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Volunteer Actors

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Acting
Forum Discription: Q&A about auditions, character development and other aspects of the craft
Printed Date: 5/18/24 at 10:38pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 -

Topic: Volunteer Actors
Posted By: landon2006
Subject: Volunteer Actors
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 2:40am
I know this is probably a simple question, and I think I know the answer... but:

I just formed a new Community Theater here in Bloomington, In (pop. 80,000). Myself and my board of Directors are stuck on rather to "pay" our actors. On one hand, this is a community Theater, and actors as well as crew should be willing to volunteer to both help us bring entertainment to the community and to build there resume for future paying jobs... HOWEVER, several of the board members are concerned (including myself) that if not paid, a specific actor may not have much reason to appear at all rehearsals and performances. This could create a problem if the Actor is the lead.

I'm sure it does not happen often, but has anyone here ever had to deal with a no-show actor on opening night (or any other night of performance)? If so, how do you handle such a problem?

Landon Smile

Executive Director,
The Broadway Entertainment Company Inc.

Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 8:09am
Never had a problem with an actor not showing up for a performance--rehearsals are another matter but most people are very conscientious. As everyone on this board could tell you there are no doubt thousands of plays done every year in community theaters where everyone shows up and works hard without getting paid. Just out of curiousity, as a new group what kind of financing do you have that would put you in a position to pay actors?

Posted By: B-M-D
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 10:05am
No actors get paid at any of the ct's in my area.   The nature of ct actors and theatre in general, that it feeds our need for an inordinate amount of attention and adoration is usually enough to keep us coming to rehearsals. LOL
Directors, music directors, choreographers are more likely to be paid because quality skills in those positions are exponentially harder to come by than actors.  


"Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

Posted By: pdavis69
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 12:59pm
In our section of NW Ohio, it is very rare for any of the actors in the Community Theatres to be paid.  I may be reading too much into your posting  but it souds as if you are you worried about a specific person (not just anyone cast in the future) might hold you up for pay or no show for a volunteer part.  If we had a person who was prone to that kind of behavior we would be hesitant to cast them at all. 

Patrick L. Davis
Fort Findlay Playhouse

Posted By: landon2006
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 4:02pm
It's not that we could pay people upfront... But if needed, they could receive a box office back-end share. Since most all of the production money for our shows will come from sponsors, that leaves the box office money to either A) put in the sponsors to make the next production even better or b) distribute said funds in a % share agreement with actors and crew. I was actually considering eventually stepping down from using sponsors and just use box office funds to do the next production (saves a lot of headache).

Keep in mind, the budget for most of our shows (with advertising) will be in the range of $30,000.00 with a possible box office take of $50,000 per show over a 6-10 show run.

One thing is for sure though, since I'm quiting my full-time job and taking over the Executive Director and Stage Director position full time, I will be allowing myself either a) a salary eventually (no more than $28,000 a year (or b) substantial box office share since this will be my only source of income.

I would keep my full-time job, but since we plan on mounting 3-4 large musicals a year, my time will be all filled up.



Posted By: bbpchick
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 4:02pm
No one in our theater gets paid.  We do occasionally have a problem with actors showing up, but that is usually dependant upon the director.  My first show, I had a problem with one person not showing up, but I learned from a very wise and more expereinced director, that if you put out the expectation from the very beginning of what is required, actors and crew do what you ask.  I did that for my second show when people walked into auditions by having a calendar of rehearsals for each person and I stated that I expected to see everyone at the theater no later than 5 minutes before rehearsal started so we can start on time.  My second show, no one missed rehearsal unless they called me ahead of time to make arrangements with me, and they were all on time, again unless they called me and let me know what was going on.  So I don't think you will have a problem with not paying your actors if you give them your expectations upfront.

Kendra -
You are NEVER too old to dress up!

Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 3/20/08 at 4:33pm
Hi Landon:
Once again, I would be careful about your projections on box office when you are just starting out. I don't think it's a good idea to offer deferred compensation to the actors or anybody else based on the box office expectations before you get an idea of what the box office is really going to be for your productions. There might not actually be enough money to distribute and you could generate a lot of ill will if people decide that they're getting stiffed.

Posted By: JoeMc
Date Posted: 3/21/08 at 1:28am
As suggested Box Office & bumsonseats are a 'pie in the sky' affair!
You never know what can happen? - the 'Titanic' could sink again on Opening Night?
Your group is new & an unkown quantity, you could have the best show in town, yet the most 'MT' seats, no matter how you promote & push 'it up hill with your nose!
I feel your expectations will bring on a forced market situation - I hope not & it is a run away blockbuster!
Only offer the chance of performing, they will come out of the woodwork, put a year of show seasons in the bank, before a divident is decided on, if that's the way to go?
But in reality unless you have a pile of brass to fall back on - Keep your day job mate!
It may be hard but at least your secure & still be able to realise your dreams & enjoy the product! 

[western] Gondawandaland
"Hear the light & see the sound!
{may you always play to a full house!}

Posted By: whitebat
Date Posted: 3/29/08 at 11:21pm
We never pay anyone.  In HS, actors who did no-shows got cut (our shows were double cast).  I unofficially understudied a no-show actor, which was a pain!  He fumbled through his lines when he was there, which included both performances.  My brother replaced a no-show actor in middle school (Jr. high); which has given him a very negative attitude towards acting since. 

Posted By: sethnic
Date Posted: 4/06/08 at 5:10pm
I'm trying to do the same thing in my group. We called it profit sharing, but I like the dividend term better. Some staff members do expect to be paid, incl. the MD, director, choreographer and musicians.

What I'm thinking in their case is to offer a very basic amount - not approaching a salary - and then fill in with dividend if the production is successful.

I am budgeting for 67% to be around breakeven, where there would be no dividends since that will cover the costs (including the guaranteed minimum), and everything above that to be shared on a tiered basis.

How does this sound? Is 2/3 capacity a reasonable projection?

Creating a new company!

Posted By: gaftpres
Date Posted: 4/06/08 at 11:39pm
Are you applying for a non-profit status? If so I believe it must be volunteer. If you plan on applying for grant money  etc.  be aware of that.
We pay for our summer musical director, choral, orchestra, choreographer, but thats it.  ALl board members, and staff are volunteer... actors too.

Old volunteers never die, they just get recycled!

Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 4/07/08 at 4:26am
Originally posted by sethnic

How does this sound? Is 2/3 capacity a reasonable projection?

I don't think that question can be answered without more information. There are too many variables.But if you don't already have the money, don't promise anyone a payment based on projected ticket sales. Anything could happen.

Posted By: sethnic
Date Posted: 4/07/08 at 1:53pm
Our group is not applying for non-profit status, it's sort of a "pick-up group". The show we have coming up in late June is The Sound of Music, so it has box office appeal.
If we were to promise real salaries to anyone, we could afford maybe two staff. We'd have no orchestra or anything. Not everybody will do a show for the love of it. The problem the poster raised of being fair gets balanced with being sustainable.

Creating a new company!

Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 4/07/08 at 6:40pm
How does a "pick-up group" work financially speaking? Can you get business sponsors without a 501(c)3? Do you have a group where everyone puts up part of the money? If you're, say, the director or a musician, who is your contract with?

Posted By: sethnic
Date Posted: 4/08/08 at 4:04am
Basically I'm the sole proprietor and investor. When i say "pick-up" group, I mean that we work as a team, but this is my initiative and (hopefully) a future proper business. As of now, I function as a sort of spark to pull people together to make a show.

Creating a new company!

Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 4/08/08 at 4:47am
I hope that works out well for you! The Sound of Music sounds like a fairly safe bet all things considered.

Posted By: avgsuperheroine
Date Posted: 7/11/08 at 1:17am
I would think in a town of 80000 you could find actors who will act for the love of theatre.  We fill over 6 shows per year in a town of only 12000 and we don't pay the actors.  We pay too many of the other crew members for my liking, but not the actors. 
I've also never had a problem with people not showing up, not in 15 years of community theatre work.  I'm sure it happens but most people realize there's too many other people depending on them to show up.
Also, why put a cap on what salary you'll make?  Or did someone else do that?  Exec Dir work huge hours and have a lot of responsibility.  With no benefits etc, that kind of salary isn't much for the type of work you'd be doing.   Anyway, have fun with the show, I hope you find some great dedicated volunteers!

------------- - Dramatically Correct Cast Gifts - Costume Shop Organization Tips

Posted By: jaytee060
Date Posted: 7/11/08 at 10:48am
    I don't want to sound negative but it seems like we are discussing "apples and oranges" here.  Your group sounds more like a professional or semi-professional theatre to me.  Most of us here in the Greenroom work with amateur volunteer organizations.  Actors do not get paid...nor do they expect to be paid.  If my theatre would encounter an actor who expected money to perform, we would simply and politely imform him that we do not pay.
    I thing caution should be taken however. Since you are a new theatre group who has yet to establish a name.  Beware high expectations of door receipts.  Not every show is THE SOUND OF MUSIC.


Posted By: MartyW
Date Posted: 7/13/08 at 6:00pm
Don't do it...

Marty W

"Till next we trod the boards.."

Posted By: chel
Date Posted: 7/18/08 at 12:41pm
If it's community theater then don't pay anyone.  Our theater charges $10 per actor as a basic "membership dues" which helps defray the cost of the scripts (especially if they're rented and someone loses it).
A woman called our theater because she wanted a paying position as a costume designer...yeah right.  Ours has been doing every show, for the love of it, for over 5 years. 
Everything you make from the box-office to the refreshments will need to go back into the show.  Rather than spending all the money yourself on the production, which could bite you in the tush (unless you have it to throw out there, which is none of my business),.
Try and get some sponsors if you haven't already.  Make a basic program and fill it with local advertisements.  Ask for donations from businesses or hold a fundraiser.
But don't pay actors.  Our theater only gives a small stipend to the muscians, and everyone else, on up to the Board of Directors, does it for the love of theater.  
There's also the fun of it to consider.  My fun in being on stage is because I didn't have to have training for it.  Me, my neighbor, the local vetrinarian and the college student come out for the fun of it.   


Posted By: John Luzaich
Date Posted: 3/19/09 at 5:37pm
Actually the comment about if you're a non-profit, it must be all volunteer if you apply for grants is not true at all.  There are many 501 (c) (3) non-profit theatres that receive a lot of grant dollars from the NEA and their state arts councils that are professional theatres with actors equity contracts.  In large cities and in small communities in the midwest.  There are theatres in the midwest that pay actors in musicals and even break it down between lead parts (more money) and chorus parts (less money).  Our theatre is not one of them.  I agree with most every thing in the posts here.  We do not pay actors either.  I'm just saying there are some that do and if it works for them that's fine.  We all have different circumstances here and what works for one might not be right for another theatre.  But I still really value the comments and different posts from people in this forum.  I've worked in large venues and smaller venues and have been doing this awhile now and I CONSTANTLY LEARN SOMETHING FROM MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN THIS FORUM.  This is a very value added thing for all of us to have! Thanks to most of you!


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