July 23, 2024

Sage on Stage: What makes a great actor?

Artistic Director Jessica Sage talks to the audience at the Rogue Theater Company performance space at Grizzly Peak Winery. RTC photo
September 25, 2023

Rogue Theater Company Artistic Director Jessica Sage answers your theater questions

By Jessica Sage

Dear Jessica,

In your opinion, what makes a great actor?

— Linda M

Dear Linda,

Thanks for this question, Linda. A great actor must possess a myriad of different qualities.

Natural talent is a bonus, but I believe training is essential, everything from technique (such as voice control: projection, clarity, and the ability to modulate one’s voice), to improv, character development (access to expression and emotion), body language, and physicality.

Jessica Sage

If that isn’t enough, actors most also have the discipline to memorize their lines. Great actors have the versatility to make audiences feel what the characters are feeling. They embody a strong stage presence that draws the audience’s attention and keeps them engaged.

t’s about commanding the stage and being a focal point without overshadowing other actors. Acting is not just about delivering lines; it’s also about reacting to what other characters say and do. Great actors actively listen and respond in the moment, creating authentic interactions on stage.

Live theater can be unpredictable, with unexpected events like technical glitches or audience disruptions. Great actors adapt and continue the performance without breaking character.

They invest time in researching and understanding the characters they portray. This includes studying a character’s background, motivations, and relationships.

Theater is a collaborative art form, and actors must work well with directors, fellow actors, and the production team. Collaboration and teamwork are essential. Maintaining consistency in performance is vital.

Gregory Linington and Vilma Silva in “Circle Mirror Transformation,” playing at Rogue Theater Company though Oct. 1. Bob Palermini photo

Acting also can be emotionally and physically demanding. Great actors have the resilience to handle the challenges and pressures of the theater. A love for the craft and a strong work ethic drive actors to continually improve their skills and give their best performances.

Many actors continue to refine their skills throughout their careers, always striving to deliver memorable and impactful performances on stage. That’s my opinion — thanks for asking!

Dear Jessica,

Does RTC have a special contract with Actors’ Equity?

— Brandy C.

Dear Brandy,

Rogue Theater Company has a Small Professional Theater (SPT) contract with Actors’ Equity. This agreement is used in theaters that have fewer than 350 seats in areas outside of New York and Chicago. This national agreement, together with many individual letters of agreement, forms the basis of Equity’s Developing Theater programs.

The 10 salary categories are determined by the number of performances and the maximum weekly hours of work. The agreement may be used in both commercial and not-for-profit situations and for both seasonal operations and single productions.

The SPT contract was designed to assist smaller theaters that may not be able to pay Equity actors competitive wages. This was a tremendous assistance when RTC was getting off the ground. We’re proud to say that for several years, RTC has been paying considerably more than highest salary category — plus we also pay for the actors’ health insurance and pension.

Theater lovers, what would you like to know about theater, acting, stagecraft, etc.? Send your questions to Bring up the houselights, and let’s have some fun!

Jessica Sage is artistic director of Rogue Theater Company (

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