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Is it Career Death to Act in a Panto?

December 22, 2011 3 comments

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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