If you're an actor who says, "I'm not good at networking," or you find the concept a bit icky (like I used to), perhaps you could switch out the word "networking" and replace it with "supporting." Ultimately, I think that's what successful networking really is: lending support to your fellow artists.
A few years back, I attended a panel discussion with a well-known casting director and agent. They were speaking to a roomful of actors who were asking all the usual how-do-I-get-an-agent type questions. The agent gently stopped the conversation and laid down some brilliant advice. He said, "It saddens me that so many of you are going to waste so much time trying to get our attention, when what you really need to do is look to your right and your left. See the actors sitting beside you. Join forces with them and do good work. Then you'll rise up together."
Once I took that advice to heart, my career started to move. And I started to have a hell of a lot more fun too. Suddenly "networking" didn't seem like such a chore.
Here are a handful of ways you can meet and mingle with like-minded artists in New York:
- Eat pancakes and see plays at Youngblood's monthly brunch at Ensemble Studio Theatre.
- Go to New Dramatists and sift through the amazing library of plays.
- Support independent theaters by going to their annual benefits.
- Go to and participate in Naked Angels' "Tuesdaysat9," the company's weekly session to showcase new writing.
- Spend time in the Drama Book Shop.
- Attend theater conferences. Union members, go to the free seminars Equity and SAG-AFTRA offer.
- Attend every reading you can at the Lark Play Development Center.
-- Erin Mallon
Look in Front of or Behind You
The best way to meet other actors in NYC is by looking in front of or behind you (at auditions). Whether you're Equity or not, if you're going to Equity principal auditions, you'll see the same faces. Before I had my AEA card I made friends just by rubbing elbows in the Equity lounge and waiting for my name to be called.
Most of those front-of-house folks at your (probable) restaurant job are also actors, and you'd be surprised how helpful that can be. But buyer beware: It can also be annoying after a long day when you encounter issues at work that bring up thoughts like "Why didn't I get an audition for what he went in for?" and "Sure, Ted, I'll cover your next 13 shifts so you can be a series regular." But I digress.
I have friends who are members of the Shakespeare Forum and they love it. I have met friends/collaborators through Upright Citizens Brigade improv classes. If you can, act in a festival like the Network's One-Act or the New York International Fringe Festival. You'll cross paths with actors and directors during strike and the sharing of dressing rooms.
I highly recommend contacting SVA, NYU, NYFA, Columbia, and Fairfield University and asking about classes that may need actors for directing purposes. These students will make thesis films; some will go on to make professional movies, and they'll remember you. I also think there is a lot to be said for having non-actor friends, but in the meantime, have fun.
-- Tim Intravia
To Meet Actors, Join the Audience
In New York, I went to Sardi's or the Palm until I had my cholesterol checked. The best place to network with a lot of actors on Broadway is to go to the special Monday-night performances promoted by the Actors Fund. Every working actor in town who has a Monday night off is likely to take in that show to see what the other theaters are dishing out. If you don't want to spend the money for a ticket, you can run into dozens of actors by standing in Shubert Alley after a matinee.
-- Stephen Tobolowsky