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STRUGGLING ACTORS SEEK A BREAK INTO THE BIG TIME

Igniting a career or going up in smoke?

Andrea Karnasová is an actress. She is one of many who studied at Bratislava's conservatory, and one of many who now perform in small venues and work as film "extras" as they chase the dream of getting their big break in show business. At 23 years old, she is paying her dues, expecting that greater things will one day sweep her away. "You have to really work to find work," Karnasová said following a recent performance of Slúžky (Servants) at Bratislava's Divadlo West.
Igor Krempaský, another actor, agrees wholeheartedly. "The hardest thing is survival," he said. "Young actors here really have only two venues in which to work - dubbing and radio - nothing else." Csongor Kassai, the third performer, can't do either one because of his slight Hungarian accent. "Despite this handicap, I act, because I can't do anything else," Kassai said as he shrugged his shoulders in exasperation.


Actress Andrea Karnasová: "Acting is...like being a prostitute. You have to sell everything - your body and soul,"
Ron Severdia

Andrea Karnasová is an actress. She is one of many who studied at Bratislava's conservatory, and one of many who now perform in small venues and work as film "extras" as they chase the dream of getting their big break in show business. At 23 years old, she is paying her dues, expecting that greater things will one day sweep her away.

"You have to really work to find work," Karnasová said following a recent performance of Slúžky (Servants) at Bratislava's Divadlo West.

Igor Krempaský, another actor, agrees wholeheartedly. "The hardest thing is survival," he said. "Young actors here really have only two venues in which to work - dubbing and radio - nothing else." Csongor Kassai, the third performer, can't do either one because of his slight Hungarian accent. "Despite this handicap, I act, because I can't do anything else," Kassai said as he shrugged his shoulders in exasperation.

When people go to the theater, they see what looks like an ideal profession. No career could be easier than getting up on a stage and having a public conversation for a few hours, not to mention the heaps of cash the theater-going public may think that actors make. But the reality doesn't fit the vision. "A lot of people think that being an actor is easy-going and playing around in the theater and you make good money," Karnasová said. "It's just not true."

All three performers affirmed that acting is hard work, but the schooling can be just as difficult. The performing arts conservatory in Bratislava for high-school students has a curriculum consisting of dancing and other regimens, even though the training is a little less rigorous than at VŠMU, the state-run performing arts college. The busy schedule usually doesn't allow the budding actor to perform outside of his or her studies.


As they struggle to keep their stage careers alive, Bratislava actors such as Igor Krempaský live on radio and dubbing work.
Ron Severdia

Kassai is an exception. Currently in his fourth year at VŠMU, Kassai has managed to get a small part in Astorka Theater's children's production "Cinderella" as well as a short but brilliantly performed role in the Slovak National Theater's production of "As You Like It." In the performance, Kassai plays a hillbilly named "William," who while professing to have great intelligence, wants to marry the equally dim "Audrey."

At 33, Krempaský is long out of VŠMU, and also occasionally performs as a guest artist at Astorka Theater. "I would like to find not just any work, but a film or project where I can create something," he said. To make ends meet, Krempaský hosts a radio jazz show and dubs for different actors on the newly popular television show "Hercules."

Karnasová is officially a freelancer as well. Having studied only at the conservatory, she has less formal training than Kassai or Krempaský, but it doesn't seem to affect her career opportunities. She performs at the Trnava Theater as the wicked stepsister in Astorka Theater's "Cinderella," and she also does various dubbing projects including "Sweetpea" in the Popeye cartoon.

While many actors are at a loss to crystallize what acting really is and what kind of lifestyle goes along with it, only Karnasová was able to fire off a concrete answer about life as an actor.

"Acting is. . . like being a prostitute. You have to sell everything - your body and soul," she said. "When people pay for it, you have to show them something intimate."

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