As you may recall from a column two months ago, I’m adding some content here at the Showfax archives that originated in my first book: Casting Qs. So, here’s another of the chapters. This one, on the importance of doing theatre in a film-and-TV town, features direct quotes from 22 casting directors. Enjoy!

Casting directors always advise actors, “Do theatre. Get involved in theatre. Do a play. Period.” Actors write me to ask, “Does that really work?” So, I posed a few questions to several busy casting directors, in an attempt to find out precisely why they so strongly recommend working in theatre (and, perhaps more importantly to the actors reading, whether or not CDs attend theatre and, if they do, how the heck to get ’em to show up).

Why Los Angeles Actors Should Do Theatre

Doing theatre develops a whole separate set of muscles, which only enhance your work in TV and movies. — Richard Hicks

Having come from a theatre background, I am a gigantic believer in stage work. My biggest beef with watching some of the theatre in Los Angeles is that the evening is used primarily as a tool to get an agent. The bio will even suggest to the audience that [an actor] is in need of one. I’ve seen some pretty sloppy work with half-hearted commitment and generally very green acting skills. Theatre is a worthy medium and should be treated as such. — Melissa Martin

Theatre does a lot of things for people that actors don’t even realize. Take out of the equation whether you’re going to be seen. Ask yourself, “Am I an actor?” If the answer is yes, then theatre needs to be included in your life. It lets you feel entertaining and it means you’re being faithful to the part of you that says you’re an entertainer. — Judy Belshé-Toernblom

The theatre scene in Los Angeles is growing. Anything that an actor can do to fuel their soul and work out as an actor is important. It allows people to see their work and allows them to continue to exercise their acting muscles and rejuvenate their own self. I feel like theatre is growing in Los Angeles. I have found so much undiscovered talent in theatre. I really respect actors that are involved in the theatre community. They’re working. They’re taking a proactive role in their career. The theatre scene needs to be more acknowledged here. It is so key to keeping people balanced; being in a community to support your creative work. — Katy Wallin

It’s very important for actors to always keep working. I give preference to theatre actors at commercial auditions. If you think about it, commercial auditions are really just face scans. We have to go to theatre to see who’s improvisational and who can work on their feet. — Danny Goldman

The most important tool facilitating the actor’s strength and growth is and always will be live theatre! The stage generates and represents a never-ending educational stimulus for actors in all stages of their career. — Harvey Kalmenson

Actors should do theatre because it is the ultimate workout in their craft. It is good to have strong theatre on a resumé. It shows tenacity and is also a good way to possibly be seen. An actor should not do theatre for the sole purpose of being seen. They should do it because they enjoy digging their chops into a piece. — Terry Berland

Doing theatre is valuable to learn your craft and get exposure! — Stephen Snyder

Acting is a profession you can’t do from home. Unless acting is as important as eating and breathing, you should do something else. But, if this is what you want to do, you need to perform in front of an audience as often as possible. It’s good practice (most of us get better at something we do often), it’s good discipline (all those rehearsals, matinees, shows, late nights), and there is the opportunity to be seen by people who could help you get bigger, better projects (no one’s going to notice you sitting by the phone or waiting tables). I can’t imagine an actor not wanting to do theatre. Performing in front of an audience is so immediately gratifying. [There is] nothing like applause, nothing like a standing ovation to make you love what you do. It encourages and energizes. — Michael Greer

Theatre is an outlet for actors to keep themselves warmed up, supple, pliable. As a former actor, I think theatre frees your soul. It’s the most wonderful exercise an actor can have. — Kate Brinegar

Actors should do theatre for the love of it, not because they want to be seen. Sometimes, even if the play is not very good, there are good people in the play. We remember them. — Cathy Reinking

Their Opinion on Actively Attending Theatre

Our staff of ten casting directors attends theatre on a weekly basis. Finding new talent is an absolute must. Attending theatre also allows us to experience a broader scope of actors than we otherwise would be exposed to. — Kalmenson

I actively attend theatre. Unfortunately, I only end up going a couple of times a month. — Berland

I try to see as much theatre as I can, because I still direct and want to see what is being done out there. There is hard-core theatre here. Actors have to work harder to make [Los Angeles] a theatre town because of the time commitment in getting to and from the theatre for rehearsals — you can’t just hop the subway a few stops like in New York — but there is excellent work going on here. — April Webster

I attend theatre very, very regularly, about once or twice a week. I see a lot of theatre, from equity waiver to regional. — Reinking

I attend showcases and theatre performances, but it is rare to find someone in theatre who wouldn’t be submitted to me otherwise, though. — Michelle Morris-Gertz

I attend a lot of theatre in Los Angeles, and not just the major theatres. I go to a lot of Equity Waiver theatre. And, by the way, an inordinate amount of it is inferior. Not the majority — but more than should be — is inferior. But I haven’t stopped going. I still go! I’ll talk to my counterparts at ABC or CBS and they are shocked that I go to these things because a lot of it can be disappointing, but I still go religiously because you never know. — Marc Hirschfeld

I attend at least four to six plays a month and three to four showcases a month. I guest in about 12 different casting director workshops a year. — Snyder

I know now what every New York casting director already knows and that’s, “You have to go out at night.” I like showcases and I like to attend comedy and sketch shows. I go to showcases or the theatre at least once a week or more. — Goldman

I see theatre — and in LA, that’s more bad theatre than good theatre, I’m sad to say. I will always go see Shakespeare. I just love it. I will always go see Shakespeare and always see musicals I did [as an actor] to see how they’re doing them [now].” — Mark Sikes

For me, Los Angeles theatre is a 100-mile round trip, so I don’t always get to theatre. It’s an event, when I do. — Belshé-Toernblom

A one-woman show may be great for Julia Sweeny, but for most actors, it’s just a monologue. Part of the joy of theatre for me is seeing actors interact with one another. So, I tend to steer away from one-person shows. — Dan Shaner

How often I go goes in waves. Generally, I attend theatre two to three times a month. — Hicks

I do actively attend theatre. How often I go is dependent on the type of project I am casting and what sort of deadline I am looking at. When casting for sketch performers and/or hosts, I make the rounds of plays, one-person shows, showcases, and comedy clubs several times a week and often bring my producer with me. It is not unlikely that I attend a show because a friend of a friend is in something or an agent I am fond of has asked me to attend their client’s performance. I attend theatre whether I am actively casting a project or not, because I enjoy it. — Dino Ladki

I do attend theater. It depends on how busy I am. I probably go [to plays] five or six times a year. I also regularly see the Groundlings and showcases at USC and UCLA. — Greer

I used to attend a lot more theatre than I do now. I’ve just gotten that busy. But even so, I’m out there catching plays and showcases as often as I can. The bigger the cast, the better, because that way I can scout a bunch of actors at once. And I love a comedy. Goodness, we all need a laugh at the end of the day! — Bonnie Gillespie

I don’t go to a lot. But if the play has gotten a good review or stars an actor I admire — no matter what their name is — I like to see what’s around that actor I admire. The quality is higher. I’m a little apprehensive of theatre in LA. There are so many television series that theatre is often geared toward getting a job in TV. The continuity of the process is lost when someone is pulled out for a series and there’s this empty space actors have to fill. That means the process didn’t work because they have somebody else just fill it in. — Joseph Middleton

Calling Actors in After a Show

I do it often. I pull people in from plays, showcases, whatever. — Brinegar

I do bring people in from theatre. I brought my eight-week-old baby to a play because I was casting for a pilot. I had to leave at intermission because he decided to start babbling. Even so, I found an actor at that show that went all the way down to the final callback for the pilot. — Wallin

I brought in two people from unsolicited postcards last week. They said, “Oh, my God! It worked!” Sure. Sometimes. Let me know when you’re in a play. I do try to attend plays. My staff will go if I cannot. — Jeanie Bacharach

I call in actors I’ve seen in plays all the time. I’m more impressed by a long list of plays an actor has appeared in than a dozen TV or indie credits. — Greer

I have called in countless comedian/actors after seeing them perform on stage at local comedy clubs. For example, after seeing the one-act play An Evening with Price, Nash, and Blieden at the HBO Workspace, I called in all three performers (Matt, Jason, and Michael, respectively). The trio went on to develop a sitcom with Warner Bros. TV, NBC, and HBO based on this one-act play. — Ladki

I have seen actors on stage and brought them in for a session. By the time a play is over, I’m in love with one or two of the actors and I will call them in. — Belshé-Toernblom

Not only have I brought actors in, but I’ve found them agents. I’ll call an actor in here based on a theatre performance and then get an agent on the phone and work something out. I do that regularly, when I see someone I really believe in. Theatre allows me to do that. — Goldman

On average, I bring in about 20% of all actors I’ve seen in plays or showcases, as well as rediscover actors who I may have lost touch with or have temporarily forgotten to call in. — Snyder

Absolutely, I have seen actors in plays and then brought them straight to callbacks on films I’m casting. You betcha! — Gillespie

I have looked for actors at theatre. A good casting director will always make a mental note of interesting talent. — Martin

I have called actors in who I have seen on stage. One of the best shows I have seen in Los Angeles is Cider House Rules. I saw the play in two parts with a week in between. All week long I got to feel the characters and the situation and got to be with the story and the characters the following week. I called people in for commercial auditions from that show who did not have commercial agents at the time. Now they do. It’s fun to bring people in even before they have that agent representation. — Berland

Best Way to Promote the Show

I’m a big fan of email. Mailings are good and faxing is okay too. — Snyder

Send us postcards and theatre bills. Tell us in person when you come in to audition. Have your agent contact us with the information. Advertising is important. Even the best play with the best cast and production value requires the proper promotion. — Kalmenson

Invite me by sending flyers, postcards, and faxes. — Berland

I really appreciate actors sending me their invitations and flyers for shows. — Wallin

Postcards, postcards, postcards. — Gillespie

I attend showcases and plays two to three times a month, so send a flyer! — Deborah Barylski

Do as much local theatre as you can. Send a postcard and tell me you’re in something, even if I haven’t met you. I do tend to see a play with a larger cast. — Marnie Saitta

Be in a good play. I read the papers. I know what’s getting a good review. If you’re in a good play, you’ll get seen. Believe me. — Hicks

I see the plays I want to see, productions with friends in them, ones I’ve heard good things about. It’s really random, but postcards are still the best way to get a casting director to come see you in a play. — Reinking

Postcards are the very best way. — Belshé-Toernblom

Word spreads like wildfire. Good stuff is energizing and there’s very little of it. But if there is something good going on, I will hear about it. I will be there. I’ve found a lot of people that are good by going to theatre. Just remember, [making] no impression is better than [making] a negative one — and a negative one is longer lasting. — Hirschfeld

The best way for actors to invite casting directors to see them perform is probably through distributing flyers and postcards via the mail and fax. — Ladki

It’s a bad idea to over-hype a bad show. Make sure it’s a show you want me to see before you invite me to it. Unless it’s a great show, don’t go touting it. You’ll have used up your good reputation if you promote a lousy play. — Goldman

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 Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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