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Local actor takes on new roles as theaters shutter

Michael James Reed talked to the Business Journal about the pandemic shutdown’s impact on his life
Credit: SLBJ
Michael James Reed

ST. LOUIS — Michael James Reed, whose stage and screen career spans more than 30 years, is a regular performer at local theaters including The Muny, The Rep and St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. He worked in London, Los Angeles and New York before settling in St. Louis about 10 years ago. Reed talked to the Business Journal about the pandemic shutdown’s impact on his life. 

How has the shutdown affected you, as a local actor? There is enough theater work here in town to keep me and a handful of other Equity actors who are in a similar situation relatively busy. What I mean by that is, Equity actors all “chase weeks.” Our health insurance through Actors’ Equity Association, the union, is dependent upon the number of weeks we work in a particular 12-month period, as is our pension. For the first time, for me, in about 20 years, I’m at great risk of losing my health care starting in 2021, because there are simply no jobs. 

A lot of people don’t quite understand, I think they see acting as kind of a hobby. Certainly for me, it’s not. I’m dependent upon it for my health care, to pay my mortgage and to provide me with a pension down the road. And right now, not to sound overly panicked, but that’s really scary because there is no work.

How have you filled the gap? My last live performance was at The Rep at the end of last year (“Pride and Prejudice”). I was scheduled to work at some theaters this summer and in the fall, but right now, those are all on hold. I spent the semester teaching at Webster University, which turned out to be a good move on my part. That was great, because that meant a paycheck was guaranteed during that period. But of course, as an adjunct, there are no benefits. 

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