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January 30, 2004

Chicago Draws Actors, Directors, Choreographers, Producers “How I Learned To Thrive” Offers Advice, Career Tips EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Committee Seminar

Members from Chicago’s theatre community – actors, directors, choreographers, playwrights and producers – came out to participate in a recent seminar, sponsored by the Chicago’s Equity Equal Employment Opportunity Committee. “How I Learned To Thrive” offered first hand and frank advice on navigating one’s career in the challenging world of professional theatre.

The culturally diverse panel included: Actor/producer/director Eddie Torres; Actor and local TV personality Cheryl Hamada; dancer/Actor/director/choreographer Kenny Ingram; and Equity Business Representative Luther Goins, who is himself a playwright and former producer.

The panelists discussed what successes they had achieved on their individual career paths. Kenny Ingram encouraged actors to broaden their horizons and audition for EVERYTHING. For example, he always considered himself a dancer first, but was surprised when he started being approached to audition for straight plays. Ingram explained that he worked just as hard in a play as he did in the chorus, and found success. He worked diligently at everything, and was fortunate to make the connections with producers and directors that were needed to continue being cast. He also talked about the necessity to for an actor who calls him/herself a professional - to act like a professional at all times, because you never know who is watching your behavior, and conducting yourself in an unprofessional manner (for example, by gossiping about the company, showing up late for calls, and being unprepared) could very well be the reason for not being hired by that producer again. He stressed the need for actors to develop a good business sense and follow through on leads, and there is no such thing as too much networking.

Cheryl Hamada and Eddie Torres both discussed the challenges faced by minority actors when they audition, and the unfortunate necessity for minority actors to sometimes play “ stereotypical roles” to get their foot in the door and to create a depth for those characters that might not have been discovered by another actor. By doing this, the director, fellow actors, the producer, and the audience see that actor as more than just the stereotype and remembers their work for future jobs in more appealing roles. Torres sought to use his experiences as a Latino Actor to create an outlet in Chicago for Latino actors to study and perform the work of Latino playwrights, while bridging the gap between Latino and non-Latino audiences, so he co-founded Teatro Vista with the Goodman Theatre’s Artistic Associate and director Henry Godinez.

Networking was also a big topic for Luther Goins, as he pointed out, “When it comes down to securing regular acting jobs, talent only goes so far. Professionalism, follow through, being disciplined, and having a keen business sense are considerations that most directors and producers use when casting principal roles.” Goins’ advice? “Don't ever burn bridges! ”

Equity Central Regional Director Kathryn V. Lamkey and EEOC Chair Cheryl Lynn Bruce thanked the panelists for volunteering their time and bringing their perspectives to the membership. The seminar was very well received, and the EEO Committee plans to produce more seminars of this type in the future.

Kenny Ingram and Luther Goins (both EEOC Panelists)

EEOC Panelists (L-R) Cheryl Hamada and Eddie Torres

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