#33: Milwaukee Actors

Dear Friends,

It’s fun to watch the out-of-town actors who are new to this company (and perhaps this city) settle in.  Frankly, it’s impossible not to come to a small city like Milwaukee from New York, the theatrical center of the country (everything else is called “Regional Theater,” for crying out loud) without some fairly low expectations.  But I can tell you firsthand, as a former-out-of-towner-turned-local-actor, that Milwaukee shatters those preconceptions.  There is, to my mind, a disproportional amount of culture in this city relative to its population: we’ve got an opera, a symphony, a resident theatre company, a Shakespeare company, an art museum, gallery nights, professional sports teams… all without heavy traffic and impossible-to-afford real estate. 

And, the people are so nice.  Including the actors.

Grossly generalizing, I think there are three types of actors: A, B, and C.

A-types are the funky hip hotties who never really step off stage.  It’s round-the-clock “I was brunching with so-and-so,” and “I’m working on such-and-such,” and “where are you based?” with those folks.

On the other end of the spectrum, C-types prefer to leave their work on stage.  To see them on the street, you’d never know they were actors.  They talk about sports and politics and music, eat chicken wings and drink domestic beer.  And they hate terms like “the business,” and “industry” and “based.”  And nine times out of ten, they’re stellar actors.

B-types are C-types until an A walks into the room.

It seems to me that Milwaukee’s full of C-types, which, speaking candidly, makes it my kind of town.  (Yes, my bias is evident, but I’m not condemning A-types.  By no means.  I’m just hopelessly unhip.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a B-type.  If you’re going to make a living doing this stuff, you’ve got to play the game a little bit.  Especially in a bigger market.  You can’t sit back and wait for the phone to ring.  Doesn’t happen.  I know lots of super-talented C-types who spend more time on bar stools than on stage because they refuse to mail headshots, send postcards, and crash auditions.  It’s a business, and if you want to do it full-time, you’ve got to be proactive.

Having said that, a place like Milwaukee is very appealing for C-types, because the community’s small enough to get yourself noticed and large enough to provide plenty of opportunity.  Maybe you don’t make much, but the livin’s cheap and you know your neighbors.  And you can wear sweatshirts and old jeans and still be cool.  Works for me.



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