Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jobless in Seattle

"You've Cott Mail" posted a hot-topic article this morning from the Seattle Times about how the larger local theatres aren't hiring as many local actors as in even two years ago, or last year. The article, written by ex-Bay Area theatre writer Misha Berson, indicated that Seattle Rep slashed roles for local actors from 40 last year to 20 this year. Ouch.

Of course local actors cost less overall than out-of-town actors, so on the surface you have to wonder where the cost-savings is. Can we say touring productions, coproductions, touring solo shows? (Since this is Seattle, I'm reminded of Mike Daisey's diatribe monologue against big theatre companies who don't support their local artists, while he was touring around the country with his solo show taking up slots in regional theatres' season. Not that I disagreed with him, but irony can be unavoidable no matter your intentions.)

Might be interesting to compare how Seattle's regional theatres are dealing with the recession as opposed to Bay Area theatres. Last week I just finished editing an article for our October issue (that's how far in advance we work), a discussion about the benefits of hiring local artists--and the possibly surprising benefits of having out-of-town artists here. But anecdotally, I've noticed that San Jose Rep's Rick Lombardo, in his first season, is committed to the local actors, and even Magic Theatre hired mostly local actors in Loretta Greco's first season. (Now, if we can get some more local directors and playwrights in there too.... I did hear that Rick was meeting with a lot of local playwrights.)

The out-of-town casting/hiring is always a hot-button topic. The very first issue in 1976 of what is now Theatre Bay Area magazine had an article about it, and it seems we run an article about it every couple of years. I tried to cast (ahem) the October article a bit differently, holistically if you will. I know it's a month off yet, but I'll enjoy hearing your comments when it comes out.

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At September 3, 2009 at 11:35 AM , Blogger anna said...

As a member of the As You Like It cast at San Jose Rep, I can give the details - of 12 cast members, only 2 are out-of-towners - and one has worked with Rick many times before, and the other has performed here locally and hails from Fresno. Chloe Veltman has some interesting insight on the local hiring on her blog - Thanks for bringing up this topic, Karen!

At September 5, 2009 at 9:53 PM , Blogger Mike Daisey said...

"(Since this is Seattle, I'm reminded of Mike Daisey's diatribe monologue against big theatre companies who don't support their local artists, while he was touring around the country with his solo show taking up slots in regional theatres' season. Not that I disagreed with him, but irony can be unavoidable no matter your intentions.)"

The monologue in question, HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, is indeed about the failure of regional theater in America to live up to the movement that gave birth to it, but it doesn't shy away from *any* of the details of my work history--I talk at length in the piece about this, so if you are indeed familiar with the work I am not certain how exactly this is ironic.

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