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.

5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers
Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

When people find out that I do multiple things (writing, social media, acting) they often sort of shake their heads in bewilderment. I want to take them by both shoulders and say, "you should do more than one thing too!" In lieu of that potentially awkward moment, I'm writing this blog post. Especially for my artist, musician, actor, dreamer friends, I want to encourage you to pursue your craft and consider pursuing something else alongside it. After spending four years as a professional actor, I knew to have the lifestyle I wanted to live and to be inspired and engaged with the work I was doing on a daily basis I would need to pursue a second career. Of course there are the exceptions, but by and large, getting a second skill is only going to improve your life.

Here's why you should have two jobs

1. You don't have to let your dream die. I'm not proposing that you give up the keys to your dream for a life in Office Space. If I'm the first person to tell you this, move in a little closer. Pursuing a second career doesn't mean you're selling out, it means you're opening up more doors for yourself. You don't have to give up the certainty that you'll be making a decent living because you want to be in a band or be an actor. Pursuing a second career gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion without resenting it for making you really, really broke. Pursue a second career so you won't get to that dark place of cursing your career when you can't make rent.

2. You become more marketable. Whether it's a second skill directly tied to your first love (learning how to sew so you can step into the costume, learning how to run sound so you can take over the board if a band needs a sound tech) or one completely different (ie me with journalism and acting), having more than one skill makes you more valuable in the overall marketplace. You never know what open door leads to the next, so simply becoming a more useful worker overall is a very, very good move.

3. It gives you options. You know what the problem is with acquiring only one skill in a tough market? If there's no use for that skill at the moment, then you're out of work--or out of the kind of work that you actually like doing. If the idea of waiting tables between gigs til you're north of 60 sounds kind of awful to you, I urge you to rethink your plan! If you are a passionate, talented person, there's no doubt that other industries would jump at the opportunity to use your talent, passion and heck, charm (cause we know you got it!) for their cause. What about real estate? What about social media? What about yoga? What about entrepreneurship? Draft up a list of things that people have told you you're good at, you feel personally are your strengths and things that you like (*besides* your first love career). Start there.

4. You can make an impact in the lives of more people. If you work across several fields you will be making a greater impact on more people. Not only will "show people" know you but so will marketing people or nonprofit people or real estate people or church people. You get the idea. If you want to do something significant with your life and leave a legacy, consider how you may have an even greater impact if you work in more than one field.

5. When someone says "no" it's not over for you. One of the biggest advantages of having more than one skill is that you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. If that gig that you're really hoping for doesn't pan out it doesn't mean you have to go back to the worst-job-ever. You get to go back to your "in-between-gigs" job that is fulfilling, purposeful and rewarding. Isn't that so much better than going back to your minimum wage job where you're really not using your strengths?

Bottom line: your passion/first love career is your main thing. It's your identifier. But don't let your passion for that career keep you from having a meaningful day to day existence in your work. Reinvention is always acceptable. Adding on a second skill or heck, business, is a good thing! So think about what else sparks your interest, the other things you're good at, and how could you use the skills that you've developed for your art in other marketable ways. Remember, the artists who are at the pinnacle of their careers aren't doing just one thing. Whether they create new companies, (hello Jessica Alba), or invest in startups, or go back and forth between acting and music, your role models aren't just focused on one career. So why should you?

If you found this post interesting or helpful would you do me a solid and share it?