The Business of Show Biz: Getting Back Into Acting
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
by Velina Brown
Editor's Note: The Theatre Bay Area General Auditions are a great way to launch or relaunch an acting career in the Bay. The last day to sign up for the 2020 generals is Thursday, Dec 5, and we thought this a good time to share this Business of Show Biz column—about making new career moves—that first ran in November 2018.
Q: I’ve always loved theatre! When I was much younger I performed at school and later had some minor roles in shows and musicals at local theaters. I loved everything about it—the friendship, the costumes, the audiences, the fabulousness—but at some point my life moved on.
I really, really want to get back in front of the lights—but it’s been so long I don’t know where to start. Though I am technically a middle-aged man now, I look younger than I am and am still easy on the eyes. Where should I start? What would you suggest? Can you help me find my way back?
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: If I were coaching you or if you were in my class, the first thing we’d do is go through a goal-setting process. This would give me a better understanding of what matters most to you. Then we’d break the big goals and desires down into bite-sized pieces.
Since we haven’t gone through that process my suggestions will be more general:
- Get into a class. Scene study, improv, audition technique, etc. You don’t even have to start out in an acting class. Since your experience includes musicals, maybe take a fun dance class, like D’Arcy Drollinger’s Sunday morning Sexitude. With the slogan: “Werk a Look. Break a Sweat. Be Fabulous,” the class aims to teach dance combinations in a “sex-positive, age-positive, body-positive” environment. However you decide to dip your toe back into performing you’ll want to hone your craft with acting classes and be able to update your resume with recent training.
- Your most basic marketing tool is the headshot. Since it’s been a while since you last acted, you’ll need a new one. Lois Tema, Lisa Keating, Stuart Locklear are some of the Bay Area headshot photographers most frequently used by actors. Whomever you decide to go with make sure they are specifically actor’s headshot photographers. Check out The Business of Show Biz archives on TBA’s website to see more pieces specifically about getting a good headshot.
- Once you have great headshots you’ll want to send them to some of the smaller theatres with whom you are most interested in working. Rather than littering the town with your picture and resume, choose maybe five theatres that you’d like to learn more about and build up from there. Attempting to connect with too many theatres at once will likely prove overwhelming and prevent you from being consistent with your research and outreach. Keep an eye on what they are doing—watch for when they announce their seasons, find out who their casting person is. Email your headshot and resume with a note expressing your interest in auditioning for them. Go to their opening or closing nights and you will likely get to see who’s who and put names to faces. Note: don’t try to press your picture/resume, card, etc. on them at the plays!
- Go see lots of theatre.
- Read lots of plays on your own.
- Look for opportunities to do play readings with others. It’s a low-time-commitment way to work your acting muscles while getting to connect with other actors, directors, and playwrights. It’s possible you could inspire a writer to start writing with you in mind.
- Take an audition workshop.
- Start auditioning.
- Once you’ve a) warmed up your acting muscles, b) got some new things to put on your resume, c) got great new headshots and at least a monologue or two you feel really good about, perhaps its time to consider applying for the Theatre Bay Area General Auditions. It’s a great way to let the Bay Area Theatre Community know that you are back and ready to work. The 2019 Generals will be held on February 9,10, and 11. Actor applications and FAQs will be available on the TBA website starting November 1st. However, this is not something you want to do too soon. If you are ready, the Generals are an efficient way to let “150-200 auditors representing 80-90 theatre companies of all sizes, as well as independent directors and casting directors” know about you in one fell swoop. If you’re not quite ready you’ll let all those people know you’re not quite ready in one fell swoop. Take your time to prepare. If the 2020 Generals are too soon for you then you can set a goal to be ready for 2020. [Editor's Note: The 2020 TBA Generals will take place on February 8, 9, and 10. Deadline for actors to register for the lottery is THURSDAY, DEC. 5 by 11:59 PM.]
- Lastly, don’t worry about whether you still look young and are “easy on the eyes.” Just focus on sharpening your skills, being of service to the stories you get to tell, and having fun.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at email@example.com