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January 08, 2008


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Karl Miller

Sure, it's simple math from an admin point of view. And a director's. When I talk about actors being "primary" to the art, I mean to say that the whole New York Centrism question is largely in their hands, not casting folk or local theatres. I don't see it as an institutional problem that local theatres can fix by making some categorical judgment about local-vs-New York actors. Although Scott's idea sounds good.

All I know is that I've seen plenty of horrible acting at every echelon of NYC theatre, when I lived in DC we got a ton of bad imports from NYC, and there are enough capable, idle actors in NYC to fully populate a dozen regional circuits. If the system is going to change, it won't be by petition of local theatres, it will change because actors have started building local companies from the ground up.

I completely sympathize with your director-friends. But your questions to them might be better put to actors, accepting (as you said in your first post) that they and the audience are really the essential elements of the industry.


This makes me mad enough to spit.

Of course they are better in New York.
If you're any good any you want to make money you have to move to New York.

It's not a question of "New York" actors being better. It's that they all happen to live there. I have a better shot at working at Berkeley Rep living in Brooklyn than in Berkeley.

And part of that is confirmation bias. The rubes aren't any good. Ever.

VW (SF Actor)

thanks for starting this thread. Absolutely it's a question of percentages. And out here in the acting community, there is the thought that to be taken seriously one has to move to NY or LA.
Another aspect of this whole thing - when a theater brings a director in from out of town - that director may have actors that they already have a shorthand with, that they've built a language with, and that's who they cast, not taking time to look at who's available locally. The same is true for designers - this out of town director will bring in the designers that they're used to using.

Calllie Kimball

Firstly, can we agree that mediocrity is not limited to stages outside Manhattan.

That said, my take on it is that there's more at stake (real or perceived) for artists living in Manhattan, so more actors go balls-out in their work. Here in DC, most of our top working actors have day jobs with benefits. A lot of actors here stop taking classes once they move past the beginner stage. From my understanding, actors in NY are constantly taking scene study classes, even when they are further along in their careers. I wish that were the case here.

I think the artists that consistently challenge themselves are the ones, whatever city they are in, who should be working the most.

I'm not in favor of any kind of affirmative-action for local actors. I'm in favor of local actors stepping up.

Calllie Kimball

I also meant to say that many of the NY actors I see that get farmed out into shows down here aren't necessarily any better than the locally grown variety.

Which may seem contradictory to what I said above, but it's not.

Scott Walters

Thanks, Isaac - my response is here:


VW (SF Actor)

Another thought - when an actor lives in NYC or Chicago or LA, because more work is cast there, there are more opportunities to audition than for folks elsewhere, resulting in the NYC talent having sharper audition skills. Perhaps one way to 'step up' on the local level is to do more auditioning?


I can only offer my own personal experience from having lived three years in Philadelphia and four years here in NYC. While I did decide to leave Philly for New York, it certainly was not due to either a lack of theatrical talent, or the ability for that talent to make a living in Philly. Quite the contrary! The primary difference between my actor friends in New York and those in Philly is those in Philly are home owners, many of whom have bought that affordable housing primarily though theatre/film/voice-over work. While I've been away from the city for some time now, and so perhaps things have changed; the dynamic there was far different than the one here lamented. Many of the theatres routinely hire local actors, and do so with good reason - Greg Wood, Grace Gonglewski, Ian and Karen Peakes, Matt Pfeifer, Jen Childs, Pete Pryor and many others are all doing great work and developing loyal local audiences. There is an informal company of actors and directors who have worked together now over many years, and in doing so, have created the kind of quality work that only longstanding artistic relationships can provide.
But maybe someone who lives there now has a different perspective. And, for different reasons, I am now here and not there.


I read quickly and reacted quicker.
more reasoned thoughts in a moment.


you know, IT'S VERY IMPORTANT to examine first and foremost (instead of from the artist's default viewpoint) WHO THE HELL THE AUDIENCE IS and what an audience (even if starting with the vague generalities) EXPECTS.
'Expectation' is paramount when mounting a play these days. 'Acting' takes on a more pejorative term (I agree with Marlon Brando's foreword in Stella Adler's book) as you hand every semi-willing person a digital camera and tell them to make faces in front of it and post it on YouTube. Theatre is not a 'young person's' artform (I'm referring to scripted plays now-- maybe not so much as improvisation) anymore. The 'seasoned' actors are ones who are older and more experienced... basically, you get your youth feeling the pressure to migrate to the big cities where they can feel part of an artistic collective (whether theatre related or not-- happens with indie bands, too) and where the "work" is. Theatre is a job. Therefore, acting has become a job. A commodity. A product. The Dilettante's Ball. Make money first so you can make your art. Not vice versa. You rarely can make your art first and then make money. Big cities have the work-- the sponsors, the corporations, the liberals. It's so hard to keep a small or mid-size theatre community interested when the subscriber base consists of old money protected by our grandmothers and fathers who think their actor grandsons and daughters look "cute" on stage, never mind the story.
I don't know... I'm in grad school and obviously not nearly as concise when sharing my intellectual views... I'm gone...

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