I’m going to take a moment for some shameless promotion (something I think actors need to do regularly).
We have a great show playing now at the Actors Workout Studio: a series of six original one-act plays that take place in a park. With a cast of 15 actors, five directors, four writers, and a tech crew, that’s a creative team of over 25 people. The show runs for three weekends (nine performances) in our 40-seat theater. Having produced theater for over 30 years, I can confidently say that this is a great show, and a fabulous showcase for every actor participating (as well as the writers and directors). By the time this blog is published the run may have ended, so I don't mention any of this to promote the show, but rather to emphasize my point.
For most theater in Los Angeles, the process for an actor goes something like this: In the beginning and during the rehearsal process, the players love to converse about the work. Their juices and passions are flowing, as well they should be. During a run of a show I’ll ask my acting students questions, and their answers spill over with passion and enthusiasm.
First I’ll ask them a series of personal questions: Why are you doing this project? What’s your purpose and vision for it? What is your rehearsal plan? Then we'll talk about character: What’s your motivation? Your objective? Your super objective? Where are you coming from? Where are you going to? Finally, I'll get to actor questions: How about emotional and physical preparation? What objects and tools are you using? What is the significance of your wardrobe? Where are you from, what is your history, what are you using as substitutions and to personalize? What time of day is it? Are you speaking with an accent? Do you have any habits, ticks, movements, gestures, physical impediments? What’s the rhythm of the writing? And what are you adding to the writing and directing?
We discuss all the actor preparation work, etc. We can go on for hours talking about the elements that the actor puts into the work. It’s exciting for an actor to create a new character and bring it to life on stage. The same is true for the directors. We go on and on about all the possibilities for the show: lighting, sets, sound, props, effects, etc. Creating theater, collaborating, and the rehearsal process is a wonderful, imaginative, stimulating exercise, and I wish you all the best experience in these endeavors. It’s great to see how actors become so alive while in the process.
Once the show opens, a new conversation waiting in the wings is now ready for discussion. What is your plan for promoting yourself? What are your action items? What strategies are you using? Who is on your invitation list? How are you working together with the other members to enroll industry people to come? What’s the objective and intention for your career with this? The usual response is … silence, pause, hesitation… it's not as exciting a conversation.
Most actors are soft in this area. Some expect other people to do it for them. Some think having an agent or manager will take care of this. Sometimes they expect the producers to do all the work, and some are just in denial. The producers are having their own conversation about strategies for promotion, press, reviews, advertising, selling tickets, etc.
If you are an actor in Los Angeles doing theater, you have to do a lot of your own promotion when it comes to getting the industry to see you. If you are fortunate enough to be in a great show, playing a great role, in a production that you can be proud of, then you need to pull out all the stops and go for it.
I say, for every empty seat in a performance, it’s a missed opportunity for someone to have experienced your talent. Whether it’s industry, friends, family, colleagues, or general audiences; theater comes and goes. If they don’t see it, they never will. It's not like film, which can be viewed anytime on Netflix or other outlets. Film exists forever, but theater is like a double-edged sword, as it requires immediacy and discipline to be experienced. Live theater exists moment to moment. It's powerful, experiential, alive, stimulating, and present. It both invites and creates community. There is something magical about that, but if it’s missed, it’s gone forever, unseen, no second chance.
The latest Actors Workout Studio production has all the ingredients for a great show and showcase.
My dream for you is when you get into a theater situation and all the elements are working, really go for it! Be diligent and push as hard as you can, not only in the role but in promoting the show. Then let go. Knowing you've done your best, let luck take over. That’s when preparation meets opportunity, and that's when the magic happens. Good luck, and break a leg!