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On the job

For actor, roles are doors to his dream

At the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, actor and former teacher Joseph Marrella coached Kat Meyer, 17, through preparations for college auditions.
Zack Wittman for the Boston Globe
At the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, actor and former teacher Joseph Marrella coached Kat Meyer, 17, through preparations for college auditions.

Boston actor Joseph Marrella, 30, is usually cast in character roles like the young dad, the best friend, or the sidekick. Now performing in “Shear Madness” at the Charles Playhouse, he has appeared in Lyric Stage, Cutler Majestic Theater, and New Rep performances as well as commercials and corporate videos.

He also works as a monologue coach for aspiring drama students through My College Audition, which provides instruction for the competitive college audition process. “It’s rare to be a working actor without some sort of secondary income,” said Marrella.

You’ve done corporate and commercial work, including an ethics video for an engineering company, a training video for an office supply company, and others. How do these differ from stage work?

In the theater, an actor is trying to reach the back row, so the performance is “other-sized’’ so the far-off audience can get a hold of it. But when you’re in front of a camera, everything the face and body does is close up, so the smallest eyebrow raise or blink is magnified. It’s crucial to be as “small” and natural as possible.

How much can an actor in Boston earn?

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It depends on your union affiliation, and whether you’re doing stage work, commercial, industrial, or ads. There are some smaller nonunion theaters where the actor might get a $100 or $200 for an entire production — or might just be working for the credit or experience. The next level is smaller regional theaters. Salaries can start around $350 a week for union actors.

You taught high school theater arts for four years. Why did you leave that to return to the stage?

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I was teaching during the day and had rehearsals at night. It was incredibly time consuming but I adored my time there. Part of me was missing, though. I realized I wanted to challenge myself and go back to acting.

For My College Audition, how do you help students choose monologues that best suit their talents?

Students need to pick pieces that speak to them. They should look for less famous pieces by playwrights they love. The piece also needs to be age appropriate. Colleges not only want see your talent — they also want to see who you are.

Why is “Sesame Street’’ puppeteer and Muppets creator Jim Henson your hero?

The Muppets were one of the first things that made me want to perform. Henson is the ultimate dreamer and storyteller and he believed that the arts, of all forms, could make the world a little better. That hope has been my mantra as well.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.