“We’ve got a problem in Boston”

A week after the Annual StageSource Auditions we received an unsigned letter here
in the office cataloging several problems the anonymous author had with the current state of the Boston theatre scene.  Although many of these points have been made before at various Town Meetings and other forums I thought I’d post some quotes below to get the conversation started:

“Why bother being a member of StageSource? Why bother auditioning…..There is a small-town-clique of directors/actors who have created a “community theater” feel.  We see the same people on stage over and over again”

As a service organization that stresses the importance of community building and networking I’m not sure that a “community theater” feeling is always necessarily a bad thing, but let’s continue:

“Theaters announce their seasons and their casts before even having auditions…..We all know StageSource auditions are a joke.  Shows are already pre-cast. Actors talk.  Directors don’t take a “chance” on new people.”

We have just posted a Producer Survey and Auditioner Survey and I would strongly
recommend that anyone who has thoughts or feelings about the current process please fill out these surveys with ALL of your comments.  We use this information to make decisions about what to change and what isn’t working. Feedback from individuals who no longer choose to participate is as important to us as those that do.

“I choose to be in Boston, but we constantly lose talented people to NYC because they can’t get through the clique here.  The Boston theatre community has SO many of us disenchanted…..The reviewers are sick of seeing the same people on stage all the time…..A LOT of people feel this way but don’t have the chutzpah to say something.”

Although my goal here isn’t to refute this letter line by line, I don’t believe that this is the major reason that any actor is moving to New York, a city that is exponentially more competitive, with an even greater insider culture than Boston.  I would also argue that most major cities struggle with these challenges and that none of this is particularly unique to Boston.  However, I may be wrong, what do YOU think?

“Is this really not going to change or be addressed?  Don’t we want to better ourselves as a theater community?  I think this is a VERY important issue for you to address with the theaters.”

We are happy to discuss any issue regarding the current state of the Boston theatre community and are always interested in your constructive solutions and suggestions to help redefine Boston theatre.

A few questions I have for the anonymous author:
Are you attending every single open call that you can?  Are you preparing new material each time so that producers can see you in a new light?  Are you reading the plays before you walk into a call back?  Are you continuing your training on a regular basis to make sure that you remain both inspired and competitive?

If you are unhappy with the current state of the community, here are some ideas of
what you can you do to help facilitate change.

-Join a StageSource Working Group

-Visit us and voice your concerns on a Big Block of Cheese Day

Come to the Theatre Hero Bash.  Attending and networking at these events is a key part of building relationships and making connections.

-State your opinion and leave a reply in the comments section of this post.   You may absolutely agree or disagree with the comments above but let your voice be heard.

The responsibility falls on each one of us to show up and join the conversation.  We all help to create community.

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About jjstagesource

Jeremy Johnson is the Member Services Mananger at StageSource and has been since graduating Emerson College in 2000. He has also worked as a freelance director throughout New England at companies including Gloucester Stage, Foothills Theatre, Stoneham Theatre, The Theater Offensive, Mill 6 and Boston Directors' Lab. He's worked backstage at "Blue Man Group" and onstage at "Shear Madness". His production of "Speech & Debate" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston won the 2009 Elliot Norton Award for Best Production for a Mid-Size Company. He has also taught at The Cambridge School of Weston, Beaver Country Day School, Gann Academy, The Winsor School and Walnut Hill School for the Arts.
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31 Responses to “We’ve got a problem in Boston”

  1. Those are all valid complaints, some I experienced when first starting out here as an actor fresh out of grad school. I couldn’t even figure out how to get an audition at the Lyric, for a few years, for cripes’ sake! Excellent responses from Jeremy regarding the need to constantly improve one’s craft, and keep the artistic fires burning. I would also add attending other New England area auditions like Hartford Stage, Portland Stage, Gamm & Trinity in Providence, etc… But to advocate for new talent for just a moment, I’d like to share that ASP, for example, will be hiring at least a half dozen artists next season who are new to our casting pool, and we hope to always see actors who engage us & bring the goods. The auditions are decidedly NOT a joke, and can often lead to job opportunities. There are more small & mid-size theaters here than ever before, and though pre-casting does exist (everywhere), there are always jobs out there for accomplished, inspiring, talented actors.

    • Fiona Hugh says:

      Things have changed ALOT!!! in the past 15 years, and the anonymous writer is correct. It is so disheartening to show up year after year when so much is (announced) pre cast, or (silently) pre casted. It’s really heart breaking. Sometimes you feel like, what’s the point!

      Also, the town seems to have gone the way of “Hollywood” and Obsessed with casting 20 somethings, and early 30’s. Even when a (talented) more mature person is right for the role, just because of the “inside network community’s” familiarity with them. If they do cast OLDER, you will recognize the name, because they are super established and married to the “inside network” . I’m not even going to get into the “CELEBRITY” (invite to play the lead) topic!!!! which seems to be an annual RITUAL, in the bigger companies in Boston.

      I understand that you would not want to hire a “crazy” person, so familiarity helps, but you could consider breaking some people into smaller roles if you are so paranoid about it. And not just “20 somethings”!!

      The only way to possibly get “IN” people, is to smooch outside the perimeters of the onstage activity.
      Then they can see that you are not CRAZY, and that you are “safe” to work with.

      Stagesource, thank you for encouraging this discussion, but I am willing to bet you 10 million dollars, that NOTHING WILL CHANGE BECAUSE OF THIS!!!!! Anyone who expresses this view “publicly”, will likely dig a grave further away from the Boston stage.

  2. The Departed says:

    I – for one – agree with the anonymous author. I have lived and worked in several large metropolitan areas in the US and I have never found an “insider clique” more extreme than Boston’s. Boston is the only city in which I have gone periods of YEARS without working on stage. It has nothing to do with my talent level, because I was cast in TV and film projects regularly, and when I travelled outside of Boston to audition I was cast quite frequently. But a Boston actor – especially an Equity actor – who is not one of the insiders is screwed. I came very close to giving up the profession because of this. Fortunately, when I left Boston I found that the problem wasn’t me, or my talent, or my degree of preparation. I also discovered that I have no desire to return to Boston again and continue playing such a demeaning game.

  3. I can see how StageSource’s secret admirer has become disenchanted- I don’t envy actors one bit! Yes, there are some producers and directors who work out of a small (community /) posse, but I think the larger issue is the motivation to work with individuals and material that feels SAFE. Compare casting to season selection and you’ll see that there’s a relationship between the two:

    -SpeakEasy is proud to work with known actors on known plays most of which have been on Broadway in the past year or two.
    -Lyric features familiar works while dipping its toes into some new works, with and casts a handful of actors from Emerson College now and then.
    -Huntington has a very mixed season and is one of the only Boston theatre companies with a playwriting fellowship (love me please, please, please) which accounts for a portion of its line-up every year, although breaking into its sometimes star-studded casts may prove problematic.

    On the other hand, the many dynamic companies that make up the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston have less to lose and feature plays by playwrights we actually know and have seen at the show and can (gasp!) initiate dialogue with.

    When will the big dogs take serious steps in making home-grown theatre? When will big spaces spread the wealth and help STAB members get out of the inconvenient Factory Theatre and the Burren? I hope when the big theatres learn to dive into a new pool they’ll find they have what it takes to tread water in the deep end just as well, and maybe in a more rewarding way. I’m hoping Boston theatre becomes more accommodating by the time I complete my MFA in Playwriting from Boston University, otherwise I may follow my tentative plans to head to Chicago. I applaud StageSource for opening dialogue and acting as a soundboard for the individuals and companies that work in theatre, but no one can hold it responsible for the sometimes stubborn habits of its components– StageSource is a resource, not a mother.

  4. Thank you for posting this letter, Stagesource. I have also heard this a few times. As a producer I have tried to hire many new people to our company each year and evethough BAT works with a core cast, these poeple are not pre-cast. They are also a small group. Our current festival does not feature any core cast member! We have also found many people at Stagesource auditions we have used, one just became core cast. I think the big questions here is who are you refering to when you speak of cliques? Smaller companies like BAT, may not pay much and therefore you aren’t considering your options for working there. There is a large small theater community who is constantly looking for talent. We are no ART or Lyric, but many of us produce quality works with wonderfully creative poeple.

    I will admit it is easier for a company to work with those they know & trust, As a producer I have been burned many times by new grads who feel entitled or actors who have an attitude problem. If I even see a hint of this I will pass an actor by due to fear of being counter-active. Yet I still belive there is talent that needs to be dicovered. I can’t speak for the Equity houses because BAT is not one, but many companies in Boston cast outside a circle, maybe broadening your scope to other companies would help?

  5. Jared Craig says:

    I wanted to throw my two cents in as well. I don’t agree with a lot of what this anonymous person said but I do think there is some validity to it. It sounds like he is speaking from his own (apparently frustrating) experience trying to work in Boston so I thought I should too because mine has been seemingly been different from his. I have been a very fortunate “Boston Actor” for the past four years since graduating from BU in 2007 and making the difficult decision to stay in town for a few years. For me it paid off in spades. I have acted at the Huntington, the ART (when Gideon Lester was still AD), SpeakEasy, and several small companies in and around Boston. I feel as though I have been very fortunate. I have to say that I honestly believe that the Huntington does an AMAZING job fostering talent in this city. They have a core group of interns (I found myself in their ranks immediately after graduating) and they have many opportunities for people of all talents and backgrounds to get involved with their work and start a conversation. They have started a program to get a small theatre company residence at the BCA (I don’t know the details, but I read about it a few months back). They are one example several places I can think of that will let you in the door, use your talents, and give you an experience you can build off of. I hope (and believe) that other companies in Boston are starting this process too.

    I just want to say to the person who wrote the letter “Are you surprised that this is such a difficult career path?” Ever since I was 10 people have been telling me how difficult it would be to become an actor. I think it’s so easy to let the “business” or the “industry” or the “producers/directors/casting directors” overwhelm me, but I choose not to let it. Attitude is everything and one can either let those things wear one down or one can see the challenges and try to find a way to deal with them. I think Boston is still a small town and I hope to see it grow so that there are more opportunities here. Good luck to you, sir! I truly wish nothing but the best for you!

    • Fiona Hugh says:

      Well said, I truly congratulate you on your good fortune. but like I said, “20” somethings.
      It’s easier I think to enter the “clique” as an intern fresh out of a college that’s connected to the pulse of Boston theatre, like Boston University. They also know alot more about you, than someone who just walked into an audition, from off the streets, even before you step into the audition room. (they can just ask your teachers) This leaves the “older” 30 somethings at an immediate disadvantage, and forget about those poor much older actors altogether!!
      Just look at the “cast bios” of some of the shows, and you’ll see a carpet long line of recent graduates fresh out of classes. Where are the 30 somethings in that cast? (already established most likely, connected to the clique) so what about the walk in’s? with no clique?????

  6. Colin Stokes says:

    Back in the 1990s I successfully joined the Boston theatre clique, pretty much entirely because of StageSource open auditions. When I moved down to New York, I had less luck. (If you think StageSource is futile, try AEA open calls.) At times I thought like the letter-writer does: why don’t these jerks see how talented I am?

    When I eventually left theatre and entered the civilian job market, I discovered that being frustrated that one’s talent is not noticed by insiders is not unique to theatre. It is the normal state of anyone with aspirations, in any field.

    And when I had the opportunity to hire someone myself, I saw clearly that I had it all wrong. Applying for a day job by submitting a resume online is as delusional as expecting Broadway to make you a star after your 2-minute monologue. People hire those who come recommended, and who they know they can do something good with.

    And that’s just how it should be.

    All human beings build alliances with each other. We are naturally wary of strangers and drawn to those who come with the endorsement of our friends. All of human civilization bears this out, from tribes in Africa to Facebook. Why blame Boston theatre, or StageSource, for exhibiting characteristics that are core to our species?

    This tribalism is the source of tremendous creative growth and excellence. It leads to collaborations that have created great art, great science, huge social movements. It also has tragic consequences when tribes exclude or demonize. But this is hardly the description of a clique of local actors competing for a limited number of jobs in a thriving arts community.

    It wasn’t the system. It was my disdain for networking, shared by this letter-writer, that was holding me back. This belief that the audition should be pure and untainted by relationships, this refusal to be friendly with people because it is somehow “degrading”–this is totally counter-productive. Directors (and casting directors, and agents, and other actors) aren’t being cliquish to keep you down. They’re being human. Be human too.

    StageSource is not responsible for guaranteeing a career to everyone. Their open auditions provide infinitely more opportunities both to show one’s best work AND to meet people and build relationships with them than anything in New York.

    But the system thrives on relationships. Make them.

  7. Ben Evett says:

    Much to consider here. I think it is valuable first to look at what function the StageSource auditions, indeed any general auditions, actually serve in the casting process. I completely agree with Colin that theatre, as a collaborative create venture is, and should be, about relationships. It depends on bringing into the room people who not only can fulfill their roles but work together harmoniously to create the totality of the experience that is the play. General auditions can only ever serve as the beginning of a relationship – to introduce, or re-introduce, an actor to a producer. No producer in his/her right mind would ever cast somebody directly from a general audition – the sample work is too brief and the context is too, well, general. But I strongly disagree with the idea that the StageSource auditions are “a joke”. Our colleagues in the theatres who do the casting are honestly open to discovering new talent, and appreciative and aware of artistic growth in those they see there over the years. They work hard at it. But again, the general audition can only take you as far as, “this person is really interesting, and might be good for such and such role – let’s bring them in”. Then on to the next phase in the developing relationship.

    For this reason, I would say that the biggest problem with the StageSource auditions is where they fall in the calendar. When they began, the theatres would cast in the summer and even early fall. For a variety of reasons, the casting of seasons has recently been pushed into mid-to-late spring (Actors’ Shakespeare Project, interestingly, had a lot to do with that); so that by the time StageSource auditions roll around, yeah, a lot of casting has been done. I would recommend pushing them significantly earlier in the year, so that they serve as the beginning of the audition season, instead of the end, as they now basically do. In this way, their function as the start of the casting relationship could more effectively be realized. There are challenges with this – not all theatres announce their seasons at the same time, and the requirements of Equity for each role to be listed might be difficult to meet for some of the late-announcers, but it’s worth a thought.

    On the subject of pre-casting – it is, and always has been, a big part of the business. And it should be. First of all, because theatre is collaborative, bringing actors and directors together who share experiences and goals, know and like each other, on projects that are tailored to their interests and relationships produces good art. Second, theatres serve their audiences by bringing back popular actors – audiences at various theatres develop loyalty to the actors they have seen there, and want to be in relationship with them, too. But I know for a fact that saying that all shows are pre-cast is wildly overstating the case. I don’t know the numbers, and maybe somebody should just do a study so we can put this subject to rest, but I would be very surprised if it was more than 25% of the roles out there for any given season. Much more significant are the sheer demographics of plays. If you are an Equity woman in your late 30s to late 40s, you are in the largest casting pool for the smallest number of available roles. It’s unfortunate, but true. So the likelihood that the lion’s share of available roles in your demographic have been pre-cast is very high. But even that isn’t the end of the story. I strongly believe that excellence, in preparation, persistence and performance, eventually wins out. Actors with talent, who put in the work both in auditions and on stage, and who nurture the professional relationships which drive our industry, eventually prevail.

  8. As the Casting Associate for The Actors’ Shakespeare Project for all of its seven years and an AEA and SAG actor since 1993, I have so many responses to this incredibly important conversation I know not where to begin. I will try to be brief. Colin’s response above thundered loud truth for me. The theatre and acting and life are about connection. I have watched thousands of auditions and have auditioned myself over 700 times. The audition is the beginning of a connection, like a smile, or a frown at another human being. It can begin something, or it can stop it. I believe it is very simple.
    Having taught many “how-to-audition” courses including at Emerson and Harvard, the audition is often not about what some actors think it is about. To my mind, it is not so much about talent (which I don’t believe can be taught), it is about what you bring into the room. It is about skill and choice. The actor’s choice of material tells me SO much about that person. Their choice of clothing and their understanding of personal space. Their energy! Hey, as an actor I was kept waiting at a callback for over 90 minutes last week and it was a huge challenge not to get really annoyed. But if I had, when I finally got into that room I would have brought not my positive, thoughtful, great-to-work-with self. I would have brought my bitter WTF self and that would NOT have got me cast. What a person chooses to bring into the room, both literally and energetically tells me whether they have a sense of themself in the world. It tells me whether they are here on earth or habitating some other friendly planet. It tells me whether I want to be in a rehearsal room with them for 4-8 weeks. We choose our energy and how it gets on other humans. It is hard work to be positive and NO ONE SAID IT WOULD BE EASY. In fact, everyone specifically said it would suck and that if there was anything else you could do and be happy- to do that. So pray, and work out, take all the classes you like, go vegan, go Atkins, go to parties or stay home. Do whatever it takes to know who you are, like who you are, study text and then bring it all in. Nobody is going to fall at anybody’s feet at a first read. Being in relation with others and making friends is, to me, what life and plays are about.

  9. Brian Triber says:

    A “Community Theater” feel is certainly NOT a good thing, if what StageSource is trying to accomplish is promotion of a professional local theater scene. For those who can’t or don’t want to remember, the reason most of us became theater professionals is because we wanted to get AWAY from that smothering nepotism of community theater. It’s the reason I co-founded Ubiquity Stage over a decade ago — because I was tired of listening to who HAD to be cast because they were on the company’s board, or were married to the stage manager who would otherwise walk from the production.

    As far as it “not being easy,” I don’t believe there’s an actor out there who doesn’t realize this. They’ve all been to auditions and not gotten the job at one point or another. Sometimes it’s up to the director to actually do the work with the actor to get them honed for the part. There’s no guarantee that the right actor for the role will always be there, and it’s sometimes up to the director to mold a performance, not just cast their favorites.

    Having said that, I understand the desire of directors to continue to cast their favorites. It leaves a lot less to chance, especially if you’re trying to build a company. However, even the director’s art can suffer if a directing challenge isn’t taken once in a while, and the payoff can greatly outweigh the risks, as I did, for instance, back in 2001 with our production of “An Imaginary Invalid” which garnered praise despite casting a relatively unknown in the leading role. Sometimes you have to have faith that actors will step up to the bat and knock it out of the park, but you minimize the risk by honing your own craft as a director instead of whining about what you believe is available.

    • B.K. DeLong says:

      Thank you, Brian, for denigrating those of us who have perspired blood, sweat and tears in the efforts we put forth into community theatre in what little free time some of us have. I’m not saying what you see doesn’t exist but it is certainly something I and several of my peers strive NOT to bring to this atmosphere. Please jeep from gross generalizatios and just speak to personal experience. It will hurt some if us a lot less and speak to the reality of the situation a lot more. Thanks.

  10. David Schrag says:

    StageSource open auditions are not a joke. My first was in 2009. It was my first audition after a 20-year hiatus from acting, and it resulted in invitations to subsequent auditions from a number of small companies. I didn’t get cast in any of those shows, but it was a start. I did the StageSource auditions again in 2010 and was immediately invited to audition again for a community theater production. This time I got cast. A year later, I get a call from the director of that show, offering me a part in another show that he’s doing — no audition necessary. So the StageSource auditions and pre-casting are not mutually exclusive! Obviously this kind of thing is more likely to happen in community theater than in one of the downtown companies, but as others here have noted, this is a very competitive business. And maybe one day Spiro or Paul or Diane (etc.) will happen to see a performance of mine and say “hey, that guy would be the perfect ….”

    My only complaint about the StageSource auditions is that there seems to be a lot of luck involved as to who actually sees your two minutes. As I recall, both years I was handed a sheet of about 40 producers scheduled to attend, and both years there were about 20 people actually in the audience when I walked on stage. (I didn’t do them this year.) I understand that producers have other commitments and that it’s impossible for everyone to sit through every audition, but it can be disappointing when that one person you really wanted to impress isn’t even there.

    As an audience member, for every time I say “why couldn’t they have gotten a fresh face for this role” there’s a time I say “who thought this person could act? So-and-so would have been much better.” (And there are of course times when I say “I would have been much better.”) As an aspiring director, the idea of casting someone whose talents and personality I’d only been able to glimpse for an hour or so would scare the pants off me. And as an actor having been on both sides of the occasion, I have to say that’s the nature of the beast. Pre-casting sucks, except when it’s the best thing ever.

  11. When I am casting my season at SpeakEasy I am looking for actors with whom I want to spend 2 months of my life. Actors with talent who share the joy of creating theater. Some may be actors who have worked at SpeakEasy in the past, some may be new faces. My job is to be true to the playwright and find the best actors for each production.

    I looked at our 2009-2010 season which recently ended. For this season we had 52 roles in 6 shows. 20 actors were cast who had worked with SpeakEasy in the past. 32 actors were cast who had never appeared on the SpeakEasy Stage prior to this season, some of whom I was introduced to at our open call and at The StageSource auditions. Just saying…

  12. Cassie M. says:

    Quoted from the article at the above link: ““We’ve got a problem in Boston” Posted on June 22, 2011 by jjstagesource

    A week after the Annual StageSource Auditions we received an unsigned letter here
    in the office cataloging several problems the anonymous author had with the current state of the Boston theatre scene. Although many of these points have been made before at various Town Meetings and other forums I thought I’d post some quotes below to get the
    conversation started:

    “Why bother being a member of StageSource? Why bother auditioning…..There is a small-town-clique of directors/actors who have created a “community theater” feel. We see the same people on stage over and over again”” To read more of the article, AND I think you should, visit the above link, or go here

    I just want to say that I think Stagesource is the reason I STAYED in Boston. I feel like it makes it really easy to see what is going on and it’s really easy to get intouch with other people from the community through it.

    For example:

    We were casting for my play THE MUSE, you know, the one that is going to the Sam French fest in NYC? Well, so we were casting for it and we wanted to find actors that looked the part, but also had great experience under their belt. Low and behold, stagesource has a headshot and resume archive. THANK YOU STAGESOURCE!

    So I go on this archive and I look through all of the male actors who can play between 17-25 and find a heap-ton of actors who fit what I am looking for. I then, serving as the producer for THE MUSE, went ahead and emailed about 15 actors about the project and the auditions and so forth. I would say that 95% of the actors I emailed were excited that I found them via Stagesource, and I was super impressed that once again Stagesource impressed me — by making the theatre community accessible over the interwebs. Hooray interwebs.

    How exciting that we were actually able to cast the new actor in the show via the stagesource profiles. If you read my blog and you are a Boston actor, I highly recommend you complete your Stagesource profile ESPECIALLY with a headshot! I rarely clicked on a profile that didn’t have a photo.

    I just wanted to react to the letter that was sent to Stagesource by saying thank you, Stagesource. Thank you!

    (posted on my playwright’s blog http://thejewbana.tumblr.com)

  13. Jerry Bisantz says:

    First of all, any time you get a chance to audition is a good time. For the first time this year, I was fortunate enough to choose the “scene” route with a wonderful acting partner and I had a blast. That being said, as an (ahem) over 40 year old actor/singer it’ss tough when you get typed out immediately. You do have to remember that many of these directors have worked and been friends with a lot of these people for years and built a system of trust. They cast them because they know what to expect, know their talents and feel that they are right for the part.I am extremely happy when a director takes a “chance” on me and casts me in a role. Hopefully, I do a good job and they want to work with me again. I Do feel that there exists a core of actors who do a LOT of the gigs in this town, but give them credit… they work their asses off at getting cast and they make themselves available for any and all gigs, and, obviously, they have the talent to back it up.
    I will admit that pre-casting seasons are getting a little bit annoying. When I look at a theater’s season and see that any possible role I could audition for has been cast it IS a bummer…but, again, that director (or Artistic Director) has every right to cast as they see fit.
    It’s a tough biz and there are no guarantees. If Boston wants fresh talent, the audiences wil start asking for it and maybe the critics will make mention. Hang in there, give good auditions and hope that someone will take a chance on you. Your awesome performance might make you one of the “chosen” ones!

  14. The author of this letter, while having some legitimate frustrations, basically does nothing to fix the perceived problem. What semblance of a rational argument he or she had, is completely lost due to the tone and arbitrary attack on StageSource.

    This is great discussion, but I have my own take on the sheer laziness of some whiners to make changes happen. Whiners never get anything done.

    My take on the CoLab blog. Complete with jokes and links to wikipedia articles.

    http://colabtheatre.blogspot.com/2011/06/controversy-in-boston.html

    “I read this letter wearing two hats. Responsible, thoughtful analytical Kenny. And “z0mg what a whiny little…” Kenny. We shall start with the first hat.”

    Best,
    K

  15. Pingback: Have We Met? | StageSource

  16. As a director that works with a variety of small and mid-sized theaters in MA and RI, I don’t think I’ve ever been through a casting process that hasn’t included the suggestion, “Let’s go through the headshots from the StageSource auditions.” We constantly call in people from that precious pile and I am constantly amazed at the pool of talent in Boston. Thank you StageSource!

  17. Pingback: The Infamous StageSource Letter « MJ Halberstadt

  18. Ross MacDonald says:

    SOLUTIONS NOT PROBLEMS-By a soldier, actor, director, dishwasher and snow shoveler par excellence.

    Well, apparently on my wee break I missed something, so here are my couple of shillings.

    As someone who has finally with his family decided to place roots in the Boston area ( well sign in to a 30 year mortgage) I have some advice for the disenchanted chap or chappess and I will do so from my own personal experience.

    Firstly, you think Boston is tough and clique, try London where every major theatre, film and tv job is cast by a few select casting directors who choose a few select agencies who submit their actors. These select agencies go to a few 2-3 select drama schools and or Oxford & Cambridge and maybe the NYT. If you don’t go to one of these places it’s a hard road. I know I took it, and was finally going somewhere when I decided to volunteer for military service and a tour of Afghanistan. (That’s a story for another day)

    I must admit I came to Boston a little older, about to be married and just out of a war. I was unsure if I was to go back into theater, and when I did I was fortunate that firstly I had the support of my wife, and secondly that a couple of companies gave me work. However then I found no work, 15 auditions in 2009 including call backs, no work on a main stage, 2010 about the same. Here was I a thirty something chap and facing the same situations that I faced in London when I was a dash sight younger. Well, I did something here that I didn’t do in London, I asked people for advice, help and for feedback from auditions. Perhaps at times I was a little bold for my own good, but at least I did so face to face or email to email and did not hide behind ‘anon’. I was fortunate to be bolstered by my faith and my wife. I was an actor with no theater to work in, but with plenty of positive feedback and also a time to work at a plethora of audition speeches, in fact getting bolder with my choices, and having fun in the process.

    I also took a note from my old (army) Company commander, ‘look for solutions not problems’. I found other theater related work, found perhaps dare I say a new certain ‘something’ with educated related work, luckily got some directing work,went on the road with The New Rep on Tour, and found a passion for 5am calls and 8.30am performances.

    Most importantly of all the experiences I was having here in Boston gave me other blessings. I spent time with my baby daughter, a chance to rediscover what exactly it was I got out of theater, gave me a time to heal after my military experiences, maybe even made me re-learn a touch more humility, but also opened up an old ambition starting a theater company. With 15 years of post-drama school knowledge, from all my experiences as actor, director, soldier, bar man, marketing associate, and landscape gardener to name but a few skills that have been thrown in to the mix. A vision of how I want the company to run was forged not only in the gardens of Oxford playing Shakespeare, but in the deserts of a distant land, to snow shoveling a variety of peoples paths and stairs in Boston when I couldn’t find another job.

    Now not every out of work actor wants to start a company or do other things, I get that, I understand that and it’s a sensible choice, but what one mustn’t do is blame everyone else, turn all that creative power into bitterness, and not explore and find new ways to grow. (That last bit does sound frightfully ‘new age’, and I am definitely not that, but it is true.) Also trust that the more you work at it, something will happen, I say that with some experience as finally once again I am thankfully blessed to work on another main stage next year.

    So my dear disenchanted actor, actress, I promise you this, if my Company (Summer Festival Theater at Roxbury Latin) survives this summer (we are after all subject to audience figures), make sure next year you answer our stage source audition notice, as obviously you missed it this year as over half our cast are effectively ‘new faces’.

    Lastly, please don’t knock Stage Source, if it wasn’t for Dawn and Jeremy I would have been quite frankly lost when I started out in Boston. They do a great job, and it is a far better aide than anything I had back in the UK.

    Yours Aye,

    Ross MacDonald

    PS
    A little audition story, yesterday I returned from a two week break in Europe, in the morning I got a phone call for arguably one of the biggest theater companies in MA, turned out they had kept me on file not from this year’s season’s auditions but last year’s! Which was a good reminder that we must always have faith and patience. As it turned out I couldn’t go in as it clashed with projects I had already, but it was a good reminder that sometimes an audition we did some time ago is still remembered. Cheers,

  19. Ms. Grant says:

    As a performer, I absolutely agree with the observation that Boston is a closed clique for actors of a certain age and track. There are very few musical auditions to bother attending for the 2011-2012 season, as most roles for women musical singers are precast with the same 8-10 ladies. As an artistic director of a company as well, I understand the risk involved with casting unknown performers, but isn’t risk better than stagnation?

  20. We start every audition process at Company One by looking through our StageSource Audition binders (we add the new head shots to the binders each year). I’m not sure what I would do without those binders…

  21. Danielle Fauteux Jacques says:

    Apollinaire Theatre just cast our first show of the upcoming season with 3 new actors we called back from the Stage Source auditions, and one actor we didn’t see at the auditions but in a performance at another local theater. We also cast 3 returning actors. We also saw some strong actors (from both the open audition process and from the Stage Source auditions) we didn’t have parts for who we’re hoping to cast in upcoming shows.

    We are always looking for new talent, and are often specifically looking for strong actors over 30. It is frustrating that so few non-equity actors over 30 audition at Stage Source or come out to open auditions, and we have in the past cast roles younger than we hoped out of necessity due to the audition pool. I hope this discussion will encourage the talented over 30 actors to come out and audition. We are looking for you!

  22. Darren Evans says:

    Interesting discussion. I can chime in with a lot of the other producers who’ve already posted to say that I have open auditions for every show I produce (except for the one-man and one-woman shows I’ve done). I rarely pre-cast roles. I can also say that the VAST majority of people who come to my auditions are under 30, even when I’m looking for “older” roles. It’s possible the anonymous writer who started this all was only speaking about Equity companies, but in any case, I say: get your ass over to my auditions! I always need more auditionees. The announcements are posted on StageSource 🙂

  23. Maybe I’m a little out of the loop, but, as an auditioner and a producer, I never saw the SS auditions as a joke. Fresh of undergrad in 2000, I got multiple jobs from my very first SS audition, all of which paid. As a producer, I’ve attended several times representing several different organizations and have proceeded to call in multiple actors and actresses from both sessions. There’s no doubt that sometimes any community can feel prohibitively exclusive, but I don’t agree that Boston is one of those communities. There are certainly companies that cast the same actors multiple times, but I have never felt that a company in town is not willing to see someone new simply because they are new.

  24. Steve Stein says:

    I was very frustrated going on the audition trail 30 years ago, but I finally realized what the problem was-I can’t act.

  25. Zele Avradopoulos says:

    I moved to Boston from Athens, Greece almost 6 years ago with a view/attempt to pursue a full-time acting career. Things haven’t exactly gone as I had hoped but I have had the most rewarding experiences from the theatre/TV/film industry here in Boston. Almost everyone I have worked with, auditioned for or took a class with has been helpful, positive and professional. I have worked in different industries (to make ends meet), different countries (3) and cultures (former teacher at int’l schools) and I agree with Colin. It is all about attitude. People want to hire people they are comfortable with and they know can do the job. In our medium (theatre/TV/film) the demands are even higher because of exposure, subjectivity and budgets. I understand if directors chose to work with actors they enjoy working with, have seen in other productions versus the ‘unknown’. If I were a director, I would do the same; because often times there is too much at stake.
    When I was able to, I did the networking, took the classes and auditioned as much as I could- and saw the results- and was slowly becoming ‘known’. Unfortunately, I needed to make some difficult choices and had to take a break from theatre these last couple of years. I hope, to begin auditioning again and know that with time and persistence I may continue to have rewarding experiences.

  26. Pingback: Triple Axelrod: Is Your Theater a Community or a Clique?

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