The Dock of The Bay
You asked how does one become a James Carpenter in the Bay Area and I guess my answer is that you don't -- you become a Josh; become the best and most unique Josh in the world and bring to your craft all that Josh has experienced, thought of, considered, or conceived. My path to this place was unique; yours will be as well.
And you have my thanks for your praise, Grasshopper, but Truth be told, I am in reality a well known nobody. I am a Regional Theatre Actor -- I've not been on Broadway, not been to L.A. (we just don't get along); I'm one of the warriors in the trenches, if you will. A well recognized and appreciated soldier, but a soldier nonetheless. I've traded off living in New York, the acknowledged heart of Theatre in this country, for living in the area that I love and I'm willing to live with the trade.
It's true that there is sometimes a perception that if you're not from New York you're not a good actor and I've known actors to take P.O. Boxes in NY to help prove their legitimacy. There was a long standing joke (and may still be one) that if you were from this area you had to go work somewhere else before you'd get hired at one of the major Theatres here. Many fine actors have left this area because they felt their talents weren't recognized or appreciated and gone on to more lucrative pastures in New York and Los Angeles. I just got lucky and got a ticket into the circle otherwise I'd be telling that same joke. I got in on the ground floor in a hot Repertory company with a new facility and new Artistic Director and managed to prove that I had some talent and worth. Luck is a lot of the business, and you have to help it happen.
The Bay Area is a hard one for a young actor to break into I think, but the Artistic and Casting Directors in the Bay Area seem to really feel a commitment to using "local talent" and try to cast seasons using at least (and correct me if I've got my figures wrong, Meryl), 60% local actors; but local talent won't bring in the audiences who aren't regular Theatre-goers the way a Film or Television actor will-- if you want to sell a season and gain prestige for yourself and your organization this is a sure way to do it. It's proven true time and time again and theatres country-wide are fighting for survival in difficult financial times.
I think many feel there's both a blessing and a curse to being a resident actor in that not only are you better known by the major Theatres bay-wide, but taken for granted the more often you're seen--people get tired of you, of your "bag of tricks" and they want to see something new, fresher or edgier (perhaps better), actors. Get used to proving your worth--you'll audition for thousands of jobs during your career. And we are commodities; if a director can't find "it"--the right actor for the role--they'll go shopping in LA and New York. Local actors have less leeway perhaps -- we have to tend our garden of theatre opportunities here. You can't be a diva, can't be consistently difficult to work with or you just won't get hired.
There are also written as well as unwritten rules, Josh, and maybe I should allow you to discover those on your own-- it can be more painful but ultimately more useful; I will, however, include the actors basic set of Written Rules, the Ten Commandments of Show Business, to help guide you on your journey.
2. Eat when you can.
3. Nothing is in the bag, so keep your day job (trust in Allah, but
tie up the camel!)
4. Never turn your back on a producer.
5. Never screw the stage manager.
6. Leave yourself alone and work to be better.
7. Never share a vast idea with a half vast person.
8. Never forget what they’ve done to you, but never show them
9. Never underestimate the bad taste of the artistically pretentious.
10. Fame is what others give you, success is what you give
You want to know what I think is the best way to work a lot?
Be a good actor on stage and off.
Coming Up: Random Thoughts on Acting!