The Playgoer: Acting: Endangered Profession?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Acting: Endangered Profession?

Philly critic Wendy Rosenfield muses on the implications of a Forbes magazine study for one of the world's "oldest professions":

The good news is that demand for producers and directors is on the rise, with almost 9,000 positions added nationwide since 2006 (this includes radio, tv and film, as well as stage numbers). But strangely, demand for actors has dropped by around 7,000 spots, and looks as though it's not bottoming out any time soon. Added to another category, a random catchall titled, "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, Miscellaneous" (judging by [a] photo from the piece, I guess the "miscellaneous" jobs belonged to David Blaine and Criss Angel), the number drops precipitously by an additional 27,000.

Not sure what it all means for theater people, since so many different industries are represented under each section. Other than maybe a glut of two-handers emerging from playwriting workshops last year, I can't figure out the reason for the actor/director imbalance. Maybe animation's success, combined with the proliferation of reality tv and the strength of documentaries are to blame. At least onstage, you can't call it a show without directors, producers and actors.
Worth pondering: A) The downsizing of theatrical production prompts playwrights to write smaller-cast plays. B) Proliferation of smaller cast plays (plus ever-wackier ways of "doubling") leads to fewer jobs for actors.

We can only hope that C) will be: producers and theatre companies apply savings from smaller productions toward a whole season of massive casts! Right?


Anonymous said...

Playgoer! This is too depressing for words! Further incentive, I guess, for actors to be making their own work. Still, one does want to have a shot at a paycheck now and again.

Kate Hanley said...

It makes sense that theaters in a time of economic instability are turning toward plays with smaller casts. Capital Rep. in Albany did that one year (most of the plays had one or two person casts). But Ms. Rosenfield only needs to look at the recent Our Town and the upcoming Candide at the Arden Theatre Co. (in Philly) to realize that theater has not quite given up on large casts -- yet.

Eric said...

I would be very interested to see some sort of figures on jobs for playwrights, and how they are faring in these times. Are theatres choosing to buy new works by new authors or are they sticking to more tried and true methods? I mean, I already know that answer. God Forbid we find a theatre willing to take a few risks... but still, I'd like the numbers to back it up.