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The Actor’s Life: making it happen on the local stage

By Keegan Prosser on November 5, 2012 – No Comment

Aaron C. Finley as Roger in the 5th Avenue production of "RENT." Photo by Mark Kitaoka.

By Keegan Prosser

The Pacific Northwest might not seem like the most obvious place to be an actor, but with theaters that continue to deliver quality material – and a plethora of talent to choose from – the Northwest is becoming one of the most sought after markets for new and exciting productions.

And as theaters in Seattle and the Eastside continue to garner national attention, so too, are the actors who are helping to build them up.

The transplant

Aaron C. Finley has been working as an actor in Seattle for the past five years.

Originally from Montana, Finley moved to Seattle in 2004 to pursue a music degree at Trinity Lutheran College. While studying at TLC, he was cast in his first play, playing the title role in the musical, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.”

During the course of the production, he was encouraged to audition for Village Theatre, a regional professional theatre in Issaquah, where he further developed his love for theater and decided to transfer to Pacific Lutheran University, where he graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting and Directing.

“You are forever unemployed,” says Finley about the general inconsistencies of the business. “The day you sign your contract, you sign your unemployment papers.”

And while Finley admits being an actor can be challenging financial, he’s been lucky enough to land jobs pretty steadily.

In addition to working at Village Theatre, Finley has worked at the 5th Avenue, ACT, Showtunes, Artswest, Taproot Theatre, Centerstage and others. Most recently, Finely starred as Roger in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of “RENT.” Starting Nov. 7 the actor will star as Perchik in the Village Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

While Finley has been lucky enough to make acting a full-time job, that wasn’t always the case. He says that early in his career, he would supplement his income by working shifts at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Seattle, owend by the Heavy Restaurant Group; he even helped to open the bar’s Bellevue locale, and has developed a strong relationship with their management team.

“They love that I do what I do – and are very flexible,” says Finley, who lives with his wife and two young children in Seattle.

Finely says if he was ever in a bind, he could probably pick up some hours. In 2011, Finley also became an educator at the Village Theater’s KIDSTAGE Institute, where he teaches middle school and high school acting classes.

The traveler

Born and raised in Seattle, actress Christine Deaver spent several years working in the theaters throughout the Greater Seattle area – including ACT, the Seattle Children’s Theatre and Teatro Zinzanni before moving to Los Angeles five years ago – where she currently works as an actor, writer, singer and voiceover artist.

Deaver explains that the theatre community in this area is very small, and tight-knit, it is still very competitive – especially for women.

“There are more women acting then men – so their is always an abundance of male parts,” she says.

And while Deaver insists that her heart remains in the Pacific Northwest, she moved to Los Angeles because she felt she had exhausted all her resources in the local theatre community.

“It got to the point where I either had to move to New York or LA – and it’s easier to start in LA than it is in New York,” Deaver says. “I figured, at least it would be warm staying in your car.”

Keeping with this theme, Deaver says she doesn’t know many actors who make a living being a full time actor in Seattle – not because they aren’t talented, but because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for consistent work.

For the past five years, Christine has been starring in a number of productions at the Teatro ZinZanni theaters in Seattle and San Francisco (presently operating in Costa Mesa). Deaver is currently starring as Diva Gracie Hansen in Teatro ZinZanni Seattle’s production of “Return to Paradise,” (running through Jan. 27, 2013).

Keeping it local

In regard to why the Northwest seems to have such a strong theater community, Finley says it has everything to do with the local theaters.

“The 5th Avenue and Village Theatre have really jumped in to this idea of fostering new works – which isn’t done a lot in other cities,” Finley says.

He says people are more willing to bring new material to these theaters because it’s about as far away as they can get from the prying eyes of New York critics. It also gives producers the opportunity to test the new productions on an audience that appreciates and understands good theater.

Like Deaver, Finley has considered relocating to bigger markets to pursue his dream, he doesn’t feel that moving his family on a whim would be the best decision to make at this time. Especially because he’s developed a career here, and can find work on a regular basis. Plus, he says, the quality of life is a lot nicer in Seattle than New York.

“I’d rather live in a nice house here than in a tiny apartment in New York,” Finley says.

Another thing that keeps Finley in the area is the opportunity to be a member of the Actor’s Equity Association in Seattle. As a union member, Finley has a pension plan, 401k and health insurance – something most struggling actors dream to achieve.

“Because you can build relationships with the local theatres, it’s somewhat easier to get your equity card in Seattle,” Finley says.

And while that doesn’t neccessarily make landing a job any easier, the show must go on.