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.”
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.