About LA Theatre Companies

In keeping with this week’s focus on Los Angeles Theatre Companies, Your Turn will be your advice on choosing a theatre company. Thanks again for all of the great contributions!

Email number one:

I had held off responding to your query about membership theatre companies because, as a general rule, I’m opposed to them. I don’t believe an actor should ever pay for the opportunity to perform unless they’re either self-producing (with the opportunity to earn money if they can make the production a success) or doing so as a student in an accredited acting program with top-notch instructors. The willingness of actors to pay good money after bad for the opportunity to act is the basis of most of the scams in this town, and actors really need to collectively say “no.”

Email number two:

As an active member of a company that started as a non-dues company that has just recently moved to a dues-based group, I think the most important thing is to find the best “fit” for you; dues or non-dues. The group has to “feel” right. If you’re doing it just for the association, I don’t think you will be as happy as if you find the place where you feel safe to take risks.

And just as important is Bonnie’s suggestion to go see the work. You may be a traditionalist and a cutting-edge, in-your-face theatre company may not be a good fit. On the flipside, if you’re looking for edgy, the programming of some theatres may not suit you either. See the work. If you like one show, see another. Evaluate the consistency. You may not like a particular play, but if you find yourself drawn to the work in the show in general, you’ll get a sense of whether or not it might be the right group for you.

If you want to get a sense of a group before making a commitment, volunteer. Small theatres are always looking for ushers, as well as a variety of support for shows. It’s a great way to see how the theatre runs. (Do you like the people? Are they supportive of one another? Do they work as a team?) Plus, the group gets to know you, and you are much more likely to be looked at when the time comes around for auditions.

Email number three:

Go see shows. Make a target list of companies you’d like to join and go for as many company auditions as you can before deciding which one is right for you. There has to be an element of “fit.” The director, the space, the level of work, it should all feel right. Trust your intuition. It’s never wrong. Also, one of my own personal requisites is that the theatre not be a dingy hole. I checked out a few places in my quest to find a company and to be honest, there were a couple of spaces I wouldn’t have released a rat in. If the theatre is well taken care of, you will feel that energy and can bet the company cares about where they call home.

Email number four:

No actor ever looks good in shows that are designed to prove to the industry that the cast is “just perfect” for a sitcom or a soap opera. No audience ever enjoys a “play” that’s actually a pilot someone couldn’t afford to shoot. I don’t care which top Hollywood CD or director or star is involved in the company, the only shows that lead to other work are the shows that are done as theatre. Theatre is a different medium, and should be respected as its own art form.

The point is, finding a good theatre company is more about “the fit” than most other things. Do your homework, see shows, ask questions, and find the place you’d be most proud to call your on-stage home.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000178.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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