Real Live Theater

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

From the Big Stage to the Silver Screen: casting theater actors in film, television, voiceover and print projects

In Behind the Scenes on March 23, 2009 at 12:46 am

by Phil Gravitt

Action photo by Graffizone

Action photo by Graffizone

SONOMA COUNTY, CA – Lori Laube and Jen Côte are the co-owners and driving force behind American Eagle Studios. They place everyone from kids to older adults, from untrained to seasoned actors in smaller or local roles for films, commercials, television, print and voiceover jobs.

Some of their actors are self employed or are waiters, and are almost always available, while others support themselves with day jobs and occasionally risk their  jobs to take off for auditions and filming.

Theater actors have an additional challenge explains Jen, “Theater actors are often in shows or rehearsals, and have to be off a shoot by 5:00 PM to be at the theater [for rehearsals or a performance] by 6:30. We try to accommodate them.” She continues, “A few actors we work with are experienced actors living in Marin or Sonoma who have done ‘the big thing’ in film, and want to keep a foot in acting and relax.”

Working with both theater and film actors, Jen has found that, “Some actors are more successful than others at making the transition between stage and film. Training helps you in either medium, teaching you to create character, analyze scripts. In film, the actors don’t have to be big in vocal choices and can be subtle in faces and expressions.”

The films American Eagle works on are often independent, with small budgets, usually involving actors who are not members of the Screen Actors Guild***. Jen explains, “We’re not a glamorous big time casting agency. We won’t make you a star. We are a good place to get exposure and footage for your reel, before moving to the City or LA and joining SAG and a larger agency.”

Actors register through American Eagle’s web site, and send in a head shot, a resume, and their sizes.

“We want as many actors at our disposal as possible,” Jen says. “If we or a client think an actor will fit the need, we will bring them in for an audition.”

When a client calls with a request for actors, Lori and Jen send them to the talent section of their web site.

Jen explains, “Once they review the head shots, they may give us three names they want to audition. When the client tells us they want a certain look, we offer more names from our files of people not on the site. Occasionally we’ll say, ‘This guy is a great actor, and has a good track record,’ and our clients take our word for it without auditioning. When we have auditions to fill a specific request, the client may sit in on an audition we hold.”

What does the future hold?

Jen says, “We believe the North Bay scene has potential to become a mecca for artists and filmmakers. Studios are springing up in Novato and Sausalito, producing and creating. Even in this economy people want to create. We hope they need actors and will call us and our actors will keep working.”

***American Eagle also has a long successful history of casting large independent films and television series as well as commercials. Recent film and television projects include Bottle Shock, Cheaper by the Dozen, Bartleby, and a number of series for The History Channel and Women’s Entertainment TV. Corporate clients include Comcast Spotlight, E.J. Gallo and Sonoma County Turism Bureau among many others. Additional information about American Eagle Studios is available at

Phil Gravitt is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, the Noe Valley Voice & other San Francisco neighborhood newspapers, and the Bay Area Visual Arts Blog

Additional articles by Phil Gravitt include:


How old were you when you first attended a live theater performance?

In An Invitation for You, Editor's Note, Who's watching? on March 14, 2009 at 5:22 am

Editors Note

During a discussion today about summer theater workshops for little kids, the question came up: how old were you when you first attended a live theater performance? The answers varied widely of course, and included everything from “[going to see] a simple production of Little Red Riding Hood during a field trip in kindergarten” to, “[going to see] Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at age fifty”.

What is your answer?

Please take a moment to participate in the brief survey below, and if you would like to share your memories of your first live theater experience, please scroll down to the very, very bottom of this article and click on the red ‘Comment’ button to post your comment.

Thank you for your participation!

Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.

Other articles by Cheryl Itamura include:

The Imaginists Theater Collective: establishing a place where you become a creator

In Behind the Scenes on March 8, 2009 at 4:28 pm

by Phil Gravitt

Brent Lindsay and Amy Pinto in UBU REX, photo by Eric Monrad

Brent Lindsay and Amy Pinto in UBU REX, photo by Eric Monrad

SONOMA COUNTY, CA – After Brent Lindsey and his wife Amy spent several years on the East Coast in traditional theater companies, they had a meeting of the minds in 1993.

“It was up to us to proceed down that path or change directions.”  Deciding on the latter, Brent & Amy formed the ensemble-based Imaginists Theatre Collective in rural Delaware.  Finding like minded colleagues, they did away with the hierarchy of traditional theater.   “Everyone has a fair say in ensemble,” says Brent. “Actors handled sets, lights, performing, everything.  We learned to write and create, and the director became more a facilitator.”

“We don’t audition,” Brent continued.  “Ensemble asks a lot of an actor, and it is up to each actor to find how they are going to mine their artistic voice, and how far are they able to go to give back to the project.”

Discussing the audience attracted to ensemble based theater, Brent says, “We reach a different, younger audience.  After a show builds buzz, the traditional theater audience eventually comes on board.    We do original theater and original adaptation, which is often not as enticing to a standard theater goer.   When the title on the marquee is ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,’ and you see puppetry and other things not typical in theater, your brain is going to have to decide if you like it.  Ensemble is difficult in this culture, when people want things fast, and we are competing with other entertainment forms that are easier to digest”

Brent quickly adds, “We are not interested in entertaining, and we don’t want the audience to be star struck. We want the audience engaged in dialogue and community. We’re all in it together.  It is not audience versus performer.  We get out of makeup and into the audience quickly after the show, to find out what are the questions and mysteries, and what did we all go through together.”

After Delaware, Brent and Amy moved to Truckee, then Healdsburg, where they started an education program in 2002.   Like the ensemble, the education program is far more a ‘creator program’ rather than an ‘actor program.’    In three years, they grew from six kids to sixty, dropping to forty when Imaginists and the current five member ensemble moved to Santa Rosa.

Explaining his training philosophy, Brent says. “We don’t want to put a lot of actors out into a culture that has an overflow of actors.   From kids on up, we are interested in establishing a place where you become a creator.  Where students learn to listen to each other and become generous with ideas.”

“When you go out into the world,” Brent continued, “even if you veer away from the art form itself, instilled in you is confidence, active risk taking, and growing your artistic voice. You can become a parent, a chef in a restaurant, just about anything, and find that artistry and creative voice in you and make the world a better place.”

Asked to describe how someone would go about starting a community theater project, Brent explains, “When we started our ensemble, there was no mentorship, no one there to legitimize what we were going to do.   None of our teachers were there to say, ‘This is how you do it.’  In the beginning, we were making it up as we went along.

“My hope is that actor training programs are beginning to offer education for those wanting to start non profit grass roots companies.   I hope there are more companies like us around, where new companies could write to them and get some help.  We are there for people doing what we do.”

More information about The Imaginists Theater Collective can be found at

Phil Gravitt is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, the Noe Valley Voice & other San Francisco neighborhood newspapers, and the Bay Area Visual Arts Blog

Additional articles by Phil Gravitt include: