Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why I Self Produce

As a part of my theater company's 2016 Fundraising Initiative I was asked to write little blog post to help our patrons get to know our members. We were given a little challenge: To start, The Seeing Place asked each of its members 3 questions which they could answer via text or video:

1) What is your hometown?
2) What is your dream role?
3) When was the last time you contributed to a campaign and how did it make you feel?

They then asked is to craft a little blog post about what brought us to The Seeing Place and why it means so much to us. I thought you might enjoy learning a bit about my love for the company!


When I was younger I never had any aspirations of being a director or a producer. I was an actor - there was no way I’d overwhelm my life with other things. It was, “Be an actor” or nothing at all.

The last few years in my hometown of San Diego I worked for an amazing organization called the Actors Alliance, a non-profit that helps actors have all of the resources they needed to be professional artists in San Diego. One of our projects was our actor-driven Festival of Short Plays, which would allow actors to sit into the producer’s seat and have a chance to create work for themselves. What was so amazing about co-producing this event is that each year I was able to feel the pulse of the community and curate content that a) our audiences would appreciate and b) would inspire our artists. And all of the sudden a day job which once simply supported my efforts as an actor became a training ground for what would be a life-altering jump into the abyss as a Managing Director of The Seeing Place.

Erin Cronican
(headshots with new hair coming!)
I’ll be honest - when Brandon approached me in 2009 and said, “Hey, I’m starting a theater company, and you’re going to start it with me,” I said no. I’d known Brandon for years, from back in our mutual hometown of San Diego where he worked with me in my final year producing the Festival. I assumed that all he wanted was my producing acumen rather than my skills as an actor, and I wasn’t having any of that! But he wore me down with a promise that we were going to do something different. Actors who led the company would have choices. They would have a voice, an opportunity to have a real say in the art they created. And how can you turn down a promise like that?

So many people describe productions that actors self produce as “vanity projects” and I find that term so disheartening. Where is that distinction when a writer produces their work, or when a director finds a script they love and have a vision to bring it to life? I think that what “vanity project” actually refers to is when someone creates something for their own good or use with no regard for their audience. People fear that actors only want to perform because they like to show off or want personal accolades. But thinking that way does actors a great disservice, and we at The Seeing Place are fighting to return the name of ACTOR to their rightful place as Living Historian - a position that, in the past, held great reverence. Actors are the conduit that allows an audience to see themselves and learn something about the world around them.

A thank you Erin received from Judy Shepard
of the Matthew Shepard Foundation
What is most inspiring to me about being an actor who produces is that I don’t just have a voice in the roles I play - I also have a voice in the organizations we partner with, the audiences I help to develop, and the issues that I’m burning to shed light on. When we did THE LARAMIE PROJECT (2014) I got to dream big about how I wanted to make a real impact, and we were able to partner with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Tectonic Theater Project (who wrote TLP with Moises Kaufman) and multiple other organizations who put humanity over hate. When we did A LIE OF THE MIND I was able to coordinate talkbacks on traumatic brain injuries and violence against women, and our dramaturgy sessions help educate our cast about the very real issues surrounding abuse that is passed down through families. Can you imagine how inspiring it is to be able to make a difference not only on stage in bringing a human being to life, but also off stage with our audiences and our members where the real difference is made?

So when you donate to The Seeing Place, you do more than give us money so that we can act. You are funding a company that teaches its members how to give back to society. You’re enabling our producing staff to mentor dozens of actors to be conscientious self-producers, the way I was mentored back in San Diego. And best of all, you’re a partner in creating art that makes a real difference for its community, which means you’re an artist, too. 

Learn more about Erin at


To help create new work with Erin and The Seeing Place by contributing to our campaign, visit

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

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