Is it Career Death to Act in a Panto?

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the Christmas Panto I am performing in, and she replied,

“I have never seen or done Panto because people say where I am from that it is the death of your acting career.”


Photo by Ariel Diaz.

I found that an odd statement.

I still feel like a fresh, naive face in the landscape, only graduating a short six months ago, so I don’t speak with any experience. Now, granted, I admit that the vast majority of Christmas Pantos out there are community theatre productions and there can be a stigma toward actors who partake in unpaid community theatre as perhaps being less than professional. Technically, this is absolutely true – that actors who aren’t getting paid aren’t doing professional work. If we define ‘professional’ as ‘getting paid for it’.

That an actor whose resume is filled with Arts Club shows will get a closer look than one topped with Fighting Chance and Panto performances is a given. That said, I would much rather work three community theatre shows (as I am midway through doing) than not act at all in that time frame. I hope that consistent performing work counts for something.

But whether or not a Panto on the resume helps me… it’s a very different situation to suggest that having such a show on my record would count against me.

I won’t deny that acting in a panto is stars apart from Chekhov, but every script has its own style. For Pantos, that happens to be in the vein of TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) shows – big, broad, out to the audience, sharing every moment with the audience. And let’s not forget the best part of Pantos – the improvising between cast and audience when a child pipes up with something adorable, or when something goes wrong onstage. There is a skill in making those side comments while still keeping the show moving; talented performers have a lot to work with in Pantos.


Peter Sellers

Heck, Pantos never hurt Peter Sellers, and Mickey Rooney  seems to get a kick out of them. Alright, yes, this is me cherry-picking celebrities – doesn’t prove a thing. But they make me feel better. 🙂

Again, I have no experience in this area; since graduating in June, I’m still looking for my first paying run in a theatre (outside of Fringe). No time at all in the scheme of things. But I do hope this show isn’t a mark against me, because Ali Baba is genuinely a fun show that delights hundreds and hundreds of children and adults, and while it is in some ways a long step away from how to act in a serious drama, this opportunity to play with an audience in such a direct fashion has been invaluable, the choreography a helpful challenge, and the experience thus far, a pleasure.


What do you think? (leave a comment!)


We run until January 7th if you want to check us out. Here’s the information again:

Photo by Ariel Diaz
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – A Christmas Pantomime! – I play Wakey Faker in this silly, funny, family-friendly funtimes pantomime, complete with Dame, singalongs, Oh-No-You-Don’ts, much musical choreography, and an audience encouraged to heckle the actors. Plus, with British parents, I needed to be in at least ONE Panto. Just had to happen. And I get to play a romantic lead! Sort of.
  • Venue: The Metro Theatre.
    The Metro’s Website.
  • Show Dates:
    Evening shows at 7.00 p.m. – Dec 22 ,23 ,26, 27 , 29 , 30 January 2,5,6,7
    Matinee shows at 2.00 p.m. – Dec 26, 27. January 1, 2, 7

Don’t be a stranger,
Andrew Wade


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3 thoughts on “Is it Career Death to Act in a Panto?

  1. I would remind your friend of some of the people who have tread the boards in the Metro Pantomime… Kazumi Evans who starred as Maria in West Side Story and Wendy in Peter Pan at RCMT, and has also appeared in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse… Carly Rae Jepsen who came in third on Canadian Idol… Vince Tong who’s done countless Arts Club shows and is currently getting rave reviews as Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse… Josh Epstein who has had lead roles all across the country including Stratford. This is just a handful. Is everyone going to make it big doing the panto? No, but I know lots of people who have gotten an equity credit and then are never heard from again. It sounds to me like your friend is not confident in her acting abilities if she thinks doing one or two pantos is career death. How many bad movies have truly great actors and actresses done? Have a little confidence and faith in your ability and you’ll be surprised where you’ll go. Metro is a great place for many people to get their start in Vancouver (whether it’s a panto or not!) Hell – go to Ross Petty Productions in Toronto – look at the talented people he’s had in his pantos.

    1. Thanks, Ryan. I’m not feeling insecure about it (and I’m LOVING my time in the Panto… though the twelve days of Christmas are a few days too long 😛 ), but it was definitely a comment that sparked a response.

  2. I know a few actors who haven’t acted since Pantos- not saying this will be you. But, one thing I think you’re overlooking is that your resume is the medium between you and an audition. If you’re resume is filled with TYA shows, you’re probay not going to be the first they call in for a Chekhov lets say (as “fun” as the show may be, if the auditioner didn’t see it, it’s just words). But, it’s your career, this is how your choosing to represent yourself in the theatre community, and you just have to be confident in your choices.

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