THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Monday, 15 August, 2011 - 6:41 a m:
"The SLOTS Game"

Boston is losing in the SLOTS Game.

Susan Gross is a proud member of AEA, but she's not working in Boston. After several critcal triumphs here, she spent years in New York and now she's back in the area --- not in Boston; in Wellfleet.

Lewis D. Wheeler did several memorable shows here --- but he has also been seen locally not in Boston but in Wellfleet.

Remember "The History Boys"? There were eight young, talented young men in that cast (Jared Craig, Dan Whelton, Karl Baker Olson, Jonathan Popp, Samson Kohanski, Mohit Gourisaria, Sheldon Best, Joe Lanza), and how many of them are still working in Boston? Well, Jonathan Popp is here --- in "Shear Madness" from time to time.

Marie Polizzano went from the Black Box in Watertown "Limonade Tous Les Jours" into AEA in "Circle - Mirror - Transformation" at the BCA. Last week I saw her face in a promotion poster --- not in Boston. She'll be doing "Steel Magnolias" out in Stoneham, along with another young lady with a Boston track-record: Kathy St.George.

I got to know Sheila Stasack when The Hovey Players paid her an AEA stipend to act in their Community Theatre production of "Boys At Play"; then one afternoon I was eating a hamburger and watching the restaurant's t-v of a RedSox game, and in three different commercials for I think a VW van, there was Sheila! Shortly thereafter she relocated to The Apple.

Ed Hoopman, a red-headed workhorse in local fringe theatres, demonstrated his excellence by doing the Graucho part in "Animal Crackers" at The Lyric Stage last season. I just learned he's going to New York, where there is voice-over work.

Why is it Boston keeps losing The Good Ones?
We, and they, are losing in the SLOTS Game.

It's not anyone's fault; in a sense it's statistical.

In any season, even counting all the small-theatre spaces, there are only a finite number of places for actors to work, only a finite number of companies looking for talent. Each company picks a series of shows, trying for excellence, audience-attraction, and a manageable budget --- and not always in that order. And at the top of the heap are theatres big enough to pay Equity salaries and to play by AEA-contract rules. Actors who work in the Equity or the LORT Houses here are paid the most, and get the most attention from critics.


The directors can't cast plays on raw talent alone --- particular plays call for specific types ("How many boys? How many girls?" ask the dancers auditioning in "A Chorus Line"), specific age-categories, specific heights or weights or colorings, specific voices. And in each of those criteria, only a finite number of actors fit.

Those are the SLOTs for the season ... in the professional companies, and even in some perhaps more flexible sense, in the smaller companies as well. And if actors can't fit into those slots, no matter how good at acting they may be, they don't get work. I heard one actor say of the auditions this year, "Everyone who got the parts was older than me."

And if you want to work, you've got to go where the work is. All theater is, after all, Local.

I tend to tell theater people that "Boston is an excellent place: You can work here --- you won't make any money, but you'll work!" And for some people, that's really enough. Even Equity members need some sort of money-gigs to stay alive through times when there are no slots open.

Sometimes I think of the Boston theater scene as a bunch of nervous hermit-crabs, each looking for a shell they can fit into; and some of them mature, and grow, and suddenly none of their old, safe slots fit them anymore, and they have to go elsewhere --- or quit.

Maybe Actors' Equity ought to relax their protective rules in one way: If there are no slots that fit an actor for, say six months, I think that actor should be allowed to take a no-pay part in some non-Equity or Community Theatre show. I mean, actors who don't work don't grow, and the acting chops do atrophy when they're not used. Maybe something like that would keep some of our best actors living and working here in Boston until better slots came their way.

I hate to lose the good ones. But, though it pains me, I know why they have to go.

Go toward --- not away-from; and when you look back, smile!

Break a leg, gang.....wherever.

( a k a larry stark)

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide