Keeping Watch Off-Off Broadway

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When your job revolves around going to the theater, you discover little pleasures that the more casual theatergoer can't experience. Chief among these (other than knowing which theater is so prone to bottlenecking that you must leave before curtain call to make it out with any speed) is getting the chance to follow the careers of lesser-known (or virtually unknown) actors.

Last season, critics discovered fresh face Nina Arianda, who catapulted from Off-Broadway'sVenus in Furto starring in the upcoming Broadway revival ofBorn Yesterday. But while catching a star being born is always a thrill, there's also joy in going to seeAnything Goes, say, and finding that Joyce Chittick, the diminutive singer-dancer with the disconcertingly deep voice, is in the cast. A hard-working pro, Chittick has been in the casts of Cabaret,The Pajama Game, the Christina Applegate revival ofSweet CharityandWonderful Town. Her presence might not be a selling point for the show she's in, but her appearances are always a delight.

Also fun is discovering performers at some hole-in-the-wall theater doing Off-Off-Broadway shows and then keeping tabs on their careers. Actors like Susan Louise O'Connor (who made a splash on Broadway two seasons ago as the maid inBlithe Spirit, and can be seen Off-Off-Broadway in this month'sPaper Cranes), deep-voiced, sexy Todd D'Amour and the deliriously off-beat Amy Staats-all of whom, coincidentally, co-starred at Theatre Row in 2008'sWhat To Do When You Hate All Your Friends. A sense of discovery accompanies catching actors like these, along with a feeling that one is in on the ground floor of something. So keep your Robin Williamses and Daniel Radcliffes; I'll keep poking around Downtown for more actors to add to my list.

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