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The differences between acting in film, TV and stage

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Published in Hanford Sentinel December 3, 2020

“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” This is a quote from Terrence Mann, an American actor, singer and theatre director. He is known for his appearances on the Broadway stage, which include Chester Lyman in "Barnum," Rum Tum Tugger in "Cats," Javert in "Les Misérables," and he originated the role of the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway. What is interesting about this statement is that the least paid activity is where a skill set is developed the most. HMTC has a podcast called "HMTC Behind the Scenes Podcast." We interviewed several actors and for each we asked what they liked the best; film, television or theater. We seem to get more affirmatives for the theater. Mann’s quote that theater will make you good, is a natural occurrence and a prerequisite for film and television success. In fact, theater is a training ground for those who want to venture into those mediums. In Hollywood, it is well known that actors from Chicago seem to have an intuitiveness on set. If so, having worked there, I would say that there are more theater opportunities available for actors to learn the stage. In fact, when theater students graduate, they immediately form an ensemble, or theater company to continue their art. In essence, Chicago has a very thriving theater community. One avenue of income for actors is industrials. If you ever had to sit to watch a video at a new employment or at the doctor’s office, what you are seeing is an industrial. I was hired for many industrials during my time in Chicago. Commercials are another way to make some cash. An actress friend of mine gets a nice income for commercial work in Los Angeles. Each time the commercial runs she gets a check.

Infomercials are another good source of income. In fact, a hefty income can happen if the actor is the host on a product that is frequently on an info channel. Maybe not art worthy and the potential to get famous is minimal, but one actor was able to use the funds from infomercial work to open a winery on an estate.

Theater, to me, is more rewarding. It has an energy that ricochets from audience to actor and actor to audience. There is a communion of sorts when an actor is on stage. The audience follows every word and every movement, and the actor can feel it. That is why a full audience is desired for theater plays. It serves the experience for all in the theater. Theater does make you good. It also is the diving board for film and television. However long it takes to learn on the stage, it is worth it. Actors who have done film and television, always go back to the stage. That tells you something.


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