As an actor, Deadline.com’s editorial “Note To Glenn Close, Hugh Jackman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rupert Grint: Broadway’s Not A Whistle Stop,” has upset me, so I decided to write an editorial in rebuttal.
The article emphasizes the notion that Hollywood’s A-list stars are doing Broadway a disservice by appearing in limited run (and hence, overpriced) shows.
While I cannot personally speak for the prices, as I have yet to have graced New York with my presence, let alone have the pleasure of viewing a show on Broadway, I can speak from word of mouth that the prices for most shows are average. I was recently in a black box theatre production in Los Angeles for more than the price of seeing Daniel Radcliffe perform onstage in New York ($30 for my show, $20 for his), and I’m no Hollywood A-list actor.
Yes, today’s productions are shorter than past runs, but that is not the fault of the actor. Theatre pay is so much lower than the film and television industry’s standard salary; it’s almost laughable. Actually, scratch that, it’s not almost laughable. It’s a travesty. Sure, many of these actors have millions to their name, but that seems beside the point of what their passions are. An actor doesn’t give up on something they love. If they did, Rupert Grint would have stopped acting after he finished the Harry Potter series, and he’s continued to pursue his career with aplomb. Acting is a thrilling addiction, I can attest to that, and he’s followed its multiple avenues.
It’s also important to note that if an actor feels a connection to a character and knows that they can portray it well, they feel an obligation to do so. Salary doesn’t matter at all in that regard. Rupert Grint would not have chosen to play Frank Finger in It’s Only A Play if he did not feel that he could do the character justice. And, friends, he seems made for the role.
With all of the above in mind, we must also touch upon the fact that theatre productions and on-camera work are entirely different animals. Theatre is live, pulsating and short-lived. When an actor performs onstage, it’s an entire experience in and of itself. The adrenaline is suffocating, yet invigorating. A production also often changes with each show’s audience. It’s a challenge to adapt to audience reactions.
On-camera work, while still difficult, is less intimate. You can go back and change something if you or the director felt that the scene was not quite up to par. In today’s day and age, on-camera work can also be lonely. New technology, green screens in particular, have caused many actors to throw in the towel.
Theatre is our escape.
The theatre experience has not changed as much as the film and television industry. As long as that is the case, actors will want to return to sharpen their acting chops, to escape commercialization and distribution, and to join a community of fellow actors that love and appreciate the environment. Many actors also join productions to feel closer to the general public. The onstage actor-audience member connection is a bizarre one, but it does exist. An interested audience is one of the most important aspects of a successful performance.
I think we should be grateful that actors are continuing to keep theatre alive. Theatre is an art form that should never be lost. It is inevitable that production length, cost and casts will change, but as long as there’s an actor and an audience, theatre is here to stay, so let’s stop complaining and just enjoy.