Actors’ work is scarce
Press, 22 February 1974, p4
Professional actors in New Zealand find it difficult to make a living entirely oft their art. Miss Catherine Wilkin, a professional actress at present working with the Court Theatre, said in Christchurch yesterday.
“Generally, New Zealand actors get paid rather poor wages in comparison to actors in, say, Australia. Also, people tend to think of acting as being a delightful hobby that you do sometimes, not as a job.” Miss Wilkin was born and brought up in Christchurch, and she became active in drama in the University of Canterbury Drama Society while she was studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree. As there was no professional theatre in Christchurch about four years ago, she moved to Auckland and joined the Mercury Theatre as a student actor.
Freelance work “After a spell at the Mercury, I went to Tauranga to join a small semi-professional company called the Gateway Theatre, and then on to Wellington to Downstage.” Miss Wilkin took part in three or four Downstage productions, and then decided to do freelance acting in Wellington.
“It is difficult for an actor to make a living without taking an outside job. There are only two fully professional theatres in New Zealand paying Equity rates — the Mercury and Downstage — and the other smaller semi-professional groups can’t afford to pay their actors very much.” She had been lucky, Miss Wilkin said, and had only needed to take a. couple of outside jobs “but free lance actors only have a few avenues open to them.” Hard medium
These were, besides stage work, radio drama, television drama and commercials. “I have done radio work in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington, and two television plays.” The plays were “Arthur K. Frupp” (“Best forgotten.” said Miss Wilkin), and a play from the New Zealand Playhouse series shown late last year, “Clean Up.”
“Television is a tremendously difficult medium to work in. and completely different from either stage or radio. I would say that about a quarter of what you actually do goes into the finished product. The rest is at the discretion of the producer and the editor.”
Although the N.Z.B.C. was now producing more television drama, the professional actor’s lot was not being improved. “Once you have done about three or four TV plays that’s about your lot. Your face gets too well known.”
Miss Wilkin is performing with the Court Theatre for the first time in two plays from the New Zealand Playhouse series—“ Questions of Loyalty” by Edward Bowan, which begins on February 26, and “First Return” by Mervyn Thompson, which begins in March. “Questions of Loyalty” consists of two monologues called “John” and “Iscariot.” Miss Wilkin does the first 'monologue. “I play a woman who is painting a portrait of her husband and talking about him as she works, examining their relationship.”
It will be the first time she has performed a monologue and there are, in that medium, a few pitfalls for the unwary. “There is a danger of the audience becoming bored with a single voice. Also, the actor can become afraid of using the stage to the full, as he is the only one on it. He can become afraid of the audience as well—afraid to relate fully to them.”