Actor Showcases: The Bitter Truth

Every summer in Los Angeles, casting offices and talent companies are flooded with invitations for actor showcases. Showcases are live theatre performances that various acting schools and conservatories put on for friends, family, and of course, industry professionals. These showcases are a common staple for colleges and universities with large acting programs (e.g. USC, UCLA, Julliard, etc), but even smaller acting schools and companies will have shows. For actors, these showcases are a culmination of weeks, months, even years of hard work and training. These actors often look at these showcases as a way to not only show off their talents, but to hopefully catch the eye of a casting director, agent or manager. On paper, these showcases seem like a great idea, but alas, they are far from it.

The Bitter Truth

Talent showcases are more often than not bland, uninspiring, and lacking. Ask any casting director or manager about them, and most will probably cringe at the thought – often recalling the countless showcases that they have had to suffer through. Have you ever wondered why it is a universally adopted rule to serve food and refreshments after a showcase? Well, now you know. However, and this is where the bitter truth part comes in, regardless of the bad rap that showcases have garnered, casting directors and the like continue to flock to these shows, year in and year out. Why you may ask? Simple fact: you never know where the next big undiscovered talent will come from. Finding this actor is like finding a needle in a haystack – in this case, the haystack being the dozens of talent showcases put on each year.

Don’t Be Discouraged!

It is crucial to note that just because showcases are typically less than stellar; it does not necessarily mean that the actors are bad. In fact, judged individually, most of these actors are quite good. When it comes down to it, the reasons most showcases fail to actually showcase their talent is due to how they are structured. As previously mentioned, these showcases are essentially live action theatre. Actors come out one-by-one, or in pairs and groups, and perform monologues, scenes from plays/films, and even original sketches. Here, the acting is very much theatrical, and practically anyone versed in the craft will tell you that acting for TV/film is completely different from stage acting. Because of this, it is just naturally difficult to parse potential TV/film talent from these showcases, which are theatrical and dramatic in nature.

However, hope is far from lost! Fun and entertaining showcases do exist, and here are some ways to make the most out of your show. First and foremost, keep it short and sweet. These showcases typically have a lot of actors in them, so it is best to choose scenes that are concise and to the point (ala television and film scenes). Secondly, when in doubt, always err on the side of fun and entertaining, as opposed to deep and emotional. It is a lot easier to make a restless crowd burst out in laughter, than try to move them with an excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird. This isn’t to say that you can’t do a dramatic piece, they are just hard to pull off effectively; unlike sketch comedy, which is much better suited for the structure of these shows. Finally, just try to be yourself. Casting directors, agents, and managers are typically looking for actors that are well-rounded and marketable. They want to see you being you, as opposed to you being a character. Even if you are playing Shakespeare, there is always a way to interject some of your own personality into it (although I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing Shakespeare at a showcase).

Until someone completely revolutionizes the way actor showcases are structured and performed, you have to work with what is given to you (another important skill for all actors). Like every other actor in Los Angeles interested in both stage and film, you must keep in mind that your audience is trying to picture you in the next television show or movie – so do your best to showcase those qualities about yourself by engaging and entertaining them.


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