by Jeffrey Christopher Todd (reprinted with permission)
I wish I could impart how instrumental my experience in 99 seat theatre has been in my career and my growth as an artist.
I landed my very first agent from a show I did at the Blank Theatre. I have nurtured long lasting relationships with casting directors because of my work in intimate theatre that have lead to career changing, paying gigs such as my first television pilot. I have created partnerships with directors and music directors who continue to hire me for contract work. Rick Sparks, who I met via 99 seat theatre, cast me in the National Tour of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” (a show born in the 99 seat plan that has gone on to employ 12 LA based Equity actors under the highest SETA contract for 3 years and counting) – a relationship I would have never cultivated if I had sat home waiting for a contract job offer.
As artists, we all have ups and downs. There were times when I couldn’t get a job in any of the Equity houses – which is very difficult to actually do. During those low times, when all I did was audition, take class, cater, and do anything I could to not sit home and be depressed or feel like a complete failure, the opportunity to actually do what my soul needs to do to stay alive and ACT was available to me in the 99 seat community.
Payment in ways that transcend monetary value
When I couldn’t find work that paid me, I still had the chance to feed my artist and explore my craft with other talented people in intimate theatre. It gave me purpose, it gave my drive, it gave me confidence. Even though I wasn’t getting paid a great amount in dollars, I was being paid in ways that transcended any monetary value.
I was working. I had confidence. I was alive. It made me a better actor. I gave stronger auditions. I wasn’t desperate. I exuded confidence. I could actually respond to the inevitable “so, what are you up to?” without wanting to shrink into a ball of embarrassment.
I owe so much of who I am today to my wonderful, fulfilling, and rich experiences in 99 seat theatre. Why rob someone else of that opportunity? We ALL deserve a chance to shine. Not just a lucky few of us.
I am fighting for people’s rights to be artists. There is room for commercial theatre as a living and just doing theatre for the love of it to stay alive.
BOTH can exist.
Jeffrey Christopher Todd is a member of Actors’ Equity and is currently running for a seat on the Western Regional Council.
Read his official candidate statement and more HERE.