Where to troll for tyro talent

A list of showcases around town

As president of Acme Talent & Literary Agency in Los Angeles, Adam Lieblein gets hundreds of invitations each week, so many he can’t even think about attending each event.

Performers invite him to showcases, plays, clubs — anything where people perform — hoping he’ll spot, and sign, them.

“Seven nights of the week, we’re at showcases,” says Lieblein, who also teaches at UCLA.

“All of them, in my opinion, are incredibly productive for an actor,” he says.

Lieblein draws a distinction between “pay to audition” showcases, which are illegal, and events where actors pay to participate in larger occasions.

Those tend to be well-directed showcases that feature not only talent, but also an opportunity for actors to meet agents and casting directors afterward.

“My goal out there is to meet new actors,” says Michael Donovan, an adjunct professor at UCLA who also runs his own casting company. In addition to plays — Donovan says he attended 67 last year — he checks out showcases as well.

But Lieblein warns that agents avoid certain showcases.

“We’re never going to a 22-seat house,” he says. “If we do, we’re going to leave because it’s uncomfortable. You want 55-or-greater-seat theaters in areas that are not dangerous to park.”

And the wrong material can be a turn-off, too.

“I went to one showcase night where every scene was about death or an AIDS revelation,” he says. “I came out of there thinking, ‘I just don’t like anything I saw because I am horribly depressed now.’ ”

an occasional showcase

Larry Moss Studio
2437 Main St., Santa Monica
(310) 399-3666
Cost to performers: $450
Cost for audience: $15
The theater school provides its students formal showcases with a unique twist. In addition to live scenes onstage, performers are videotaped, in character, discussing the scene. The tapes are shown before the live action, which means audience members see actors onstage and onscreen.
Now in its second year, “Scene Bites” has sold out several times.

Acme Comedy Theater
135 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
(323) 525-0202
Cost to performers: Free-$350
Cost for audience: $10-$15
Acme boasts four performance companies — two specializing in improv and two in sketch comedy — and training at all levels of experience. Alumni have gone on to write for “King of the Hill,” “Blue Collar Comedy,” “The George Lopez Show” and others.
Comedians who are not Acme students can perform free on Thursday nights. On Wednesdays, the club offers a longform improv jam where anybody can perform.

Tarfest Festival of Film, Music and Art
Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Oct. 5-8
Cost to performers: $10 before July 14, $15 after
Cost for audience: Free for most events
Now in its fourth year, the increasingly popular outdoor festival extends an open call to filmmakers, musicians and visual artists, offering performers a chance to put their talent on display for thousands of people.
According to fest director James Panozzo, past audiences have been receptive to the diverse assortment of entertainment.

The Westside Eclectic
1325-A 3rd St. Promenade, Santa Monica
(310) 451-0850
Cost to performers: Free
Cost to audience: $5 weekdays; $8 weekends
This new theater, which just opened its doors in February, is already hosting five or six shows a week. With more than 100 students signed up for classes, Westside Eclectic specializes in improv and sketch comedy, but is developing into a venue for video content as well, says founder Marc Campbell.

The Improv
8162 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
(323) 651-2583
Cost for performers: Free
Cost for audience: Free
The legendary Hollywood comedy club hosts a “new faces” night roughly once a month, giving standup comedians a chance to appear on the same stage where Drew Carey, Dom Irrera and other comedy stars have performed.
The “new faces” showcase is not an open-mic night, however. Performers audition by sending tapes of their work to 6701 Center Dr. West, Suite 1111, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Those chosen perform before an audience and receive notes from the club.

The Viper Room
8852 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
(310) 358-1880
Cost to performers: Free
Cost to audience: Varies, generally around $10
During the days, the famous West Hollywood music room frequently is rented out to bands to play private showcases. At night, it’s one of the area’s premier venues to hear and be heard.
“We do our showcasing Monday through Thursday,” says Joe Rinaldi, who books the club. “We have a long line of executives coming out and watching what we do.”
Rinaldi only books bands that have already developed some momentum. The Pink Spiders were signed after playing the Viper Room, and bands such as We Are Scientists and Under the Influence of Giants have also played there.

1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles
(323) 661-4380
Cost to performers: Free
Cost to audience: Free Mondays
A few years ago, Monday nights didn’t offer much music, so the owners of Spaceland offered local bands “residencies” and had them help book the rest of the night. That blossomed into a busy night for the Silver Lake club.
According to Jennifer Tefft, Spaceland’s talent buyer, “More and more industry types are going there to find new music.” Bands such as Wolfmother, Scissor Sisters and the Killers have played Spaceland.

Screen Actors Guild Foundation
5757 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
Cost to performers: Free, but open only to SAG members
Cost to audience: No audience
The Screen Actors Guild Foundation’s Casting Access Project offers weekly workshops for SAG members and plans targeted workshops for senior members, minority actors and others.
Rufino Cabang, director of the project, says casting directors lead the sessions. SAG members must attend orientation sessions in order to be eligible for the workshops, which are about three hours long.

American Federation of Television & Radio Artists
5757 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
Cost to members: Free, but open only to AFTRA members
Cost to audience: No audience
The union offers monthly — and occasionally twice-a-month — showcases for its members as well as sessions designed specifically for senior members.
“There’s usually one or two casting directors who can see about 15 scenes, so each showcase features about 30 people,” says Jean Frost, AFTRA’s director of agency, member and mentor services.
The showcases are held in the union’s boardroom.

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