American Directors in London

Some questions from a reader who trained as an actor at Drama Studio of London and recently graduated from UC Irvine's MFA Directing Program; he's a dual citizen who's deciding between London and LA:

Q: Have you seen or worked with many directors who are living in London and are American?

A: I've worked with a few and heard of more. Recently:
Platinum Travel Club at The Tristan Bates Theatre (NAAA reading) - dir. Allison Troup-Jensen
Cat's Paw at The King's Head Theatre - dir. Noah Lee Margetts
Pistachio Stories at the Soho Theatre - (NAAA reading) dir. Chris Lane (Canadian)

Apparently there are a good handful of them out there. The NAAA has info on many of the up and coming North American directors for the annual playreading festivals, so if you wanted to get in touch you could email Laurence Bouvard at

Q: I have heard that more directors go between theatre and TV or film in London than in the US - do you see this as true?

A: There's generally more crossover of not just directors, but also actors, writers and producers. As radio is much bigger here than in the US, you often get people trying things out on radio first, then transferring to theatre, film or TV. I have some friends who write sketch comedy, and they always try new material on a radio audience before choosing what will make the cut for TV. I know another comedy duo who co-wrote a sitcom and put the first few episodes on radio, with the hope of -eventually getting it produced for TV.

Q: Are you noticing a glass ceiling for American actors?

A: Yes and no. Of course it helps if you're already famous when you come to London - then you'll have broken through the ceiling in the US and keep rising (hopefully) in the UK. But if you're like me and have a strong CV but haven't made the big big time yet, it's difficult. You have an advantage as an American - you're in a niche market and you have a unique selling point (USP). Therefore if you're good and have a good agent, you'll generally go up for most of the American stuff that's going if you're right for the role. You have an added advantage as man since there are more roles for North American men than for women. The disadvantage is, there are less roles generally for Americans. However, I know a handful of North American actors who work all the time, getting larger and larger roles with each new job. One of them, a Canadian, even made it into the RSC. So it can happen for you here. But as with any place, you need that sexy combo of luck, persistence, skill, tenacity and a bit of talent.

Q: Any suggestions about the first 6 months in London?

A: First check out the entries 'Your UK Acting Career Parts I, II & III' on this blog here. For your directing career, I'd suggest getting in touch with Laurence at NAAA and talking to other North American directors to see what they do. You could also suggest yourself to direct one of the readings at the 2009 NAAA playreading festival. But for the bigger jobs, I'd approach theatres where you'd like to work, try to direct some fringe or off west end show to get a London credit. I don't know the directing path very well, but hopefully that's a start.


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