Amateur theatre

  • Carol Bryce

    Actor

    Hi everyone,

    I have just finished playing Aladdin in panto with an amateur drama group, which was a great experience, but playing the lead has given me a hunger to do bigger & better things.

    I don't have any formal acting training, and can't afford any, but I was wondering if anyone knows of any theatre groups in London (ideally west or central), especially ones which might do pantomimes, because most of the theatres I've come across only feature plays with actors who have agents.

    Please help if you can! Thanks!

    • 22nd Dec 2008
    • 8093
    • 32
  • Hugh Osborne

    Actor

    This isn't so much an answer to your question, more a question in return. If you are performing in amateur pantos, and if you have no training, am I right in saying you aren't a professional performer?

    If so, if I were you I'd start saving for a bit of professional training!

    But you are presumably a professional actress because you are a member of this site. In which case, why are you performing with amateurs, and listing it on your CV?

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 1
  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    At the risk of getting flamed by the minority who are striving to maintain the elitism that blights this industry, being a 'professional' actor does not mean you must have attended drama school nor does it mean you only work if you get paid for it or even that you make your living from the industry! It's about your attitude to the business more than anything else!

    We would all love to be in the enviable position of not having to wait tables, pull pints or, in my case, drive trucks so cut cazzabaz1 some slack Hugh! Her unpaid 'amateur' credit is as valid as your Bournemouth and Met Film School credits and are a great way of developing your skills while developing your career!

    She's up on stage doing what she loves to do in front of an audience who've paid for the priviledge of seeing her do it so fair play to her!

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 2
  • Luke Stevenson

    Actor

    Just ignore the pompous comments from people trying to belittle you.

    As Forbes says, those people are the minority.

    There is loads of great fringe in London. Start applying for everything. The more stuff you do, and put on your CV, the easier it will be to get to castings.

    Also, although its a bit late now, around christmas there are several small scale touring panto companies. Its bloody hard work and the pay is awful, but you'll learn loads and have some great laughs!

    You also may want to do some TIE. If you have no commitments and you can leave home for a few months, again, its a great learning curve. Of course its not what you want to do forever... Consider it training!

    Have fun

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 3
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    In my experience the auditions for amateur theatre are just as competitive, rigorous and intense as professional theatre...with one difference. I have ALWAYS had feedback from amateur theatre casting directors. Interesting the shows have been directed by professional directors or professional actors turned directors.....so the term "amateur" should be lost to "unpaid" theatre.

    I didn't list any of my amateur shows on the CV, cause I thought I wasn't allowed to this being for professional actors but maybe I will in future....

    Merry Xmas all

    Andie xx

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 4
  • Hugh Osborne

    Actor

    The word 'elitist' on this website is gaining the kind of currency that the word 'liberal' has in American politics.

    It is not elitist to suggest that one has to work professionally as an actor efore one can call oneself a profesional actor.

    Considering the non-stop howls of outrage on this site every time some casting director/agent/student film-maker does something perceived as 'unprofessional', it's hilarious that when it comes to acting, the only qualification needed seems to be a desire to act.

    I'd LIKE to go to India and China: that doesn't make me an explorer.

    What do you think the response would have been had the original post read as follows:

    "I recently put a word in for a mate and managed to get them seen for an audition at the local church panto. I got such a buzz from getting my friend the audition that I'd like to move on to bigger and better challenges, and become a professional agent..."

    This is a trade site, for goodness' sake. Changing a plug does not make you a professional electrician; pulling out one of your milk teeth does not make you a dentist. Being PAID for electrical work or dentistry, however...

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 5
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Ah, the Gatekeeper stirs...

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 6
  • Luke Stevenson

    Actor

    (Dont know if iv posted this twice, my connections a bit crappy...)

    That point has been made before.

    The thing is, Art as an industry is not comparable to science or technology... thats just silly!

    There has never been a successful dentist or electrician who hasnt trained, or at least studied in some capacity. When it comes to open heart surgery, one cannot be a 'natural!' Actors, however, regularly make a success of their careers without that recognised training.

    Art is different. Actors deal with telling stories. Intricate as this process may be, its absolutely nothing like memorising wires or arteries...

    Im not going to go mental again. All that can be said has been said. Lets not be up ourselves. Come on. There's no need to take yourself so seriously at the expense of others.

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 7
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    In answer to your original question...

    If you want to get some excellent exoerience in a very professional amateur envirnonment nip along to Questors Theatre in Ealing. It's a wonderful place with a fantastic auditorium and studio space. Everything they do there is far superior to most of the fringe stuff one sees our "professional" in.

    There are also a few small amateur outfits that use Questors who are always looking for new members. It is great experience and you will learn a heck of a lot.

    I have seen so many "professional" actors on stage lately who just would not be accepted at Questors so if you think you can act, get along there and check it out.

    [url]www.questors.org.uk/index.aspx[/url]

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I agree with Des ~ I live by Questors and I've seen some fab productions. I'd definately go and check out what's going on.

    As for Hugh ~ I do have to ask, if not being paid for your acting consitutes an amateur ~ is an actor who trained for three years at drama school and partakes in profit share not a professional? They're not being paid for their work, does this make them an amateur? If so, damn, I'm screwed.

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 9
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    As ever, I think this thread, while interesting, has lost sight of what Carol appears to have been asking in the first place. If I am reading your post right, it seems like you are saying that you have recently enjoyed working in amateur panto, and would now like to try and find some professional work in panto, but are worried that a lack of training and a lack of an agent will prevent you from finding the work. My reply to this would be: what's the issue? We *all* surely began our careers as 'amateurs' at some stage - the point at which we were bitten by the acting bug, but had never been offered money for what we did, and then turned our minds to making some. That is what *becoming* a professional is all about.

    Unfortunately, the prospect isn't great if you are hoping to miraculously become well-paid and well-respected with no training or representation behind you; most actors find it difficult enough to achieve with BOTH of those factors in place. But Luke is right: there is no reason why you cannot do as well in the industry as many others who are plying the trade, if you have good natural talents.

    Where I think Hugh's points are valid, however, are in pointing out that there is NO POINT in pursuing this game if you have no long term intention of making yourself into a more rounded professional in some capacity. And that means a lot of hard work. Training of some sort is a must, and if you can't afford drama school, then you must keep going to classes (as I see you have already done on occasion), as this is the only thing that will substitute for it long term. Working towards getting an agent has to be a long term goal. Otherwise, you might as well stick to purely amateur productions: you have to make that shift from an 'amateur' mind-set to 'professional' (one of the things that going to drama school often does for you)...but I appreciate that we all have to start somewhere, and getting a paid panto gig, for instance, might be your first professional stage credit. So, good luck...the jobs are likely to be out there!

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 10
  • Hugh Osborne

    Actor

    Emily, you'e answered your own question: a profit-share company is a different thing from an amateur dramatics society, precisely because the aspiration with the former is to make money for the individual actors concerned. (Whether the aspiration is met is a totally different thing, of course...)

    And of course I agree with Forbes that 'professionalism' is an attitude towards the craft rather than a state that can only be conferred once one has worked professionally.

    And of course I know there are excellent amateur actors.

    BUT does anyone seriously believe that, for example, my own professional CV would be enhanced if I included in it performances I gave for Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society, Southampton University Light Operatic Society, Stirling University Dramatic Society etc etc.

    Amateur theatre was the lifeblood of my family for the first twenty-five years of my life, and I loved every minute. Lots of my friends and family are still passionately involved in it. And, frankly, I resent being implicitly harangued on here for being somehow anti-amateur.

    But nobody, and I mean nobody, has become a member of this site because their ultimate goal is to become an amateur actor!

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 11
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    On the broader terms of this question: defining what is 'amateur' work, and 'professional' these days appears to me to be very difficult.

    On the one hand, there are definitely certain members of the industry (generally of an older generation, who were brought within the system whereby Equity was a closed shop etc.) who still appear to feel that, if any work is performed which isn't Equity paid, then it is technically not 'professional' level work. This is clearly a contentious issue - because, whilst the level of payment may not meet Union standards, this doesn't necessarily mean that the production itself is stinting on its own production values. We can argue the toss (and frequently have!) on whether or not this is an acceptable working practice and actors should allow sizeable budgets to be spent on a project whilst they are deprived of adequate payment, but as a purely aesthetic issue, matters are more complicated. Although it is an easy thing to say that all projects which fail to pay an actor adequately are necessarily below par and 'amateurish', this isn't always true. Indeed, such is the state of the modern industry, with the closed shop finished with, with everybody endlessly cutting wages right, left and centre, with the ability to be seen by casting directors/agents and making industry contacts ever more difficult and inflexible, and increasingly dependent upon appearing in fringe productions etc., that the whole question of what is definable as 'professional' work seems to have become totally fluid. One can seriously ask the question: is working with, say, a theatre company which pays regularly but produces sub-standard fare for the audience actually more or less 'professional' for your career than taking part in a deferred pay feature film, which is seen internationally, gains limited release and attracts 'name' actors to the cast? If you are basing a distinction solely upon the economic details, then you have your answer...but this is only one form of distinction within an industry within which the actor frequently has to take work wherever they can find it.

    The most workable distinction I can come up with is that working in 'fringe' theatre, lo-budget film etc. is a 'grey area'. We actually call 'fringe' theatre that, to distinguish it from 'amateur' productions, because although the pay is (mostly) non-existent, it is accepted that this kind of production is now prevalent within the industry. 'Fringe' generally takes place in specific theatrical venues (many of which are known and recognised), and invariably features actors who are professionally trained or intending to become professionally trained in the near future. It is used as a scouting ground for agents and reprsentatives etc. etc. regardless of the fact that we all know some 'fringe' is brilliant, and some is dire.

    Pure 'amateur' theatre, I would say, is basically defined by the fact that the people who take part in it a) play very much to a circumscribed audience i.e. they don't truly promote to the wider population b) don't ever suggest the possibility of making money from a venture - profit share, as we all know, hardly ever works, but it is a theoretic agreement that the actors are in a production, at least in part, 'for the money' and c) most importantly, are not considered by themselves or others to be actors by profession. This is wholly different, psychologically, to the notion that many working actors have to have a day job to make ends meet. All this means is that they consider themselves actors first and foremost, who aren't being paid enough to keep body and soul together. Someone who is actually earning a nice living as a travel agent, or a school teacher, and acts at weekends for the 'fun of it' is clearly not the same sort of person at all, and we can all recognise the distinction. When you get right down to it, professionalism is defined separately from the 'amateur' by the fact that you have committed body and soul to the fact that acting is a JOB OF WORK, that must be pursued in whatever way it can be (and whether you are being paid the right rates for it or not!), not something to be done as and when the fancy takes you.

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Pity I crossed over with Hugh's reply there, as he very succinctly defended his own position, and made some points similar to my own!

    I would say that he is also probably right about amateur credits on the CV - they aren't likely to enhance chances long-term, but I suppose, if you are initially simply looking to show you can perform, and have little else to fill the CV with, then they might be useful until there are a couple of professional productions under the belt.

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Helen Belbin

    Actor

    In Hugh's defense the name of this site is casting call pro...

    It seems that there are a number of zealots on this site who have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about what training and what is deemed 'professional'. I'm referring to a number of threads that have graced this forum of late). They take delight in telling us about how sh!t trained actors sometimes are... Doesn't mean you shouldn't train. Depends what's right for you and what suits your situation.

    I think Lee has hit the nail on the head with his posting - are you wanting to do amateur work for fun or do you want to have a career in acting?

    Not all training is expensive-you can get bursaries or do a part time course.

    And you others - if you want to do extra work/am dram, stuff either in between or as a starting piont - what's the problem?

    And with training - if you haven't been trained you can't really knock it.

    I'm happy to be in a show with someone who's had no training/non-acredited training or done mainly amateur stuff as long as they're good and have the right attitude. To be honest though, I think you can usually tell the difference.

    BUT there are many directors and CDs out there who will see amateur stuff on your CV and judge you accordingly. I don't mean to sound harsh but it's the reality of the situation.

    Hx

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    One final thing (as regards Carol's initial question!): Questors *is* a particularly fine venue (and in the West of London!) which may give you a good credit on the CV, and a great working experience. They remain an 'amateur' setup, but with a highly professional theatre space and budget allocated to them, and are recognised in the industry as producing the most top end 'amateur' shows on the circuit. Des is right to say that much of this material is miles better than 75% of all actual fringe shows (although this probably has a lot to do with the avilability of budget, and trained actors who have to work in part time jobs rather than attend rehearsals 24-7!). But working for Questors can only be a feather in your cap. They do audition, I believe, so getting in takes a little preparation...but they also have a linked training scheme, which might be worth looking into as well (it is, if I remember, cheaper than most equivalents). They have a well-maintained website, so you should be able to find out everything you need to know on it.

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Matthew Wade

    Actor

    Another shout out for the questors from one that knows it well.

    I was quite happy in my PROFESSIONAL! career as a non-acting public servant until i hit 25. Then I joined the questors, started doign their Friday evening beginners acting course, joined their 2 year part time (and my god very very cheap and well worth it) acting course (eves and sats, with very good movement and vocal training as well as scenes etc), and next thing I had jacked in my career, jumped through a 1 year Ma at drama school (DADA funded so no cost!), and suddenly I was occasionally getting paid to act.

    To sum up, I can't recommend Questors enough. Obviously their pantos are once a year, but there's so much else going in. And it has a subsidised (thus very cheap!) bar, and great facilities.

    I would hardly hold up my career as an example to anyone, but getting trainig doesn't always have to be expensive. After £10k of University debt, I had 2 years of 7 hours a week at Questors for about £500 and was one of a number of funded places doign the one year course at Arts Ed. Other schools like Oxford have even more funded places. I even got some living costs...."i'm just a poor boy, from a poor family..."

    While I would love to have doen 3 years at RADA, Bristol or wherever, I have paid less than a grand in total for drama training, and that includes stage combat. I pay more than that in headshots, CCP memebrship, spotlight etc each year!.

    The point of all that is to say you can still get training even if your skint...its when you've finished that it gets harder.

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Very positive advice, Matt. I knew that Questors had this sort of scheme in place, but I didn't know much about it!

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Matthew Wade

    Actor

    Jesus Lee...do you live on this thing?!!

    Re Questors, if anyone wants to know more, give me a shout. I know the guy who runs the student courses pretty well, so am fairly up to date.

    M

    • 15th Dec 2008
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  • Katharine Kavanagh

    Actor

    just going slightly off topic here, but something that tickled me as I was reading through:

    Luke, when you talk about people making 'pompous comments', it does seem odd that you then go on to talk about TIE as: 'Of course its not what you want to do forever... '

    Despite a lot of tat, there are some very good TIE and children's theatre companies out there, and for some people, that is their bag!

    ;o)

    • 15th Dec 2008
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