April 16, 2008

the overuse of particular actors

e. v         posted 3 Feb 2008, 10:51 PM / edited 3 Feb 2008, 10:54 PM

I hadn’t been on the individual theatres websites (for the Wellington region) that much recently but I was just on Circa’s and I see they have a Roger Hall on soon with Ray Henwood and George Henare in it (amongst others) and to be honest it made me go “oh what? them again!” as in the last year they’ve been cast together. Heroes at Circa, I’m Not Rappaport at Downstage and now this show coming up in a couple of weeks. And they are very similar shows also. From talking to other theatre goers of the under 30 age group (not many, but a few), this turns them right off. I know I wont be going to see it because I’m bored of seeing them over and over.

This is not a judgement of their acting ability, their personality or anything like that…its just I wish theatres would talk to each other so there would be at least a second thought into whether similar shows are put on so close to each other with the same actors in them. ‘Cause it’s just so dull.

neil furby             posted 1 Apr 2008, 05:59 PM / edited 2 Apr 2008, 04:37 PM

E.v We live in a world of celebrity. It is something in the psyche of the human race that likes the familiar and in the field of entertainment they will happily watch favorite actors over and over again without complaint. Look at the Hollywood film industry that has used the Star Phenomenon for years as their bedrock to box office success.

In New Zealand the cult of celebrity has been used in television and has resulted in great ratings for shows like “Dancing with the Stars ” where we watch couples stumble and stomp around the dance floor while the Judges try to be oh so clever and witty with their comments on the competitors woeful performances.

For me the coupling of well know actors as in the case of Ray Henwood and George Henare should be encouraged to take advantage of this Celebrity Cult. As for Sam Neill as Artistic Director for Downstage bring it on. The Celebrity seekers will pack the place!!!

e. v         posted 3 Apr 2008, 11:44 PM

i understand where you’re coming from neil, but the problem (well, not problem but you know) i have is that the themes of the plays that they “star” in are all very similar. it gets kinda monotonous. two old men reminisce about their youth/are in a rest home/are facing the fact that they have to go into a resthome.. i wouldn’t say they are celebrities as we know it though…they are celebrities amongst a comparatively small group of people.

dancing with the stars has the nz version of celebrities…newsreaders/broadcasters (how are these celebrities? they get paid to read off a teleprompter), sports people and the odd actor.

neil furby             posted 7 Apr 2008, 01:04 PM / edited 7 Apr 2008, 01:15 PM

I suppose there is a bit of  “courses for horses ” in your “cause it’s just so dull” plea.

There are different demographics of theatregoers in Wellington whose taste are generally based on the stage they are in life. I suppose the under 30 age group would not find any appeal in “watching two old men reminisce about their youth/are in a rest home/are facing the fact that they have to go into a rest home” as would people in their twilight years like to watch young people wrestling with love, intense relationships and self-absorption. “Its just  life as we know it Jim” !!

Aaron Alexander              posted 7 Apr 2008, 02:54 PM

I agree with you Neil, and those who pay the piper get to call the tunes. However, I think e.v. does have a point about the distinct similarity of three plays produced this year, both in terms of themes and casting, as Mr Smythe remarked himself :

“Men confronting old age has emerged as a recurring theme of this year’s theatre programming. In Herb Garner’s I’m Not Rappaport at Downstage, George Henare and Ray Henwood complete a hat-trick of that ilk”

Two of the three were set in rest homes! It is a little unusual.

e v          posted 7 Apr 2008, 07:22 PM

So are Ray and George the only actors in Wellington that can play those roles? Of course theres an element of getting a name in there (whatever the age etc) but they can’t be the only ones available.

John Smythe      posted 7 Apr 2008, 10:22 PM

Given Aaron has quoted me here, I should add that I had no problem with any of the actors mentioned in any of those roles. They were different characters in different roles sharing different experiences.

To put it another way, I have no problem with good actors getting good roles in good plays. As someone once memorably said: “The play’s the thing …”

e.v. do you get sick of seeing the same sports people playing in game after game? For me it’s a non-issue.

e v          posted 8 Apr 2008, 08:09 AM

John, I have never been a sports watcher (much to the distress of my football loving partner! 🙂 ) so I can’t comment 😀

martyn roberts posted 8 Apr 2008, 09:52 AM

Well john you DO get tired of the same old team if its the Highlanders losing week after week…

Dane Giraud       posted 15 Apr 2008, 07:53 PM / edited 15 Apr 2008, 07:57 PM

I think it is a serious problem and to follow on with the sports analogy… Rueben Thorne was never going to turn down the role of captian given to him by John Mitchell… even thought he must have known he was outplayed by Tane Randell in 2003… and likewise an actor is not going to turn down ANY role on what is essentially an atoll… Now, the two actors discussed are competent but many that turn up again and again are not. I say the problem lays with the directors. Many cast known people because they want to eliminate the variables… they want a safe and neat run in to opening night. Other times it’s because they don’t trust their own instincts. It’s a bit like the emporers new clothes… “…other people cast them, so should I”… But it is a serious issue. In fact, it could be keeping many people away from theatre. A higher turn-over of actors could bring more people to the stage…

John Smythe      posted 15 Apr 2008, 10:58 PM  

I really don’t understand this way of thinking. The notion of not casting someone because they’ve had too much work is not likely attract top talent to the profession or keep them in the country. The best person/people available for the role/s should be the main criterion, with proven abilities to work together as an ensemble often just as important.

We’ve already lost major film making talents to the wider world because of a perceived attitude that once you’ve had your turn you have to stand back and let others in no matter how good you are. And of course the answer is to generate the resources to make more films and TV drama so that good actors have more opportunities to get more well paid work.

Dane Giraud       posted 16 Apr 2008, 08:46 AM / edited 16 Apr 2008, 11:43 AM

If the actors that were cast over and over again were the best actors for these roles consistantly then yes, you have a good point. You shouldn’t push a good actor aside purely for the sake of giving someone else a turn.  Thats socialism, not art.

But many of these repeat offenders aren’t the best people for these roles.

I think many times it comes down to money. Elish Moran has been at the Court Theatre forever. She was cast as Desdemona a few years back in a production of Othello. That, to me, would have to be a financial decision as opposed to a creative one. Surely (and this is not a slight on her acting, I’m discussing casting) there were more appropriate performers coming out of Toi or Unitec at that time that would have thrived on such an opportunity.

I know many people who avoid plays becuase of what they perceive as same-old, same-old performers. This doesn’t make them shallow… It means that they know the tricks of the actor and want to be challenged by a new faces and new ideas.

Aaron Alexander              posted 16 Apr 2008, 01:15 PM

I suspect there’s also a lot of people in the Wellington theatre audience who do the opposite, Dane. They choose to go to a play because they recognise an actor such as George Henare or Ray Henwood, and feel that he’s going to entertain them as he has in the past. I know I have my favourites, and that their presence in a play makes me more inclined to want to see it.

It’s very hard to say if, on balance, more people are put off by a lack of variety than are retained by consistency.

Dane Giraud       posted 16 Apr 2008, 05:25 PM / edited 16 Apr 2008, 06:15 PM

I don’t know if that is so true to be honest with you. It might be for you and some others but as a general thing I think audiences would appreciate a greater rotation of actors. I mean, in amateur theatre the blue rinse brigade have their favorites, don’t they?!  This doesn’t make the performer good and its quality I’m talking about.  Many regular performers are fantastic… but many are not, and I can see why people would get tired of them.  It smacks of safe – and safety ultimately renders a form obsolete.

I find it an irony that actors/directors so often complain about low attendances in theatre yet are resistant to change… We have countless new performers spat out by drama schools every year, many of which will never even get a start in the profession due to some tired old tricksey actor; theatrical bad smells that just don’t go away…  

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