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'Third-Rate Actors' The Regional (or tour, or non-equity, or whatever that isn't NY or LA) Dilemma

lovetoactlovetoact Registered User Posts: 373 Member
In another thread on this forum, there was a discussion about which schools produce 'tippy-top' performers, and what it means to be a top-tier school or performer. This got me thinking about a podcast that I like called 'Three on the Aisle' from American Theatre Magazine. In one episode, the hosts interview Holly Twyford, a well-regarded actor in D.C. and what it means to be a regional actor (especially such a celebrated one), and why regional theatre may be more valuable (maybe not financially though) to a performer than NY theatre is. Here's the link:

https://www.americantheatre.org/2017/10/26/three-on-the-aisle-great-actors-struggle-audiences-pay-a-bundle/

Also, onstageblog has an article on the same subject:

http://www.onstageblog.com/new-blog-1/2018/5/19/are-regional-actors-third-rate

Obviously, being a Broadway actor is one pinnacle of this profession, but there are 'rock stars' in every profession (we've all heard of Dr. Oz, but my cardiologist is good at his job and enjoys it without having notoriety). Yes, it's financially more rewarding to be in a big theatre market, but if my kids can really enjoy their creative work, who am I to judge whether they do their thing in one of the most expensive cities in the country, or a regional theatre scene, or even while also juggling three other jobs in this gig economy?

What do you think?
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Replies to: 'Third-Rate Actors' The Regional (or tour, or non-equity, or whatever that isn't NY or LA) Dilemma

  • CaMom13CaMom13 Registered User Posts: 296 Junior Member
    I think it's a good perspective to consider. When we visited Temple I did some research on the Philly theater scene and Philly claims to be a city where working actors can actually make a living, buy a house, raise a family an actor's salary. That sounds pretty good to me but I'm not an artist I'm a parent! I've always felt but if an actor could be happy with regional work they'd be better off overall. My kid, however, wants to live and work in NYC. I'm hoping over the years she will open up her mind to other options.
  • PaperTropePaperTrope Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
    @CaMom13 Ditto that about Philly. The combination of friendly faculty and business connections at Temple made it an attractive option for my D. Availability of professional theatre opportunities, and the dynamic environment that creates, became an important geographical factor. A little research about what is happening locally is completely worth the time when selecting a school. D is headed to St. Louis, another city where professional theatre thrives.
  • MTDad2025MTDad2025 Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    Living in Houston, this topic is very much on my mind as my D starts her college search. Great refreshing point of view. Thanks for posting.
  • jeffandannjeffandann Registered User Posts: 663 Member
    My d lives in Indianapolis and is happy pursuing her career there at this point. Been in several shows, gotten callbacks, etc. Isn't there a statistic that says something like 99% of theater jobs are outside of NYC?
  • rickle1rickle1 Registered User Posts: 800 Member
    This is an important thread / topic. Starting to have these conversations with D as she (they all do) sets her sites so high. My hope is the actual art trumps the fame and she can be happy performing in regional theater should she not make it on Broadway. More need to start thinking this way.
  • toowonderfultoowonderful Registered User Posts: 3,853 Senior Member
    @vvnstar offers a GREAT list of places. I’ll add a couple more:
    Papermill Playhouse in NJ
    Arena Stage Wash DC
    Ravinia - Chicago
  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,448 Senior Member
    edited June 13
    I think a Broadway or Bust outlook is a recipe for disappointment. I often hear a lot of prospective MT students talk in this way. Very few will make it to Broadway (and even if they do, it can be short-lived and not an entire career). It's best to be in it for the passion of it and the view of success is to be gainfully employed doing it, wherever that may be.

    Sure, Broadway is the pinnacle. What actor would not love that opportunity? But it shouldn't be the focus of one's goals. Some here might find it hard to believe, but my own kid turned down an offer to be in a Broadway show (she hasn't been on Broadway). She had several reasons, but one of them was this particular opportunity was not going to further her career.

    I also want to point out that I agree with the regional houses discussion, but also there is a LOT of theater in NYC that is not Broadway. My D is a NYC based MT actor and has performed a great deal in NYC including well known Off Broadway venues. Such theaters also have Broadway actors in their casts. My D is rehearing one right now and all the leads (except her) have Broadway credits. One even has a Tony award.

    On the regional theater list above, I'll add 3 theaters my D has worked with:
    American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco
    American Repertory Theater (ART) in Cambridge, MA
    Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 3,950 Senior Member
    I know a lot of ny based actors who do tons of regional theater and tours. They end up with relationships with directors that get them more work as well as repeat gigs (i.e., off to Cleveland or Pittsburgh for a Christmas Carol every December. ) Some of the lucky ones find themselves in resort communities for the summer (Nantucket, anyone?) which ain't all bad! And these often involve several plays and several roles over the season which many welcome after 8 of the same every week for years.

    It's a tough way to manage a "conventional " life for sure, especially when a year long European tour gets tossed in from time to time, but plenty of folks, including dual-actor couples, manage and would choose it over any other career in a heartbeat.

  • stagedoormamastagedoormama Registered User Posts: 665 Member
    My D is in a show this summer at a resort community regional equity house.
    Of the 11 adults in the cast, she has worked at professional regional houses for a decade, 1 has done a National Tour, 1 has done several off-broadway shows, and 8 of them have been on Broadway (several of them multiple times).
    Good actors are good actors no matter where they are working. There are so many wonderful regional theatres out there where people can make a decent living and feel fulfilled in their craft. Actors absolutely should realize that a Broadway or Bust attitude is as soozievt said, "a recipe for disappointment". I know many equity actors who have chosen to work only regionally because they didn't want to deal with the lifestyle of NYC. And they are just as content as those we know who work on Broadway. Just keep an open mind to all opportunities! There are some amazing ones out there that are far from NYC. :)
  • alwaysamomalwaysamom Registered User Posts: 11,978 Senior Member
    @vvnstar makes some excellent points. Any student who has a Broadway-or-bust, or any parent who goes into this thinking that their kid will end up on Broadway, isn't being realistic and is likely to end up very disappointed. Check the number of Broadway credits that any big name theatre actor has, then think about how many years they've been in the business. You'll quickly realize that for most of that time, they have not been on a Broadway stage. Most actors (think of the tens of thousands of actors in NYC alone) will never grace a Broadway stage. Most actors who are able to earn a decent living do so with performing in many other venues and locations.

    The regional theatres mentioned are largely great opportunities but they are also very competitive. Many roles are going to be cast/offered even before auditions are held. I'll add Williamstown Theatre Festival to the list, as well as the Stratford Theatre Festival (the largest and most successful (primarily) Shakespeare Festival outside of the UK. These, as well as most of the others listed in this thread, hold auditions in NYC, so it's not as though they are only going to be looking for actors in their neck of the woods. This is a tough business, and that cannot be overstated. Even the successful Broadway actors know that no job is forever and that they are constantly having to audition for that next gig, and supplement for probably months in between with other types of cabarets/concert shows, etc.

    It's a tough business but it's also a wonderful business for those who have the desire, perseverance, good work ethic, and drive, in addition to talent. Keeping an open mind, making connections in as many ways as possible, and considering opportunities that present themselves as to how they will advance your career, will put you on a positive path.

  • EmsDadEmsDad Registered User Posts: 1,457 Senior Member
    edited June 13
    The League of Resident Theatres (LORT) comprises the bulk of Equity contracts outside Broadway (they actually issue more Equity contracts than Broadway and National Tours combined). There are 74 LORT houses around the country:

    ACT Theatre Seattle WA
    Actors Theatre of Louisville Louisville KY
    Alabama Shakespeare Festival Montgomery AL
    Alley Theatre Houston TX
    Alliance Theatre Atlanta GA
    American Conservatory Theater San Francisco CA
    American Repertory Theater Cambridge MA
    Arden Theatre Company Philadelphia PA
    Arena Stage Washington DC
    Arizona Theatre Company Tucson/Phoenix AZ
    Artists Repertory Theatre Portland OR
    Asolo Repertory Theatre Sarasota FL
    Barter Theatre Abingdon VA
    Berkeley Repertory Theatre Berkeley CA
    Capital Repertory Theatre Albany NY
    Center Stage Baltimore MD
    Center Theatre Group Los Angeles CA
    Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Cincinnati OH
    City Theatre Company Pittsburgh PA
    Clarence Brown Theatre Company Knoxville TN
    Cleveland Play House Cleveland OH
    Court Theatre Chicago IL
    Dallas Theater Center Dallas TX
    Delaware Theatre Company Wilmington DE
    Denver Center Theatre Company Denver CO
    Florida Studio Theatre Sarasota FL
    Ford's Theatre Washington DC
    Geffen Playhouse Los Angeles CA
    George Street Playhouse New Brunswick NJ
    Geva Theatre Center Rochester NY
    Goodman Theatre Chicago IL
    Goodspeed Musicals East Haddam CT
    Great Lakes Theater Cleveland OH
    Guthrie Theater Minneapolis MN
    Hartford Stage Hartford CT
    Huntington Theatre Company Boston MA
    Indiana Repertory Theatre Indianapolis IN
    Kansas City Repertory Theatre Kansas City MO
    La Jolla Playhouse San Diego CA
    Laguna Playhouse Laguna Beach CA
    Lincoln Center Theater New York NY
    Long Wharf Theatre New Haven CT
    Maltz Jupiter Theatre Jupiter FL
    Manhattan Theatre Club New York NY
    Marin Theatre Company Mill Valley CA
    McCarter Theatre Princeton NJ
    Merrimack Repertory Theatre Lowell MA
    Milwaukee Repertory Theatre Milwaukee WI
    Northern Stage White River Junction VT
    Northlight Theatre Skokie IL
    Pasadena Playhouse Pasadena CA
    People's Light and Theatre Company Malvern PA
    Philadelphia Theatre Company Philadelphia PA
    Pittsburgh Public Theater Pittsburgh PA
    PlayMakers Repertory Company Chapel Hill NC
    Portland Center Stage Portland OR
    Portland Stage Company Portland ME
    Repertory Theatre of St. Louis St. Louis MO
    Round House Theatre Bethesda MD
    Roundabout Theatre Company New York NY
    Seattle Repertory Theatre Seattle WA
    Second Stage Theater New York NY
    Shakespeare Theatre Company Washington DC
    Signature Theatre Arlington VA
    South Coast Repertory Costa Mesa CA
    Syracuse Stage Syracuse NY
    The Old Globe San Diego CA
    Theatre for a New Audience Brooklyn NY
    TheatreWorks Redwood City CA
    Trinity Repertory Company Providence RI
    Two River Theater Red Bank NJ
    Westport Country Playhouse Westport CT
    Wilma Theater Philadelphia PA
    Yale Repertory Theatre New Haven CT

    There are also 3 fairly large theatres that operate under the AEA WCLO (Western Civic Light Opera) agreement:

    TUTS (Theatre Under the Stars) Houston TX
    Musical Theatre West Long Beach CA
    Fifth Avenue Theatre Seattle WA

    There may be more WCLO houses, I couldn't find a complete list posted anywhere...

    There are many more Equity theatres, generally smaller than the ones listed above, operating under additional agreements such as:

    Off Broadway
    Small Professional Theatre (SPT)
    Disney World
    Letter of Agreement (LOA)
    Chicago Area (CAT)

    In terms of the amount of work available, the breakdown looks like this:

    Broadway 23.3%
    LORT 20.2%
    SPT 10.3%
    LOA 7.1%
    Off Broadway 5.1%
    Disney World 4.5%
    SETA (Short Term Tours) 3.7%
    Special Agreements 3.7%
    Chicago Area 2.8%
    All others 19.3%
  • LoveTheBardLoveTheBard Registered User Posts: 1,730 Senior Member
    I would add The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego to @vvnstar's list. Like the La Jolla Playhouse, it is a great regional theatre with a fine Shakespeare summer theatre festival that occasionally sends some pretty great stuff (e.g., the Gentlemen's Guide to Murder, Allegiance).
  • EmsDadEmsDad Registered User Posts: 1,457 Senior Member
    edited June 13
    To clarify one stat in my post above:

    The number for the amount of work listed as "Broadway" (23.3%) includes all Point of Organization (almost exclusively Broadway), Full and Tiered Tours, and Developmental Lab contracts.
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