Actors in Perth’s intensely competitive performing arts sector are turning to children’s theatre for work – with mixed success.
Fireflies Entertainment producer, director and performer Emma Marie Davis said aspiring local performers were only auditioning for jobs they considered to be prestigious and were refusing to consider a career in children’s theatre.
Davis said having a rewarding performance career in Perth has become a lot more attainable over the past 10 years.
“It’s not as easy as it is in Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s achievable,” she said.
Despite this, hundreds of aspiring Perth actors, musicians and dancers have been left unemployed after graduating from performing arts degrees.
Perth is home to more than 80 dance studios and nine tertiary institutions with performing arts courses according to the WA Dance Directory.
Aspiring actress Stacey Gay grew up performing in the Perth Hills and received the title role in a production of ‘Annie’ when she was nine.
Since graduating from both academies in 2014, she has received only one paid acting role.
Gay said she did the courses to prepare herself for paid acting work but was shocked when she could not secure a job upon graduation.
She said she had looked into all strains of performing arts jobs in Perth including children’s theatre.
“A lot of that is unpaid,” she said.
“It is self funded.
“I feel like it’s more to do with who you know in the business in Perth than what qualifications you’ve got.”
St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls drama teacher Simon Meiri said he had seen plenty of talented students struggling to find paid work.
Mr Meiri also said that finding performance work was dependent on “who you know” in Perth.
“Even if you aren’t hugely talented there is enough opportunity out there if you know the right people,” he said.
Mr Meiri said he was open with his students and told them it was not really possible to subsist solely on performing.
“This is for fun and if there is pay all the better really,” he said.
“I don’t do acting professionally because I am susceptible to feeling like I get let down an awful lot.”
Gay said there was no point in pursuing acting in Perth.
“If you’re happy to perform for the love of it and for no money in Perth, then that is pretty much all you are going to get,” she said.
Emma Marie Davis disagrees, saying she has had a long and successful career in children’s theatre in Perth.
“I’ve been performing in Perth for 12 years and in that time I have found that there have been a lot more opportunities and funding going into live theatre,” she said.
“When I did ‘Scooby Doo’ which was about eight years ago, there were really only two children’s companies in WA and now there’s about six.
“You can have a full time performing career in Perth but you need to work hard and you need to do a lot of it yourself.
“You can’t be fussy with roles.”