It seems that many young, aspiring film actors believe they can’t begin their career until they’ve moved to Hollywood, which, of course, means after they’ve graduated. Yet this notion couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many of today’s biggest movie stars began their acting training in local Thespian Troupes and high school drama departments.
Acting for the stage and acting for the silver screen are not two entirely separate crafts; there are many skills that are common to both efforts. Thus, if you’re a young actor of any kind, the best thing you can do while completing your vital high school education is to get as deeply involved in local theatre as possible. The stage could very well be your ticket to the studios.
Casting directors look for child and teen actors with ample stage experience, while universities look for applicants who are dedicated to extracurricular activities, clubs and the International Thespian Society (more about ITS in tip seven).
So here are seven ways to utilize high school and local theatre programs to hone your craft and develop your confidence, to help prepare you a killer college application and to build an impressive acting resume that could open the right doors for you in Hollywood.
1. If you’re not already taking drama classes at school, sign up for theatre immediately.
Learn everything you can about acting techniques for the stage. By becoming a well-trained theatre actor, you will take direction more easily, understand cues and impress casting directors at film auditions.
2. Join any afterschool drama clubs available at your school.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that universities look for students who have been deeply involved in extracurricular activities. By joining your theatre or drama club, you will not only get to work with other young actors and immerse yourself in the acting world, you will also be significantly improving your college application. And chances are, if you love acting, you’ll have a ton of fun in your high school drama club!
3. Audition! Try out for as many plays as your schedule will allow.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not immediately cast as Romeo or Juliette. If you’re auditioning, practicing and participating in your high school plays, you are learning to act – which is the name of the game.
So get out there and be bold! After you’ve auditioned a few times (and played a few roles!) you’ll begin getting comfortable with theatre. Learning to memorize lines, understanding scripts and becoming a confident stage actor will only help you when it comes time to audition for film.
4. Learn everything you can about performing on stage… and what goes on backstage.
Becoming a great actor also means becoming an expert in the drama industry. It’s not enough to simply deliver your lines and know your placement. To set yourself above the rest of the world’s fierce competition, you must try to understand all that goes into stage production: lighting, sound, direction, music, casting and set, costume and makeup design.
The more you know, the more successful you will be once you do reach Los Angeles. Hollywood directors are hungry for young actors who have already learned the ropes of stage acting and whom they don’t have to handhold through the process of learning film acting. So set yourself ahead of the pack and become an informed, knowledgeable thespian.
5. Research the theatre companies and acting schools in your town – and get involved!
One of the worst things you can do is to limit your acting possibilities by telling yourself you are only a “film actor”. Above all, movie-casting directors love versatile, adaptable, well-trained and intelligent young actors. So do your best to become one!
Be diligent in your investigation and look up regional theatre directories at your local community center and cultural affairs office. Keep up with the arts and culture section of your local newspapers and magazines to stay informed on the various workshops and events available to thespians in your area.
Then don’t hesitate to go to these venues and introduce yourself to whoever is in charge of the play. If they’re not looking for young actors at the moment, at least they’ll know you’re available if a part does come up. And you can always volunteer to help backstage! By getting involved anyway that you can, you’ll continue to learn about acting and production.
6. Participate in your area’s community plays and theatre festivals.
You’re already staying up-to-date on all of the film festivals and movies being shot in your area… right!?! (If not, you should be!) So do the same for all of the stage acting opportunities for thespians, too. Again, don’t limit your acting possibilities by claiming you’re only a “film actor” – just be an actor! Take a part whenever and wherever you can.
This might even mean volunteering at a Renaissance Fair, at a Shakespeare Festival, at a kids puppet show at the public library, during Christmas at your church or even at a convalescent home to cheer up the elderly.
Everything that you can get involved with now will not only look great on your college application and your actor’s resume, it will help you further develop into a brave, competent and talented actor. Without those three traits, making it in Hollywood will be nearly impossible. So start honing these skills today!
7. Once you’ve completely immersed yourself in all of the theatre acting possibilities at school and in town, apply to your high school’s International Thespian Society troupe.
The International Thespian Society is a prestigious honorary society for grades 9-12; and membership is earned through a point system. There are over 3,600 troupes in the U.S., Canada and abroad. The mission of the ITS troupes is to honor student excellence in the theatre arts and to help further develop, support and educate young thespians.
Being accepted into ITS is the pinnacle of success for high school theatre actors. Membership will drastically help your college applications and set you up as a serious, well-trained actor – which again, Hollywood directors love and seek. To find out if you school has an International Thespian Society troupe, and to learn more about the membership point system, visit http://schooltheatre.org/society.
So go forth young actors and find out everything you can about your school and community theatre programs. Don’t merely wait to move to Hollywood “someday” to begin your acting career. Start today and get involved!