10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Theatre Major (That Have Nothing to Do with Acting)

Today's post is a slight detour from the usual. I'm getting specific and giving some advice to young theatre majors. Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week when I come at you with a #TuesdayTip video

If I could do anything differently in my past I would’ve been a theatre major.

I know, some of you may be surprised that I wasn’t one. I wasn’t! (And let me edit that slightly--I would've double majored in theatre and communications.) When I started college I hadn’t been exposed to theatre very much and I really didn’t realize that one could make a career out of stage performance outside of Broadway (I know…). Luckily I was exposed to great theatre training and experience when I was in college so I got the opportunity to embark on this wild ride of a career after all. (When God has plans for you, He makes a way.)

Now I’m entering my 10th(!) year in professional theatre and I'm thinking back on the lessons I've learned along the journey. While I haven't been a full time actor every day of those ten years, I have spent at least part of the year on a professional contract each year since 2006 (with the exception of 2011--grad school.) Here's a few lessons I've learned over the duration that I wish I had known my freshman year of college (if I could do it all over again). 

10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Theatre Major 

1. You’ll never regret getting a second skill. Now, don’t confuse this with a “Plan B.” When you want to become a professional actor you don't have a Plan B. But you should diversify your skills. You'll be able to contribute to society in more than one meaningful way and you won't resent your passion during those times that said passion might not provide for your basic needs. 

2. Don’t look for your creative fulfillment solely in one kind of artistic expression. Disappointments come. Make sure you are finding joy in more than just your "one thing." 

3. Talent is critical, but so is work ethic and kindness. It's not just about who has the "it" factor. An incredibly practical piece of advice I got from Tory Ross has rung in my ears ever since: "be early and over prepared." Go the extra mile. 

4. Don’t be so competitive that upon graduation all you leave college with are a bunch of memories of roles. Invest in friendships. College is where you can make friends for life. Don’t let competition keep you from community.

5. Practice things that help to thicken your skin—whether it’s a new art form, asking for a discount, or traveling alone. Bravery is a critical part of performing. If you don't feel confident pretend to be a confident person. You're an actor after all. (Stolen from the brilliant Lindsley Register.) 

6. Diversify the important voices in your life and career. One person’s opinion is just that. Don’t put too much stock in it (whether he thinks you’re brilliant or hates your work.) 

7. As important as it is to get lots of experience, it’s also incredibly important to see great work. Go to plays. Go to movies. Rent the really good, old movies. See as much as you can. 

8. Build relationships with actors from other programs, technicians at your own school, people older than you, people outside the theatre program, etc. It’s important to not get in a silos where you’re insulated from others’ experiences. Learn all you can about the many artists who contribute to the creation of a show. And make a point to collide with people who are different than you. You'll be a better actor and a better human for it. 

9. Know what your boundaries are and stick to them. And beyond that, know why you have those boundaries in place. Figure that out while you're in a safe, collegiate atmosphere. Once you get out into the professional community it will be much more challenging to make those decisions without the support of your mentors, professors and peers. 

10. Keep at it. The secret to success in this business is going to one more audition. Keep going. Listen to Rocky: “One step. One round at a time.” The reason I continued to book shows throughout my twenties is because I continued to go to auditions. It's as simple as that. 

So there’s my list of advice for someone starting out in a theatre program. There's obviously TONS more to learn. That's what your degree is for! :-) 

Bottom line, remember there’s always another show. And there’s always another audition. It’s up to you to show up and make it count. 

If you're curious about my acting work or if you're like wait, what? You're an actor? Go here to get the scoop.