So you’ve auditioned for a show, maybe you laid down a self-test, maybe you smashed a callback, maybe a mate just called and was like “You’re the voice, try and understand it.” Whatever the case, well done. Now you have to decide if this is the right gig, at the right time, in the right place, with the right humans. Fortunately, you’ve clicked well, because over-years of trial and error I have come up with the five factors that dictate a good theatre experience as an actor. Here’s the rules, there are five factors and to do the job, you want to have at least three yes answers before you sign on.
Let’s crack into it.
The obvious place to start but a necessary one. Some people immediately go to see how many scenes their character is in and take a gig purely based on the volume of lines. Think about Romeo and Juliet, we all know that Mercutio has the best part in that play and spoiler alert – he’s dead by the middle of act 3! Just because a role has a lot of lines, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good role and vice-versa.
It’s about how you relate to the role, does it interest you? Does it challenge you? Will it expand your capacity as an actor? Will it be fun? If yes, give this one a ‘tick’. If not, read on McDuff!
Separate from your role, is the play itself. This is especially pertinent with new work. Make sure you read the whole thing at least twice, cover to cover before you make the call. The classics have a wealth of history and previous performances to look at. In fact, if you sign up as a member for the StageMilk Scene Club you can get access to a bunch of recorded performances via Digital Theatre which could be a useful tool if you are unfamiliar with the play.
If it’s new work, get a hold of the most recent version, and read it till you have a handle on it. If you connect with the material, the themes of the play and the world the playwright has created then fantastic! Give this one a big ol’ tick! If not, keep on keeping on.
The Cast, Crew and Director
The people. This is vital. More than any other factor this is going to dictate if you have a negative or positive experience as an actor. Before you accept the role, do your homework. Find out what this director has done previously and if possible have a chat with some actor friends who have worked with them in the past. The same goes for any other actors who have been cast already in the show and other key creatives who are attached, designer, stage manager, assistant director, etc.
If you got a weird vibe, felt put off or had a strange gut feeling about any of these people, you should probably avoid it. In my experience if someone seems like a weirdo in casting they aren’t going to get any less challenging when the full rigor of an indie theatre show kicks in.
Do your research and go with your gut. How’s your score so far? Hope it’s getting up there! Two categories to go.
Where is this shenanigans going to take place? What sort of infrastructure do they have in place to support a show? Are we at an established venue with regular crowds, or are we talking about a disused warehouse in a dodgy part of town where you will have to escape the knife crime before you can get to rehearsals? Does the venue match the director’s vision of the show? Or are they trying to put on Hamlet with a 300 piece orchestra and score by a local artist, inside a drawing-room of an inner-city terraced house?
This is a big one. Are they going to pay you? Are they going to do everything in their power to try and pay you? Or is this one of those cases where you are being pitched purely on exposure? Now listen, I am happy to work for free, I love acting and for the right role, in a great venue, with awesome people – no worries. But if they aren’t going to even try and put some cash on the table, and the role or the play isn’t great. I’m going to be very hesitant to do the gig.
Does this production company value your work as an actor? Exposure doesn’t pay my rent. If they can’t guarantee it, but they’re going to do everything in their power to sling you some dollars, then maybe it’s time to get on board. Money is always tricky, a few years ago I had a choice between doing a big role for no money, or a small role for big money. I chose the latter, and the other one won 6 Sydney theatre awards. So it’s not all about the cash, but it is a factor to consider.
So how did you go? Did you get three or more? I’ve gotta say: this is a guideline, not a rule. But it has proved to be useful for me in the last few years. Committing to an indie theatre show is a lot of time, effort and vulnerability They can also be expensive to do. Travel costs, reduced hours at your day job and a range of other expenses. When it’s good though and your working with wonderful creatives, on an interesting project, in a great venue – well then it’s worth its weight in gold. Hopefully, these factors helped you and chookas next time you hit the boards!