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

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:


Also, onstageblog has an article on the same subject:


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?

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.

I think “Success” takes many forms and those who are artistically fulfilled, whether they are on Broadway, in a local or regional theatre, teaching young performers, managing a theatre company or working in an unrelated field but applying their creative training, are a success in my book.

@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.

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.

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?

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.

The truth is many actors living in New York are auditioning for regional work that takes them out of the city for weeks at a time. Many of those auditions for respected regional houses can be attended by hundreds of auditionees who would be thrilled to be cast. These actors obviously do not feel regional work is beneath them. Regional casts can include Tony winners and nominees, broadway vets, members of original Broadway casts, members of national tour casts, and more. The quality of performers in regional houses can be quite impressive.

I think the actors who are able to make it in this business are the ones who do it for the love of the art itself. They have to love it to go through the auditions, the rejections, the survival jobs, etc… While being on stage looks glamorous, getting there is usually not. I have seen promising young careers stop before they ever start because of actors who refuse to consider anything less than Broadway.

For anyone whose student is “Broadway or Bust”, you may want to familiarize them with some other wonderful theaters and incredible venues not in NYC. A few I can think of are:

The MUNY in St. Louis
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
Goodspeed and Hartford Stage in CT
Arena Stage in Washington, DC
Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine
American Repertory Theater in Boston
La Jolla Playhouse in California
Alliance Theatre and Serebe Playhouse in Atlanta
Tuacahn Theater Utah
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
Casa Mañana in Dallas
Seattle Repertory Theater in Washington
Cleveland Playhouse in Ohio

I’m sure there are many others but these are a few that come to mind in different parts of the country. It might be fun for young actors who are “Broadway or Bust” to research or visit some of these venues. Some of them (MUNY and Tuacahn) play to thousands of people nightly. Others are known for helping fine tune productions pre-Broadway. All produce quality work and most if not all are affiliated with Actors Equity. Have your young actors look around. Great art is being produced everywhere.

@vvnstar offers a GREAT list of places. I’ll add a couple more:
Papermill Playhouse in NJ
Arena Stage Wash DC
Ravinia - Chicago

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

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.

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. :slight_smile:

@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.

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%

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).

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.

Equity actually puts out a Regional Theatre Report.

Here is what their data shows for the amount of work (in weeks per year per member on average) and membership in each region/city:

Central Florida: 17 weeks; 994 members
Greater Washington, D.C./Baltimore: 16.9 weeks; 1194 members
Minneapolis/St. Paul: 12.3 weeks; 557 members
St. Louis: 11.9 weeks; 246 members
Milwaukee/Madison: 11.4 weeks; 258 members
Kansas City: 10.9 weeks; 227 members
Denver: 10.3 weeks; 335 members
Seattle: 9.8 weeks; 553 members
Houston/Galveston: 9.7 weeks; 290 members
Boston: 9.6 weeks; 1125 members
Cincinnati/Louisville: 9.6 weeks; 406 members
San Diego: 8.7 weeks; 510 members
Pittsburgh: 7.4 weeks; 366 members
Buffalo/Rochester: 7.3 weeks; 270 members
Cleveland: 7.3 weeks; 245 members
Dallas/Ft. Worth: 7.1 weeks; 463 members
Bay Area: 7.1 weeks; 1350 members
Philadelphia: 6.7 weeks; 1198 members
Portland: 6.4 weeks; 252 members
Greater Albany: 6.3 weeks; 1035 members
Phoenix/Tucson: 5.9 weeks; 236 members
Atlanta: 5.6 weeks; 520 members
Detroit: 5.2 weeks; 386 members
Las Vegas: 5.2 weeks; 350 members
South Florida: 5.1 weeks; 595 members
New Orleans: 4.5 weeks; 171 members
Nashville: 4.3 weeks; 176 members
Austin/San Antonio: 3.7 weeks; 236 members

You can find the complete report here:


Those numbers, as always, are sobering. Thanks for posting them, @EmsDad .

@EmsDad - master of the stats as always ^:)^

A few more numbers from the latest Annual Equity Report:

There are 51,636 Equity members

On average, 5,816 work each week

That translates into approximately 11.2% average employment, or almost 90% average unemployment (as an actor).

Actor earnings looked like this:

68% earned $15k or less on stage
11% earned $15k-$25k
10% earned $25k-$50K
11% earned $50k+