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Life on the Road: A Few Thoughts on Touring

If you’re an actor who’s been reading Rob’s wonderful series on National Tours, you’re probably well-primed for getting out there and booking one. Once you have, congratulations! But whether you have five days or five months before you leave, there is a lot to think about.

Having just gotten off the road with my fourth big tour, I have some advice:

Photo Credit: anaa yoo
Photo Credit: anaa yoo

You will not need all those clothes.

Most actors on tour find themselves “trunk-shopping” or “suitcase-shopping,” when they stumble upon a shirt or a dress that’s spent the last four months wadded up hidden in the back, forgotten. On tour, you spend a lot of time in rehearsal or at the gym or traveling, and those clothes do get used a ton. But you do not need sixteen dresses or twelve pairs of pants. NO ONE WILL NOTICE you’re wearing the same thing you did last week. SERIOUSLY. You’ll be sending home a box of extra stuff before you know it, but then you’ll make room for something more essential, to wit:

A Nutribullet can be your best friend.

If you have room in your suitcase or trunk, (which you will, because you won’t overstuff it with clothes) bring something like this. You may not have a fridge and a microwave in every hotel room, but you can pick up ingredients to make protein smoothies without a lot of fuss, and it will save you time, money, and calories to whip up a shake for breakfast or before rehearsal. I also know people who traveled a George Forman grill, or a hot plate and a few pots and pans, but those are a lot easier to blow off. This one gets USED.

Your relationship will survive. Or it won’t.

Being on tour is a very difficult thing for people in relationships with someone at home. Your schedules may be opposite, you may be three time zones apart, you may only be able to schedule one visit in six months, and so on. You both will have to WORK on the relationship, much harder than usual. But it will survive, if it’s meant to. If not – it wasn’t TOUR that broke you up. It was an underlying issue: the demands of your career, fears of infidelity, wanting different things.

So have a frank discussion with your partner before you leave, and understand that both of you need to be extra communicative and considerate of this bizarre situation. And remember, you won’t be on tour forever.

Be wary of showmances.

For those who arrive on tour single and ready to mingle (or those whose relationships really weren’t meant to survive), there are often many opportunities to get a little lovin’ with someone at work. Full disclosure: I know a NUMBER of couples who have gotten married following their showmances!

But you must be very careful. If it does work out, you’re developing a relationship under scrutiny of a hundred pairs of eyes. And if things don’t work out, you have to see this person EVERY SINGLE DAY. A bad break up is not only your problem, it’s the entire company’s problem. If you do embark on an irresistible hookup, do so thoughtfully and with clear boundaries. Understand that tour life is lived under a microscope and is much more intense than “regular” life.


Your schedule on tour can be grueling. I can’t tell you how many times we basically had 10-show weeks, with a full understudy run-through and a put-in rehearsal scheduled on top of our regular 8 shows. If you stay up late winding down after the show, and sleep in to get your rest, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploring. BUT DO IT ANYWAY. You’ve been given a gift of a paid trip around the country or the world. Make time to find a cool museum or brewery tour or farmer’s market or whale watch trip or baseball game or Buddhist Temple. Those excursions will be the biggest memories you’ll recollect down the line.

At the Sinso-ji Temple in Tokyo. Photo Credit: Annie Edgerton.
At the Sinso-ji Temple in Tokyo. Photo Credit: Annie Edgerton.

The importance of TEAM.

Make no bones about it, touring is HARD. You’re in a different city every week (or more, frequently)! You have to deal with allergies, and horrific travel days, and theatres with six flights of stairs to the dressing room, and the person IN the dressing room who is bugging you, and being away from family and friends, and the list goes on. The ONE thing that makes this all bearable is that you’re on a team of people all going through the same thing. So honor that.

Learn the names of your crew members. (I can’t believe I have to say that, but, sadly, I do.) Respect other people’s boundaries. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Make “dates” for a meal or excursion with someone you don’t know very well. Don’t give in to “bitch sessions.” (While venting is necessary, do it with someone you trust, outside of work, and to get over an issue, not to drag other people into your muck.) Try and stay positive when things go wrong. Your tour family is a family – you’re not going to love everybody, but treat them with respect.

If you lift up those around you, they’ll respond in kind. So help create an environment of TEAM.


Get those points!

On many contracts, you are able to receive airline and hotel points, even if the company has paid for the ticket or the room. (Not all, so you’ll have to ask around.) Sign up for ALL those reward programs! When you check in for your flight, ask them to link your number. When you check in to your hotel, ditto. And it’s worth it getting a rewards credit card. There are numerous websites that compare rewards cards, so it’s easy to find one that fits your touring lifestyle.

Touring can be a magical and wonderful experience, whether you’re a replacement in the road company of Wicked, or launching a new tour like Bright Star. Be excited about it! And do what you can to make the most out of your road journey. Break legs!


Teens Rule the Berkeley Rep Teen One-Acts Festival

Every spring, the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre invites local teens to participate in a new works festival written, directed, designed, and performed by their peers. Unlike most opportunities for teens, recent college grads guide them through the production process, but the teens carry the bulk of the work. The process is exhilarating, exhausting, and inspiring to watch both onstage and off.

The process for the Teen One-Acts Festival begins in mid fall, when the school’s Teen Council—a diverse group of 9th-12th graders committed to cultivating the next generation of theatre makers and audiences—calls for submissions for one-act plays. The school holds a workshop, and playwrights have about a month to conceive their works. Plays range from period mysteries to futuristic multi-planetary adventure tales. Submissions are reviewed by a committee of select Council members, School of Theatre staff, and Berkeley Rep Fellows. The close-working relationship between the fellowship program and Teen Council makes this program unique—every year the theatre houses fifteen young theatre artists in a range of departments—artistic, production, development, and marketing—giving recent college grads a jump start on their career with real-world LORT theatre experience. Together the Directing Fellow and Literary Fellow help guide the committee in choose two one-hour plays the festival fully produces.

For teens like Morgan Saltz (center), the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre is a place that fosters imagination, exploration and creativity. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
For teens like Morgan Saltz (center), the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre is a place that fosters imagination, exploration and creativity.
Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

After two plays are chosen, the playwrights are mentored through editing and revisions to tighten scenes, rework characters, and make the production feasible on the small stage of Downtown Berkeley’s Osher Studio. The next few months focus on outreach, getting teens from public schools, private schools, and home schools involved. Some are already Teen Council members, spending all four years working on the One-Acts Festival, others get their first glimpse at theatre outside of school.

The design fellows throw workshops, teaching the principles of costume, scenic, lighting, properties, and sound design. From these workshops teens sign up for technical disciplines, while others try their hand at stage management or producing. The Development and Marketing Fellows guide a small group of teens in publicity, graphic design, ticket sales, and promotion, a side of theatre rarely experienced before college.

Of course, acting and directing are the most coveted roles in the festival, but for those who participate multiple years, they usually get the opportunity to work both on and off stage. There challenges are similar to any high school actor’s: playing your peers parents or grandparents, swearing onstage in front of your parents, impressing your crush. The biggest difference is taking direction from a fellow teen. While any high school experience is met with the challenge of personalities, egos, and insecurities, the mentorship of the Fellow program keeps the experience focused on the process of creating professional theatre.

After casting and technical assignments, students begin rehearsal. Stage managers are trained to run rehearsals and note sessions the same way an Equity stage manager would. For many high schools across the country, the notion of a student learning anything about stage management is out of the question. Weekly production meetings are held with designers and their mentors, just like professional theatre. The teens are given the chance to teach themselves how to communicate effectively, skills that many designers and directors don’t attempt until half way through college. Berkeley Rep’s generous production department lends costumes and props, while the production fellows do the bulk of the physical labor, building student’s designs, hanging the lights, and training an eager pupil how to use a sound board. The work isn’t easy. Teens are balancing their festival duties with their school work, and the festival usually falls during AP test prep. The fellow class is always in the middle of a large production, the annual gala, and prepping for their professional lives after the fellowship ends. While both parties are tired, stressed, and overworked, students have the opportunity to learn from young professionals who were just like them a few years ago, while Fellows have their first shot at mentoring. The lines are blurry when it comes to where Fellows step in to tell teens how to create their festival elements—for the most part Fellows want to offer guidance, and teens are hungry for direction.

Caption: (l to r) Rachel Lee and Julianna Aker enjoy a costume seminar for teens at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com.
Caption: (l to r) Rachel Lee and Julianna Aker enjoy a costume seminar for teens at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre.
Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com.

In late spring, the year’s work comes to fruition with a two-weekend run of the festival. Everyone wears their company t-shirt (usually designed by the Graphic Arts Fellow). They sell concessions before the show. They give programs to their family and friends, and at the end of the two long weekends, they strike the show.

Many professionals from the Bay Area start their career, long before they know it, with the Teen One-Acts Festival. In fifteen seasons, the program has given over four hundred students the opportunity to take a show from idea to reality. Lauren Yee, playwright of King of the Yees, and actress Madeline Waters, Diary of a Teenage Girl, are just two of the amazing One-Acts alumni. Perhaps the greatest part about this after school program is that it’s completely free.

For more information about the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre Teen Council and One-Acts Festival, please visit their website.



Top Ten Lists of 2016

Happy New Year from StageAgent!

As wittop-95717_1280h so many other blogs and websites these first weeks of 2017, we thought we’d take just a few minutes to share our Top Tens of 2016. We’ve seen a lot of changes to the StageAgent site, increased the number of new and updated guides featured on the site, and had some record-breaking traffic this year. And we are looking forward to many new and exciting things in the New Year! So without further ado, here are some 2016 Top Ten Lists, based on the highest number of unique pageviews in each category for the year. Some of the results may surprise you. Read on!

 Top Ten Musicals

  1. Into the Woods
  2. Hamilton
  3. Guys and Dolls
  4. The Addams Family
  5. Beauty and the Beast
  6. Little Shop of Horrors
  7. West Side Story
  8. Anything Goes
  9. Hairspray
  10. Legally Blonde

 Top Ten Plays

  1. Almost, Maine
  2. Rumors
  3. Steel Magnolias
  4. The Diary of Anne Frank
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. The Laramie Project
  7. Buried Child
  8. Proof
  9. Clybourne Park
  10. The Foreigner

 Top Ten Characters

  1. Miss Adelaide from Guys and Dolls
  2. Anybodys from West Side Story
  3. Sarah Brown from Guys and Dolls
  4. Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family
  5. Alice Beineke from The Addams Family
  6. Reno Sweeney from Anything Goes
  7. Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors
  8. Hope Harcourt from Anything Goes
  9. Olive Ostrovsky from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  10. Vivienne Kensington from Legally Blonde

Top Ten Blogs

  1. The Do’s and Don’ts of Audition Style
  2. Five Great Musicals with Small Casts
  3. Great Musicals with Large Casts
  4. How to Prepare for an Audition
  5. How to Warm Up and Prepare Before Singing
  6. How to Find the Perfect Monologue
  7. New Monologue & Song Recommendation Tool
  8. Hamilton Hype: Why We Are Obsessed
  9. Top 10 Musical Theater Composers
  10. Understudy, Standby, Swing

Top 5 Most Popular Plays

Updated Aug 10, 2015

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, StageAgent members ‘fan’ their favorite shows over 1000 times per week! It provides a great insight into what theatre fans really like.

The slide show in this post displays the top five most plays , as voted by StageAgent members.  Not surprisingly, Shakespeare plays dominant the top five.  Only one play in the top five is NOT written by Shakespeare. Can you guess what it is?

Want your say? Make sure to visit the show database and fan your favorite shows! Without further adieu, here is the list of most popular plays! Continue reading


How to Choose a Show to Produce In Your Community


“Hey kids, let’s put on a show!”

 So, you know you want to put on a play. Perhaps there’s a show you’ve been burning to produce. I know I have a list: — anyone who wants a director for Life is a Dream, King Charles III, Cymbeline, The Music Man, or Our Betters, let me know!

As we set about producing a play in today’s day and age, I think we must ask ourselves, “Why this play? Why now? Why this medium?

Why do we need to hear this story, told in this context with these words? And, especially in an age in which many stories can be told on television and film in a very compelling fashion, “Why do we need to see this story told as a play?” These are questions I continually ask myself and my collaborators throughout our rehearsal process. They are the questions that drive me to create theatre – this transient experience, created in a singular moment in time.

Sometimes, the play itself seems to answer these questions immediately. Sometimes, it’s more of a challenge. Producers selecting plays may also use this criteria to drive their lists of dream shows – and yet sometimes logistical factors, a desire to put together a season of plays in dialogue with one another, or the desire to find the perfect play for an ensemble of artists you love set producers on a more directed, play-specific hunt.

Choosing a Season

Producers often organize seasons of plays based on themes, burning questions, time periods or even as a profile of a single playwright. If you know there’s a playwright you like, it might be worth checking out his or her lesser-known works. If you’re organizing a season thematically, you might also want to check out the ‘search by tag’ feature in StageAgent’s show guide search. Each play and musical is tagged according to its theme, so if you want to find plays about love or plays about war or plays about longing, a good place to start is by searching by that tag.

If you’re doing plays in repertory with one another, that opens another entire realm of considerations. How will you double the casting for the two pieces? Is there a way to put different plays in dialogue with one another? I’ve been dying to do Much Ado About Nothing and Othello in rep for quite a while. A suspected (and false) adultery plot lies at the heart of both plays, and producing them in rep would provide an opportunity to explore these different worlds in conversation with one another. Creating fantasy rep seasons is a hobby of mine – perhaps you can make the fantasies come to life!

Particular artists can also inspire play selection. If you’re looking for a great role for your favorite leading lady, for example, it might be helpful to view her resume on StageAgent for roles she’s recently knocked out of the park. StageAgent lets you read analyses for those characters and see what other characters are similar. For example, if you recently produced Taming of the Shrew with a phenomenally feisty Kate, you might consider producing Love’s Labour’s Lost and casting this actress in the role of Rosaline.

Want a great ensemble show? Search on StageAgent with the tag “Ensemble Cast” and shows like Rent, Next to Normal, and Clybourne Park will come up. There’s also an opportunity to create a more ensemble feeling to casting by doubling roles. For example, if you reduce the number of actors playing the roles in Twelfth Night from 25 or so (including extra attendants) to twelve, the balance of the cast shifts significantly, giving each member of the ensemble a significant amount of stage time and text, and an critical role to play in the storytelling.

Working within a Budget

And then there are, of course, budgetary constraints. The ever-present reality dictating many of the choices – including the artistic choices – made in the theatre. Myriad factors go through the producer’s mind when examining his or her budget. Here are a few that are generally at play:

  • hamletCast size. Small casts are in. Why? It creates an intimate feel and a tight ensemble – but also you have to pay fewer actors, create fewer costumes, etc. Again, you can hunt for the perfect small cast piece using the StageAgent show guide search, which has a filter for cast size. Here are five musicals with small casts that you might want to consider producing.
  • Time period. Period costuming is expensive, and so setting plays in antiquity can be costly, indeed. That being said, sumptuous costuming can also be an audience draw, so it’s a tricky balance. Depending on the directorial vision and that of the designer, there also may be a away to update the costuming for a period piece – I recently saw a production of David Ives’ adaptation of School for Lies that very effectively preserved the period flavor of Moliere’s piece while updating a significant amount of the costuming (“Frank” wore a black leather jacket and black jeans, for example, and Celimene had the full period skirt bustle, but wore tight, contemporary pants underneath.)
  • Rights cost. Rights for plays still under copyright must be procured in order to produce. You can browse shows on different licensors websites, directly, such as Samuel French, MTI, and Dramatists Play Service. Some plays, however, were written early enough that they are now in the public domain (for example, all of Shakespeare, Noel Coward and Moliere are now in the public domain.)  Another way is to collaborate with a new playwright, who might charge you less to produce his or her play. Directly contacting talented but currently not-very-well-known playwrights Oren Stevens (http://www.oren-stevens.com), MJ Kaufman (http://mjkaufman.com), Marjuan Canady (http://www.marjuancanady.com), and Gary Jaffe (http://www.garyjaffe.net) is a start.
  • Elaborate design requirements. A play with multiple settings that requires a flying chandelier (ahem, Phantom) or a helicopter flying in (ahem, Miss Saigon) can be MUCH more expensive to produce – though, again, these elements can be a huge audience draw. Some plays, however, have unit sets or require almost no setting at all. For example, Our Town is often staged with nothing more than a ladder and a handful of simple tables and chairs and The Fantasticks may not even need that. This is another opportunity, however, for directorial and design ingenuity to come into play. David Cromer’s brilliant production of Our Town required a fully equipped and working kitchen, complete with a stove to actually fry real bacon, and he made a very compelling case for this costly addition to the production’s design (a moment involving this was one of the most moving I have ever spent in the theatre.) On the other end of the spectrum, a play that traditionally has rather elaborate sets might be incredibly compelling when paired down by a skilled collaboration between a director and a designer.

Resources Beyond StageAgent

Another great resource for finding plays that might be worth producing is drama critic Terry Teachout’s blog, About Last Night, where he mentions:

I also have a select list of older shows I’d like to review that haven’t been revived in New York lately (or ever). If you’re doing The Beauty Part, The Entertainer, Hotel Paradiso, The Iceman Cometh, Loot, Man and Superman, No Time for Comedy, Rhinoceros, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Visit, or just about anything by Jean Anouilh, Bertolt Brecht, T.S. Eliot, Horton Foote, William Inge, or Terence Rattigan, kindly drop me a line.

Of course, these are only places to start. The possibilities are infinite. Let the dreaming and scheming and playing begin!

News, thoughts, opinions and advice for the performing arts community.