How do I build a theatre career in the middle of no where?
August 30, 2011 2:03 PM   Subscribe

How do I push my performance career forward while living in a rural area?

I'm a devising, theatre artist living in rural CA. I am here to be with a partner and because it is beautiful and because I'm generally happy. I love my partner, I love my home, I love my community but I don't know how to build my career here. I make my own theatre; I don't work from pre-writen scripts that are produced by someone other than myself which in many ways makes things easer. The obvious solution is to just start making some work but this requires time, space, money and other people.
There is little work to be had all over the country but my area is particularly bad and on top of that I'm trying to find theatre related work. I have been able to piece together a living through 5 different contracts but that leaves me little to no time to pursue a career making theatre and financially i'm just getting by.
There are some very talented and educated theatre artists around but they are not in a similar place in there careers... they have careers.
My partner and I don't want to move because we love it here and he has a great job with very good prestige potential!
What do I do?
posted by m. says: to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are some very talented and educated theatre artists around but they are not in a similar place in there careers... they have careers.

Then you ask if you can assist them, even in mundane ways, even for free. Because their talent might rub off on you, and their connections definitely will.

Also, what can you do on your own? Experiment with all phases of making work and different styles of presenting it. The first example that springs to mind is this "One Man One Day" videos. It's a kind of jokey example, but I bet this guy could get hired to do something based on what he put together here. Video and theater are not always the best of friends, but if you set it as a challenge to find a way to marry them in your work, then you can break out of your isolation and reach out to people online. If you're forced to do other kinds of work to stay afloat, having visible artistic projects in development will be good for your self-esteem, and in the long run, your career.
posted by hermitosis at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2011

The smart artists (smartists) I have met have always been realistic about their careers and money. They always had a financial and artistic goal.

Their financial goal was done with their day job. A lot of times, artists are able to do this while still doing advancing their artistic career. Maybe giving people acting classes to children and interested adults of the community. You know, those classes would come in hand for for the popular production that the town is going to have. The one and profited from by you.

The artistic goal was done because of their day job. They were able to paint participate in projects that earned them credibility but definitely not any financial gains.

So yeah, if you can hustle doing what you want, it'll finance the grinding you want to do.

Good luck.

And put on a production for the area that other townspeople will be able to participate in.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2011

Also: apply for grants.
posted by hermitosis at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2011

Making it as a theatre artist is hard no matter where you live. On the one hand if you happen to live in a place that has a couple of theatres where you become one of their regular people they work with, living in a rural place can actually work to your advantage. On the other hand if there's not much work to go around due to location, finding work is going to be extremely difficult. I'm in the entertainment business. And while I can't say exactly what I do, I can tell you that for me I had to be in either NY or LA. Times are changing and I will eventually be able to live other places as my career has become more established but I think you should seriously consider moving to a city that's more known for theatre. I know you say that your partner has a great job. So that certainly complicates things in terms of moving. If you really want to stay where you are I would suggest looking into the possibility of starting your own theatre group. If you can get things going and you become a well liked group, you may find it easier to produce plays and make money through your own endeavors. It's a tough business. But if you love it, please continue pursuing it no matter what.
posted by ljs30 at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think from what I've seen in other AskMe questions, you really do have to go to one giant coastal city or the other for an acting career. But if you and the partner are totally set on this place, then I think you'll need to scale down your career goals, rely on a "day job" more than anything else if you can get one, etc. Hopefully of the sort that you can do online without having to be in a more public location.

I totally think that you need to start your own theater group. If there's no business where you live, then bring some business there. I recently read a book called Spellcast that took place at a small summer theater in the middle of nowhere that I really liked. Now, admittedly the theater there has some advantages (*coughspoiler*magic*coughspoiler*) that you probably can't have, but at the very least, maybe you could try summer stock? I know you don't have the money, time, people, etc. to create your own, but we can't find/manufacture acting jobs for you in the sticks and you probably can't do them over the Internet.

How are the artists in your area that have careers swinging that? Can you ask them? They probably know better than we do how to be artists in a small town.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2011

Musicans jam over the internet; could theatre artists? (I confess I'm not sure what a theatre artist is; an actor, set designer, lighting designer, choreographer, director, all of the above? ) If actor, you could act several roles, similar to this ("One Man Disney Movie" by Nick Pitera)

Some virtual environment like Second Life might offer some possibilities:

The more established artists in your area, ask them for resources, what should you watch, read.

Start an improv group in your area? Advertise it; even if only 2 people respond... that may be the magical collaboration. And even if zero people respond, it may pay off weeks or months later somehow.

Teach an acting class at the local library. Again, even if zero respond....

Teach a kids class.... Maybe one of the parents will come out of their shell, or knows someone.
posted by at at 7:39 PM on September 1, 2011

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