How To Get Acting Jobs - Choosing The Right School

Landing an acting job does not depend on attending the "right" acting school - the one that will look best on your resume, or impress the casting director. What will serve you well as you make the rounds of acting auditions is having attended the acting school that is right for you.

Attending acting school is a big commitment in time, energy, and money. How can you be sure you are getting the best bang for your buck? Do your homework!

There are so many truly good acting schools that your choice can be difficult. Sometimes the deciding factor will be the cost of tuition, but you also need to take into consideration what your living expenses will look like. Can you afford to relocate - to live away from home - or is commuting or attending a local college your best option?

"When Burbage played, the stage was bare..."
"When Burbage played, the stage was bare..."
It's Beginning To Come To Life...
It's Beginning To Come To Life...
Rehearsal On Stage
Rehearsal On Stage

Living expenses aside, though, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing an acting school, just in terms of the programs they offer. Some acting schools are part of a larger college or university campus and may have a stronger focus on academic subjects in addition to acting, movement and technique classes. Some acting schools place more emphasis on the performance aspects.

Some Courses You Might Expect To Take:

Many colleges and universities offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. This is generally a four year program that covers a variety of studies, both academic, or theoretical, and practical, sometimes with first year requirement in a General Arts program.

Academic Classes:

During this first year you will take the general Arts Program in including a first year English course. In addition, you can lay a good foundation by taking one or two courses in theater history and class in stage craft. The theory behind that is the more you know about your chosen profession, the better able you are to craft your career. As well, though you may begin with a focus on performance, expanding your knowledge of the many facets of theatrical endeavors can broaden your interests into other areas of theater.

After your successful first year in the general Arts Program, you are eligible for acceptance into the B.F.A. program. Depending on the particular school, you will be required to undergo a rigorous selection process usually including acting auditions, and a vocal and movement component. Being accepted is no sinecure, though, as some of the best programs have up to a 40% drop-out rate in the first year.

Scene Study:

As an actor, you are aware that you cannot "play" an attitude or a through-line. You need to understand what drives your character, and know their strengths and weaknesses. You need to know how they interact with each of the other characters in the play, so that your actions and reactions will ring true.

Your ultimate goal is to realistically portray your character within the context of the scene. To do this you need to understand the the world in which your character operates, as well as their needs and drive. In these classes you will learn how to analyze the play and its characters - to dissect each scene to understand the goals of the characters.

Voice or Text Study:

An actor's voice is arguably their primary instrument, and improving your vocal abilities goes far beyond developing a pleasant, well-modulated tone. Working with professional vocal coaches will not only help you develop your singing voice, it will assist you to broaden and develop the tone and range of your speaking voice.

Learning to reproduce accents and dialects, learning to speak in a variety of speech patterns may seem mere parlor tricks and mimicry. Training your ear to recognize regional and age-related patterns and variations, and your voice at least to approximate them however, can help you more faithfully portray your character.

Almost anyone can produce an Irish accent, be it bad or passable. Some professional actors, though, have quite a gift when it comes to accents. Generally speaking, British-trained actors tend to be the most facile when it comes to overall proficiency with accents and dialects. Bob Hoskins comes to mind right away - he is such a vocal chameleon, whether portraying an American gumshoe in the film Who Killed Roger Rabbit, an IRA terrorist, or a cockney slum-dweller turned gangster. A few notables, Meryl Streep among them, have raised their gift to an art form.

Movement Classes:

These classes range from tap, jazz and classical dance to movement improvisation, floor barre, and mask & mime classes. The whole thrust of this training is to help you hone your physical instrument - your body.

An actor's ability to physically portray a character through movement is not limited to mime, as in the many characterizations of the late, great Marcel Marceau. The more flexible an actor's movement repertoire, though, the better able they will be to believably portray a variety of physical types. Sometimes it can be the smallest things, physical things we may not be consciously aware of that guide our acceptance of an actor's work as believable or not in a particular role.

Some courses encourage the actors to study alternate forms of movement such as Tai Chi, and may even incorporate Yoga and massage therapy classes. Believe me, many an actor has relied on the study of Yoga to calm their Opening Night jitters.

Performance:

This is sometimes referred to by different names, but it comprises the acting projects in which you will participate as a class. The concentration will be on individual development and ensemble work.

Being the best possible "Helena" you can be is only part of the goal. Working as part of an ensemble requires honesty, courage, respect and support for your fellow actors, and lots of plain old hard work. You cannot do the work for your fellow actors, nor should you be expected to, but you can be willing to go the extra mile to run lines, work a fight scene, and do whatever you can to help your fellow cast members achieve their best work, as well.

The presentation of these projects, starting with scenes, full-length period (costume) dramas, and culminating in a full season of plays will test your mettle. You will be able to explore a variety of roles, and may well be cast in parts you would not be considered for outside an academic setting. These roles are gifts, though they may not feel like it at the time. They are meant to stretch you as an actor, to allow you to see how far you can fly.

In a less academic program, far more emphasis will be placed on the practical, hands-on and performance courses. Many schools though, will require you take at least one stage craft course, and that you help out backstage on more than one show.

Some require the first year acting class to work as stage crew and dressers for the senior class on at least one of their runs - a run being the length of days the show will be booked, or will "run" in a particular theater.

There are a number of stage craft classes, but most will cover a variety of topics from set construction to learning stage management. You will have the opportunity to work on a number of projects, and cold be involved in the construction and painting of flats and set pieces, to building props and sewing costumes.

In addition, if you have the opportunity to "crew" a show - to be part of the running crew, or the backstage crew, as they are sometimes called - you will be able to learn what goes into mounting a show from the other side of the lights.

As part of the stage crew, you may be involved in moving furniture and set pieces on and off stage between scenes, or you may be responsible for setting props in their appropriate positions off-stage, ready for the actors to use...and everybody is on hand for the "strike" after the last curtain call of the last performance in the run of the show. During the strike, everyone involved with the show pitches in - removing the costumes and props, and tearing down the set and lighting fixtures - in short, returning the theater to its pristine state ready for the next use.

Then, traditionally, come the after party where you all celebrate your favorite parts of the show - the best moments, the gaffes, the friendships. You remember how hard you all worked and what a grand time you all had when all was said and done, and you marvel that anyone could ever consider having any other career than being in the theater.

© 2009 RedElf

More by this Author


14 comments

Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I can't dance, I can't sing, I have terrible stage fright. Can I be a director instead? I'm waiting for my close-up Mr. DeMille!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Candie, you can come and direct anytime, lol.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Your hub made me ponder: If I had to choose all over again, would I choose acting school over dentistry? Hmmmmm.... LOL


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

No, dear, dentists make way more money. Mind you, I think actors have way more fun most of the time, lol.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hahahah I gave up dentistry because there was a point I dreaded the patients who came to the clinic. Although my mother would never agree to send me to an acting school then LOL


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Too bad, I'm sure you would have been great then, too! I worked briefly as a dentist's assistant. If Princessa ever posts a topic on that, I can sure do a hub or two on it, and would love to read some of yours. I am sure you must have a funny story or two about that.


Neil Ashworth profile image

Neil Ashworth 6 years ago from Ireland

Great hub!!! Love it..


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Neil Ashworth!


kimberlyslyrics 6 years ago

what a really great hub with encouraging direction.

Thanks, I remember well

Kimberly


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Most welcome, Kimberly. We never forget, do we?! :D


vhwang7 6 years ago

Wow, that was a truly insightful hub. Thanks RedElf.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, vh! I'm so glad you found something useful here.


solaiman2101 profile image

solaiman2101 4 years ago

geatful...hub


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, solaiman2101

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working