Written by Sean Pratt
Actors are constantly trying to stay abreast of what’s going on in their neck of the woods; the continuous search for the essential who, what, when, where, how, and why of the Biz. It could be a theatre in town you’re dying to perform at, a certain director you’d like to work with or what new projects are coming to your area. Your local Yahoo Group or actor list serve will list auditions, classes, and some general news, but the special kind of information you need is not going to get posted there. What you should be using is the free web tool, Google Alerts, to gather the specific data you need. Here’s how it works and why it’s so important.
Basic Facts About Data Mining
First, a definition. Data mining is The automatic extraction of useful, often previously unknown information from large databases or data sets.
Google Alerts is a data mining tool that lets you create your own customized search engine to keep track of any name, keyword or phrase. On a daily or weekly basis it will then notify you when it finds any new information, along with a link to the corresponding webpage. So now, instead of trying to gather information concerning all the people, places and things you’ve deemed vital to your career from many different sources, you can create a series of Google Alerts and economize your efforts and time.
Let’s use the scenario that there is one particular theatre in town which you want work at; we’ll call it Theatre X. You’re interested in any news about them, beyond the usual casting notice. Here are some of the alerts you could set up to get as much information about them as you can:
- “Theatre X” in Washington D.C. – This basic phrase will allow you to cast a wide net so you can catch any general announcements about the theatre. Be sure to put quotation marks around the words that need to be kept together so you’ll get a better match.
- “Theatre X” 2010 season – You want to know what they’ll be producing as soon as possible to see if there are any parts for you.
- “Theatre X” “Artistic Director” – You’ll want to know what she is talking about and what is important to her. You can then reference this in your correspondence or during an interview.
Even Gold Dust is Still Gold
You could include searches about Theatre X’s casting director, youth programs, classes, special events, etc. You want to cover terms that could alert you to what they’re up to and give you ideas about how you can get involved with them. Think about using this tool to find out the following:
- Changes in the status of their current projects or the announcement of new ones.
- The names of the directors who will be working there and what they’ve been up to professionally.
- Any news about the theatre’s status as it relates to Actor’s Equity, pay scale or changes in their contracts.
- Any changes in personnel at the theatre.
What to do with the Nuggets You Find
You’re going to be astounded at the wealth of information you’ll gather from using this tool. If you shift through the items carefully you’ll be able to:
- Write a great cover letter that details which roles you think would be right for you; you’ll know because you’ve read the plays in their season.
- Be able to volunteer at their annual fundraiser, upcoming audition or strike because you read the announcement online.
- Write a “welcome aboard” letter to the new in-house assistant casting director.
- Contact one of the directors who’ll be working there soon, tell them what you’ve been up to and how you’d like to have a chance to read for them.
The possibilities are endless and remember this is just for one theatre! One last thought, they say knowledge is power but that means nothing unless you’re willing to use that knowledge to actively pursue your goals.
Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 20 years. Sean was a member of the resident acting company at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country. Major films include – Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes – The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted. Audiobooks – He’s narrated for 15 years and has recorded nearly 550 books in just about every genre. He also teaches classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz.