Career Crossroads, Closing a Show

Career Crossroads, Closing a Show Question
Dear Blair,
I am almost done with my two year acting program in New York, and I've made great strides. But I haven't worked much and I haven't been on many auditions. I still feel like I have a long way to go. Should I go out there and try to make it? Should I take a new class? How many years do you suggest I give it before I give up?
Thanks in advance,
Charlotte

Question
Dear Blair,
I am almost done with my two year acting program in New York, and I've made great strides. But I haven't worked much and I haven't been on many auditions. I still feel like I have a long way to go. Should I go out there and try to make it? Should I take a new class? How many years do you suggest I give it before I give up?
Thanks in advance,
Charlotte

Dear Charlotte,
You are at a crucial, challenging point in your acting career, at which many actors find themselves at one time or another. You've come a long way, and are daunted by how far there still seems to go.

I cannot really answer your questions, but I can offer you some questions to ask yourself to help you get clear, and offer some advice on how to go about the next leg of the journey.

Questions I recommend you ask yourself:
* How much do I love acting?
* What am I willing to do and not willing to do to create a life for myself as a working actor?
* Am I pursuing acting for myself, or for others?
* What does "making it" mean to me and how important is it?
* Would I enjoy and would it be helpful for me to continue studying right now?
* Are there other jobs or hobbies I am interested in?

Be honest with yourself, and remember, your answers reflect where you are now and are not permanent or fixed. Avoid judging your answers by thinking that 'if acting isn't the most important thing in my life then I'll never be an actress'--this is simply not true. These questions are a way to hear what your true feelings are about what you have currently chosen as your life's work. I also want to say that there are things you can learn from the process of auditioning, about acting and about yourself, that you simply cannot learn in class and will help you to answer these questions. Working with nerves, battling self-sabotage, focusing despite chaotic conditions, being free and impulsive in an audition, becoming indifferent to the auditioners' responses, building confidence -- these are all things learned best by going to auditions.

Since many auditions, especially the ones you have to go to when you're just starting out, can have brutal circumstances, find out if you're willing to audition enough to get to know and toughen yourself up to the situations: six-hour waits, 30-second auditions, getting cut off in the middle of your song or monologue after waiting for half a day, rude auditioners, etc.

I recommend that you start auditioning and familiarizing yourself with this process. Use each audition as a study of your own character and technique. Watch how you respond emotionally and in performance for example, to an auditioner who doesn't respond to you. Do you let the apparent confidence of another actor, who knows the auditioners, threaten you? This is all very valuable information.

This would be a good time for you to make a career plan for yourself. Give yourself a chunk of time to sit down and write out your career dreams in the form of goals, starting appropriately and ending big. For example: "I want to get cast in a play in New York, I want to get a job at a summer theatre, I want to get an agent , I want to have my own TV show," etc. You may want to give yourself a time limit for these things, created from what feels right to you, i.e.; I want to have an agent by Jan. 1998. Use the time limits not as a way to make yourself inadequate if you don't meet them, but as a way to challenge yourself to make your dreams a reality.

Good luck, Charlotte. I can't help but say-- you've come this far, if it's what you want, hang in there.

Question
Dear Blair,
I will be graduating from my undergraduate school here in Kansas and would definitely like to keep going with my education and go on to graduate school. Here are my questions: if a university does not have auditions to get in, does that fact make it any less of a school to learn about acting professionally? Will it have a theatre program that is of less quality? If these aren't a factor, which schools would you suggest? I would like to audition for other graduate school programs, but I do not have the money to travel and do the audition. I don't want to spend $100 to get an audition and then waste my parents' money by not making it. I do have a deep desire to act and direct, but I feel that my background from my private college does not give me the upper edge that I need to compete with other students who have had a very strong background. Theatre is what I want to do, nothing else will work. But finances are getting in the way of me trying to get the best that I can.
What are your suggestions?
Thanks,
Craig Mathews

Dear Craig,
Thanks for your questions.
To answer the first part of the question, I would assume that graduate schools which audition actors would have higher standards for whom they accept then those that don't. However, the fact that a school auditions actors does not necessarily mean the program is better. Most of the reputable programs I know of audition actors. But again, I haven't personally gone through all the programs so I don't know from experience. Please refer to previous Ask Blair columns for specific schools I've recommended (on the website can be accessed from a button at the bottom of the column) and to the college database (accessible on the website from the sidebar) to research which theatre schools appeal to you.

If you choose to go to graduate school, why not do it right, and avoid settling for just any program? Strive to get into the program(s) you want, even if it costs a little more, I think it's worth it.

And though I've asked this before-- I'll ask it again-- why rush off to graduate school? Give yourself room to breathe, to live, to work in theatres and see what's happening, what theatre people are talking about. Take a professional acting class. Give yourself the time to save some money to audition where you want, and to build the strong background that will enable you to compete with the other actors.

There is an small anecdote you will find in the Oct. 31 issue of Ask Blair (third question) about when I auditioned for Yale, that I think you will find helpful.

Good luck with your decisions and continuing your education, Craig.

Question
From Ira Wexler
Dear Blair,
I am 14 years old and I'm currently working in a dinner theatre. I have been involved with theatre for seven years and there has always been something with which I have not known how to deal. How do you feel about closing a show? I always get really sad and feel like something's missing when I don't see my cast members day in and day out like I used to. I'm heading toward the end of a run now and would appreciate any advice you would have on how to deal with it. Thanks!


Dear Ira,
You write the sweetest questions. But first I want to let you know that I haven't been able to respond to you because your e-mail address does not accept my replies! Also, knowing that you're a girl, I am wondering is Ira is really your name? : >

There is no way around it, the closing of a show is sad. You and the cast members and the crew have worked hard to create something together, through good times and bad, and then it's over. It is an ending, and mourning is appropriate.

Allow yourself to feel the sadness of saying goodbye to the work and the people involved, and take the opportunity to view the whole process as an acting exercise. As an actress, ask yourself, where do I feel sadness in my body? What is my energy level like when I'm sad? You will then know what letting go feels like to you and all of it can be used for character work. You may want to spend some time alone the day after closing, especially if the people around you have a difficult time letting you be sad.

If you allow all the feelings about closing to flow through you, then you can truly leave the show behind and open yourself up fully to embrace a new production and a new role.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your closing.