NEW YORK CITY: Actors’ Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers, released its first annual study today measuring which cities are the best places for live theatre in the United States. The “2018 Regional Theatre Report,” shows that—outside of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles—central Florida, and Washington, D.C./Baltimore are the other top areas where actors can clock in large amounts of work.
“Our data demonstrates that steady, high quality performances are being performed by hundreds of professional actors and stage managers in theatres all across the nation,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, in a statement. “We’re seeing great work in places as small as Madison, as well as major cities from coast to coast. We hope that this report will demonstrate for audiences that exciting performances on the live stage may not be so far away.”
AEA represents 51,000 live theatre actors and stage managers around the country. For the study, the union measured the work weeks from its memberships in areas outside of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—around 14,544 members in 28 marketplaces (defined as the 100 miles around a major city). The time-span was the 2016-17 season.
Central Florida was named as the top places to work, with 994 AEA members living there, and 17 Equity work weeks per member. “I was very surprised by where we landed on the list,” said Mark Richard Taylor, Central Florida AEA Liaison Chair, in a statement. “This report makes me want to reach out to the theatres that stretch beyond our immediate area and interface with them more.” The theatrical institutions located in that region include Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Bob Carr Theatre, and the Studio Theatre Tierra del Sol. In addition, a large amount of members work under the Disney contract at Walt Disney World.
Close behind Central Florida is the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, with 1,194 members and 16.9 work weeks per member. The region contains more than 70 theatres, including the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, and Shakespeare Theatre Company.
“There are organizations dedicated to Shakespeare and the classics, contemporary American playwrights, devised work, new play development, theatre for young audiences, musicals, Irish works, works from a Jewish perspective, a company dedicated to providing opportunities for professional theatre artists with and without disabilities and many more,” said region liaison chair Ray Gross in a statement. “If you want to do a particular type of work, chances are there’s somewhere to do it.”
The study also found that New Orleans is the fastest-growing theatre market, based on the last three seasons. AEA members there reported 771 work weeks in the 2016-17 season, a 68 percent increase from 458 work weeks in the 2014-15 season.