New York City Is Not the Center of the Theater Universe for Actors

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Photo Source: Illustration: Jordan Sondler

Q: Is it possible to have a theater career if I don’t live in New York? Other than community theater, are there opportunities outside of Broadway? —David E., Missouri

Short answer: Yes. Yes. Yes.

New York City has been the dream and end goal for generations of actors. Makes sense. But great theater happens elsewhere, too! The regional theater scene in the U.S. is alive and well, and historically has spawned a great portion of the work ultimately seen in Manhattan.

Many factors influence one’s choice of where to call home—cost of living, green space, the pace of an area, proximity to family, where may be best to raise a family (or pets)! Thriving theater hubs include: Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco/the Bay Area, D.C., Dallas, Denver, Boston, the Twin Cities, South Florida, and the list goes on and on.

READ: Why Actors Need to Appreciate Regional Theater

If you want to immerse yourself in a regional theater community, here are some tips:

  • Determine if that hub holds a yearly, area-wide general audition for actors so you can be seen by many producers at once. (Several cities do!)
  • Check sites like Actors’ Equity Association to determine how many theaters in an area offer union (typically higher-paying) contracts.
  • Attend as much theater as possible once you move, and introduce yourself to that community’s leaders, movers, shakers, and your fellow actors.
  • Volunteer! You’ll be exposed to new folks and remembered for your kindness and ambition.
  • Check Backstage and theaters’ casting pages for their protocols on submitting, and proceed appropriately.
  • Full-time acting is rare anywhere, so you may need to diversify and multitask. Many thespians also teach, work for theater companies or other nonprofits by day, coach privately, and wear other hats in areas like casting, graphic design, technical theater, and marketing.

Bonus! Several major theater cities also have thriving on-camera scenes. (Atlanta, for instance, just outpaced L.A. and New York for film production.) While considering NYC alternatives, research onscreen acting opportunities and look into signing on with an agency for representation.

Recalibrating a mindset that one must reside in New York to be successful and happy in a theater career is key; gorgeous, world-class art happens everywhere. Keep an open mind, adjust your expectations, work hard, network, and practice professionalism to establish yourself as an essential and memorable player in your new home!

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The views expressed in this article are solely those of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Clifton Guterman
Clifton Guterman is an Atlanta actor, teacher, casting director, and all around theater administration devotee. He has performed Off-Broadway and at numerous top regional theaters and was named Broadway World Atlanta’s Best Actor (play) in 2013.
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