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BWW Blog: Preparing for Your First Year at a College Theatre Program

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BWW Blog: Preparing for Your First Year at a College Theatre Program

Happy summer to everyone, but especially to all the recently-graduated high school seniors out there: this blog post is for you! It's been a bizarre couple of months, but high school is finally over. Now comes the handful of months to await and prepare for college, if you're choosing to attend this fall.

The summer before college is a bittersweet and scary time, but also a time full of freedom and excitement-as you get to reflect on not only who you were for the past eighteen years, but also who you'd like to be in the years to come. College can facilitate extremely helpful growth and change; even though the upcoming fall semester is looking unconventional for college theatre programs, your development and education as an artist and human being is nevertheless on its way! Fear not! I firmly believe that social distancing audience members (and even actors) from one another for the time being won't get in the way of the core elements of your learning to engage with theatre in a college setting.

BWW Blog: Preparing for Your First Year at a College Theatre ProgramIn the next few socially-distanced months, you might like to guide your intentions during your alone time into some productive preparation for college theatre. Before my first year as a theatre student, since I am BIG on planning, I attempted to prepare for my upcoming school year. Some preparations were helpful... and some were not. Here are my suggestions for how to fill the next few months before college with productive and helpful preparations!

Let's start with helpful preparation: These are some things that I did that really did serve me once my training began!

a?? If you're an actor or a director, get into shape. You don't need bulging muscles or a six pack, but (as long as your body is physically able) I recommend being able to run a mile and complete some basic stretches without feeling exhausted. Your upcoming coursework will probably feature some movement and full body warm-ups, and it will feel FANTASTIC to engage with this work with stamina and grace. If you have no fitness experience, a great way to gain some foundational strength in the body is yoga, walking, biking, or light jogging.

a?? Do some reading on collaborative styles, communication, and management. Chances are, no matter what your discipline is, your theatre program will purposely throw you headfirst into some sticky collaborative situations. Learning to have patience, communicate effectively, and de-escalate conflict will give you a leg up in these scenarios and help you excel at building positive relationships with your classmates. I recommend Thanks For The Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, Setting The Table by Danny Meyer, and, quite honestly, This Is Water by David Foster Wallace. For directors specifically, I recommend Notes on Directing by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich and The Director's Craft by Katie Mitchell.

a?? Develop a healthy sleep schedule. Please try. Theatre programs are extremely rigorous and will drain the life out of you if you don't refuel with sleep! Do your best to put your phone away at least an hour and a half before you go to sleep, and slowly work your way to going to bed/waking up at reasonable hours. A healthy habit like this will really serve you this fall if it can become second nature.

BWW Blog: Preparing for Your First Year at a College Theatre ProgramAnd now, let's get in to what was not helpful: I tried a bunch of these things in an attempt to prepare for my college theatre program, and it all ended up pretty much wasting my time and energy.

a?? Reading every single play in the universe in an attempt to "compile monologues" or "compile knowledge" for your training. It's great to read theatrical texts if it brings you joy, but chances are: if you give yourself an insane quota (for me, I tried to make myself read a play EVERY SINGLE DAY) you will end up resenting the act of reading and feel burnt out by the time your actual education begins! Read if you feel like it, but you are not beholden to soak up every play you can get your hands on. Your theatre program will provide you with a curriculum of its own and most of the time, professors actually prefer it if you haven't previously read the play they assign you. There is merit in fresh eyes!

a?? Pre-training yourself on a specific theory, acting style, directing style, or design style that you think you will encounter at your theatre program. This seems smart initially, but it will most likely be a waste of your energy. Your own interpretation of a theory that you learn on your own might actually be completely different than what you will learn in school-even if superficially the practice has the same name and comes from the same theorist. Professors often have their own unique takes on dramatic theory and their own means of helping you to understand it. I found the best attitude to have towards my training was being as open as possible to whatever my professors had to offer me, without any preconceived notions of what I will (or should) be learning. Your past learning matters, but don't let that knowledge supersede all of the new information that's coming your way!

a?? Attempting to pre-select your college best friend through social media groups. Don't do it!! The social media groups for theatre programs are a great way to exchange and disseminate information about theatre events once the fall has begun, but they're not helpful for getting to know your classmates. You won't have an accurate sense of who your peers REALLY are until you meet them in person. Don't get too invested in your idea of someone based on how they present themselves on social media. Try to enter school completely open to whoever you might meet; getting attached to the select few people you met on social media might actually backfire, since it might cause you to overlook the new people you meet in person!

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From This Author Student Blogger: Emily Hoffert