Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "Making a Living in Theater..."

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Thursday, 25 August, 2001:
"Making A Living in Theater..."

Subject: Re: The Loft
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2001 21:02:11 +0000
From: "cherry orchard"

Hi Larry,
Thank you for your review of the play. It was a bit of a rough night for my actors but it was needed lesson for them. They bounced back and played beautifully to a full house last night. It was a very interesting process for myself in dealing with so many non actors and teaching them the process of theater.
I have a question for you. It has been a few years since I have been back in Boston. I came back mainly to work on this show and in the meantime I became a judge in the upcoming theater festival at Fort Point. So well my actual question is in response to your question. What next? Is it possible for a director to make a living in this town?
Has the attendance in theatre grown here again? I have been thinking of sticking around do you have any ideas on where I might be able to find some work in theater?
hahaha of course this is everyone's question in theater, but I thought why not ask. I hope all is well with you and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Christian Schneider

"Is it possible for a director to make a living in this town?"

Not from your work in theater, no.
Eric Engle does excellent, award-winning work for the best companies in the city; as a director he is at the top of his profession.
But he works for Harvard.
Yes, a lot of directors in and around Boston get paid --- but the people who make a living do it as Producing Artistic Directors of companies with hard-working fund-raisers.
No one makes a living doing theater here.
And Mark Sickler is going to New York.
You can work in Boston; you can do excellent work with serious, dedicated, talented people; but you won't make a living because no one will pay you.

The only theater that Bostonians pay for is the over-hyped hack-work at the "New York In Boston" grind-houses, where ageing suburbanites will pay up to $83 per seat to take their daughters to yet another over-amplified re-make of "The Phantom of Annie" --- that and the "Tina And Tony's Mystery Weddings" that throw in some cardboard chicken and let you decide who done it. Between those extremes there is no profit-making theater in Boston at all.
There is very good theater here.
But no one pays diddly to see it.
If you can't do it for love, get out of town.

In this area there are the corporate commercial carpet-baggers bringing big-time New York razzledazzle to downtown. No work there.
There are subsidized art enclaves residing in universities that look for directors in Europe or other Regional Theatres. No work there either.
Then there are The Struggling Theatres that can afford Equity or LORT salaries, and they usually use regulars. Really no work there for an outsider.
Outside the city there is a vast, healthy, viable network of Community Theatres strung throughout the suburbs, most of which recognize the fact that good work from a director has to mean some sort of stipend, and directors are often the only ones paid. There is work there, but getting it requires a complicated wire-walking act balancing social mores with artistic ones.
Inside the city, springing up like dandelions or crabgrass, are dozens of young newly-formed theater companies recreating the starry-eyed enthusiasm of Andy Hardy in his uncle's barn. They never make a dime and can pay no one.
I love them.
At every level here, talent tells, and dedication has its rewards.
They are rarely monetary, but they are real.

"Has the attendance in theatre grown here again?"
I think so.
But the money hasn't.
The big Broadway barns still siphon off all the cream and ship it south, and the two subsidized regionals skim what's left.
It's whey-city for everyone else, but the LORT houses are selling subscriptions and filling seats without compromising quality of either performances or show-selection.
And then each community theatre and off-off-off-company, doing it for love, has its loyal following.
The true problem is that each company holds an audience that goes to A theatre, not to The theater --- the staunch supporters of The Footlight Club don't cross the river to visit The Industrial Theatre; only the BCA audience is really eclectic --- and even then few of them seek out The Actors' Workshop. The Reagle Players play to a different audience than do The Hovey Players, even though they're both in Waltham doing excellent work. And no one paying 83 bucks to see "Mama Mia" even knows The Tremont Theatre exists.
None of them have even seen "Shear Madness".

I have found 23 active playspaces in Boston alone, and at least 93 theater companies --- not including any suburban activity like the A.R.T. or The New Rep.
There is a lot of theater and a Lot of GOOD Theater in Boston.

But, no, I don't think you can make a living at it.
Do it for love, or get out of town.


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide