Congratulations! I am so glad that that you have discovered joy upon the stage.
In all likelihood, you have become a better person because the theater has enriched your soul, provided you with friendships, and given you some serious life skills above and beyond those of many of your peers.
Now you are considering the stage for your profession and want to study acting in college. Great! I fully support you pursuing your goal with a caveat: You need to know that there is a price of admission to those dreams and tuition may be the least of it.
The process of applying to and auditioning for a coveted acting spot in an excellent bachelor of fine arts program has very specific practical requirements.
Equally important, there are emotional, psychological, mental, and physical demands. Those demands may be hard to quantify in dollars and cents but they are costs. Because your teachers, guidance counselors, and parents may not understand how to calculate those costs, that task may fall mostly upon you.
To take on that task, you need some reality checks:
Reality No. 1: Preparation.
You are entering an overcrowded arena and, in order to compete, you need to prepare like an athlete. Many dream of life on stage and screen but when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, most people talk more, text more, play more, waste more time and energy, and do too little of that four-letter word beginning with a W and ending in K. Answer honestly: Are you a doer or a dreamer?
The applicant who is accepted is often the one who can forgo immediate gratification to train hard at becoming authentic on and off stage. BFA acting programs seek mature candidates who have a true desire to learn and grow. They want those who can go the distance, rather than those who dazzle and flame out.
Reality No. 2: Choose Wisely.
Right now, at this very moment in time, you have strength, youth, and passion on your side. These are gifts from the theater gods, not to be squandered. Therefore:
Choose your colleges well.
Choose your audition material well.
Choose your companions, coaches, mentors, and teachers well.
Surround yourself with caring, honest supporters, as you prepare to compete.
Reality No. 3: Sacrifice.
You can have many great things in life; you can not have all things. What are you prepared to sacrifice? Yes, you should enjoy the activities that make youth so sweet, for joy and pleasure are what you must bring to your art. But the actor who seeks to be a true artist needs to spend some quality time alone and be willing to do the hard work, such as:
Keeping your grades up; getting your test scores up.
Setting goals and writing them in bold on a large paper calendar to be kept front and center in your life.
Researching the acting world and its styles.
Reading plays and memorizing monologues.
Getting physical; getting strong. Moving your body. Actors need to be able to be active.
Preparing. So says the great acting guru Constantin Stanislavski in “An Actor Prepares.” Read it!
Reality No. 4: Entitlement is ugly. Spoiled is off-putting.
It is in your very best interest to be humble, respectful, cordial, and kind to all. These beautiful virtues will attract people and opportunity to you. They pave your path to success. Those who stand head and shoulders above the crowd are those who work like crazy, absent the diva attitude. Be a person of substance.
Reality No. 5: Discover Who You Are.
Set down on paper every single thing you know about yourself. Examine your thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Get to know what makes you happy and fulfilled. If it’s theater and only theater, then ask yourself the following:
Can you tolerate periods of instability and hardship?
Do you have the health and stamina to endure long hours of work?
Psychologically, can you let rejection slide off of your back, while maintaining your artistic sensitivity?
And, most importantly, are you willing to sacrifice the schedule of a regular life, often including holidays and significant social and family gatherings, while you train and pursue a professional acting life? Remember: You are the show and the show must go on.
And, if the answer to any of the above is a resonating “No!” know that the collegiate and professional theater world will not change to suit you.
You will be responsible for making adjustments in your attitude, beliefs and way of life, or be miserable living in a world of expectations that do not conform with professional reality.
Something to ponder: When you don’t have to rely on acting for a paycheck, theater can give your life immeasurable joy, Some of the happiest people I know are fully immersed in fantastic community or regional theater work. Even if you decide not to pursue acting in college or professionally, you can still perform. You can still train like a theater artist. When you pursue acting for the love of it, the best of both worlds may be available to you: the stability of a paycheck and a passion that can enrich you for the rest of your life.
And, if you decide you want to move forward professionally, starting with college, consider the words of the actor Chris Pratt:
“I had to hustle hard and go hungry. I had to eat sardines and figure out how to get gas money. And I never had a plan B. I never stopped believing. Ever. Don't give up. Apply constant pressure for as long as it takes. It will break before you do. Go get it.”
So … what are you waiting for? Go, get it!