and his uncle always go through this short bit of dialogue:

- What are your legs?
- Steel springs.
- What are they going to do?
- Hurl me down the track.
- How fast can you run?
- As fast as a leopard.
- How fast will you run?
- As fast as a leopard.
- Then let's see you do it.

This is repeated several times in the movie, and becomes a mantra for the main character, something he can turn to when he needs to perform under pressure.

And that got me thinking about how I prep to perform, to audition, etc.  Sometimes, I've got the luxury of 30 to 60 minutes to warm-up voice and body, and I can ease into things.  Sometimes, when an audition is booked last minute, or there's been traffic so bad I call it biblical, I'm running into the performance with minutes to spare.  Is there a quick ritual, like the one above, that could propel me into action?

I'd love to know what you do at those times.  And, if I find something that works for me, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is a children's book author from Australia.  A great NY Times article about him is here.
His work is often melancholy, moody, and full of misfits and fantastical images.  My favorite book is The Red Tree, which is a day in the life story about a girl with red hair who is having a bad day.  I don't want to say too much about it, other than if you do pick it up, stick with it to the end - it's beautiful!

Here's my favorite illustration from The Red Tree.

The text for this page is 'Sometimes you just don't know what you are meant to do or who you are meant to be.'

Friday, September 2, 2011

Counting Actors August 2011 results

This is a project I started in June. How to participate is explained here, and here are June results and July results.

16 Shows counted:
Of Dice and Men/Impact Theater
7 Guitars/Marin Theater Company
The Nature Line/Sleepwalkers Theater
Exit Pursued by a Bear/Crowded Fire
Reduction in Force/Central Works
Cymbeline/SF Shakespeare Festival (in this production, the character of Pisanio was played by a woman)
Abigail Dreary/Ianiro Productions
Streetcar Named Desire/Dragon Production

Seussical/Berkeley Playhouse (in this production, the role of JoJo, who is a young boy, was shared by 2 girls)
Road to Hades/Shotgun Players
Let Me Down Easy/Berkeley Rep
Candida/Cal Shakes
Tempest/Marin Shakespeare Company (in this production, Trinculo was female, and the role of Ariel was split between 6 actors - 4m 2f)
Peaches En Regalia/Wily West Productions
Sense and Sensibility/TheatreWorks
Circus Adventure/Bay Area Children's Theatre

The Stats:
 7 female directors,  9 male directors
5  female writer,  13 male writers (I'm including composers, bookwriters and lyrics writers in this group, so Seussical has 2 credited writers.  Sense and Sensibility was written by a team of 2 men.)
  166 total actors (this number includes 27 under age 18 actors who were in the cast of Seussical, who were enrolled in a class.  There were also 4 under 18 actors in Abigail Dreary, 6 in Road to Hades and 1 in the Nature Line.)
  92 men,  74 women
  41 Equity actors,  125 Non-equity actors
26  Equity men,  15 Equity women
  162 local actors, 4 non-local actors

So many people contributed shows they'd seen this month!  I've also been happy to receive results from producers, directors, actors who were in shows.  Here are the folks who sent results: Melissa Hillman, Sasha Hnatkovich, Amy Prosser, Tiffany Cothran, Andrew Black, Dale Albright, Lauren Bloom, Don Hardwick, Kendra Oberhauser, Katherine Goldman, Lisa-Marie Newton, Roselyn Hallett, Alona Bach and Nina Meehan

Thanks so much for helping me count and for spreading the word about this project!

 September results will show up between October 1 and 5.

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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Checklist

for those who are primarily actors, but may do other stuff too:
headshot - is it in color? Is it less than 2 years old? do you have headshots for stage? commercial? business/industrial?
resume - is it up-to-date? proofread? do you have versions for stage? on-camera? different resumes for other slashes (teaching, directing, etc)
website - is it up-to-date? does it have your headshot and resume in easy to download formats? your contact info? your current projects?
reel - is it around 1 minute long? do you have different reels for your different types of on-camera work (commercial, industrial, film, comedy, dramatic, etc.)? are they labeled appropriately? on your website?
voiceover demo - do you have demos for the diff voiceover categories you work in (commercial, industrial, character, promo)? on your website?
postcard - does it have your image (or logo if you're voiceover only)? your web URL?
business card - your name? your contact info? an image or logo? a tagline?
tagline - do you have a short, accurate, on-brand description of yourself? do you use it with your online profiles?
elevator pitch - can you describe who you are and what you do in less than 1 minute and also convey your professionalism and personality
monologues - do you have at least four awesome monologues of contrasting tones and styles ready to do right now if I said 'go'?
professional bio - do you have bios for each of your slashes that are up-to-date, proofread, and on-brand?
references - 3 of them, with phone number, email and mailing address, typed and ready if I asked for them?
press clippings - one page of them, give or take, where critics from major sources have said complimentary things about you?
additional professional photos - of you in productions or at work, that could go in a press packet if asked
modeling portfolio photos - if this is one of your slashes, do you have a portfolio of images? is it on your website?
professional online profiles - are you listed in the appropriate places for your industry (imdb, theatre bay area, casting search sites)? are these up-to-date? include the appropriate media (reel or photo or voiceover demo)
contact list - are you keeping contact info of people who've hired you, that you've auditioned for, etc? 

What I'm learning is that the items on this list are actually never done, just okay 'for now' and require regular updating, maintenance, revamping, etc.  So work on one, get it to where you like it and then move on to the next. 

What did I leave off this list that you have on yours?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

counting actors reminder

If you've seen a show this month in the SF Bay Area, will you go here, and follow those instructions?  Would love your help with the counting. 

July stats will go up between Aug 1 and Aug 5.  June stats are here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Standardized Patient/Role Playing

Since I'm very busy with a project here, I thought I'd link to this article I wrote in my pre-blog days, with a lot of general information about what Standardized Patient work entails.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


I've spent a little time organizing the blog roll.  Please take a look.  Let me know if I've left anything out!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

earnings of women/men on Broadway

Nutshell: some big deal stars on Broadway make more than $100,000/week.  All of them are men.

A New York Post article breaks it down here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The War of Art

Happy 4th!

I've just read this highly inspiring book by Steven Pressman.  He's a screenwriter and novelist and translator of classics.

It's got 3 sections: 1) Resistance Defining the Enemy, 2) Combating Resistance Turning Pro and 3) Beyond Resistance Higher Realm

It's got a lot of short sections, so it would make a great public transit read.

Here's a few places where I bent the corner down because I wanted to remember the quote.

  • Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
  •  The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
  • If you didn't love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn't feel anything.  The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.
  • The Principle of Priority: a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and b) you must do what's important first.
  • The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not.  He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. 
  • The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work.
  • The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear and then he can do his work.  The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist. He's still terrified but forces himself forward in spite of his terror.  He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he'll be okay.
  • The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality.  Tomorrow morning, the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page.  Nothing matters but that he keep working.
  • Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
  • Let's ask ourselves like a new mother: what do I feel growing inside me? Let me bring that forth, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.
Inspiring, yes?  

I'd love some recommendations for more inspiring reading...

P.S. also thank you thank you thank you to those who have retweeted, liked, commented Bay Area Actor in the past week in other platforms.  I've seen some big bumps in eyes on posts this week, and it's been really thrilling to hear that what I'm writing is interesting, effective, and above all, helpful to others out there.  Melissa, Marisela, Mike D, the folks at Shotgun, Cindy, Elena, Colin, Lily, Lesley, Lisa, and anyone whose name is currently slipping my mind.  Thank you!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Counting Actors: June 2011 results

A new feature, to be published monthly, between the first and the fifth.

In June, I saw 4 shows that fit within the criteria described here. They were:
Chekhov Lizardbrain, Z Space/Pig Iron Theater
Down a Little Dirt Road, Just Theater
Metamorphosis, Aurora
Imaginary Love, Hapgood

Here are the stats:
2 female directors, 2 male directors
3 male writers, 2 female writers (Metamorphosis had 2 writers credited, Chekhov Lizardbrain was company devised, but credited a male with 'text', so I counted him as the writer)
17 total actors
11 men, 6 women
8 Equity actors, 9 Non-equity actors
7 Equity men, 1 Equity woman
13 local actors, 4 non-local actors

I'll be counting actors again in July.  If you'd like to help me count, all info on how to do that is here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Introducing Counting Actors

I'm going to be doing this monthly.  Publishing the post between the first and the fifth of the month.

I'm counting actors (directors and writers too).  How many are men, how many are women.  How many are members of Actor's Equity, how many are not.  Who is local, who isn't.

I'm looking at productions with the following criteria:
1) the performance takes place in the 9 county San Francisco Bay Area (that's Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Solano counties).  Also, the contract for the actors originates locally - so that means no Best of Broadway series, but yes to productions that take place at a local theater company, but the entire production team may come from out of town.
2) the production is not done by a school, or by a theater that calls itself a community theater or an amateur company.
3) the production is a full production, not a staged reading or a developmental showing or some other form of a work in progress.

Here are the questions I'm asking:
1) gender of the director
2) gender of the writer
3) total number of actors
4) total number of male actors
5) total number of female actors
6) total number of union actors
7) total number of non-union actors
8) total number of union male actors
9) total number of union female actors
10) total number of local actors
11) total number of non-local actors

I realize that there are a lot more questions that could be asked (collecting info about designers and crew, ethnicity info, etc.)  But I'm only one person.  I think this is all that I can handle.

But, to that end, if you want to help me count, here's what to do:

1) see shows that fit the criteria above
2) go to the Counting Actors page (link at top right of this page) and copy the questions there into the body of an email.  
3) send the answers to countingactors (at)

Tune in tomorrow for the June results.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Audition Routines

I originally titled this post 'Audition Commandments' but then I thought that was too egotistical, like I'm the Goddess of Auditions.  I'm not.  So, these are some of the things I try to do when I audition:

1. Go early, but not first.  If you're first, you're the guinea pig - everyone's in the room together for the first time, figuring out how to work together, who will say what, the reader is either overacting or underacting, and you're just not set up to do well.  Early is is good though, because then you get them when they're fresh.
2. Definitely bring water, maybe an apple. Nerves give me cottonmouth.  Water takes it away.  An apple is just enough food so that I'm not hungry, not so much food that I need a nap.  And it also works on that cottonmouth thing.
3. Dressing the character, but from my closet. Don't know about you, but I don't keep army fatigues, a waitress uniform, or even a lab coat in my closet.  I do have business suits, dressy dresses, a 'mom' sweater or two, and some skirts that are pretty long.  I do my best to approximate the silhouette of the character's clothing with what I have already.
4. Show up with one more photo and resume than I think I need.  If they say don't bring any, I bring one anyway, just in case, there's always the possibility of mixed communication, minds changing, etc.  If they want one, I've got two, etc.  They're not heavy to carry, I can use the extra one next time, and if it turns out they actually want one more, I seem like an organized professional person.  I also usually have a copy of my teaching resume at theater auditions, and a headshot and resume with me when I interview for teaching gigs (it's that 'slash' thing at work). And in the same folder, I've got hardcopies of a few audition monologues, and a typed up list of references (I have been asked for references at two different theater auditions - weird, but true).
5. Keep chatter to a minimum in the waiting area.
I often run into folks I know at an audition.  I try to say a brief hello and get back to putting my head in the game (and let them do the same thing).  If someone won't stop talking and I need to focus, I'll let them know that we can talk after the audition, and see if they have time to hang out after the audition is over. It's your prep time. A very precious commodity.
6. Say thank you.
To everyone in the audition room and at the front desk.
7. Keep in touch.
If it seems appropriate to do so, I'll ask the person I'm auditioning for 'how should I keep in touch with you?'  I've heard things like 'email me when you're in a show' or 'mail me postcards'.  I try to keep notes about who prefers email and who prefers regular mail.  I also want to make sure that I know who was in the room with me.  I'll ask the person who was checking folks in who it was that watched me, and if I wasn't able to ask in the room, I'll email that person later and thank them one more time and ask how to keep in touch.

As I was writing this, I came across this post at 'Daily Actor' titled 'How to Stage Your General Theater Audition'. Seemed like it was a good compliment to what I'm writing about, since I'm not really touching on what I do in the room. Daily Actor is a great add to your feed reader.

Are any of these things on your list? What am I missing?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Ills by Mayer Hawthorne

It strikes me that this song is the musical equivalent of what I talked about in this post.

There's no official video for the song, so here's a fan video:

And here's a live version (it's about 1 minute in before he starts singing, and there's a few f-bombs along the way, but the song itself is clean):

It's about getting back up, isn't it?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Dear Bay Area Actors (and those further afield as well, if you're also reading):

How do you follow up after you've done a first round audition - a general audition, or the first round of reading for a specific role on a specific project?

Having a discussion with a non-actor about the etiquette of following up after job interviews vs. the etiquette of following up after auditions, and I promised I'd do some investigating.  Starting here.

Comment away, won't you please?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Actor Slash ?

Here's something I've been thinking about this week: how so many folks I know (myself included) are actor/something else. 

I'm an actor/theater educator.  I know actor/directors, actor/writers, actor/theater administrators, actor/musicians even actor/massage therapists and one actor/flight instructor.  Actor/ is different than being an actor with a day job (like an actor who makes their money by walking dogs, or working chain retail). 

Actor/ means that you do multiple things for work, enjoy doing multiple things for work, and if people ask you what you do you might be tempted to say "I'm an actor and also a (fill in the blank)"  However, sometimes, depending on the parts of the slash, it may not make sense to promote all the parts at the same time, or in the same way.  If you were a preschool teacher/dominatrix, it's pretty obvious that you wouldn't want to bring up both in the same breath, but what about a police officer/cake decorator, or a voiceover artist/B&B owner?

If you pursue multiple careers simultaneously, you may want to check out the book One Person Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher.  (I got it from the library several years ago).   It's full of practical advice about how one part of your slash can compliment the other, and includes things like how you might negotiate if you are a /parent.  I thought it was a helpful read, and hopefully you will too!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Casting Hits on Broadway

The NYTimes has a terrific interview with 5 top casting directors.

Here was the gem for me:
Q: What's the secret to a great audition?

Answer from Jim Carnahan: One of the biggest traps that actors fall into is trying to be what we want them to be, and that’s not what we’re looking for. It’s like a blind date. You’re better off just being yourself.

The whole thing is here.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Just awesome

Over the weekend, in a theater lobby, I ran into an actor colleague who said "remember when we saw each other last?  It was at xyz show at blah blah blah theater?  I was sitting alone,  you were sitting alone near me, and so was the artistic director of the company?  You introduced me to him, and we all chatted at intermission.  A week or so later, that director called me.  My headshot was in a stack on his desk, he was looking for actors for a reading, and remembered meeting me at the show.  I had a great experience doing the staged reading, and I feel like it all came about because you introduced us.  Thanks!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Negotiation: timing!

The most difficult part, and I think the last of the chunks on this topic: when do you do the asking?

Let me be clear: I don't think there are absolutes here.  When you ask for the things you want is going to depend on the nature of your non-negotiables, what you want to ask for, and a lot of other things.

I think non-negotiables, if they seem applicable to the project in question, should be raised during the process of making the audition appointment.  It might lead to you not even making the audition appointment.  If you're a woman who has no nudity ever ever ever as a non-negotiable, and you see an audition notice which says that the character will be topless, you wouldn't go to that audition.  A different woman might have a non negotiable of no nudity that is exploitative or gratuitous, and would inquire about the audition appointment, but ask to see a script or have a phone conversation with the director about what happens in the topless scene in order to make a decision about the nature of the nudity in the project.  Super bad form: doing the audition, getting cast, and then saying "oh, by the way, I never take my clothes off for acting work"  If it was a non-negotiable, this person has just wasted everyone's time.  The production made it clear that going topless was a requirement for the role.

Now, if you're talking about the perks, the things that it would be nice to have, but that aren't requirements for you, these are things to ask about when the part is offered.  And, outside of the tight casting timeline that often takes place in film/tv/commercials, it is perfectly fine when offered a role to say "thank you so much! I'd like to call you back in 4, 8 or even 24 hours to talk more about the project."  Acknowledging that you've received their offer, you're excited by it, but then waiting to talk business until the initial adrenaline of getting the offer has worked it's way through your system.  And then put on your business hat, and ask "is there any wiggle room in your stipend?" or "one of my goals this year is to increase my name recognition in this region - I'm hoping you'll have me be in the press photos for this project"  They may say no, but they just might say yes.  And, if they don't say yes (or aren't able to say yes) this time, you've built a framework for discussion on future projects.

Hoping this series of thoughts has been helpful.  Let me know about how your negotiations go!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Negotiation: extra thoughts and questions

I know I still need to write about when and how, but here are some of the smaller thoughts that didn't seem to each need their own full post.

What are you bringing?  Think about what you might offer in addition to what you want.  You may have a mailing list, or a connection to a caterer, or a car that is appropriate for the 1970's time period of the indie film.  Something that you have that they need might help you get what you want.

Unions - if you're in one, they've already done a significant portion of the negotiating for you -  minimum salaries, size of dressing room, you name it.  If you're not in one, you should still go to the union websites and find the info about pay rates and contracts.  Start here for Actor's Equity.  Then look at the 'codes' and 'agreements'  Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) won't let you look at the full contracts, but you can see summaries and rate sheets here. AFTRA rates are here

With non-union on-camera projects and industrials, knowing union rates can help a lot with your negotiation.  The person making the industrial may not know a lot about what the rates are - starting from 50% of union rate as an offer on your end is often a good way to go.

Usage - with camera, voiceover and print, the question to ask is what are they using this for - where will it be shown and for how long.  Are they asking you to give them usage rights for a limited or an unlimited time?  For a limited or an unlimited geographic region?  web only? cable only? The fewer limits to usage, the more careful you need to be about taking on the project.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Negotiation: what do you want to ask for?

The second in a series of bite-sized chunks. 

I think that many who are new to negotiating think that it's about money, and asking for more money.  There's a lot more to negotiating than that - when you're asking for a weekend off rehearsal to go to a friend's wedding, you're negotiating.  You can negotiate schedule, level of inclusion in a project's publicity, where your name goes in the program/credits, getting the production company to pay for your dry cleaning, and more.

What you ask for might relate to your non-negotiables,  It might relate to your goals as an actor - if you are interested in this project for the level of exposure, you might negotiate to have your name above the title in the postcard, or in a larger font, or that you're in the publicity photo used in the press kit.  It might relate to practical issues brought up by the production - they want you to use your own clothes for the costumes (common on indie films), but it's a horror film and you'll be getting spattered in fake blood - can they pay your cleaning bill?  You might negotiate the degree of nudity, or the hiring of a coach to help you w/a particular skill you'll need for the project.

In a non-musical where I played a character who sang, the company didn't have any musical director to help me with the songs.  I was taking voice lessons at the time, and got the show to pay for two hours of my voice coach's time.

Often though, the negotiation is about money.  Think creatively here - are you negotiating relating to transit costs?  Could the company buy you a transit pass for the month? A prepaid gas card?  I had a company write a check specifically to FasTrak (the bridge toll pass provider in the SF Bay Area) for the total amount of times I'd cross the Golden Gate bridge to do their show.  Is food as good as money to you?  Maybe the company has a connection to a restaurant you like or a grocery store you frequent - maybe they can give you a Trader Joe's or Starbuck's gift card instead of increasing the stipend.

Really important here is research and careful thought - know what they're offering, what they've offered in the past, and what other companies that are of similar size offer.  Figure out what is realistic, given the limitations of the company's time and resources.

When you've figured out what you want to ask for, know what's essential, and what's not - I think the pro-negotiators call this the 'walk-away' or something like that, as in "if I don't get at least $3million for this deal, I'll walk away"  So when all is said and done here, you'll have a list of the things you'd like to get from the project, and the things that you must get from the project in order to do it.

Then it's a matter of when to ask, and how, which are, you guessed it, other bite sized chunks...

But in the meantime, are there things I'm not thinking of?  What else do you want to ask for?