From Ancient Greece to Coronation Street
Think back fifty years ago, 1962, in the U.K. There were only two television channels: BBC and ITV. If you were looking for acting jobs back then, you would not think of television. In fact many of the actors who appeared on the first episode of Coronation Street, a year earlier, were not that keen, and wanted to get back to their “proper” jobs in the Theatre or on the radio.
If you consider that the ancient Greeks relied on the Theatre as a source of entertainment over two millennia ago, in fifty short years the whole genre has changed beyond recognition. Admittedly, the introduction of the cinema, and more importantly the talkies in the 1930s, added to availability of work in the acting profession. For the majority, though, film work was just a pipe dream.
Things have changed beyond recognition in a relatively short space of time. We now have twenty-four hour TV coverage with hundreds of television channels and dozens of production companies, extra casting agencies , all feeding the viewing public’s insatiable appetite for comedy, drama, soaps and much more. Don’t forget the advertisements interspersed between all those programmes, many of which feature actors.
Although regional theatre, or rep (repertory) as it was known, is not as popular as it was, there are still a lot of thriving venues up and down the country. Many plays that end up in the West End start their life touring the regional circuit. Here too, the thespian displays his craft.
Assuming you have not been to drama school or have not had the benefit of formal training, how do you go about getting a foot on the ladder? If you have total confidence in your ability and believe you are the next Lord Olivier or Dame Judy (Dench), you could just throw yourself into every possible audition or open extra casting calls you can. You will find these advertised on various Internet sites and in the trade paper, the Stage. If you are as good as you think you are, the work will be rolling in and fame will be just around the corner.
For those with a little less self belief and who want to get a feel for the business, try starting as an extras casting, or “walk on”. This involves being in the background and as such, gives you a great opportunity to watch, listen and learn how things are done. As your confidence grows, you can start applying for acting jobs that match your ability. Get yourself an agent or agents, and get your profile on the books of as many booking agencies as you can. The work will soon come rolling in.