Dear West End Producer: ‘Why do people tell actors about their amdram-star nephew?’
Why, when you reveal your career, do people insist on telling you about their nephew/friend/neighbour who is a local amdram star/who has been in 6 films as an extra? Doesn’t happen to plumbers…
— Christopher Edge (@ChrisEdgeActor) June 12, 2018
People do it to feel as though they relate to you. It is done out of kindness and a willingness to show they know someone in the business. Some actors, however, believe they are having the mickey taken out of them. This is unlikely to be the case. Mostly, it is people who admire you.
I can see how it is frustrating: the neighbour who tells you about the local amdram show they’re in, or the family friend who loves reminiscing about playing the backside of a cow in a panto. But these lovely amateurs are simply excited about you being a professional – so, try not to take it in a negative way.
Acting is one of those ‘bohemian’ careers that many people wish they had the bravery to pursue. So, they spend their lives working in ‘normal’ jobs, and get their theatrical fulfilment in amateur dramatic societies, or by being an occasional extra in a film. And this is nothing to be scoffed at. If it allows someone to feel creative, while getting paid at the same time (doing extra work), then it can only be a good thing.
I know many ex-professionals who get their acting ‘kick’ from being in amateur productions. And it is easy to understand why. Amateur shows allow performers of all standards to put on a show, and they come with the added bonus of a social life. Often these amateur shows are directed by professional directors, sometimes with a bigger budget than pro shows – and the standard of work can be marvellous. Amateur shows will usually run for a week maximum, but certainly give people the chance to feel as though they’re in a proper production.
You are living a life many people wish they had the bravery to pursue. So, it is only natural that they’re inquisitive about being a professional actor. But of course, this can be frustrating, particularly when they repeatedly ask the same questions. So, as an actor, you have to learn to expect certain questions every Christmas, Easter, birthday, funeral, Bar Mitzvah, and family gathering. These include:
• What would I have seen you in?
• Who is the most famous person you’ve met?
• Have you been on telly?
• Did you go to RADA?
• Do you know Judi Dench?
• What do you do when you’re resting?
• Have you got an agent?
• Why weren’t you on Game of Thrones? You sound northern.
• Why don’t you get a better agent?
• Have you thought about writing to the director of Hollyoaks?
• Can you do a song/speech/some acting for me?
• Why don’t you just get a normal job?
Of course, even though these questions come from a harmless and supportive place, people don’t realise that – by asking them – they are killing your soul. So, next time you find yourself bombarded with such questions, just smile through gritted teeth, and be thankful you don’t spend your life working in admin, dear.
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer