It sounds like the archetypal young actor’s plight, one repeated with every fresh arrival to Hollywood.

“We’ve been working really hard for no money for a year,” says Jesse Bonnell, 23, president of the fledgling performance collective Poor Dog Group, composed of recent CalArts graduates. Since founding the group upon earning their diplomas in May 2007 and getting settled in Los Angeles, Poor Dog’s 12 members have struggled to balance earning a living with launching their careers as professional actors. “We’re just a bunch of art school students, and now we have to work at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. or things like that,” says Bonnell.

But don’t call these Poor Dogs poor. And don’t call their acting ambitions typical. The “Poor” in their company name is “not so much in reference to our financial situation as it is an homage to [Jerzy] Grotowski’s Poor Theatre,” says Bonnell. In his 1968 book “Towards a Poor Theatre,” Grotowski made the case that theater should not try to compete with film; rather, it should focus its attention on the most essential theatrical element of actors appearing in front of spectators. In keeping with the spirit of Grotowski, the Poor Dog members are choosing — in a film town — to fix their eyes on careers in experimental theater rather than Hollywood and, notes REDCAT Associate Director George Lugg, on a “desire to really investigate what theater is”…

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