Summer crossroads

You’ve come to a crossroad. You thought you knew where you were going, but now that this school year is ending, you aren’t so sure anymore.

You thought you wanted to be an actor, so you got yourself a supporting part in the school play. You were ok, but nothing to write home about. In fact, you found the whole experience deflating. While waiting backstage for your entrances, you found yourself taking in the seeming chaos all around you. People acting like they didn’t know what came next. You found yourself wanting to organize it. You’d put the props on a table, spread out in the order they were to be used. You’d make sure they were put back where they belonged. You would get people on stage without any lags. You would sharpen up those light cues that were too slow for the scene. You would make sure actors would be able to change costumes faster. When you thought about it, you could care less if you ever had to learn another bit of dialog ever again. Yep, no dialogue, but someone should really let you get this place back here organized.

Now what do you do?

I’d advise you to take a step back. Take a look at the whole picture and realize there is much more to this theatre thing than the performers in front of the audience. Or maybe you already knew that, but dang, you aren’t sure just where you fit in and where your real interests lie.

Summer is a great time to find your groove, as we used to say. Even if you are sure you know what you want to pursue, the space of summer gives you opportunities to find out more about other related performing arts.

Here’s an example

Maybe you are sure you want to act. But one of the things that actors regularly make use of besides costumes and props, is stage lighting. The director is always telling actors to find the “hot spot.” Maybe you could learn more about lighting and what goes into it. To do that, you could:

  1. Read a book about lighting or the stage crafts that has a lighting section. Suggestion: Jean Rosenthal’s The Magic of Light.
  2. Talk to someone who designs lighting and find out how you do that.
  3. Find a summer production (professional or amateur) and volunteer to work the lights. (Don’t worry – someone, probably the lightening designer, will show you how.)

If you actually work on lighting with an eye to why and how it gets designed and implemented, you’ll see what the actor doesn’t see and maybe should in order to use lighting effectively for the acting performance.

You could do the same with costumes, props, sets. Or if you are still interested in organizing, maybe volunteer for an assistant to the stage manager or the director.

Whatever experience, whether reading about it or doing it, you should come away with a better idea of where and how you fit in. If nothing else, you’ll have a much better appreciation for how live theatre gets done. And later on, you will begin to see these same jobs reappearing in other media like movies and television and even the web. Your whole perspective will open up and with it, the sharpening of your skills and your will.

So here’s what you can do

  1. Read
  2. Talk to people
  3. Volunteer for backstage work at a summer theatre
  4. Do some online research
  5. See plays, musicals, opera, a concert, anything that features the performing arts
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