It’s time to take a look at How to Be a Working Actor, Man Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers’ book, now in its fifth edition. Early on, the authors could scare away some “actors” by noting that of the 200,000 people in the various unions, only 20% earn more than $10,000 a year. As they suggest, “If there’s any other work that you can see yourself doing that will bring you just as much happiness, that offers a higher ratio of success and a far more tranquil existence while demanding less application, then by all means involve yourself in those activities.”

Still not discouraged? Read on: In the “Your Money” section, they advise, “You should not need or expect to earn one cent during your starting-out period.” They talk about rent (“Scout for your location, just as a production company would do when shooting sequences outside the studio.”) and remind you that “You are not embarking on an adventure vacation. This adventure happens to be your life and your business, and for that you need a long-term plan.”

Henry and Rogers provide it. They suggest you have a distinct look (“Industry professionals want the look to be there when you make your entrance.”), and parlay that with information on what might be relevant to young people. (“Jane Iredale’s Disappear is a camouflage cream that completely conceals tattoos.”).

Once you have your look, it’s off to the photographer. “Discard that picture you have had taken in Peoria,” they write, in a line that would get a head-nod from Rocco Landesman. “Look at your current photo and write a first-person caption to verbalize the thought you are projecting. If nothing comes to mind, the photo is too general and lacking in personality.” If a new picture is needed, the authors suggest you bring to the photographer’s studio your favorite CD—for “you should listen to music that relaxes you, or gives you energy, puts you in a great mood, or triggers your imagination.” The book is filled with “little” suggestions like that can make a big difference.

For resumes, Henry and Rogers state that “it isn’t necessary to describe your age range; that’s an old theater habit.” Although they admit, “Actors have been told they shouldn’t list degrees that have nothing to do with performing,” they feel “an actor whose expertise in forensics, nursing, law or biology might be useful on a daytime soap or an episode of CSI.”

The authors don’t sugar-coat actors’ tendency to self-sabotage. “When Actors’ Equity scheduled a free seminar on ‘How to Meet an Agent’ and guaranteed that several prominent agents would appear and answer questions, only 56 actors showed.” They do admit, though, that agents aren’t the be-all and end-all; Patricia (A Little Night Music) Elliott says that many times she had to call her agent and ask that HE call about a job she’d heard about.

But they concede that agent Nancy Curtis is right when she says, “To have a career as an actor, every day you need to do something.” Fascinating is the fact that “Nathan Lane was famous for building his career with Equity Principal Auditions. He was voracious, and went to every single one of them, whether he was right for it or not.” So, dear readers who perform, let’s see you look ahead and become the next Nathan Lane.

—Peter Filichia’s Diary, TheaterMania, March 12, 2010



If so, you had better read How To Be A Working Actor by actress Lynne Rogers and career coach Mari Lyn Henry. This unique survival guide published years ago has been completely updated and expanded with a splendid foreword by Tony Award-winning actor Joe Mantegna. Every aspect of the actor's lifestyle is included, from living expenses to online resources to what to wear to auditions (men—please, no stubble or tattoos; women—no cleavage or too-short skirts) and what to beware of: producers who want to audition you at 6:00 P.M. or later. The book covers not only Broadway and Hollywood, but such major show business cities as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and San Francisco. There is even a fascinating section on child actors and how they can become as successful as Shirley Temple. This extraordinary book is published by Back Stage Books.