Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, Founders, EbzB Productions
EbzB Productions is a professional touring company dedicated to developing original theatrical productions to promote integrity, self-discovery and positive transformation of individuals, artists, audiences, and communities. They believe the performing arts encourage positive transformation through discoveries unveiled immediately and upon reflection.
1. What have been the key factors in evolving your careers and your business?
Understanding the business aspect of show business. Negotiating contracts, bookkeeping, public relations and marketing are just as important as raw talent to an artist.
Cultivating real and positive relationships with everyone you meet. We are not talking about “networking” or “social networking”, we are talking about developing real and respectful friendships with your community. Some of our most enjoyable and lucrative work has been the result of ideas generated among friends. We’ve had surprise opportunities with our latest productions from people we knew when we were just starting out – 40 years ago!
Everyone you meet has something to teach, offer, and benefit your development and career. For example, while working at near Philadelphia, Serena was offered a part-time position by Susan Raab of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency (and now host of this blog). That job, relationship, and friendship not only gave Serena valuable experience in learning professional publicity techniques, database building, technology and relationship building; it also resulted in a valuable friendship which has returned thousand-fold for Serena. Twenty years later, Serena hired Susan’s son, Jeff Raab as an actor in a production she directed. These long-term, cultivated relationships prove most valuable to career success.
2. What would you advise newcomers?
Educate yourself. Get your university degree. A broad-based education is mandatory because it enables empathy and understanding for the people, events and politics conveyed on stage. Take classes in marketing, business, and accounting as part of your major or electives. Design an independent study that focuses on organizational administration. Actor Conservatory training is great for technique and career networking, but it often doesn’t help you understand the content and context of the material you will perform. It is not enough to perform a song or monologue technically. An artist should be able to interpret, apply metaphor, understanding, and value.
Get as much experience as you can auditioning, performing, working on the tech crew, and volunteering in the theatre’s administrative office. It’s so important to understand all the jobs in the theatre so that you can appreciate everyone’s contribution to your success. You never know when the stage manager may have an opportunity to recommend an actor. He will recommend someone with whom he enjoyed working and who makes him feel appreciated.
Trust your instincts. If an audition or job offer violates your personal values, decline it. It won’t ruin your career to say no. Hold onto your integrity – it is the only thing you can be sure of in this business.
3. What about Do’s and Don’ts?
- Do be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
- Don’t talk behind other people’s back. You never know when the God mic is broadcasting your intimate stage whispers to the crowd in the greenroom.
- Do get a signed contract when you work.
- Don’t go against your instincts.
- Do get attractive promotional materials (head shots, website, resume, demo reel, classic audition clothing)
- Don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on your promotional materials. Keep it simple and within your budget. You can upgrade when you can upgrade.
- Do have a support system. That system should not only include fierce friends who make you laugh, but also equally important activities that make you feel good about yourself when you’ve had a bad day at the theatre.
- Don’t assume that Broadway and Hollywood are the only definitions of success in the acting business.
- Do develop your talents to serve in other aspects of life – perhaps as a teaching artist, or drama therapist, or as a communications director. The skills of an actor are extremely useful in corporate, educational, and medical environments.
- Don’t sell your soul for fame and fortune. Both fame and fortune are simply by-products of a job well done and a life well lived.
4. What resources have you found most helpful?
National Endowment for the Arts – for information including on Presenter Consortiums
Arts Councils – Local and State Arts Councils