Acting: Schools for Theater Students, Drama Majors

Is acting in your blood?

Many schools in the United States offer drama majors, or majors in the theater arts, leading to a college degree. Your problem will not be finding such a school, but finding one where you fit.

A few schools offer well-known programs with ties to the motion picture industry, television, or the theater. Most, but not all of these schools are located near the centers of entertainment such as New York, or Hollywood.

Yes, it's great to be accepted at one of these school, but consider that smaller schools frequently have excellent programs without the intense competition you'll face at a big-name school, and where you may or may not be given any meaningful parts in college productions.

Investigate your options thoroughly, and carefully.

Prepare your applications materials meticulously, and get professional help in producing a CD, video, or VCR unless you are skilled in that area.


Options? What Options?

We will assume here that you have chosen to prepare for a career in acting via the college route, as compared to trying to become a professional actor right out of high school.

Right away, you have choices to make:

Are you planning a B.Arts Degree or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)Degree?

A Bachelor of Arts Degree allows you to major in drama, but will require that you take a broad range of liberal arts courses, such as humanities classes, English and history classes, as well as science.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree concentrates heavily on drama.

There are advantages to pursuing the Bachelor of Arts Degree:

  • A broader education gives you more background for creating roles with depth and persepctive than classes centered mostly around drama and the theater.

  • A more balanced program will be of benefit should you decide to switch majors halfway through your college career, as many students people.

  • In a regular Bachelor of Arts program, you will mingle with a more diverse and multi-faceted group of students, than if you are spending all your time with drama/theater majors.
  • A BFA program on the other hand, would be for students who are absolutely sure that they wish to focus on a theater program, and pursue a major in drama.

    Musical Theater


    What do I need to do before I apply?

    Glad you asked. Remember that choosing an acting education is a serious decision about a difficult craft. Paris Hilton, for instance, is a celebrity, but she is not an actor.

  • Your Resume:

    • Background information: Name, address, telephone number, height, weight, hair color, eye color, voice range if you sing

    • Experience: High school theater - name plays and your part, community theater groups, films, television, workshops and special classes

    • Related training: Dancing - ballet, jazz, modern, etc., fencing, musical instrument, martial arts, gymnastics, other sports

    • Don't fake your resume. Earlier training is not necessary

    • Style of resume:

      • White or off white paper, prepared on computer, no more than two pages, one is better
    • Head shot (One that looks like you)

      • Think of it as a college interview and be dressed accordingly

      • No outlandish clothing, make-up, or hairstyles

      • Nothing weird, or provocative

      • Attention should be on your face

      • Finding a photographer:
    • NOTE: Working with a digital photographer saves a lot of time and stress. You can see the pictures as they are taken, and make decisions that way.

      • Needn't be expensive

      • Ask about previous experience with headshots and ask to see examples

      • Notice lighting, skin texture of the subject, expression of the subject

      • Ask about Polaroid or digital preview shots (see note above about digital)

      • Discuss costs and what is included in the price you are given

      • How long before I receive my proofs, my pictures? Are they digital?

      • Ask the photographer's practice if you are are unhappy with the work?

      Your Audition:

      Send in your information early, so you will be scheduled early, not later, in the audition process. If possible, schedule your first choice school as your second or third audition.

      Read the audition requirements very carefully when you first receive your information from the school. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, and practice until your work is perfect.

      The audition may start with some general questions such as your name, and where you are from. These questions are to help you relax. Breathe, and give short and polite answers to the questions.

      You may be asked to improvise, participate in a group activity, or read from a prepared script.

      Choose a monologue that you are comfortable performing. Think about the character, his or her age, circumstances, and whether you can present the work with conviction. Remember this is your performance?

      It is better to audition in person, but if you live far away, and auditioning in person is out of the question, ask if you may submit a video, CD or DVD of your performance. This does not have to be done with a professional video company - just done carefully with the camera held steady. Do not submit a recorded performance unless you have permission from the auditioning company!


      Auditions - Check List of What you need to know ahead of time

      Before the Audition:

    • Where it will be held?

      • The location can include a college campus, a theater in certain cities, sometimes even high school or civic auditoriums.
    • What to wear?

      • Women usually wear black. Dress comfortably in a skirt, dress, or pants and shirt.

        Men may wear a turtleneck and pants, or a shirt with pants.

        No sweat suits, no gangster clothing, and suits and ties are not necessary.

    • What will be expected of you during the audition?

    • Will you be asked to write an essay?

    • How much time should you plan to spend at the audition?

    • Is there the possibility of callbacks after the audition?

    • Is there anything special you need to bring?


      To do or not to do at your audition

    • When assigned a monologue or a part, read the entire play, not just your piece. You need to understand the context of the entire play to understand your part.

    • Stick to performing the part you are assigned.

    • Do not leave the audition room until you are told to do so. Take a botle of water with you if you think you will need it.

    • Don't bring props with you. Make do with what has been placed at the scene - usually a chair or two! And don't throw anything around the room.

    • If you are performing more than one monologue, with no break, do not attempt to change costumes.

    • Do not approach the area where the auditioners are sitting.

    • Look a bit above the heads of the auditioning team.

    • Answer any questions politely, briefly.

    • Be prepared when you walk into the room; this means you are ready to perform and do not need to warm-up. Focus before you start.


      Should I ask Questions?

      Ask Away...

    • Ask about the school itself: Enrollment, Males, Females, Grad students.

    • Ask about faculty members: Full-time, part-time, ratio of faculty to students.

    • Ask about professional lives of faculty members: Are they working in theater, are their backgrounds academic or theatrical?

    • Do you require an audition? (Ask details)

    • Do you use a basic core of study? What acting techniques do you teach? (For high school students, I suggest studying up on acting techniques before you ask.) For example: Theater Group Method Acting Procedures or take a look at Hollywood Actor's Studio. Another of many sites about acting methods is Checkhov's Studio. Do a search on Google for "Acting Techniques" to have all the information available.

      Google
       
      Webwww.Everything-about-college.com


      More Questions to ask:

    • Who has directed your recent productions?

    • Do you have guest speakers? If so, who? Do they meet with students for conversations and questions?

    • About how often does each student have a chance to be in a production?

    • How do you conduct your casting?

    • How many productions do you put on each year?

    • What plays have you produced in the past two years?

    • Do you produce a variety of plays? (Comedy, drama, satire, etc.)

    • What Shakespeare plays does your theater perform?

    • Be sure to ask if they do only Shakespeare because this will keep you from experiencing other kinds of theater.

    • Do you offer workshops, summer programs, off-campus productions or other acting venues that students can join in the summer? Do you have ties to community theater groups, professional theater groups either locally or elsewhere that students may join?

    • How do you evaluate one's acting? Do you cut at the end of each year? After two years?

    • What kind of theaters do you have for your productions?

    • What are the majority of your graduates doing now? Where are they? Do you have any well-known acting alumni?

    • Do you help students find employment upon graduation? After graduation>

    • Do you provide help with students joining professional organizations or obtaining equity cards?

    • Ask students if they feel they are receiving enough acting experiience.

    • Add to this list ahead of time as questions occur to you.

    • Remember your brag book?

      Add to it:

    • Make notes about every thing you learn, and about your impressions about each drama department you visit.

      • Also include any commitments he/she made about future conversations, applications or anything else involved with your application to the school, or audition.

        Be sure to follow up on any suggestion you received.

        Write thank you notes after any conversations, meetings, or auditions.

    • Write in your notes your impressions of the department.

    • Notes about faculty.

    • Acting programs, curriculum, techniques, and methods.

    • Facilities: check out theaters, lighting, stage set-ups - revolving, sloping back to front, technical equipment.

    • Opinions of current students: I always recommendation keeping student opinions in perspective. Does the student have a wide range of knowledge concerning other programs at other schools or companies, for instance?

    • Is cost a factor? Have you asked about financial aid? Financial Aid
    • Find Scholarships related to acting and other performing arts, awards and important information at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Empowering the Arts in America

      All About Scholarships


      Admissions Checklist for Performers

    • College Application Information for Everyone
    • Requested information from each school of interest?

    • Signed up and registered on the web site of each school or program in which I have an interest?

    • Taken PSATs, SATs or ACTs, and SAT Subject Matter tests, and any other required admissions testing? College Entrance Exams

      SATs, ACTs, and SAT IIs

    • Started a Brag Book, and purchased an accordion folder to keep my stuff organized

    • Downloaded hard copies of all the applications from schools in which I am interested

    • Made a matrix to help me keep track of due dates, essay requirements and deadlines, applications deadlines, financial aid dates, application requirements such as auditions and academic recommendations: Academic recommendations-teacher, coach, other non-family members

    • Met with academic adviser or college counselor to discuss test performance and need for a test class, private coach or individual studying

    • Discussed my plans with my drama coach or teacher

    • Continue to maintain my enrollment in drama classes, and my participation in school productions, and if possible, community theater

    • Continue to take meaningful classes, and maintain my grade average (Or raise it if necessary)


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