The Playgoer: The Acting Profession Today

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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Acting Profession Today

"The weekly acting salary at the big Seattle theatres was between $700 and $900 back in the early nineties. The price range for acting at the big theatres in 2008 is . . . between $700 and $900. It hasn't changed in over fifteen years! In Seattle the median income is now $45,000 a year. Last year, working all the time, I made $25,000. At the age of fifty-four. And $3,000 of that was unemployment."

-Seattle stage actor (now, ex-Seattle actor) Laurence Ballard on why he's packed it in for a full time college gig.


Bally said...

Hysterics and theatrics aside, Ms. Penn does raise a valid point--albeit a wifty one serving merely to provide an enabling excuse for the Trustees in the land to maintain the status quo. "It's not just us; it's the system--government policy should be more supportive." Well, duh. Of course. But now it's been over a generation since Thatcher-Reaganism convinced society the arts belong in the marketplace and not as a function of governmental policy or as a budget item, and that tired old horse of inaction and indifference has in large part led us to the insouciance to artists in the Arts today. Arts Administrators in general need to get out a bit more; voters do not presently wish to have their tax dollars spent supporting the arts. For the past quarter century, we have been forced to rely upon the largesse of the Captains of Industry and the kindness of deep-pocketed aristocrats. This is why Boards are mostly comprised of people from the corporate world. Ask just about any artistic and managing director--I've spoken with several: Individuals on Boards today are primarily there for their corporate networking and business connections, not because they necessarily know--or care--jack about creating Art. Penn's charge of 'oversimplification' is just as simplistic on her part. Government policies are not changing anytime soon; board members have used their corporate skills very well to apply a corporate business model to the administrative concerns of their institutions--to a fault--time to work just a wee bit harder now, and do some real heavy-lifting to actually create a reason why their institutions should exist in the first place.


Anonymous said...

LB, Reagan and Thatcher arts policy has nothing to do with this. Government attitude is not going to save the stage. And in these difficult economic times, government has other things to spend money on anyway. Plus, with a little homework, you'd see that even in the supposed good old days, many, many artists depended on private money from places like the FORD FOUNDATION. The private/corporate sector for which you have so much derision has ALWAYS been a major, major part of the funding mix.

It's more accurate to say the theatre community has only itself to blame.

We have failed to show why theatre is relevant to anyone.

We have failed to put on shows that reach beyond the aging generation that already buys into theatre.

We have failed to get audiences to see that a few hours in a theatre can be so much more than a very expensive ride with a grandparent in the heart of New York City or Chicago or wherever.

AND, quite frankly, none of that has to do with poor pay for the acting class. THAT has to do with Artistic Directors and Managing Directors who believe they deserve more for making the decisions that have failed to get people to the theatre. Artistic Directors and Managing Directors who have chosen facilities with fly-space and grandiose lobbies over the living, breathing human beings who make theatre different from other story-telling art forms.

You see, when you're charging $45 (at the very least) for a seat to a show with 4 people in it, the only reason those 4 people aren't making more is because someone has chosen not to give them more....

Simple as that.

The only other question to ask is: Where has Equity been in all this?

Bally said...

Lordy, but I dislike drive-by blog postings. (

"Derision" for corporate funding and wealthy (m)patrons? Huh?

READ the interview, Anonymous, and RE-READ my further comments above, and you'll see we're on the same page, fighting the same battle. We need, to paraphrase Lincoln, to disenthrall ourselves from the mind-set of institutions and re-engage with the migrant artists whom audiences pay to see.