As ya'll may or may not have heard, The StageSource ice recently received an anonymous letter with a list of grievances regarding the casting process and difficulties of being a Boston actor. The excerpts posted by StageSource are worth reading, and many people have commented, but I have additional thoughts:
I read this letter wearing two hats. Responsible, thoughtful analytical Kenny. And "z0mg what a whiny little..." Kenny. We shall start with the first hat.
So many of us are freelancers, and I think we all have at least a little sympathy for the frustrations of moving up the ladder in a competitive market. I know plenty of actors (and directors, playwrights, etc.) who have expressed frustration with the predictability of some companies and their casting choices. Sometimes these gripes are valid and sometimes they are not. Casting directors and producers are sometimes scared to take risks, and play it safe. As a small theatre producer and director myself, I assure you, that we're scared shitless when it comes to casting. It takes balls to take a risk on new or unfamiliar faces, though I do agree that the risk is well worth it.
However, I do not believe this is unique to Boston. I know there will be a few people who feel this way, but it's so easy to believe that one's feelings are universal. I would be interested to see a legitimate study done on this topic. TCG does these surveys on a national level all the time. Before we go making large, broad accusations, maybe we should try collecting some data and getting that ball rolling. Hell, the writer of this letter did just that, though I'm not sure they expected to be published. I for one commend StageSource for making such a big deal about this, because yeah, it is a really important question to discuss. And to those who immediately go off about "Nothing will change"...
Grow up. This is a self defeating attitude and there's nothing I find more frustrating than the whiners who do nothing.
(Excuse me while I put on the second different hat.)
I've always been a late bloomer. When I started out as a freelancer in Boston three years ago, I was sleeping on couches, surviving off expired food and going to every audition I could go to. I had no name, I had no resume outside of college and I certainly had no confidence. I did a few shows my first year, some of which I enjoyed, and some of which I had some gripes with. Rarely, did I ever feel disrespected or treated like cattle, which is something that does happen in some of the larger markets. But I, too, became frustrated with some aspects of the Boston theatre status quo However, as loudmouthed as I am, I did one thing very different.
I did something about it. My main gripes about theatre, as many people know, are 1) lack of paid work at the fringe level and 2) the lack of focus on solid, improvisational and liberated acting in favor if overly polished, excessively rehearsed mechanical acting. But I digress. What's really important is that I did something about it. I self produce, I network the hell out, and I publicly own up to all my crazy thoughts. I have confidence in my logic, passion and righteousness and that is why I put my name on things. This goes for all things in life, whether it be art or politics or love or what have you.
I'll go off topic for a moment and recall the 2004 presidential elections. I remember being a young lad in college, sighing with disappointment at the apparent reelection of Grover Cleveland, the dasterdly yankee president who put down the Whiskey Rebellion (look it up) and I wondered what would happen to this nation. How could we have lost? And then I remember the chorus of whiners: "I'm moving to Canada" and "Americans are so stupid, I can't believe we elected Cleveland on two nonconsecutive occasions" types. The whiners. The people who bitch and moan from afar, but whose idea of "political activism" meant wearing a hat covered in political slogans and preaching to the choir in the student campus center, enjoying their care packages shipped overnight on their mommy's credit card...
Woah... Sorry. I got off topic there... So my point is, there's a mature way to go about things. And there's the one that makes you feel good, but ultimately does nothing to solve the problem.
Grow up and do something. Self produce. Organize. Stir up controversy. Be like Ian Thal or Thomas Garvey, and HAVE SOME BALLS! Nevermind what you think about their opinions, these dudes are heard and people take them seriously. Say what you think, be bold and take that risk because chances are, people are out there who agree with you and will stand with you. They're just waiting for someone to speak up.
Hmm... I didn't swear as much as I thought I would...
And finally, I'm going to take off my hat and tip it to StageSource. You guys were attacked for no reason. It is not your job to tell theatres how to run their businesses. You did your job beautifully by engaging the community in a constructive manner in the face of adolescent tantrum tossing. I would've been tempted to just take that letter and either 1) throw it out or 2) show it to the office, laugh and throw it out or 3) post it on the blog edited with MS paint. Which, of course, is totally immature...
But seriously. Alot of people are talking. I'm not the first, and I know I won't be the last. The CoLab strives to break the chains of safety casting, and I know there's many other young producers and directors out there who will take heed and think seriously about the real underlying issues at hand here.