It has always been tough making it as a professional actor in Australia, and according to one of the nation’s rising stars it is getting even tougher.
Miranda Daughtry, 25, is about to be plunged back into that pool of uncertainty as she prepares to end a “dream gig” with State Theatre Company South Australia.
Last year the company made the bold decision to employ a group of six actors for 20 weeks over a two-year period, a rarity in Australia.
It has paid off handsomely, with State Theatre breaking box office records and attracting rave reviews for shows including A Doll’s House, Macbeth and In The Club.
But when the current production of Sense and Sensibility concludes, the ensemble’s actors will go their separate ways.
“Rates of unemployment are, especially in theatre, there’s just less and less of it as budgets are cut and we get less tiers of theatre,” Ms Daughtry said.
“For the bigger companies and the mid-ranges they dry up and so there’s not, there’s just not work out there.”
The former Blackwood resident was headhunted by State Theatre artistic director Geordie Brookman while she was based in Sydney, trying to crack the traditionally competitive actors’ market.
Fellow ensemble member Rashidi Edward’s climb to prominence has been even more dazzling.
He had only just finished graduating as an actor when Brookman plucked him from obscurity to land a contract with State Theatre last year.
Fellow graduates have not been so lucky, overcome by the high wall they need to climb to secure regular work.
“In our class, we actually had a lot of talented actors … it’s actually kind of sad to see some of them not pursuing acting anymore or not getting any gig at the moment,” Mr Edward said.
“There were some actors in my class who were way better than myself.”
Dale March, 37, is at the other end of the acting scale, having performed in New York and Sydney before he moved his family back to Adelaide and joined State Theatre.
The uncertainty of acting is one that sits comfortably with him, but he said the hard grind of finding work would not suit many in what is a dog-eat-dog job market.
“As soon as you stop loving it, you should stop because there are plenty of other people who do love it and care about it enough to take your place,” Mr March said.
State Theatre executive director Jodi Glass said it is not a profession for the fainthearted.
“You’re going from contract to contract and that’s really hard to plan your life, and on top of that, for an actor, you are subject to criticism — you’re on stage and everyone’s a critic,” Ms Glass said.
So where to from here for the ensemble six with their contracts set to end?
Ms Daughtry is taking a step back from the stage and travelling overseas on tour with her partner, who is a musician.
But she will also be dipping a toe in the overseas entertainment markets, planning to audition in London and investigate movie prospects in America.
“I have some interest in LA, from one manager who I’ll be curious to meet in person and yeah, I don’t know that market very well, I’m very comfortable in theatre and screen’s very different,” Ms Daughtry said.
He is also preparing to move to the bigger Australian east coast markets.
“It’s actually quite sad, because I wouldn’t have got in this position acting wise if it wasn’t for Adelaide,” Mr Edward said.
“You know, it’s been so great to me and the sad part is that I have to leave it.”
Mr March is writing a film script, working with his dad in the stone industry and juggling acting along with running after his daughters, aged two and four.
“You need to look after your family as well, so it’s always just a matter of how much time you have to spend on what you love and there are occasions when you’re paid for it and there are times when you’re not and you know, as long as you can keep your life afloat, sufficiently, then [acting is] not a choice for me,” he said.
Mr Brookman said he expected all six members of the ensemble would continue to find acting jobs at State Theatre or within the industry, if they were prepared to ride the waves of uncertainty.
“There’s every likelihood that you are going to pick up other types of work here and there, but you also on the other hand, you also have to be obsessed because it can be an exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking life, there’s a lot of rejection,” he said.
He said State Theatre Company South Australia was open to reviving the ensemble initiative in the future, but that would be up to future artistic directors.
Meanwhile, Mr Brookman is putting together the company’s program for next year, before making his next career move to Germany.