“I like to see theatre credits on an actors resume.” -Sue Brouse, Vancouver Casting Director

Most of us get better at something we do often. One of the reasons that casting directors like to see theatre on a resume is that theatre actors get practice, practice, practice at their craft. All those rehearsals and performances, all of the work that goes into preparing a script and analyzing an entire theatre piece, all of that is practice at your craft. Theatre is an opportunity to do roles that stretch your limits waaaaaaaaaaay beyond the two or five or twelve pages that you might have for a film and television audition. It gives the actor the opportunity to go beyond a first read and really step into a characters shoes. Do all those hours spent in rehearsal and on stage make you a better actor? You better believe it.

Doing theatre develops a whole separate set of muscles, which only enhance your work in TV and movies.–Richard Hicks, LA Casting Director*

When I first started doing film I was very negative about theatre. I felt that the acting style was “too big” to be useful in film and television. Maybe you’ve had that same thought yourself. Not so! The problem isn’t with theatre, the problem is with actors who lack the self-awareness to make the adjustments required to audition for film and television. Every actor has to adjust their performance to fit the audience. In a large professional theatre like the Vancouver Playhouse the audience may be up to fifty feet away, so of course the actors have to be louder and the actions have to be bigger for the audience to hear and understand the action of the play. In a medium-sized venue like the Waterfront or the Firehall Theatre, the audience is maybe twenty feet away and so the acting has to carry to the back of the house, but it’s only slightly larger than life. In a small venue like the Havana or the Shop, the audience is ten feet away and the actors play the scene very close to life.

It’s very important for actors to always keep working. I give preference to theatre actors at commercial auditions. If you think about it, commercial auditions are really just face scans. We have to go to theatre to see who’s improvisational and who can work on their feet. –Danny Goldman, LA Casting Director*

How close would you have to stand to someone to see the same level of detail that you see when you’re watching television? The answer for 90% of television and 99% of auditions is arms length away. That’s how far away your audience is. Even though the camera is across the room, you can bet that it’s zoomed in to show just your head and shoulders. And the microphone catches every whisper of sound perfectly, with no need to project. So the trick with film and television, especially auditions, is to adjust your performance for an audience that’s right at your fingertips. Any professional actor can learn to make that adjustment with a little practice. So no excuses about theatre actors being “too big” or film actors being “too small”! Let’s start talking instead about actors who haven’t learned to make the adjustment that would allow them to do both.

Actors should do theatre because it is the ultimate workout in their craft. It is good to have strong theatre on a resumé. It shows tenacity and is also a good way to possibly be seen. An actor should not do theatre for the sole purpose of being seen. They should do it because they enjoy digging their chops into a piece. –Terry Berland, LA Casting Director*

The divide between film and theatre actors comes more from incompatible schedules than incompatible skills. A professional theatre production will take 10hrs a day for at least six weeks, making it very hard to audition or act on screen in that time. Many of the very best film actors come from theatre backgrounds, and many of the very best film actors continue to take time off to do theatre on Broadway or elsewhere. Professional actors see every acting opportunity as a way to increase their skill and emotional range and add to the diversity of characters they can play convincingly.

Michael Bean, Owner & Head Coach, Biz Studio

*Quotes from LA Casting Directors excerpted from Bonnie Gillespie’s excellent book “Casting Q’s: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews”