The Playgoer: The Actor's Lot

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Actor's Lot

I do kind of recommend Isherwood's Sunday NYT piece on the challenges of the working NY actor. It's woefully incomplete as a true survey of the problems, but, to be fair, the article claims only to be covering a mini-convention of actors and what was said there.

Still, though, it should be easy enough for a reporter to gather up, for instance, what the Equity minimums actually are Off Broadway and On, compared to Regional. I wonder what effect it might have on NYT readers to see--especially after reading the daily tributes recently to those "superior" Brits--that most of our cherished stage actors here are lucky to make $400-$500 a week in a non-musical play if it's not on B'way. And that's maybe a 3-week run, plus 3 weeks of rehearsal--after which it's back to unemployment.

Isherwood's opening point--that the more successful actors (i.e. those with TV & movie gigs) are in effect subsidizing the American theatre--is basically right, I think. But some more context for that is in order before we allow Tim Blake Nelson to make a complete martyr out of himself. Ideally there should be no problem (no "compromise") with actors working in all these media.

What's also conspicuously missing here, is any mention of "Law and Order," which, as we all know, is truly subsidizing the stage acting profession more than anything.

3 comments:

June said...

I remember being shocked at how little the big Broadway stars--people who are almost single-handedly putting bums on seats--make, even on a megahit sell-out show. Back in late November, when there was a shortlived rumor that Britney Spears would take over Christina Applegate's role in Sweet Charity, Michael Riedel ran a piece about how much the top stars earn. Now, these are not, by any stroke, small paychecks, but when you consider that these are the Bono or Kanye West or Tom Cruise of their genre, paycheck-wise, and when you think how much less work Britney would have to do to earn money from her usual sources ...

These were the weekly rates Riedel quoted (and no one contradicted him):

Nathan Lane ("The Producers") $110,000

Matthew Broderick ("The Producers") $110,000

Reba McEntire ("Annie Get Your Gun") $90,000

Hugh Jackman ("The Boy From Oz") $100,000

Bernadette Peters ("Gypsy") $50,000

Britney Spears ("Sweet Charity") Guaranteed $25,000, up to about $80,000 if show sells out.

Freeman said...

I think there should be a drinking game based on Law & Order in Playbill bios.

The Playgoer said...

Thanks for those figures, June. Yes, I remember that Riedel piece. Good for him for naming numbers, as it were.... The key in understanding these salaries, of course, is that 1) anyone *not* famous is making far, far less; and 2) X dollars a week only adds up to so much if your show runs only 8 weeks--and if you only get cast in one B'way show every year or two. (Or once in your career!)