“Pay to Play” What is happening?

Dear Backstage,

I’m writing this letter to you because I am appalled at what is happening in the world of acting.  I am an actress. Non-Union at that.  For ten years I have been in the business. For two years, I focused just on my craft by taking lessons from some of the best teachers in New York. Jason Bennet, Richard Scanlon, and Stephen Michaels. That’s besides the point. My point is, is that for the past few years, I have been trying to get cast in legit work via CD’s and Agents.  Something is happening in the business that just makes me want to vomit.  You want to know what that is? I’ll tell you!

Casting Directors and Agents, are taking advantage of actors by having what they call “Workshops”.  They charge a certain amount of money for actors to meet them! You do a monologue, or a scene, and you pay them and you peace out. There is something very wrong with this! I am sorry, but I’m going to speak my mind here.  I’m non-union.  I cannot make a living off of acting.  I can work more than a Union actor, but I cannot pay my bills.  So, I am forced to get a job. While I’m at that job, I can pay my bills, and pursue my acting career.  I can afford my headshots, getting my reel edited, paying for my phone, Actors Access, and casting Networks, if I want to work on my craft, I can pay for lessons, my hair, my gym, food, ect. Do you know how hard it is to get an agent? It’s not easy! I’ve mailed out thousands of headshots over the years.  I had one agent, then got fired from them because I called a Casting Director to confirm a time for an audition I booked myself, and they called my agent and said I was harassing them. So they called me, yelled at me, and I told them to go F themselves.  I want an agent who is on my side. Anyway, rambling again……

So, these CDs and Agents charge money for you to meet them of course because they need money.  Well, us actors need money too.  And unless your a spoiled rich kid in this business and can buy Hollywood, well then you have to work for it. Why in the hell would I want to go pay a CD or an agent to meet them?  They should be paying to see me! At a show, at a movie, whatever! This whole thing is BS, and it’s really pissing me off to the point where I’m writing you a letter. I’m trying to make a living, but in order to “hopefully” get cast in something, or get an agent, I have to come up with some money that I don’t have and pay you to meet you. How many times do I have to do that before I get work? It’s ridiculous! I’ve done workshops a total of 4 times.  I can count them on one hand.  After that, I was like F this, this is a joke! They are just doing it for money people! I would much rather spend my money on a good acting teacher to perfect my craft! Not an agent or CD who knows NOTHING about acting! They are going to tell me about acting? I don’t think so. I’m livid, can you tell? They are taking advantage of these people and it’s not fair! Do you know how hard it is to make it as an actor? It’s real hard! Then on top of it, we need to pay these people? They can go F themselves!

Do you know how much money non-union actors get paid? If we are lucky, we get paid crap! if we are lucky! No one wants to pay us! No one! I’ve been lucky and worked for some great companies like Discovery, and Optomen, and Scorned, and Deadly Sins, the Travel Channel, things like that, but even that is not enough to live. So, instead of 100% acting, I have to work a real job and pursue my acting career on the side. The business doesn’t give a shit about us. It’s tough. I just cant believe how these people are being taken advantage of. I understand that you have to do what you have to do to get by in life, (like I do BG work, if I don’t have a job so I can eat and things like that) but, it’s gotten real bad. People can say all they want, this is how it is, play the game.  I refuse to play the game that way.  I have talent, I know it, and I’m not going to pay someone to give me their opinion of my work. Who the F are they? I don’t know, I just believe in pure talent, and not paying people, or smoozing them to get what I want. I believe in hard work.  I would love to be in the entertainment business full-time.  I just can’t.  I can’t afford to pay to get in the union, and I have my waivers! I’ve had then for a while now! But what do I even care about that for? Then I can’t do non-union work, and I can’t stand all the people who think they are actors just because they are in the Union! Oh yeah? what movie were you in? Ugh…..”I was in Batman, but they cut me out” No you weren’t you were in the BG! I can’t stand it! So, I would love it if you would print my letter or do something about this, because it’s awful what’s happening! It’s not fair to us actors trying to make a living at it!

And just to let you know, I have people from WME looking forward to following my career, and welcomed me by allowing me to send them my work.  Not because I paid to meet them!

Thanks!

Kelly Barrett

http://www.imdb.me/kellybarrett

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“Waiting for Godit” – Samuel Beckett

Who is Godit? Why are they waiting for him? Is he ever going to show up?

Those were the questions of the warden at the prison at San Quentin. Why would a warden be asking about a Nobel Peace Prize winner’s play? Funny you should ask!

Last night, I had the pleasure, not only was it a pleasure, but it was a life changing experience for me as well, of visiting the Actors Studio in New York.  Not the Actors Studio you see on TV, or the Actor’s Studio affiliated with the program at Pace, no.  It was the original Actors Studio on W44th founded by Ella Kazan and a few others.  You can learn more about it here:  http://theactorsstudio.org/studio-history/

The Actors Studio was founded in 1941 by Kazan to preserve the art of American acting away from the pressures of casting, and the business.  Where actors can just go and focus on their craft.  Why they got started in the first place.  Well, why I got started in the first place.  These days, who knows.  People just want to be on TV, movies, want the glam and the fame that comes along with it.  Not me.  I did it because I love it. I could care less about money and fame.  I love the craft, and that is what I hate about “Hollywood” It’s such a joke really! I don’t even want to get into it, because I might say something that I might regret! Perhaps, I already have.

Anyway, on with my story! The Actors Studio.  What a place! What a building! What history! What an amazing place to be!  It really is the elite of the acting world.  The best of the best! Kazan came from the Group Theater founded by a few people one of them being Lee Strasberg. When that closed, the students dispersed, and Kazan created the Actors Studio.  The group theater was inspired by the work of the great Stanislavsky.

If you are an actor, and don’t know who this person is, then by all means, do yourself a favor, and the rest of the acting world a favor, and go find out! UGH! The fact that I should even have to tell people to do this irks me! In America, you have three students who worked directly with Stanislavsky.  Strasberg, Meisner, and Adler. If you still don’t know who I’m talking about and you’re an actor, shame shame shame shame! I’m cringing in my chair! If you’re not an actor, then you are excused!

So, you have Stanislavsky the very first acting teacher in the world! Where did the theater start? Greece! What did Stanislavsky do? He came up with “The System” I just read Wikipedia, and they have it wrong! They said he came up with the Method. No. Strasberg did. Stanislavsky started it all with his “System”.  Then, Strasberg continued his research and added to it introducing emotional recollection where the actor then starts to bring up things from their own past. Then you have Stella Adler, who was working with Strasberg and said (not in these exact words) NO! I refuse to bring up something from myself and my past, that is not acting! So, she left Strasberg and his “Method”.  Stella believes “Acting is Doing” which makes sense, acting is a verb to do. So yes! Acting is doing! To act, is to do! I believe that is what Stanislavsky’s System was, and she learned it from him, but I have to go back and read my books over again to be sure exactly what “The System” is. My point is, is that Stanislavsky was the first acting teacher.  Then, from America you have Adler, Meisner, and Strasberg who all studied with him and went on to further the work of the actor. When Strasberg came along, his emotional recollection became know as the “Method” So, now you have Actors from the System, and from the Method.  The actors seemed to split into two different ways.  You either believed in the Method, or you didn’t. Adler did not. To her, it wasn’t acting. She didn’t want to be herself, and use her own experiences.  Acting was doing! Her being a mime and everything and studying with her parents and all.  So, the acting world split.  The System, and The Method.  People who studied with Strasberg became known as the Method actors.  Then there was Meisner. I’m not a big fan of Meisner.  But why? What I know of Meisner, is acting is reacting.  Listening, and then reacting. I’m talking, then your talking, then I’m talking then your talking, and we’re talking in the same way as eachother. So, I’m talking real monotone, and now you talk real monotone, then I talk real monotone, and you, then so on and so on. Not a big believer. I don’t think Method actors, and Meisner actors, were friends!

Anyway, I’m getting way way off the subject here.  This started out as a review of my evening at the Actors Studio, which now has turned into a history lesson on acting! You’re welcome! Why? Because I know you are thanking me!  😉 I know what I’m talking about too! If you don’t believe be, then ask my acting teachers Richard Scanlon, and Jason Bennett! Go ahead! Do it!

That brings me to “Godit” Pronnounced “God-oh”. What does one think of when they see that word? I don’t know, God maybe? Sure why not! Waiting for God! Could it be that Beckett was writing about waiting for God? I don’t know.  Well, I do know after last night’s performance, but that’s a whole other story.  His play was about silence.  It was about silence.  Imagine that.  Silence. All the renditions, and interpretations around the world, and it was about silence. Direct from Beckett’s mouth to Jan Johnson. Silence.

When asked “Why are you doing this” by Beckett to Jan, he replied,” I love the silence in your play, and I love the silence on your face!”  It was a play about silence.

Last night, I experienced something so amazing, so real.  I was taken out of my world for an evening with some very special people at the Actors Studio, and was blown away with what was put on in front of me. It was like something just grabbed me, and threw me into the theater, sat my ass down in a chair and said “Watch this!” And I did.  Like a tornado, or a whirlwind, or a force beyond reckoning that just ripped me out of my world, and threw me into that theater and said “Sit down, little girl, shut up, and be ready to be blown away!” That’s what I feel like about last night performance. I feel like I was sucked in and blown back out.  Like someone grabbed me, and said “HERE, watch this! Now get out!” People normally say they were blown away right? I was blown in baby! Blown in! It was just the most mind blowing experience that I had had in a long while. Yes. that is what it was! Mind blowing! Absolutely mind blowing! By this time, if you’re still reading, and if you are thank you, and it will be worth it, but you must be asking yourself, What in the faulk is  she talking about? I don’t even know if I know what I’m talking about anymore lol! Oh yeah! Godit!

Who in the F is Godit, and why in the heck are people waiting for him?

Last night I got to experience something very special.  I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I frowned, I laughed some more, I cried some more, I laughed so much it hurt, and I cried so much it hurt. What in the heck was it that made me this way? Well, his name was Jan Johnson.  An actor from Sweden who’s first gig was that of a messenger in a play called “Waiting for Godit” by Samuel Beckett. 

That was his first gig as a child. He was from Sweden.  He went on to do things, that I don’t know if anyone else has ever done. He left the National Theater to go work in a prison to teach drama to inmates. What? Yeah! Exactly! Inmates! What? Is he mad? Out of his mind? Are you sure? Inmates? Yeah! Criminals! Why? What’s wrong with him? I believe, and was told by him after the show, that he wanted to do something real. I get it. I totally get it. What an amazing thing this man has done! I just can’t believe how lucky I am to have been there when he told his story! WOW! Blown away! This man who started out as a messenger in a Beckett play, then became Beckett’s messenger! What? Yeah! Hold your horses! There’s more!

Jan Johnson went to help prisoners learn drama. His first go around didn’t turn out all that great, all the inmates except one ended up escaping the night before the BIG performance! That poor guy that didn’t escape! What was he thinking? He could’ve been free! lol! Oh well, he missed the boat on that one there! On the way to this massive performance where they had about 750 people, tons of press and photographers and everyone, Jan had to tell them that prisoners had escaped, and there will be no performance lol! Madness! Oh yeah, I left out one little detail.  Jan was working directly with Beckett! Oh yeah! He found out what Jan was doing, and invited him to Paris to meet with him. Jan thought it was all a big joke, but then found out it was real, and went to Paris. They built a relationship, Beckett gave Jan the permission to do the play, and said here, it’s yours and gave him the rights to use the play on a napkin. He said do it! So Jan did it! Jan would work with the prisoners, then report back to Beckett, then work with the prisoners, then report back.  He video taped his work to show Beckett.  Beckett was running the show, and Jan was his messenger. Like he had been in his first performance. That’s deep! If that ain’t deep, then I don’t know what deep is!

Here’s Beckett and Jan working with harden criminals! First you need to get past that! Yeah criminals! At their own risk! Jan entered the jail at his own risk! Risked his life every day to give something to these people who were locked up for pretty much life! This is a man worth of praise not the Kardashions people! HELLO! Can we wake up here?  PLEASE! UGH! Freaking A!

Jan Johnson spent his life helping inmates! What did they do? Put out a sex tape? Get OJ off of killing his X or wife whatever she is? PLEASE! Wake the F up people! God help us all!

Ok, so you’re saying, inmates, who gives a F about them anyway, they deserve to rot in jail they were bad! This man, loved his craft so much, that he wanted to teach inmates.  He gave them a door. a door to their soul. To freedom. Their freedom from themselves.

He treated them like human beings, and not like harden criminals. He gave life to them.

“What happened when you gave my play to people living in darkness?” Is what Beckett asked of Jan. He showed him. What had happened, was something beyond belief. These prisoners found a way to express themselves through drama. A lot of them were already artists, singers of the Blues and such. He gave these people something. A play. A script. A chance to live again, even in the darkness. They shined! One fell in love, got married, and two of them even were let out to be free after decades! Wow! That’s what art can do? It can free people from prison? It can bring life to darkness? Wow! That’s what art can do! Just when i’m thinking, “What am I doing with my life?” I’m running around do this acting stuff, and this world is so superficial, and who gives a fuck about the art of acting anyway, people just care about money, and clothes, and bullshit! Here come Jan Johnson,  with the work of Samuel Beckett showing me why it is we do what we do! To touch people. To give them something. To bring light to the darkness. To bring life to this fake world. This fake world of cars, and suits, and watches, and hair cuts, and houses and money.  Art brings Life! REAL life! Not this fake Hollywood bullshit! Sorry Hollywood, I love you, but come on. Can we fucking wake up? HELLO EARTH TO HOLLYWOOD this is REAL talent calling are we reaching? Hello? This is REAL TALENT calling! ARE WE REACHING! Fuck the Kardishain’s, and Reality shows that aren’t real, and Miley Cyrus who has a drug problem, and people who just look good getting lead roles.  I just can’t take it! Where is the real talent? Where?  I’ll fucking tell you! In New York City the Actors Studio. If you don’t believe me, then you’re a fucking idiot, and you should then keep doing your little showcases for money and continue to take money from people who think you are going to cast them in your little project! That’s BULLSHIT! And if these are the people getting cast in stuff, then that’s not real talent, and Hollywood is full of SHIT!

I refuse to pay anyone to meet them! I don’t give a F who you are! They should be paying to meet me! I just get get over how this is all working. The pay to play shit is bullshit no matter what you tell me and I refuse to be a part of it.  “Oh well that’s just how it is” some people tell me! Well yeah if your a CD your telling me that bc that’s how you get your money! If you’re an actor telling me that, well yeah, bc you’ve shelled out all your money to these people hoping to get cast in something! That’s not real talent!

I’m sorry, I went off on a tanget again! I tend to do that. Hope you don’t mind. Back to my story.  Jan Johnson.  What an amazing person. Samuel Beckett, a Nobel Peace Prize winning author. What a great story I witnessed last night!

They showed me why it is I do what I do! I’m an artist. My art is acting. In a world where they worship money and cars, and the Kardisians, I am an artist living my life for the art of acting. Not for money, not for fame, but for the love of what I do. For the love of what other people before me have done. To master my craft. To say Fuck all to Hollywood, I am good at what I do, and I don’t give a fuck about you or what you think, or what the rest of the world thinks for that matter, but to go on perfecting my craft if it kills me! Then I will at least die doing something that I love, and my life will be worth living! Not for the paycheck, not for the car, not for the things, the plastic toys, but for life, for art, for acting!

Thank you Samuel Beckett, Jan Johnson, The Actors Studio, Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Steven Michaels, Jason Bennett, James Letini, Richard Scanlon, Stanislavsky, New York City, God, my friends, and my family, and everyone who believes in me, and what I do, thank you! Thank you for everything you’ve done! Thank you to everyone that has given me an opportunity to showcase my work as an actress, and hired me thus far in my career!

Last night showed me why it is we as actors do what we do in life. If acting can bring life to inmates and change their life, and give them another chance to live in the free world, then by God this work is worth dedicating my life to! For the past ten years I’ve tried to have a career in acting.  It was a rocky road, unsure of myself at times, in and out of offices and jobs.  Heck, I’m still trying to make a living at it! It will happen one day! I will have my house in Malibu on the beach, I just know it! Boy would that be nice!

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