acting in san diego

March 24, 2009

Evan Henerson of Backstage wrote a terrific article in the March 23 issue about making a living as an actor in San Diego. Check it out here.

Here are some excerpts:

…The number of theatres offering Equity contracts has increased, and once-modest companies have expanded their capabilities and facilities. Centrally located companies Cygnet and Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company have beefed up their Equity contracts, as have outlying San Diego County companies such as Moxie, North Coast Repertory, and New Village Arts. Not to be outdone, the Globe and the Playhouse have undergone administrative changes and renovations or additions to their performance spaces. And that’s a boon to the San Diego community. When Christopher Ashley took over as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse in 2007, for example, he made it a professional mandate to bring more San Diego–based actors to the Playhouse….

…According to Equity, approximately 337 active members list San Diego as their city of residence. That may seem like a goodly number for a city with a population just over 1 million, but the number of San Diego–based Equity actors who work regularly on stage — there or elsewhere—is far lower. Debra Wanger, Equity liaison for San Diego, estimates that 40 to 50 locally based stage actors are hustling and working regularly. ..

The La Jolla Playhouse has also begun a new Resident Theatre Program, giving a local company rehearsal and performance space at the Playhouse facilities. Mo’olelo, the 5-year-old company run by Seema Sueko, used the Playhouse’s 99-seat Studio space to produce the play Night Sky in summer 2008 and will stage Jane Martin’s Good Boys on the same stage in May. The rent-free year has given a boost to Mo’olelo, which produces one or two shows per year with the goal of paying its union and nonunion actors professional wages.

Sueko, a Chicago transplant, is an actor-director who came to San Diego in 2003 when her husband landed a job at one of the local TV stations. Discovering a friendly climate and an unsaturated market, Sueko and a friend who lived in Long Beach started Mo’olelo, which staged its first production in 2004.

Sueko encountered challenges in kicking her own acting career into gear during the first year and a half. She ultimately landed a leading role in The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at the Old Globe and most recently directed the Globe’s production of Since Africa. “San Diego overall embraces the entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “If you dream it and work hard, you can create in San Diego. I don’t think I would have had the same success I’ve had in the last five years in any other city.”


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