(Part 2) Getting Stage Work Before Other Artists


If you missed Part One of Getting Stage Work Before Other Artists then the next installment below, Part 2 , will make no sense to you. Go to the link below for Part One.

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Getting $tage Work Before Other Artists (Part 1)

Getting $tage Work Before Other Artists (Part 2) – Read on below…

Welcome back.

Last we left off we were in the middle of Project: Target Regions (If you need a refresher go back to Post 1 and return… I’ll wait.)

Project Target Regions Step 4

Timing is everything to winning work.

With regional and summer stock theaters you must always think beyond the present and to the future in terms of seeking work. Meaning; plan your visits to be when the theaters are planning their next season. If you’re wondering when that is for each individual target theater you could call and ask the assistant to the producing artistic director. But generally a regional stage begins planning the next season in the middle or near the end of their present season. That’s when you have to be like a laser guided missile and hit your targets.

Now, you may have noticed I chose a month in my cover letter example (Part One of this post) to Mr. Rose: July. I picked that purposely because I know that the Barter annually begins formulating their next season (which begins the following January) in July.

You can choose any general time period that your little wordsmith heart and digital calendar desires, as long as the theater is in operation during that proposed time slot. Emphasis on “proposed”. You don’t have to actually have a trip planned for the period you forecast.

‘Huh?’ ‘Excuse me?’ ‘Do you mean lie about being in the area?’, you may be bantering about in your brain. No! You’re not truly fibbing in font. You’re planning. (Sometimes too much honesty can hurt your career, remember that).

After you get your first bite for a meeting/audition with a regional producing entity (Ya-hoo!), then you begin the actual planning for your journey to jobs. And that’s when you begin pushing harder to get more appointments at other theaters in the same region.

You can choose a day, week, or month of your liking but you’d be better off timing your “planned trip” to match a time when the people you need to put your face in front of are most accessible.

As for day of the week, Monday is always best as that’s the traditional dark day of theater. At union theaters there are usually no rehearsals, the administrative and tech staff are beginning the week anew without pressure (unless it’s a tech week of which you should always avoid for visiting a theater). Non-union theater schedules? Anything goes. There are no rules for them.


Project Target Regions Step 5

O.K. you got one appointment. Now get more within the region. Economize and make the most of your venture. Push for appointments at other theaters within the region. Let others know that a neighbor of theirs has taken an interest in you. Ever notice how someone with a partner is sometimes more attractive and desirable than those who are single? Same rules of want apply to work. Re-target. Again. With an e-mail and/or post-card.

Recommended E-mail Format for Follow-up:

Project Target Region Step 6

Once you have appointments at your theater(s) budget your trip as cheaply as is possible. If you have friends and family within a comfortable driving distance of your target(s); stay with them. The next best and cheapest accommodations of course are available by booking low-rate motel/hotels at discount hotel bookings sites online. Remember that you’re not taking the trip for the luxury of where you sleep but for gaining future opportunities to afford and enjoy four diamond accommodations.

If you don’t have relatives, friends, or friendly ex’s in the area(s) to be visited, or can’t afford a motel/hotel then weather permitting there is always camping (if you have a tent) or sleeping in your car. “Ew”, you may be thinking. But while the latter may seem really disgusting because you would awake with horrible morning breath (or worse yet, back-seat hair), you can always shower the skin, clean your enamels and style your do at truck stops, a local Y or health club (some have better facilities than four-star hotels). While sleeping in a tent or car is not the most glamorous of accommodations, they are the cheapest other than on couches of friends and relatives. And these two options (tent or car) can be done without long-lasting, emotional, debilitating affects. I’ve survived both without problem although my right-eye does twitch uncontrollably on occasion when passing by a Flying-J or TravelCenters of America.

Borrow transportation if you can. If not, rent as low as is possible without having to hitch a horse to the front bumper. If you don’t have a driver’s license (as an adult you really should grow-up and have one) bus or train your way to the jobs.

Keep the trip simple as far as expenses are concerned. And remember: All expenses for finding work are tax-deductable. That includes; gas, mileage, rentals, accommodations and meals while away from your home base. Keep your receipts!

Project Target Regions Step 7

Once you’re on the road that doesn’t mean you stop targeting theaters in the region you’re visiting. With mobile devices keeping us in constant contact almost anywhere at anytime, you can e-mail or call prospective employers. Simply be direct and say/write/text, “I’m in your neck of the woods this week visiting [insert theater/producer name]. I would love just fifteen minutes of your schedule and introduce myself to you. Thanks!”

There’s no shame in seeking employment. So if you’re reticent about this “aggressive” marketing of your product that is you either get over yourself or get into a new, more secure, career where you are not a professional job seeker. (Armed forces anyone?)

Target Regions via Vacations:

A student of mine and I were in a discussion about how he should be targeting theaters in the region of his residence, Greater Philadelphia a.k.a. The Delaware Valley. I was giving him some homework to do for the next class when he casually mentioned that he was taking his son to Pittsburgh to scope out colleges. Before he finished the sentence I stopped him.

“Did you contact any of the theaters in Pittsburgh to let them know you’ll be in the area?”

He knew I had caught him at missing an opportunity. The forty-year plus old man sheepishly looked down at the floor like an adolescent caught breaking curfew and mumbled that he didn’t but should have. Duh! Yes. The trip had already been planned. Hotel and travel arraignments made. If he had contacted the thriving theater market in and around the Steel City he could have written his family’s school-scoping-excursion off as a business expense! He also would have been creating new contacts that would have possibly led to a job that would help pay for his son’s costly secondary education! This guy lost an opportunity. Life 1. Student 0.

If you’re planning a vacation, a weekend road trip or any journey to areas where there are live theaters (or theme park entertainment if you’re so inclined to toiling in that trade) within a two hour driving distance from your destination don’t forget to pack some appointments into your schedule. Follow the previous Target Regions steps for getting yourself in front of people who can provide you with potential paychecks. One of the perks to taking meetings (or auditioning) while on a personal pleasure peregrination is that you can leverage that expense of luxury into a business deduction. I’m often amazed when I talk to theatrical friends and students who tell me they went to the Gold Coast of Florida or to the Berkshires (both cornucopias of regional theater) for a recent vacation and upon my asking, “Did you meet with any theaters while there?” and they look at me as if I just said something immoral about their mother. Then they realize the opportunities lost and ask me, “Should I have made contact with the theaters in the area?” What do you think? Life 2. Friends & Students 0.

And don’t overlook visiting college theater programs. Academia does occasionally hire guest artists, directors, choreographers and designers. The educational institutions also bring in professionals to teach or lecture. You might be able to pick-up a future guest lecture gig and enrich the knowledge of aspiring theater professionals (you were once one yourself, time to give back a little of what you’ve learned).

[End of Part 2. Next post includes what to take on your travels PLUS interview technique. If you’re not a subscriber to the the always free Answers for Actors I can guarantee that you’ll you’ll miss this important conclusion to this series and future posts. Several methods of getting the feed directly to you, at your convenience, are in the above, right column —–>. There’s one option below as well.]

My Best,

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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