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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Join the campaign!

Hey Bay Area Theater Artists - I hope you'll join me in this simple letter writing campaign asking Theatre Bay Area to prioritize gender equity in the 2013 annual conference.  The how-to steps are below.

It's quick, it's easy, and it's time that the discrepancy between the number of women who live in the region, and the number of women who work as writers, directors, actors and other theater artists in the region is addressed in a forum of this size and scope.


1) Theatre Bay Area's annual conference is scheduled for April 2013, and they will begin planning in the new year. We would like to see Gender Equity as a major focus of this conference. Please help us to achieve this goal.
2) Cut and paste the letter below into an email and send to: (Brad Erickson, Executive Director), (Dale Albright, Director of Field Services), (Dana Harrison, Managing Director) and (Carina Salazar, Grants and Events Coordinator). 

****Please edit this letter to reflect your personal experience and relationship w/Theatre Bay Area - see the top of the letter for three options****

3) Share your actions w/friends and artistic peers, and encourage them to email as well.  Male and female friends as well as not current members of Theatre Bay Area who are involved in local theater can and should be encouraged to email this letter.

4) Please do all of this as soon as possible!  The Theatre Bay Area offices are currently closed for a winter holiday and will re-open on Jan 3rd.  We'd love to see their inboxes full of this request.

5) Once you have completed sending the letter, please email to report your action.  Or Bcc the email address in your correspondence with TBA!!!

Thanks so much friends!!!!

And now, the letter:

Dear Brad, Dana and Dale:

***I am writing as an individual member of Theatre Bay Area for (FILL IN AS APPROPRIATE) number of years. 

*****OR I am writing as a company member for  (FILL IN AS APPROPRIATE) number of years with (FILL IN NAME OF COMPANY). 

*****OR I am writing as an artist in the Bay Area theater community who is not a current member of Theatre Bay Area.

As Theatre Bay Area prepares for its annual conference, I urge TBA to prioritize including a thorough and focused conversation about gender inequity in Bay Area Theatre.  In recent months the theatre community has witnessed both a local and global groundswell of energy, passion and concern around the specific issue of gender parity, and it is long past time to give it the attention it deserves.

According to Theatre Bay Area’s own 2008 ‘Baseline Survey’, women make up 57% to 79% of individual members in every category (actors, administrators, choreographers, directors, designers, educators, funders, patrons, playwrights, and technicians). 

In addition, women are over 50% of the Actor’s Equity membership and, in some studies, over 70% of ticket buyers nationwide, (60% for TBA’s above mentioned survey).  Furthermore, plays by and about women consistently find the most success with the US. theatre box office.  Yet women still are not represented equitably on US stages, nor have any American theatre service organizations made the gender parity issue a priority for examination in their publications or conferences.

Given these numbers, a focused discussion on how to include more women in the creative aspects of theatre production and performance is not only overdue, it is crucial to defining theatre for a new generation, as well as for the audiences we are already blessed to have.  

Theatre Bay Area, as a highly regarded service organization, has a unique opportunity and obligation to its members to provide the leadership and platform for examining this issue.  Facilitating a serious and focused dialogue between individuals and companies at the upcoming TBA conference will raise awareness about the intricacies of this vital matter.

I look forward to attending this year’s conference and engaging with TBA staff, member theatres and individuals about the urgent issue facing our work. 

I hope you will seriously consider making gender inequity a primary focus of the conference.

Thank you for your time.  


Friday, December 14, 2012

News Round-Up

International: The Guardian UK has been running a thoughtful, articulate and passionate series of articles this week on representation of women on British stages.  There are infographics, data analysis articles, a feature, an opinion piece, and a second infographic that focuses specifically on the gender breakdown in Shakespeare.  It was interesting to me to see how similar the British data was to what I've been finding with the Counting Actors project: especially at the higher budget levels, the ratio of representation male to female is roughly 2:1.

Local: Theatre Bay Area's Chatterbox blog has new content relating to last week's Diversity Symposium.  Staff member Dale Albright has a wrap-up post that includes suggestions for taking action.   And several attendees share their reactions, thoughts and reflections in this blog post (and a few mentions of the Counting Actors project there as well!).  Finally, today, there's a post from me on the TBA site as well, which should be cross-posted to the Works by Women SF site very soon as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December Slumps

I could be seriously worried right now.   Compared to earlier this year when it seemed like my agent was sending me out every few days, I've barely heard anything (other than those weird beating the bushes kinds of calls where they need twin native Tagalog speakers or real-life professional chefs who also have rare skin diseases).

I could be freaking out - have they forgotten me? Did someone say something and they've decided they're going to drop me and haven't told me?

I'm not worried and I'm not riding any emotional roller coasters.  Thanks to my audition tracking spreadsheet.  Since I've tracked auditions in a spreadsheet for a few years now, I'm at the point where I can see trends in the audition calendar - and, it turns out that for every year I've tracked December is just a slow month when it comes to auditions.  So I'm fine - it's the calendar, not me.

I'm using these quiet weeks to work audition pieces, look at the bigger picture and think about what I'd like to accomplish in 2013.  Because if it's anything like the last few years have been, January is going to get really busy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Counting Actors: November 2012

I started this project in June 2011, and have now counted over 200 shows.  To see past posts in this series, and learn how to make a contribution, please visit the Counting Actors Info Page.

8 shows counted:
San Jose Stage/Race (this is actually an October show that I somehow forgot to count!)
ACT/Elektra (Female translator not counted below; also not counted are onstage female cellist, and 4 understudies: 2m, 2f, 1 union, 1 non-union of each gender)
Golden Thread/ReOrient 2012 Series A (A festival of 6 one-act plays with multiple writers and directors and an ensemble cast, each actor featured in at least 2 pieces)
6th St Playhouse/August:Osage County
Killing My Lobster/KML Does Not Fear the End (a collaboratively written sketch show with lots of cross gender casting for both men and women)
Impact/Toil and Trouble
Aurora/Wilder Times
CenterREP/Status Update

The Stats:
6 male directors, 6 female directors
14 male writers, 9 female writers
52 total actors
27 men, 25 women
17 equity actors, 35 non-equity actors
9 union men, 8 union women
50 local actors, 2 non-local actors

Thank you so very much to the folks who continue to contribute show statistics to this blog, and to the folks who do so for the first time as well!  This month that list includes: Kristin Brownstone, Liz Gjeltsen, Phoebe Moyer, Melissa Hillman, Rosie Hallett, and Darl Andrew Packard.

I also need to thank those of you who continue to talk about and share the blog posts with your friends and colleagues.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Counting Actors: the 2nd 100 shows contracts with health weeks

To compare this with the first 100 shows that had contracts with weeks, please go here.  There's a definition of what 'health weeks' are, and why they're important, included in this post.

57 shows were produced by theaters with contracts that include health weeks (or 57%) of the total.

Those shows had:
39 male directors, 31 female directors (56%, 44%)
64 male writers, 22 female writers (74%, 26%)
443 actors
271 male actors, 172 female actors (61%, 39%)
260 union actors, 183 non-union actors (59%, 41%)
168 male union actors, 93 female union actors (65%, 35%)

358 local actors, and 83 non-local actors (1 of those non-local actors was a non-union actor) (19% non-local, 81% local)

The companies and shows were:
ACT/The Scottsboro Boys, Maple and Vine, Elektra, The Normal Heart and Play/Endgame
Aurora/The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Salomania, and Anatol
Berkeley Playhouse/Lucky Duck
Berkeley Rep/Emotional Creatures, Red, Chinglish and Black and Blue Boys, Broken Men
CalShakes/Hamlet, Tempest, Spunk and Blithe Spirit
CenterREP/The Underpants, Lucky Stiff, and Rumors
CentralWorks/Education of a Rake and The Richard the First Trilogy
Cutting Ball/The Strindberg Chamber Plays
Diablo Theater Company/Legally Blonde
Golden Thread/ReOrient 2012 Series A
Magic/Bruja, The Other Place, Any Given Day
Marin Shakes/The Liar, King John, Midsummer Night's Dream
Marin Theater Co/Othello, God of Carnage, Circle Mirror Transformation and Topdog/Underdog
Playground/Best of Playground 2012
Retrodome/Becoming Britney
San Jose Rep/The Understudy, Death of the Novel and Bill W and Doctor Bob
SF Playhouse/Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Reunion, A Behanding in Spokane and The Aliens
SF Shakes/Henry V
SF Mime Troupe/The Last Election
SJ Stage/Race and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Stanford Continuing Studies and Stanford Summer Theater/Miss Julie
TheatreWorks/Of Mice and Men, Wheelhouse, Upright Grand, Time Stands Still, and 33 Variations
Willows/Dolls House
Z Space & Word for Word/Stories from Sonoma Mountain

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Counting Actors: the 2nd 100 shows contracts without health weeks

To compare this data to the exact same set for the first 100 shows, and learn what 'contracts without weeks' means, go here.

Please also take a look at the previous two posts in this series, which cover non-union shows, and BAPP agreement shows.  The next post will cover data for contracts with weeks.

There were 12 shows that fit this category (12%).

Those shows had:
4 male directors, 10 female directors (29%, 61%)
10 male writers, and 3 female writers (77%, 33%
131 total actors
78 male actors, 53 female actors (60%, 40%)
25 union actors and 106 non union actors (19%, 81%)
15 male union actors and 10 female union actors (60%, 40%)

There were 4 non-union, non-local actors in these shows and 126 local actors. (3% non-local, 97% local)

The companies and shows were:

AlterTheater/References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot
Crowded Fire/The Hundred Flowers Project
Foolsfury/Port Out Starboard Home
Intersection for the Arts & Playwrights Foundation/Dogsbody
Livermore Shakespeare Festival/Hamlet and Merry Wives of Windsor
Porchlight/Our Country's Good
Shotgun/The Great Divide, Precious Little, Assassins, Voyage and Truffaldino Says No

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Counting Actors: The 2nd 100 shows BAPP only

For a post looking at the same information for the first 100 shows, click here.   There's also a definition of the BAPP at the beginning of that post.

The previous post looked at non-union shows, and the next two posts will look at union contracts without and then with health weeks.

There were 11 BAPP shows in the 2nd 100, or 11% of the total shows.

These shows had:

6 male directors, 5 female directors (55%, 45%)
8 male writers, 4 female writers (66%, 33%)
60 total actors
22 male actors, 38 female actors (36%, 64%)
21 union actors, 39 non union actors (35%, 65%)
8 male union actors, 13 female union actors (38%, 62%)

All actors except 1 were local actors.  The non-local actor was also a non-union actor. That's 98% local, 2% non-local.

The companies and shows were:
Aluminous Collective/Dusk Rings a Bell
Back It Up Productions/Project:Lohan
BrickaBrack/Stalking Christopher Walken
Custom Made/The Play about the Baby
Diaspora Productions/And That's What Little Girls are Made of
One Heart Productions/Angel of the Poor
Theater Rhino/100 Saints You Should Know
Ross Valley Players/Harmony in Hiding
Symmetry Theater/Emilie
Tides Theater/Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Counting Actors: the 2nd 100 shows non union only

This post, and the next three after it in this series will divide shows 101-200 by their type of union contract, just like I did back in March with shows 1-100.  Today, I'm looking at the shows that had no union actors at all.  Next up will be the shows that use the BAPP or Bay Area Project Policy code, and after that, shows that had Equity contracts without health weeks, and finally shows that had Equity contracts which include health weeks.

If you'd like to see the posts I did in March for these four categories (and get slightly more explanation), go to non-union, BAPP, contracts without weeks, or contracts with weeks.  

There are 19 shows from the 2nd 100 (or 19%) that used no union actors at all.

These 19 shows had:

12 male directors, 9 female directors (57%, 43%)
16 male writers, 3 female writers  (84%, 16%)

133 total actors (for an average cast of 7 per show)
78 men and 55 women (59%, 41%)

4 of these actors (3%) were non-local.

The non-union shows/companies are:

BACT/Click Clack Moo
Central Works/Mesmeric Revelation
City Lights/In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play
Collage Theater/Box City
Crowded Fire/Good Goods and Invasion!
Custom Made/Merchant of Venice
Impact/Fisherman's Wife and Great Zamboni
Instrumental Theater/A Game
Intersection/Tree City Legends
Palo Alto Players/Lieutenant of Inishmore
Pear Avenue Theater/Mrs. Warren's Profession
Ragged Wing/Within the Wheel
Second Wind/Kiss of the Spider Woman
SF Shakespeare Festival/Midsummer Night's Dream (school tour version)
We Players/Twelfth Night
Wily West Productions/Believers

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Counting Actors: the 2nd 100 shows writers+gender+time stats

To see how this post compares to the same data for the first 100 shows, please take a look here.

So, if you're following along, you'll recall that the 2nd hundred plays had 99 male writers and 32 female writers (or 76% and 24%) and that the number is higher than 100 because of co-author situations, multiple one-acts on the same bill, and including writers of lyrics, book, music for musicals in the writers category.

In this post, I'm looking at how the writer's gender varies depending on when the play was written.  If the play was written prior to 1960, I'm labeling it a classic play.  If after 1960, I'm calling it a contemporary play.  And, within the contemporary play category, I'm calling plays written since 2000 new plays.

Of shows 101-200, 22 fell into the classic category and 80 fell into the contemporary category.  Two of the shows counted had 1 play/author from before 1960 and 1 or more plays/authors from after, so ended up getting counted 2 times (ACT's Endgame/Play has publishing dates of 1957 and 1963, and Golden Thread's ReOrient Series A included Egyptian playwright Tawfiq Al Haqim's War and Peace, from 1944, along with several new pieces).  With in the contemporary category, 69 plays were new.

The classic pieces had 22 writers total, breaking down to 22 male writers and no female writers.  No one co-authored here, and no musicals were in this category.

The contemporary pieces were written by 101 writers, and include multi-writer shows like the Best of Playground and the previously mentioned ReOrient series, as well as co-written shows and musicals.  Of the 101 writers, 78 were male and 32 female, or 71% and 29% respectively.

Within the contempory category, I did pull out 69 new plays, written by 96 writers, 66 male and 30 female, or 69% and 31% respectively.

More data to come - in regards to who is working with which union contract, and also putting all two hundred shows into some useable, shareable infographics.  Stay tuned!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Counting Actors: General Stats for shows 101-200

To see how this info compares to shows 1-100, please take a look here.

Shows 101-200 (aka the 2nd hundred shows) for Counting Actors had:

62 male directors, 55 female directors (several co-directed shows and/or shows made up of one-acts with different directors.  Musical Directors are also included as directors).

99 male writers, 32 female writers (again, one-acts, co-authors and counting writers of books, lyrics, music meant that this total was over 100)

This means 53% male directors and 47% female directors.  It means 76% male writers and 24% female writers.

774 actors worked on those 100 shows.  The largest cast show was Legally Blonde at Diablo Theatre Company, and the count includes two 1 person shows.  These actors include 454 men and 320 women (59%, 41%), 308 union actors and 466 non-union actors (40%, 60%) and 676 locals and 96 non-locals (88%, 12%).

Of the 308 union actors, 192 were men and 116 were women (62%, 38%), and while not explicitly asked, I noted that in 2 cases, the non-local actors were non-union, so that means that 70% of the union roles were cast with local actors and 30% from out of town.

Many more posts to come on this topic.  Like I did back in March with the first 100 shows,  I'm planning to break down this data by the year the play was written (pre-1960, 1960-2000, 2000 to now) and by the type of union contract used (no contract, BAPP, contracts w/out health weeks, contracts w/health weeks).

I'm also curious to look at the affinity between women writers and other opportunities for women on a project (in other words do women write more female characters?), as well as how this question plays out when a woman is a director.

And, I'm planning to put the first 200 shows together into some additional data, and use infographics to help tell the story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Julia Caesar and 200+ shows counted!

A fascinating article in today's Guardian UK about an upcoming all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse.    The women involved talk about getting to lead and to provide the motor for the story, rather than support the work of men as they've often been asked to do in the past.

The article also includes an important statistic.  In the Shakespeare canon there are 788 male characters and 141 female characters.

Which brings me to this exciting announcement: the Counting Actors project is at over 200 shows, so look for some statistical posts starting towards the end of the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Launch!! WBWSF blogsite

I'm so thrilled to be a part of this new project that has both an online presence and a real world monthly meetup event!!

Take a look at my post in the 'Perspectives' section titled 'I Believe in You'.  And join us in the MeetUp group for our December 8th 2pm meetup to see 3GirlsTheater's holiday short plays festival 3 Girls Squared!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Theatre Bay Area is holding a Diversity Symposium on Monday December 3rd from 2-6 at Berkeley's Aurora Theater.

I will be on a panel discussing diversity issues and the individual artist.  I

It's a free event, but you need to RSVP in advance, which you can do here.

I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 9, 2012

LA Theatre Works

I wanted to read Lucy Prebble's Enron, so I requested it from the library, but I accidentally requested not the   script, but the recording of the play by LA Theatre Works.

And I'm really glad I did!  After listening to the play with a stellar cast, I went to the interwebs to find out more about what I'd gotten.

And it turns out LA Theatre Works has been making audio recordings of plays for 25 years.  They stream a weekly broadcast free of charge, and have a library of over 400 recordings of plays ranging from the Greeks to Shaw to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. You can buy downloads or CDs at their site, and I found over 40 titles available in the SF Public Library system on CD.

A fantastic resource for theater folks of all stripes.

Check 'em out here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Works by Women San Francisco

I'm part of a new group that's forming here in SF.  Taking a page from a NY based group, Works by Women, we're starting regularly monthly events to see shows that feature women in writing, directing, design positions and/or have a gender equal or majority female cast.  And a blog/website rolls out very soon as well - I'll update with that info when it's available.

You can find out more about the group here.

And, if you're available on Thursday, please consider joining us for our first event, Golden Thread's ReOrient.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Counting Actors October 2012

This project began in June 2011. With the contributions of many theater makers and theater goers,  I now have stats for 198 Bay Area shows!  To learn more about the project, including how to contribute info for shows you're working on or go to see and a a link to a list of prior posts, go here.

15 Shows Counted:
SF Shakes/Midsummer Night's Dream (this Shakespeare on Tour project truncates the play to a 55 minute length and a cast of 5 who play multiple roles.  Female actors play Puck/Egeus as well as several of the Mechanicals)
We Players/Twelfth Night (a site specific project with a female actor playing a male Toby Belch, and several actor/musicians with very small amounts of dialogue)
Ragged Wing/Within the Wheel (a multi-site, installation piece with one 'creator/director' credited here and additional 'site directors' not credited.  Also no credited writer - text was found text combined w/company devised text and no one is credited as 'text' or 'writer' in their program)
Crowded Fire/The Hundred Flowers Project
Cutting Ball/Strindberg Chamber Plays (although this is five one act plays presented over three separate evenings, they are all directed by one director, and use a company of actors for all the plays, so I'm counting it as a single show)
TheatreWorks/33 Variations
Marin Theater Company/Topdog/Underdog
Shotgun/Assassins (directing team on this project includes F director, M music director and M book/lyrics M composer; onstage band not included in count)
Diaspora Productions/And That's What Little Girls are Made of
CentralWorks/Richard the First Trilogy (again, this is three plays presented over three evenings, but by a single writer, director and company of actors, so counting it as one show; also female actor playing a boy/teen in one of the pieces)
Word for Word/Stories from Sonoma Mountain (credited writer is actually a fiction writer - this company presents short stories as plays)
CenterREP/The Underpants
Stanford Continuing Studies & Stanford Summer Theater/Miss Julie (this may have been under the radar for a lot of folks, but it wasn't a student production, but rather a month long Equity contract for all three actors)
CalShakes/Hamlet (this production had a female Rosencranz)
SF Playhouse/Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (the count for this show includes 2 boys who alternate playing the child role in the show)

The Stats:
8 male directors, 8 female directors
14 male writers, 2 female writers
119 total actors, 69 male, 50 female
48 union actors, 71 non-union actors
28 union men, 20 union women
108 local actors, 9 non-local

Thank you so much to the actors, audience members, theater staff and production teams who have contributed to this count.  Specifically this month, I'd like to thank Maria Leigh, Anne Hallinan, Michael Gene Sullivan, Carol S. Lashof, Susan Shay, Phoebe Moyer, Kat Zdan (my birthday twin!), and Karen Thompson Hall.

November info will go up between December 1st and 5th.  As mentioned above, the Counting Actors project is at 198 shows.  When I get to 200 shows logged, I'll be able to compile some bigger picture comparisons, similar to what I did back in March 2012, when the project reached 100 shows.  So send in info for shows running now - more info on what goes in the email is here.

Thanks for talking about and sharing this info with your theater friends and colleagues, in either the real or virtual green room, audition waiting room, or at the closing night party.

Friday, October 26, 2012

So Close!!

Did a little tallying of the shows for Counting Actors, and it turns out there's fewer than 10 plays left until the total count is 200 shows!!

If you're reading this, you've probably got plans to see a show, rehearse a show or perform a show before the end of October.  Will you take a few minutes and send the info about that show to the project?  If you don't know what I'm talking about, click on the Counting Actors link in the sidebar to the right.

It would be fantastic to have 200 shows by the end of the month.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Batting Average

A lot of times I don't pay much attention to sports.  It took me 3 years of college at UCLA to figure out that the big building that often had huge crowd out front getting in my way when I was late to rehearsal was Pauley Pavilion (for the non-sports minded, some amazing college basketball has happened there). True. Story.

However, given the amount of baseball I've been watching in the past week or so, I've been thinking about acting, auditions and stepping up to the plate.

The more sports minded can skip the next bit and tune back in in about a paragraph or so.  Cause I'm going to explain what I know about batting average.  Batting average in baseball is calculated as the number of times a player hits a ball divided by the number of times he is up at bat.  Excellent batting averages are anything above .300.  A batting average above .400 is next to impossible, over a lifetime.  Occasionally someone goes above .400 for a season, but it's pretty rare.

What these numbers mean: an excellent hitter in baseball connects 3 times out of every 10 times at bat. Or, an excellent hitter in baseball doesn't connect 7 out of every 10 times at bat.  Professional people, who get paid insane amounts of money to hit a ball with a stick only manage to execute that part of their job 30% of the time!

What these numbers tell me is that what these guys get paid to do isn't actually to hit balls with sticks. Rather,  their job is to be ready, should all the other circumstances line up, to hit a ball with a stick.  And ready means they prepare mentally and physically prior to the event,  they learn about the people who are going to challenge their ability to hit a ball with a stick and anticipate what might happen, and to ultimately, when the time comes and they are called to the plate, they get out of their own way mentally and allow their bodies to do what they've prepped for, and still 70% of the time, they won't actually hit the ball.

It's amazing each time I watch the intense level of commitment and concentration of a batter at the plate.  How all the training & preparation lives in that moment, how so much is out of their control, yet they know what they have control over.

Little acting lessons.  Each time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tiny Beautiful Things

Maybe you've read Wild - the book with the big hiking boot on the cover, about the woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed.

It turns out, Cheryl has been writing an advice column for an online magazine called 'The Rumpus' - she wrote her column anonymously as 'dear Sugar'  and has recently unmasked herself, and collected her columns into the book Tiny Beautiful Things.  The degree of honesty, open-ness and 'radical empathy' I found in this book struck me to the core.  Actors, please read.  You'll learn so much.

Here's a quote I particularly liked:

When you feel terrible because someone has gotten something you want, you force yourself to remember how much you have been given.  You remember that there is plenty for all of us.  You remember that someone else’s success has absolutely no bearing on your own.  (italics mine)

For me, I know that when I'm not working, auditioning less, feeling vulnerable about my career and my talent, I start to look at those around me who are hitting milestones, moving forward, gaining momentum and at times seem to be passing me in this race (who said it was one anyway?). The quote above is incredibly grounding in moments like those.

Take a look.

linkage fest - Happy Oktober!

Last Thurs Howlround had a twitter convo on gender parity and diversity.  You can read the collection of tweets here.

I highly encourage you to check out the writing of this articulate, thoughtful blogger who I learned about last week.

Here, she writes about her reactions to 'Peter and the Star-catcher' and subsequent reactions to her reaction when she discusses it with work colleages at TCG.

Here is her update a few days later - detailing reactions to her earlier post.

Here is an earlier 'angry post about gender and theater' which is so right on target and needs to be read by you.  Right now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Counting Actors September 2012

This project began in June 2011. With the contributions of many theater makers and theater goers,  I'm getting very close to having info on 200 Bay Area shows!  To learn more about the project, including a link to a list of prior posts, and how to contribute stats when you see a show or work on one, go here.

16 Shows Counted:
Crowded Fire/Invasion!
SF Shakes/Henry V (character of Boy played by female actor)
Custom Made/The Play About the Baby
Aurora/The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Magic/The Other Place
TheatreWorks/Time Stands Still
Center REP/Lucky Stiff (Director/Choreographer and Music Director counted as 2 male directors below; book & lyrics by a woman, music by a male, counted as 1male, 1 female writer below)
San Jose Rep/Death of the Novel
Berkeley Rep/Chinglish
Foolsfury & Z Space/Port Out,Starboard Home
SFIAF, CARECEN & MCCLA/Placas:Most Dangerous Tattoo (project will continue to perform in San Jose, and potentially tour through CA w/this cast)
Impact/The Fisherman's Wife
BrickaBrack Productions/Stalking Christopher Walken
ACT/The Normal Heart (3 additional local understudies 2m, 1w not included below, also uncredited below is female director who re-staged BWay production for Arena & ACT tour)
Second Wind Productions/Kiss of the Spider Woman (co-directed by a m/f team; this is not the musical, but the 2 person stage play)
Intersection for the Arts, Playwrights Foundation & ESP Project/Dogsbody (production will tour to NY and present  at LaMama w/a cycle of other Erik Ehn plays)

The Stats:
13 male directors, 5 female directors
15 male writers, 2 female writers
100 total actors, 65 male, 35 female
51 union actors, 49 non-union actors
36 union men, 15 union women
68 local actors, 32 non-local

These statistics couldn't come together without contributions from the performers, artistic staff, production teams, and audience members of the Bay Area's theater community.  Thank you to Megan Killian Uttam, Phoebe Moyer, Roselyn Hallett, Karen Thompson Hall, Lily Tung Crystal, Sheila Devitt, Sarita Ocon, Rami Margron, and Melissa Hillman for sharing statistics w/me this month.

October info will go up between November 1st and 5th.  The Counting Actors project is getting very very close to 200 shows logged!  At that point, I'll be able to compile some bigger picture comparisons, similar to what I did back in March 2012, when the project reached 100 shows.  So please send in show info if you see something in October - more info on what goes in the email is here.

Thanks for talking about and sharing this info with your theater friends and colleagues, in either the real or virtual green room, audition waiting room, or at the closing night party.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Are Theatre - Sept 24th

An amazing event taking place in NYC next week Monday!

WE ARE THEATRE is described as a speakout about sexism in global theater.  Monologues, skits, songs and scenes, featuring over 20 playwrights.  There's no web page for the event, but there is a facebook page, an indiegogo campaign and a link for tickets.

50/50 in 2020 and Guerrilla Girls on Tour are two of the many groups on the planning/making/organizing side.

When I asked on their facebook page about ways for people outside of NYC to participate, I was told that the event will be livestreamed, but at this point I don't have any more info.  Will update when I find out more!

In the meantime, Counting Actors for September is just 10 days or so away.  The project as a whole is at 175 plays, and could use your contributions.  Visit the Counting Actors page on this blog for more info.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Monologue searching - beyond the monologue books

I'm never not searching for monologues, but this is at the forefront for me right now, because my current monologues have been in heavy rotation for about a year, and I need to rotate in some new pieces.

In particular, I need some new classic pieces (my definitition of 'classic' is a play from approx 1950 or before with a non-contemporary approach to language).  How I found my current classic piece was not by picking up a monologue book, but by thinking about classical archetypes, and what ones I'm best suited to play, given my type.  I ultimately decided that I wanted to find an archetypal loyal wife - and I settled on Andromache (wife of Hector, prince of Troy in the Trojan War).  By searching online, I found plays that feature Andromache - by Euripedes, Racine, Shakespeare and more!

I grabbed one version of each of the interesting plays from the library, and decided that the ideas in Andromache's speech in Euripedes' Trojan Women were the ones I could get behind.  Then, I needed to find a translation/adaptation of the play with language that was exciting - depending on the age of the translation and the nationality of the translator (Brit vs. American), I found versions of the speech that were too stuffy, too flowery, too intellectual, and ultimately found Karen Hartman's Troy Women, which felt bold and exciting and fun to read out loud.

I pulled the most personally provoking 55 seconds out of the approximately 3 minute speech, and my classic monologue was ready for rehearsal.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Counting Actors, August 2012

This project began in June 2011. With the contributions of many theater makers and theater goers,  I've logged stats on 165 Bay Area shows so far.  To learn more about the project, including a link to a list of prior posts, and how to contribute stats when you see a show or work on one, go here.

13 Shows Counted:

Wily West/Believers
Marin Theater Company/Circle Mirror Transformation

Shotgun/Precious Little
Marin Shakes/The Liar & Midsummer Night's Dream
Custom Made/Merchant of Venice (in this production, Salerio, Salanio and the Duke of Venice were played by women as female characters)
Livermore Shakespeare/Hamlet & Merry Wives of Windsor (Livermore Shakes casts a company, so some actors are in both shows, and counted twice below.  Rosencranz and Guildenstern played by women as female in Hamlet, and women played Shallow, John Rugby and Peter Simple as male characters in Merry Wives)
Porchlight/Our Country's Good (this production co-directed by two women)
Central Works/Education of a Rake
Willows/Doll's House (male actors in this show include 2 boys alternating in the child role)
Cal Shakes/Blithe Spirit
Back It Up Productions/Project: Lohan (multiple roles played by most of actors in this show; lots of cross gender work by both men and women)

The Stats:
6 male directors, 8 female directors
9 male writers, 4 female writers
133 total actors, 73 male, 60 female
39 union actors, 94 non-union actors
22 union men, 17 union women
132 local actors, 1 non-local

I couldn't put these stats together without the contributions of folks in the community.  Thank you to Maria Giere Marquis, Marissa Skudlarek, Kendra Lee Oberhauser, Karen Thomson Hall, AJ Hileman, Michael Patrick Gaffney and Arwen Andersen. 

September info will go up between Oct 1 and Oct 5. If you see a show or are working on a show with performances in september, please go here to learn how to submit the statistics. 

Thanks for tweeting, liking, +ing or linking this post, or talking about it in the green room, dressing room, rehearsal room, or at the bar after the show.

Monday, August 27, 2012


So I've just learned about this word/concept and it's been making me stagger a bit.

It's Greek in origin, and the Greek word means something like 'having a goal' or 'creating completion'

Aristotle uses it when talking about plants and seeds.  It's the essence of what's in a seed that makes it grow into the right kind of plant - the essential thing that makes a tomato seed grow a tomato plant or a pumpkin seed a pumpkin vine.  In other words, the entelechy of the acorn is an oak tree, the entelechy of a caterpillar is a butterfly and so on.

It's a fantastic word that holds in it the concepts of soul, potential, growth, transformation, self-actualization, possibility.  It's a way to name one's purpose and reason for being.

What kind of oak tree is already there, waiting for me to manifest it?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Open-Gender Casting: read about it over at HowlRound

I love this HowlRound post not just because it gives me a newer, better piece of vocabulary: open-gender casting - the idea that a character can be played by an actor of either gender as their own gender. An example from my resume: playing Toby Belch as a female character.  Another example of this would be a playwright writing characters with the intention that they can be played by either gender.

The other term I've been using as a catch all is cross-gender casting.  Moving forward, I'll be using this term to describe scenarios where a character is played by an actor of the opposite gender as the gender of the character.  An example from my resume: playing MacBeth as written, as a male character.

The post over at HowlRound by Susan Stroupe is intended as a conversation starter on this issue.  So head on over, and make some comments!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Audition Attitude

Man!  I was at an industrial audition this week with some needy actors!  Do you know what I mean? Apologetic body language during slate and profiles.  Afraid to point out that there was actually one more character in the side than actors in the room so the assistant would need to read in.  Needing the job so much that they hadn't prepped the sides well enough to get off the page and deliver lines to camera, and therefore weren't able to pick up the pace when given the direction to do so.

One of the things that makes auditions so terrifying/excruciating/difficult is the power dynamic.  The people on the other side of the desk or camera are the ones making the decision on who gets the gig and who doesn't.  And when we NEED those people to choose us, the energy in the room gets really hard to deal with, not only for the other actors in the room, but for the decision makers too.

How does one get past the neediness?  Observe an audition from the other side - be a PA or a reader or find some other way into the room and you'll see how many factors go into casting that you never considered.

More importantly, cultivate an audition attitude.  Lighten up and don't take it so seriously.  Get to a place where you can take approval seeking out of the equation.  Know yourself.  Do your homework, take classes, get comfortable with the process of auditioning.

And flip it - the people on the other side of the table need you!  If you come in and blow the house down, they can relax - you made their script sound good, their concept works, their story makes sense - because of you and your skill and talent.

And you might just want to listen to the song I've got below.  I often make sure that the last thing I do before I leave the house is kick off the audition shoes and dance and sing along w/Jill Scott.  And I take the amazing  ladies of The A Group to the audition with me in my mind, to back me up with moves and harmony and all their red sequined awesomeness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Reading Assignment

I just keep giving you homework, don't I.

Two things to read:
1) over at the NY Times, there's a feature in their opinion section called 'room for debate' - several opinion columns on the same topic from different writers.  A recent topic in this section is 'How Can Women Gain Influence in Hollywood?'  It's focused on writing/directing/producing and has lots of great thoughts and perspectives.

A couple of points I like:

I don't believe men maliciously choose men over women in employment decisions, but there is a certain laziness that has set in from habit. Why cast a female soldier when we are used to casting a male one? Why create a marketing campaign for girls when we already know how to market to boys? 


When Hollywood’s business side finally and consistently matches women's storytelling prowess with a recognition of and commitment to the evolving communities that engage around their story worlds, women will rise everywhere as a result.

The entire thing is here.

2) The super fantastic Alicia Coombes has an article up on a new online magazine called Art Animal, a magazine focused on women's art.  Her article is about the Bay Area's gender parity company Symmetry Theatre, and also has a few quotes from yours truly about the Counting Actors project.  Take a look here!

Monday, August 13, 2012


In honor of their 30th anniversary, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is running an ambitious and fun project they're calling 'Free Shakespeare in the Parklet'  They're doing 30 stagings of scenes from Shakespeare in parklets and other open spaces throughout the city.

It's kind of like a Shakespeare flash mob or pop-up.  It's really cool to see how the audiences respond, and to think of how San Francisco and the stories of Shakespeare fit together - putting the Macbeths' in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, or Kate and Petruchio in a playground with a water feature.

Tomorrow, I'm playing Adriana in a scene from Comedy of Errors.  We're at 5:30 in the Fisherman's Wharf area - specific location tbd by end of today.  I'm so excited to reunite w/castmates from the production we did a few years ago.

The facebook listing is here.  You can and should follow/friend SF Shakes on Twitter and Facebook for info on the rest of these FREE performances.

Friday, August 10, 2012

your homework for the weekend

Over on the 2amtheatre blog, Travis Bedard has thrown out a challenge - what season would you program?

I've weighed in in the comments, and you can too.

Take a look here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Likeable female protagonists & Patton Oswalt on gamechangers

Must Read #1:
Stealing the Herd by playwright Carolyn Gage over on Howlround is about 'likeability' of protagonists in Broadway musicals, and it's fantastic.

Here's a few quotes:
It would appear that there exists a significant double standard for what is deemed acceptable behavior for male protagonists and female ones.

What they know, and what I am learning, is that “likeable” means feminine. Even if the protagonist is the world’s greatest sharpshooter, she must still throw a match to get her man and take a number that says “I enjoy being a girl.

Fantastic - go read it!

Must Read #2:
Patton Oswalt delivered the keynote at Montreal's Just for Laughs in Montreal a week or so ago.  If you haven't seen this yet, it's got some great thoughts for any creative art maker - just substitute what you do any time he uses the word 'comedian'

He writes 2 letters, one to the 'comedian in 2012', and one to the 'gatekeepers':
I need to decide more career stuff for myself and make it happen for myself, and I need to stop waiting to luck out and be given. I need to unlearn those muscles.
 Our careers don’t hinge on somebody in a plush office deciding to aim a little luck in our direction. There are no gates. They’re gone.

Highly inspiring - check it out 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Counting Actors, July 2012

This project began in June 2011. To date, we've counted 152 Bay Area shows.  To learn more about the project, including a link to a list of prior posts in this series, go here.

14 Shows Counted:
ACT/Scottsboro Boys (3 male writers credited on this production - book, lyrics, music)

Berkeley REP/Emotional Creatures
Mime Troupe/The Last Election (2 male writers on this production - script, music & lyrics. Also script writer and director are same person)
Shotgun Players/Truffaldino Says No
The Stage (San Jose Stage)/Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (male director, female music director, male writer, 2nd male writer for book/lyrics. Cast includes double cast M child actors)
One Heart Productions/Angel of the Poor
TheatreWorks/Wheelhouse (3 writers on this project are also 3 performers in project)
Bay Area Childrens Theater/Click Clack Moo (adaptation from book by woman writer; 2 writer team is co on lyrics, 1 did script, other music; female director, female music director)
San Jose Rep/Bill W and Dr Bob
TheatreWorks/Upright Grand (one of male actors on this project has a low line load and plays the piano)
Impact/Great Zamboni (solo show written by the performer)
Marin Shakes/King John
Aurora/Salomania (writer and director same person; one female actor played both male and female characters)
Cal Shakes/Spunk (adapted from stories by F writer, male adaptor, male music writer)

The Stats:
7 male directors, 10 female directors
20 male writers, 4 female writers
141 total actors, 91 male, 50 female
61 union actors, 80 non-union actors
36 union men, 25 union women
114 local actors, 27 non-local

Giant thank yous to all who shared stats with me for July: Karen Thompson Hall, Sofia Ahmad, Megan Killian Uttam, Scott Ragle, Lily Tung Crystal and Melissa Hillman.

I'll post stats for August between September 1 and September 5.  If you see a show or are working on a show with performances in August, please go here to learn how to submit the statistics. 

Thanks for tweeting, liking or linking this post, or talking about it in the green room, dressing room, rehearsal room, or at the bar after the show.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not Hamlet

Quick! Someone buy me this book!

An essay in the Guardian UK by Janet Suzman shows me that this 1960's LAMDA grad w/RSC & film credits as well as a Dame of the British Empire has been thinking about this topic for a long time. 

A few choice quotes from the article:

What I am struck by – as I write in my new book, Not Hamlet, about the frail position of women in drama – is that none of the women are awarded interiority in nearly the same measure as the male characters.

Women have never been, perhaps never will never be, autonomous creatures, unshackled. Even Shakespeare ducked giving their thoughts extended airtime, as if listening to women was not quite worth it.


And here's a description of the book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Roundtables from the Hollywood Reporter

For a while now, the Hollywood Reporter has been putting up group video interviews of actors during awards season.  Since Emmy noms are soon, they've just done a set with tv actors.  There are four interviews, roughly an hour each in length, separated into comedy and drama and men and women. 

I found gems in each of these interviews - ranging from Juliana Margulies' recommendation of an app for script work to Johnny Galecki reminiscing about the Roseanne set to Martha Plimpton and the comedy women talking about the intersection of female and comedy to the overall humility coming off of Kiefer Sutherland.

You can watch them at these links:

Comedy Women Roundtable
Comedy Men Roundtable
Drama Women Roundtable
Drama Men Roundtable

Let me know what you think! (I first found this via the website/blog Daily Actor)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Making It Interesting

At a recent audition for an indie film, while I was using my prep time, I overheard two other actors discussing the sides.  One had decided to give the character a British accent.  Why?  She wanted to 'make it more interesting.'

Hoo boy!

I don't know how much research this actor had done, but the emails from the casting director had included a link to a website with more info for the film. From looking at that website, it was a pretty good guess that the characters they were casting at this session were at best, supporting characters, and probably in reality more like under-5's.  Characters who were not the focus of the story.  Characters who were there so that the leads had someone to talk to while they revealed major plot points, grew and changed emotionally, etc. 

Not characters who the viewer of the film was supposed to think 'that character is so interesting - I want to know more about her.'

I'm not saying these characters shouldn't be well-rounded, fully fleshed out, have an inner life.  Of course that's true.  But it behooves the actor to know why the character is there, what function the character has in the story, and to let that knowledge inform the choices.

Don't be funny if your character is the straight man.  Don't take focus when your character's function is to give focus to the lead. 

Figure out your job, and do it.  If you trust yourself with that, it's gonna be interesting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Couple o' books!

I've been meaning to write about these two books for a while.  I've had them both out from the library for about 6 weeks, and I'm getting all sorts of great new ideas from them, as well as ideas that I already had, but that were buried under the daily dreck. 

Jason Womack's Your Best Just Got Better has a super motivational title that might be a little off-putting for your inner cynic.  However, from the first exercise in the book, which asks you to write down your ideal day (take 15 minutes and try it), this book had me examining my habits and routines and rearranging priorities.

The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte does one of my least favorite things in books.  ALL OF A SUDDEN, ONE SENTENCE WILL BE IN VERY LARGE TYPE. And then it will go back to regular size.  However, many of her points are really spot on, and again, lots of great things to think about, write about, talk about if you're ready to take a deeper look at your systems, priorities, etc.  

Both Jason and Danielle are online and offer newsletters, free downloads, blogging.  Here's a link to Danielle's 'workbook o'fire'  which offers most of the exercises from her book, without the typeface changing size too often. 

BTW, both of these books were referenced in the monthly newsletter of Colleen Wainwright, aka The Communicatrix.  Colleen is a former actor and TV ad copywriter who is now in the business of helping creative people talk effectively about what they do.  Her monthly insightful email is definitely not inbox clutter. Get that here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mixed Relief: A benefit for The Actors Fund on July 23

I'm so excited to be playing one of my personal heroes, Hallie Flanagan, the head of the 1930's Federal Theater Project in this staged reading.  Mixed Relief is a play about government funding and women artists, and uses interview and verbatim text to tell its story.

The project is produced by the Bay Area Advisory Committee (BAAC) of Actors' Equity, as a benefit for The Actors' Fund.  It's also a featured event of Laborfest, the Bay Area's annual July programming commemorating the General Strike of 1934, and the history of organized labor in the Bay.

The reading will take place at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater on July 23 at 7:30pm.  Equity has a little more info here.

A Facebook invite to the event is here.  To reserve a seat, call 1-877- 232-1913 Box # 874, and leave a message.  

Hope to see you on the 23rd!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Counting Actors June 2012

This project began in June 2011 and is now officially 1 year old!  To date, we've counted 138 Bay Area shows.  To learn more about the project, including a link to a list of prior posts in this series, go here.

12 Shows Counted:
MTC/God of Carnage (male translator not credited below)
Palo Alto Players/Lieutenant of Inishmore
Theatre Rhino/100 Saints You Should Know
Crowded Fire/Good Goods (this project featured an entirely female production team, with the exception of the set builder)
Cal Shakes/Tempest (small cast concept on this show {9 actors total} meant that most roles were doubled, and women played Caliban, Antonio, Sebastian, Boatswain, Ariel)
SF Playhouse/Reunion
Magic/Bruja (cast on this show includes 4 boys doublecast to play Medea and Jason's sons)
Tides Theater/5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (2 men are credited as writers on this show, but recognition also given in script to 6 women who participated in improvisatory exercises around the creation of this show in Chicago)
Symmetry/Emilie (gender parity onstage is part of this company's mission statement)
Pear Avenue/Mrs. Warren's Profession
Berkeley Rep/Black and Blue Boys, Broken Men (the writer of this piece is also the actor in this piece.  She portrays multiple characters, almost all of them men and boys)
SF Playhouse/Behanding in Spokane

The Stats:
8 male directors, 4 female directors
8 male writers, 5 female writers
68 total actors, 39 male, 29 female
26 union actors, 42 non-union actors
14 union men, 12 union women
62 local actors, 6 non-local

The Counting Actors project is now officially one year old! Thank you to all who have been sharing these posts with their friends and colleagues and using this information and carrying along the conversation about this issue. 

Thanks especially this month to those who have contributed stats: Rosie Hallett, Sasha Hnatkovich, Phoebe Moyer, Tiffany Cothran, Susan Shay, Lily Tung Crystal, Carol Lashof, and Arwen Anderson.

I'll post stats for July between August 1st and August 5th.  If you see a show or are working on a show with performances in July, please go here to learn how to submit the statistics. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I am not anonymous!

A few weeks ago, a directing colleague shot me an email to ask if I was (or knew) the anonymous source who sent an email to many Bay Area artistic directors with diversity statistics from local theaters.  It wasn't me, and I don't know who it was.

I have not seen a copy of this email (I sure would like to if anyone has it and can forward to countingactors (at) gmail (dot) com), so I don't want to comment on content.  I understand the impulse to share this information anonymously - an individual artist who may also be seeking work at these companies may not want to point fingers publicly.   The Guerilla Girls are a fantastic example of folks who solved this conundrum with creativity, humor and style. 

In the meantime, there's Counting Actors.  One full year now of adding up and sharing numbers from shows that myself and others have seen or worked on.  June results in the next week, so send me stats now.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Go here to read more!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Thoughts

are coming in from all sorts of sources:

1) A NYT article about and other web businesses that are changing 'the distinction between professionals and hobbyists and what it means to call yourself an artist when anyone with a cellphone can be a photographer, anyone with the right apps can be a designer, anyone with a Facebook page can amass a following, and anyone at all can dream up a concept and find a place to pitch it'

Live theater isn't mentioned explicitly, nor is acting, but there's lots to think about here.

2) the eloquent Polly Carl over on Howlround preaching transcendance over transactions.  It may be Monday, but this sermon is worth your time.

3) and finally, a huh? what were they thinking pair of literally hot pants.

BTW, I read all of these thanks to my feed reader.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf on O'Neill

It's an email exchange turned into an article for the NYTimes - he's playing Hickey in Iceman Cometh in Chicago, she's playing Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey in London.  Full of insight into process, backstage rituals and the challenges of O'Neill's characters.

I love that Lane makes sure to say hi to the two actors backstage who enter before him and talk about having seen Hickey when they enter.  I was fascinated by the facts that Metcalf wears prosthetics on her hands and prefers to be slightly hungry while performing a show.

A quote that resonated for me from Nathan Lane:

"Even after months of preparation you don’t really start to figure something like this out until you’re in front of an audience. You need time. In some ways just to get through the terror of taking this on, I think I had mapped it out too much and needed to let go of everything and let the play happen to me more." 

It's a really great article.  RTWT.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I'm an artist and I vote!

Thanks to Barry Martin, theater artist blogging here, I saw this info Monday, which shows the gender gap in male and female voices quoted in news and media, specific to the 2012 election, and women's issues.  It's stunning.  Take a look and then come back.  I'll wait.

I've also seen multiple posts reminding me that on June 4th, 1919, the 19th Amendment was passed by the Senate, after a lengthy state ratification process, and passage in the House a few weeks prior.

As an actor with an every day is different schedule, casting a ballot can be challenging.  But I can't let myself throw away something that women fought for, stood in the cold for, were beaten for, went on hunger strikes for.  I can't throw away my voice when voices like mine are underrepresented so drastically in news and media.

In California, we've got permanent absentee ballot status for anyone who wants it.  Your ballot comes in the mail, and you mail it back, or drop it off at a polling place on election day. Go here to set it up, fellow Californians.  Permanent absentee ballots are also available to residents of Maine, Maryland and South Dakota.  Oregon and Washington are mailed ballots only, and there are 22 more states where one can vote absentee on an election by election basis.  You can also vote early in many states, by visiting your local city hall, usually starting one month prior to the election.  Visit the web page for your state's board of elections to find out more.