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February 27, 2008

Newsflash: You Don't Get Rich in the Theater

Joe Nickell

About a month ago, Orange County Register blogger Paul Hodgins wrote a post about his conversations with various theater professionals around the Los Angeles area.

His findings are no real surprise:

Those who bemoan the state of American theater should consider this sobering fact: even for its most successful playwrights and directors, it's a world without money or security.

Of course, Hodgins bases what he says on the anecdotal evidence he sees around Orange County and L.A.

Which makes me wonder: Is it better, or worse, in smaller cities around the country? My gut tells me worse; there's certainly no-one in my town of Missoula making a living as a freelance theater professional. In fact, even here -- more than 1,000 miles from Los Angeles -- the only folks I know making a living by writing scripts or acting do pretty much all their business in Hollywood.

But I also know that life in Missoula is a lot less expensive than in L.A. (just ask the scads of transplants who come here every year to get away from the big city, pushing up local housing prices....Not that I'm BITTER or anything...grrrr).

And as a journalist, I had an eye-opening conversation with a senior Chicago Tribune reporter a year ago in which it became clear that my standard of living here is actually no worse and in some ways infinitely better than his.

Journalists aren't theatricals, of course. But I do wonder, can people make a decent living acting, directing, and/or writing plays outside the major metro hubs in America?

Posted by Joe Nickell at February 27, 2008 10:18 AM