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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Peter Dinklage: non-negotiables in action

There's a fantastic profile of Peter Dinklage in the NY Times right now.  A real world application of what I was writing about in my post on non-negotiables.

It's a great example for actors who struggle with the idea of short term financial gain, but long-term moral costs. Early in his career, Dinklage ate ' potato chips for dinner every night because he conscientiously objected to playing one of Santa’s elves in Kmart ads.'

In the interview, he talks about prejudices against dwarves, "Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person. But by media, everything.” He goes on to point out that media includes the actors who play the roles and that “You can say no. You can not be the object of ridicule.”

As an emerging actor in New York, Dinklage worked in low-budget film and onstage, but couldn't book commercial work, specifically because he didn't want to play leprechauns or dwarves, which were the most high-paying roles available at the time.  He did take on a character in the indie film maker's indie film, Living in Oblivion, playing a little person actor who argues with the director that his dream sequence is stupid 'when does anyone have a dream with a dwarf in it?' 

Dinklage built relationships, made friends, worked with people who saw the whole person and his leading man chops and capabilities, which led to films like The Station Agent, and playing stage roles like Richard III.

Of course, Dinklage is now playing, arguably, the role of his career, Tyrion in HBO's Game of Thrones series, and is receiving tons of recognition from both fans and critics, including a Golden Globe.   

It's an inspiring story about an actor who knows what he will and will not do, rather than saying yes to every job, just because it's a job. RTWT.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Counting Actors Reminder: send show info for March!

If you've seen a show or are working on a show with performances in March, go here (the Counting Actors Project Info page) and learn how to send me show info.

The first 100 shows are counted, but only you can help me keep going.  Takes less than 5 minutes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Counting Actors: Poetry Edition!

Poet, Fiction Writer, Playwright, Editor and Translator Lyn Coffin has written this poem, inspired by the Counting Actors project, and has generously allowed me to share it here!

Playwright Gender Math:
a poem drowning in numbers

2012's first hundred shows in San Francisco bay
let's look at the statistics- consider what they say:
18 of these 100 shows were "classics, " so we're told--
written before 1960-- meaning really old;
contemporary shows we know then numbered 82
66 were written in this century, so "new."
some shows had several writers: 95 wrote 82,
78 wrote 66- am I confusing you?
50 new show writers classified as being male
28 were women - This is playwright gender "fail."
of all contemporary playwrights, men were 66,
29 were women-- It's a problem we should fix.

women playwrights, you are needed,
far too long, you've gone unheeded
reach and teach and touch and free us
make a history to see us
from your wisdom, fashion plays
to inform, delight, amaze

women writers for the stage,
sing your love, your sex, your age
Be undaunted in your seeing,
breathe your mystery into being 
in your work the wise rejoice
raise in strength your woman's voice

Lyn will be reading her poem at a Seattle SWAN day event featuring readings of new plays by Puget Sound area female playwrights.  If you're in that area, here are event details.

She's let me know that this version of the poem is a draft, and welcomes reactions, critique, suggestions.  Leave those below!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Super-hero Work

A sudden thought this week - being an actor is at times like being some kind of double agent or super-hero.  You're at the day job or somewhere in the middle of the daily routine and the call comes in, often w/a great deal of urgency and a significant amount of money on the line.

"Tomorrow morning, be at x address at x time.  Dress like a career woman.  Be ready to speak these words." (on camera industrial audition)
"By 5pm today, send me digital pictures of your hands, fronts and backs." (hand modeling for a SAG National commercial)
"Record these words and email an mp3 by x o'clock." (voiceover for a regional radio spot)

Somehow, you've got to immediately fold this incredibly urgent task into the next 24-48 hours.  You've got to always be ready for it.  You never know when the next summons could come or what it will be for. 

So the actor skill sets need to stay sharp, the mom sweater needs to always be clean, the recording equipment & camera need to be in good working order, and the communication devices are up and running.

I am so thankful for the understanding people in my life - friends, family, loved ones, and employers and work colleagues.  Without them, none of this would be possible.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Counting Actors the first 100 shows: contracts with health weeks

Today's post focuses on stats from shows that use union contracts that include health weeks, which I defined in yesterday's post.

53 shows (or 53%) used contracts that offered health care weeks.

Those shows had:

30 male directors, 23 female directors (57% and 43%)
53 male writers, 10 female writers (84% and 16%)

409 total actors
242 men, 167 women (59% and 41%)
221 union actors, 188 non union actors (54% and 46%)
133 male union actors, 88 female union actors (60% and 40%)
342 local, 67 non local actors (84% and 16% of total actors, or 30% of union actors were non-local)

The shows were:
ACT/Humor Abuse, Scorched and Race
Aurora/Delicate Balance, Metamorphosis and Body Awareness
Berkeley Playhouse/Seussical and Pirates of Penzance
Berkeley Rep/Let me down easy, Wild Bride, Doctor in Spite of Himself and Ghost Light
CalShakes/Taming of the Shrew and Candida
California Conservatory Theater/Sleuth and Trip to Bountiful
Center Rep/Arms and the Man and Smokey Joe's Cafe
Central Works/Reduction in Force
Golden Thread/Night over Erzinga and Language Rooms
Jewel Theater/The House of Blue Leaves
Lorraine Hansberry/Almost Nothing/Day of Absence and Blue/Orange
Magic/Jesus in India, Annapurna, and Why We Have a Body
Marin Shakes/Tempest, Macbeth and Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged
Marin Theatre Company/Tiny Alice, Seven Guitars, A Steady Rain, Bellweather, Glass Menagerie
SF Shakes/Cymbeline
SF Playhouse/Becky Shaw, Period of Adjustment, Tigers Be Still
SF Mime Troupe/2012:The Musical
Shotgun Players/Phaedra, God's Plot and Road to Hades
San Jose Rep/Double Indemnity
Stanford Summer Theater/Old Times
TheatreWorks/Clementine in the Lower 9, Pitmen Painters, and Sense and Sensibility
The Jewish Theater/In the Maze of Our Own Lives
Willows/Light in the Piazza and Nunset Boulevard
Z Space & Pig Iron Theater/Chekhov Lizardbrain
Z Space & Word for Word/Food Stories

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Counting Actors the first 100 shows: contracts without health weeks

Shows produced in the San Francisco Bay Area use a ton of different union contracts, ranging from the Modified Bay Area Theater (MBAT) contract through the League of Resident Theaters (LORT) contract.  Rather than break shows down by specific contract, it seemed like it would be easier to look at contracts that provide 'health weeks' and contracts that don't.

In order to qualify for Equity health insurance, an actor needs to have worked at theaters that offer 'health weeks' as part of their contract.  To get six months of health insurance, an actor needs to work 12 weeks out of the previous year, and to get a year of health insurance, an actor needs to work 20 weeks out of the previous year.

Today's post focuses on theaters that use contracts without health weeks.

There were 11 shows (11% of total)  that fit this category.

Those shows had:

2 male directors, 9 female directors (18% and 82%)
5 male writers, 7 female writers (42% and 58%)

87 total actors
46 men and 41 women (53% and 47%)
16 union actors and 71 non union actors (18% and 82%)
11 union men and 5 union women (69% and 31%)
85 local actors and 2 non-local actors (98% and 2% of total actors, or 13% of union actors were non-local)

These shows were:

TheatreFirst & Bootstrap Foundation/Hanging Georgia
Hapgood/Imaginary Love and Cherry Orchard
Custom Made/The Book of Liz
Crowded Fire/Sticky Time and Exit Pursued by a Bear
Shakespeare's Associates (Livermore Shakes)/Lend me a Tenor and Macbeth
Julia Morgan Project/Becoming Julia Morgan
City Lights/August:Osage County
AlterTheater/A Man, His Wife and Her Hat

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Counting Actors: the first 100 shows BAPP only

In this post, I'm looking at the subset of Counting Actors data that features shows on the Bay Area Project Policy (or BAPP).  This Equity Code (not contract), "is primarily intended to give members of Actors' Equity Association the opportunity to present themselves as Actors and Stage Managers in limited run, low budget productions, as a showcase. Additionally, the BAPP may be used to provide short-term assistance to low budget Producers who demonstrate a commitment and an ability to develop into Equity contract
theatres."  (from

In other words, the BAPP allows producers to hire Equity members at a stipend only rate, provided they meet a list of conditions as laid out by Equity.

There were 8 BAPP shows in the first 100 (or 8%)

These 8 shows had:

3 male directors, 5 female directors (38% and 62%)
5 male writers, 3 female writers (62% and 38%)
48 total actors
25 male actors, 23 female actors (52% and 48%)
18 total union actors, 30 total non-union actors (38% and 62%)
10 male union actors, 8 female union actors (55% and 45%)

All actors were local actors

The shows and companies were:

Just Theater/Down and Little Dirt Road and The Internationalist
The Aluminous Collective/Blackbird
Sleepwalkers/The Nature Line
Parker Street Odditorium and Dirty Swan Projects Presents/QuatreVingtQuatre
Tides Theater/Waiting for Godot
Dragon Productions/Streetcar Named Desire
Symmetry Theater/Patience Worth

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Counting Actors: the first 100 shows non-union only

This post is the first in a series that will break the first 100 shows of the Counting Actors project down by a few levels of Equity contract or code.

There are 28 shows from the project (or 28%) that have no union members in them at all.

These 28 shows had:

15 male directors, 16 female directors (48% and 52%)
21 male writers, 10 female writers (68% and 32%)

186 total actors (an average cast of 6.6 actors per show)
93 men, and 93 women (exactly 50/50)

All of these actors were local actors.

The non-union shows/companies are:

Theatre Rhino/Two Character Play
Palo Alto Players/Give 'em Hell Harry and Parade
Custom Made/The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, The Underpants and Little Brother

Town Hall/Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Pear Avenue Theatre/Fifth of July and Mauritius
Bay Area Children's Theater/Circus Adventure and The Magic School Bus, Live! Climate Challenge
CounterPulse/Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dionysus
Cutting Ball/Tontlawald, Pelleus and Melisande
No Nude Men/Ladies in Waiting
Impact/Chalk Boy, Of Dice and Men, Dissassembly, Titus Andronicus, Working for the Mouse
Expression Productions/True West
Dragon Productions/Sister Cities
Ianir Productions/Abigail Dreary
Wily West/Peaches En Regalia
Virago/A Taste of Honey
Ragged Wing/Open
Off Broadway West/Indulgences in a Louisville Harem
New Conservatory/The Pride

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Counting Actors: the first 100 shows writers+gender+time stats

If you'll recall from the previous post w/stats from the first 100 plays, there are a total of 84 male writers and 30 female writers of the first 100 shows (or 74% male writers, 26% female writers).  Also, this figure is higher than 100 because some shows had multiple writers (either multiple plays on the bill, or collaborations, or in the case of musicals, I lumped music, lyrics and book writers into the category of 'writer')

The gender imbalance for writers was the highest imbalance I saw.  And after a conversation with some folks who do literary manager and artistic director type jobs, I was inspired to take a closer look at how the gender imbalance changes over time.  So, I've taken the first 100 shows and focused on when the play was written.

I'm going to call shows written before 1960 classic, and shows written since 1960 I'm going to call contemporary.  Within the shows written since 1960, I'm going to call shows written since 2000 new.

Of the 100 shows, 18 fall into the classic category, and 82 fall into the contemporary category.  Within the contemporary group, 66 shows were new.  And, because we're looking at total numbers out of 100, the percentages are the same 18%, 82% and 66% respectively.

The classic shows had 19 writers total (one of the classics is Berkeley Playhouse's Pirates of Penzance, so the double count is for Mr. G and Mr. S).  There were 18 male writers, and 1 female (Shelagh Delaney's Taste of Honey, written in 1958).  Percentage wise, this is 95% male, 5% female.

For the 82 contemporary shows, I counted 95 writers, and some projects, like Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged at Marin Shakespeare Festival, had up to 3 credited writers, while other shows, such as No Nude Men's Ladies in Waiting, featured multiple shorter pieces, each with their own writer, and there are a few musicals thrown in there as well.  Of the 95 writers, 66 were men and 29 were women or 69% and 31% respectively.

Within the 82 contemporary shows, I counted 66 new shows all written since 2000.  I pulled this group out of the whole because I hadn't kept track of world premieres or regional premieres, and looking up what had been written since 2000 was a little faster than trying to go back and figure out what was a world premiere or regional premiere.

The new shows had 78 total writers: 50 men and 28 women.  This is 64% men and 36% women. 

I'm still working on teasing out this data in regards to types of union contract, so stay tuned for more info.

Please share this post with your friends and colleagues, and tell them about the project.  Info how to report show stats going forward is here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My new favorite organizer and some news!

I am loving!  It's a way to put all of your lists in one place as a master list and sub-lists.  Super easy to click through and manage.  Set up is fast and it's really easy to learn and use.  Check it out!

Also, I'm really excited to have been chosen by Theatre Bay Area to represent their 35 Faces campaign!  It's a fantastic group of people chosen in honor of TBA's 35th birthday.  My profile is here.  And, I've also got an article in the March/April issue of Theatre Bay Area's magazine.  At this time, it's not available online, just in the print edition.  It's called 'Equity: Year One' and you can find it on pages 21-22.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Counting Actors: the first 100 shows General Stats

The first 100 shows from Counting Actors had:

50 male directors, 53 female directors (this # is above 100 because some shows had co-directors)
84 male writers, 30 female writers (this # is above 100 because of writing collaborations, but because I was also counting lyrics writers and composers in this category)

So 49% of the directors were men, and 51% were women.  74% of the writers were men and 26% were women.

There were 730 actors in those 100 plays, for an average cast size of 7.3.  The largest cast had 42 actors (Seussical at Berkeley Playhouse - a cast that included a union contract, but also 27 cast members who were under 18 and enrolled in a class).  On the other end of the spectrum, there are four 1 person shows in the count.  Those actors include 406 men and 324 women (56%, 44%), 255 union members and 475 non-union members (35%, 65%) , and 661 locals and 69 non-locals (91%, 9%).

Of the union actors, 154 were men and 101 were women (60%, 40%).  While I didn't explicitly ask it in the questions list, it looks like only one of the non-locals was non-union, so of the union members working, 27% were non local.

I'm planning a few more posts using the first one hundred shows.  Based on recent discussions w/smart friends and colleagues, I'd like to see how the writer gender situation looks if when the play was written is taken into account.  Also, I plan to look more closely at the contract issue - how many shows were on a BAPP vs. higher level contracts, and again see how things look for the actor gender question and the local/non-local issue.

I may come up with some other questions in the next few days, but I'm wondering if you have questions that you think the data can answer.  If so, post them in the comments, and I'll see what I can do!

For an explanation of the project, as well as links to the stats on a monthly basis, go here.

And, if you've read this far, I'd really appreciate a link, status update, tweet, + or live conversation with your friends, and artistic associates about this data.

Thanks again to all who've contributed information to this project.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cure for the Mondays

Or for other actor slump related blahs.

The compliments folder - whether it's in your email server, or somewhere on your hard drive, make a folder called 'compliments' and, whenever someone writes you something nice, put it there. 

You'll have easy access to these gems whenever you need a pick me up.  Mine has put a smile on my face more than a few times.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Send me one more play so I'm at 100

I've been hard at work crunching data for the first one hundred plays of the Counting Actors project when I realized that I've actually only got 99 plays! 

Once I get one more show onto the report, then I can share some additional info from the first one hundred plays. 

So, if you've seen a show, you're working on a show with performances in March, please go here for instructions on reporting the info!! 

You might also want to take a look here for the February list, to make sure the show wasn't already reported.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Counting Actors, February 2012

Welcome to the current installment of the Counting Actors project.  Thanks to the generosity of the Bay Area theater community, I have been able to make these reports since June 2011, and as of this month, Counting Actors has counted 100 shows!  To view past results, and learn how to contribute a report in the future, please go here.

14 Shows counted:
Marin Theater Company/A Steady Rain
Aurora/Body Awareness
Berkeley Rep/Doctor In Spite of Himself
Willows/A Light in the Piazza (since this is a musical, there are multiple entries in the 'writer' category, to count the book writer and the music/lyrics writer, both male)
Impact/Titus Andronicus (one traditionally male character, Lucius, is played by a woman)
CCT/Trip to Bountiful
Center Rep/Arms and the Man
Lorraine Hansberry/Blue/Orange
Virago/Taste of Honey
CounterPulse/Hold Me Closer Tiny Dionysus
SF Playhouse/Becky Shaw
Cutting Ball/Tontlawald (2 directors credited on this production, both female)
Magic/Jesus in India

The Stats:
12 female directors, 3 male directors
5 female writers, 10 male writers
100 total actors: 56 men, 44  women
42 Equity actors, 58 Non-equity actors
24 Equity men, 18 Equity women
80 local actors, 20 non-local actors

I really appreciate the folks who have shared stats with me this month. They include actors, stage managers, directors, artistic directors, audience members, and theater administrators.  Thank you Sasha Hnatovich, Melissa Hillman, Corrie Bennett, Eva Rebane, Roselyn Hallett, Anna Bullard, Phoebe Moyer, Laura Lundy-Paine and Lauren Bloom.

Thanks for reading and supporting this project.  Me and my Excel spreadsheet are ready to take your counts for shows performing in March and beyond! Again, go here for how to send in the info. 

And please, if you think these results are interesting or worth sharing, please repost, link, tweet, + or update your status accordingly.

March results up between April 1st and 5th.

And, look for a special post with additional details pulled from the first 100 plays of the Counting Actors project in the next few days...