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Student Blog: Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College for Theatre

Student Blog: Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College for Theatre

Theatre College is hard. But I promise each day gets easier and it is so worth it.

My first few weeks at college, I was walking around like a lost puppy not knowing which direction was home. I've been doing theater for 14 years now but this is a whole new ballgame. I struggled with finding my grounding. In my first year alone, I learned so much about this industry and how to navigate my time in college that I think others could benefit from. I'm not one to gatekeep so, here are some things that I wish I had figured out sooner before starting my degree in musical theater.

1. It is a journey, not a race

This insane path that we have chosen to take as artists is not a race, but it's a journey. We are each individuals on our own path. We are all at different levels, and that is okay. In one of our first weeks of school, we had a mandatory meeting for first-year students where our professor showed us episodes of the famous Australian children's tv show Bluey. This episode of Bluey that our professor showed us was called "Baby Race." It's all about how Bluey took longer to learn how to walk than the rest of the babies her age. Bluey's mom was feeling down on herself because all of her friends' babies were up and walking but all Bluey could do was roll around in circles. She thought she was doing something wrong- but she wasn't. It just wasn't time for Bluey to walk yet. Bluey is on her own path. And so are you. My best friend has already co-written and put on a show at 54 Below. That is amazing and I could not be more proud of them, but that is not my story. I am on my own unique path which is wonderful. You are going to achieve so many amazing things when it is your time to. Whether you've been doing theater since you were 6 or you just started a year ago, your path is perfect. Celebrate even the smallest of victories along the way. Not every day is going to have a major breakthrough and that is okay. It makes the days when breakthroughs come all that more special. Enjoy your journey and revel in the path that you are on because there is no other path out there quite the same.

2. It's not about your talent, it is about if you are what they need for that particular job.

One of my friends presented me with this analogy-you go to the farmers market and you approach this booth selling soap. You strike up a wonderful conversation with the owner of the business. She is really sweet, has a wonderful personality and the soap smells wonderful. It's unique and very well made. The thing is, you don't need soap so you aren't going to buy it. It is nothing personal at all against the owner, but it isn't what you need. It is the exact same way with casting. You may walk into the audition room and you blow the table of casting directors away. They may absolutely love you and your personality, but maybe you are a bass and they only have one spot left in the ensemble for a tenor. Maybe you are 5'4", but they need someone who is 5'2". The reason you didn't book the job has nothing to do with your talent and all to do with if you have everything the casting directors need to fulfill a role. It's not you, it's them. Realizing that not getting cast did not mean that I am not talented was so freeing. Does rejection still suck? Absolutely. But it makes the "no's" a lot easier to take in. You are talented. You wouldn't be in a theater program if you weren't. So the next time you don't get cast, remember it's nothing personal. You were lovely and your soap was wonderful, they just didn't need any soap at the moment.

3. They want to see you, not a version of you that you think they want to see.

Casting directors, college admissions people, etc.-they all want to see you and who you are. What they don't want is an inauthentic version of yourself. They want to see you, not what you think they want to see. You are so unique and you always have something to offer that no one else can. Go in there, be authentically you. My professors tell us this constantly. This is your only chance to sing this song/do this monologue/dance this dance, so just follow your instincts and have fun:)

For the love of God, please find things you enjoy outside of theater.

Once you start auditioning for college theater programs, theater becomes your career. It is no longer a hobby and it is what you are doing for a living. This means that finding a new interest/hobby if you don't already have one is vital. Much love to you all, no tea, no shade, theater cannot be your whole life. You will get burnt out so fast and you won't love it anymore. My professor even told me that he recommends, even in high school, find other interests and hobbies like sports or other clubs. You will spend so much time in class, outside of class doing something involving theater--I promise you will have so many opportunities it. So, I recommend finding something else that brings you joy. Here are a few of things that I love:

-Reading, I'm really into anything by Colleen Hoover right now.

-Doing a daily Bible Study

-Hanging out with my friends, whether it's playing games or just watching a movie, this is probably one of my favorite things to do at the end of the day.

-Bullet Journaling

-Playing my guitar

-Going on walks/drives

-Playing Dungeons and Dragons


All of these things bring me so much joy and it also helps me learn new things that I can also apply to my career in the future. I hope you can also find something you love.

5. Your post-graduation plan is, and never will be, set in stone

I've been in college for about 3 years now, and my post-graduation "plan" has changed so many times and continues to change weekly. My freshman year of college, I wanted to move to Branson after graduation and find work there. Then I thought about moving to Chicago and a year later, I went to New York and liked it there too. After that, I thought about leaving musical theater entirely-I'll discuss that here in a minute-and just recently, I've added auditioning for the Disney College program to the list. I don't have a plan. I don't think I could possibly have a plan and that's okay. I have ideas. I have a starting point. And for right now, that's enough.

6. "If you can imagine doing anything else-go do that" is one of the biggest lies I've ever heard.

I don't know how many times I scroll on Tik Tok and I hear someone saying "If you are in musical theater and you can picture doing anything else, go do that." I'm sorry, that is simply not true. I can picture myself doing so many other things. There are times when I've thought about dropping musical theater entirely. This career path is so brutal. You have to constantly sell yourself and your talent, you have to find a survival job while also going on auditions-it's exhausting. Of course, I can imagine doing something else. But I can't imagine a life where theater isn't some part of it. That is why I'm in this program. So just know that it's okay to want other things besides theater-it's not a sin and you're so brave.

7. Take every opportunity presented to you.

Every opportunity. Every audition. Every workshop. Anything you can do to gain more experience in any aspect of theater-go for it. You never know what will come from it and you never know what you might learn from it. If you don't get cast-I promise that there are so many other theater-related things you can experience. Directing, Stage managing, playwriting, anything tech, etc, are all good experiences that you could possibly use in the future, especially when doing summer stock or internships. It's okay to have your hands in multiple pies. Not too many pies-don't overwork yourself, but you can taste the different pies and see what you like. I recently was the assistant stage manager for our production of Carrie the musical and I'm the current deck head for the world premiere of The Winterguard Play here at school, and I like it a lot. Venture out there. See what else you like. Meet new people. Soak up as much as you can.

8. Everyone is scared, it's not just you.

It is okay to be scared. College in general is scary, let alone college for theater. Everyone around you is going through the same thing. It is also okay to be homesick. This is my second year away at college and there are still times when I just want to give up and go home. Just know that you are not alone. Everyone is terrified of the future and what it holds. Just remember to not let that fear inhibit you from doing what you love. You are so brave. Keep moving forward.

9. Self-Care is the most important thing.

In high school, for my theater program, it used to be a huge flex to say things like "oh yeah, I haven't eaten yet today" or "ugh, I was up til 3 am last night doing homework and now I'm gonna be here until 11:00 tonight haha team no sleep." Girl-no. That is not a flex, that stuff will catch up to you. I know you've probably heard this a million times but it is so true, your body is your instrument. If you don't take care of it, it will shut down and you will not be able to work. Do what you need to do to make sure that you can take care of yourself as best as possible. I know that we are all so busy. Between classes and rehearsals and extra curriculars-it can be a lot. Please, be kind to yourself. You deserve it. Eat a snack. Drink some water. Watch your favorite show at the end of the day. Spend some time with your favorite people. Do something to make your brain and body happy.

10. Read plays. Watch musicals.

I recommend watching/reading as many plays and musicals as possible. I know, I know, earlier I said that you need to find things to do that aren't theater related-and that is so true-but it doesn't hurt to read a few plays every once in a while. Or to listen to a new cast recording. That's how you find new audition material. Read the classics. Find a new show you love. Even just watching tv is beneficial. So many tv shows nowadays have really good monologues to use for auditions. I can't tell you the amount of material I've pulled from Gilmore girls. Just try and familiarize yourself with multiple art forms, it will help you.

11. Be kind. Love others.

Kindness and love are going to get you farther than any 16-bar cut and 30-second monologue will. Love your coworkers. Love your classmates. Show them the kindness and grace that you want to be shown. Cheer them on. Support them. Be the light.

Those are just a few things I have learned that have helped me so far. This degree/career path is so hard. Just making the decision to go into theater alone is terrifying. Every day brings a new challenge. You'll get the hang of things I promise and you're gonna love it. You are doing so good where you are at and you are so brave. To quote Sierra Boggess, "You are enough, you are so enough, it is unbelievable how enough you are." Go out there and shine as bright as you can.

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