Last night, Christina, Lauren, Vinz, Nora, and I went to see the opening night performance of Die Wildente (Ibsen’s The Wild Duck) at the Augsburg Stadttheater. I’m leaps ahead from last year in my ability to understand what’s going on in a German-language production, which is exciting. Vinz’s (and therefore our) roommate Judith made her Augsburg debut in the play; she’s just joined the ensemble here.
To us it’s a strange and almost mythical idea, the fact that you can graduate from an acting school here, join an ensemble, and be guaranteed steady work for years. Granted, it’s really difficult to attain the right to join one of these ensembles. You have to attend one of the public theater schools in order to do so, and these are highly selective. But once you’re in, you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to support yourself as an actor — just an actor — when you graduate.
It sounds ideal at first, but there are drawbacks, as Nora pointed out. When you’re hired into an ensemble, you don’t have any say in which roles you’ll play. You can’t turn down a role. You can’t quit; you’ve got to stay in that ensemble for the full three years. I doubt many American actors would like it very much. Lots of young American actors even find it too restrictive to join Equity. They’re used to the uncertainty, in a way; it comes with the territory.