Camera Shy? Theater actors getting limited exposure in media Special

Posted Jan 10, 2011 by Ernest Dempsey
Photos of scenes from theater dramas, especially from small theaters, are notably absent in most popular media, limiting publicity chances for budding actors.
Aggressive marketing through media maybe the rule for the success of many an enterprise, especially showbiz, but things work differently for theater actors. They may want lots of exposure in media, digital or print, to promote their commercial appeal; but in North America – US and Canada – many of the actors from small theaters won’t be getting it. And that of course for specific reasons: they are tethered to actors’ equities and their own diffidence.
The fact that camera captures from dramas being staged in theaters are almost rare is not something the theater actors and directors are not conscious to, though they may differ in their opinion about the reasons underlying low exposure of theater actors in popular media. New York based actor Angelko Mar of La Muse Venale Acting Troupe, for example, thinks that actors are diffident in letting their photos out to media because the stardom factor is missing in most average or budding actors.
“Artists, for some unknown reason, don't like their photos being published, unless if they look and get credits like stars from Broadway or Hollywood get, which is impossible,” Angelko says. He thinks that most theater actors are missing a lot on this account.
Famous stage actor Carson Grant has similar views. Pointing to the negative publicity factor, he says, “As actors, we need public relations to campaign for our next possible role, and any media promoting our work seems positive in nature; but whether in theater or on a film set, a bad unprofessional photograph at the wrong angle may not be as flattering to some actors, and may be considered a harmful exposure.”
But there also is this authoritative influence of Actor’s Equities over theater actors in North America that prevents free photo shoots of theatrical presentations. New York based theater producer and director Mike Stefan Strozier of La Muse Venale Acting Troupe, where Mike’s play La Revolucion is up and coming, points to the direct role of Actors’ Equity Association. According to Mike, videos or photos of plays are strictly prohibited from leaking to the media and doing so is against the rules of Actors' Equity Association, the main Union that governs actors and their legal standards in America.
Replying to the question why actors would not want their pictures out in media, Mike says they do want their names out but not photos of plays.
“The productions of plays is governed by many very specific rules,” he says. “The same rules do not apply to just a picture of an actor placed on the Internet, for example, or TV or the movies.” Interestingly, as Mike tells, non-Union actors in America also follow the same rules as the AEA-bound actors. What seems to be at work here is apparently peer pressure.
While the topic of theater actors and publicity in media is not one very commonly encountered in discussions, not online at least, stories do surface off and on, telling about the authoritative check of actor’s equities on theater performers’ publicity forays through contributing photos from plays being staged. One story, for example, is still in the top Google searches, commenting on egoistic inflexibility of Canadian theater companies in matters of publicity through photo-sharing. It tells the Great Canadian Theater Company demanded payment of a local photographer Dean who posted photos of a theatrical presentation at the Ottawa Bagel Shop to do some free promotion. No wonder that theater actors are “camera shy”!