Fiz Marcus trained at Bristol University. Her experience takes in screen, radio and television and includes roles in Leon The Pig Farmer, Wild West and The Bill as well as acclaimed stage performances both nationally and internationally.
She can also be seen in the feature film Suzie Gold..
In addition to acting and directing Fiz is also an accomplished writer and has had five plays published by Samuel French.
Here she offers sound advice on the benefits of acting on the fringe and, most importantly, how to make it work to your advantage.
Why Do A Fringe Show?
The main reason to do a fringe show is to get an agent and/or get seen by casting directors, so the following guidelines are aimed at maximising your chances .of this happening.
Try to ensure that the play has a reasonable sized cast, casting directors are far more willing to invest their time if they know that they can see several actors rather than a couple. Plus the fact that other actors have agents and contacts which can also help you.
Do try to pick a show that has not been done to death, who really wants to see yet another production of The Importance of Being Earnest, or Hamlet? Do it by all means if you have a burning desire to play Hamlet, but donít expect to have casting directors flocking to see you.
New writing is more interesting, but do read the script, just because it’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it is good. Try to find out about the writer. If he/she has contacts with Soho Theatre Company or Paines Plough writers group or Royal Court Young Writers or other established new writing groups, you have a much better chance than if it’s a first play by someone who has never written before. Yes, there are exceptions, but you are probably on safer ground if the writer has a track record.
You are doing this to be seen, it’s no good taking a part that will not show you off to advantage.
Is it right for you in terms of age, character type, remember that most casting directors who come are casting for TV, they may be able to see beyond the grey wig, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Also an agent will want to see you in the type of part that they could conceivably put you up for.
A small cameo part is fine, but it’s very difficult to persuade an agent or casting director to give up an evening if you only have a couple of lines in a crowd scene. It doesn’t give them a lot to go on! Again, by all means do it, but be aware of this.
Don’t forget that you are giving your time and talent, probably for no money, don’t be afraid to ask the director what he/she has done in the past.
Before the audition ask around and see if anybody has heard of the director or worked with them, try looking them up on the internet for example through “Google”
If the director has worked at The National, RSC, Chichester etc as an assistant or staff director, it’s probably worth working with them. They are going to want to have their work seen by people who can give them work, which can benefit you and it may well pay dividends for you in the future. Be very wary of a director who has never directed before.
It is no good choosing a venue miles off the beaten track, you will simply not get casting directors out to the wilds.
It needs to be an established fringe venue, somewhere that has a buzz about it and is pleasant to visit. Venues worth considering include Battersea Arts Centre, Southwark Playhouse, The Bush, The Gate, Old Red Lion, Soho Theatre Co, The Bridewell, New End, Arcola, King’s Head, Young Vic, Finborough, Tricycle and outside London select venues in Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.
The Production Company
Is the company established, or is it their first production? If it is an in-house production at one of the above venues that is a plus, they will want to ensure that they get audiences and will make an effort in terms of publicity and quality of production.
How organised are they? Is there a set designer, publicity organised, do they have leaflets printed, posters up. Where is the money coming from? Any grants or sponsors? You can tell a lot from the audition. Are they running to time, is there information about the company available? Go with your gut feeling. If they can’t organise auditions in a professional manner, chances are they won’t be able to organise a production in a professional way.
How long is the show running? If it’s less than 3 weeks, the chances of getting reviewed are slim. It’s also difficult to get casting directors in if there is a very limited run.
Time of year is also important. Try to avoid Christmas (pantomime being an obvious exception) people have got other things on their minds. Early Jan is also tricky, bad weather and post Christmas fatigue can be problems. June can pose problems as there are so many end of year drama school shows and agents and casting directors can find themselves booked up well in advance. Mid August is not ideal particularly around Edinburgh, many casting directors and agents are on holiday or away at the Festival.
What Can You Do?
Make sure that you have flyers and info about the show and your part as far in advance as possible. Make a list of casting directors and agents you want to contact. Use ‘Contacts’ for addresses etc, and try to speak to one of the advisors at “Spotlight” about agents.
Talk to others in the cast, it may be possible to pool resources and send out joint information to casting directors. It will save you money and avoid duplication. Be aware that if the show is in North London, it is more profitable to target casting directors and agents who live and work in that area.
Write your own personal letters to people who you have worked with or had an audition with in the past.
Follow up letters with a phone call and e-mail or fax any good reviews as they come out.
Don’t leave it until the last moment. It’s understandable that you may feel that you want to see how the show turns out before you try to get casting directors or agents in to see you. However, if you leave it until the 2nd week of a 3 week run or until the reviews have come out, it will probably be too late. If you have done your research on the company before you take the job, you should be confident enough of the quality of the production.
Some companies and venues are quite good about compiling lists of directors, producers, agents and casting directors who have been in to see the show. Make a note of these. If you write to someone for a job it’s useful to remind them that they have seen your work
On a positive note remember that in this business, nothing is ever wasted just by sending out information to people it jogs their memories about you and lets them know you are working. You may think that no one of note has seen the show, but it’s amazing how one day you can find yourself called in for an audition only to find that the casting director saw you in a show years ago. You are also increasing your own personal contacts, among other actors, a good recommendation can be vital in this business.
A fringe show is an investment both of your time money and talent. It’s flattering to be offered a job, but don’t let yourself be tempted into something if you are not sure. Talk it over with friends and weigh up the pros and cons. If in doubt don’t! Also be aware that casting directors and agents are very busy. There are some who really do make an effort to get out to see shows and some (who shall remain nameless!) who are simply bone idle and not interested in getting out and seeing more actors! You may have a great part in a hugely successful show and still not manage to get a single casting director or agent in to see you, on the other hand you never know!