Students who have chosen to pursue drama school will quickly come to realize that it can get pretty…dramatic. It’s both a physically and mentally demanding major. Students can have up to 11-hour (or more) days between classes and rehearsals, and they need to essentially treat themselves like an athlete. Backstage spoke to three undergraduate students who have already gone through their freshman year on how they’ve made it so far. Students new to theater, take notes!
Kordell Pritchard – SUNY New Paltz, senior theater major
When do you find time to do homework?
You need to have exceptional time management. There’s time between my classes and in between rehearsal where I can get a lot done. I never do homework in rehearsal though. I really try to capitalize on my time and not spend as much of it on leisure as I do on studying, both for school and the craft.
Should you audition for every show?
Absolutely. It’s good to get that practice because the more you do it, the less nervous you are about it. You need to get as much practice as possible; you need to put yourself out there and be comfortable with auditioning, regardless of whether or not you want a part or you’re able to [accept the role].
How do you use your free time?
If you’re not in a show, that doesn’t mean you should stagnate. You could be reading—there are ways you can improve yourself as an actor without being on stage. Get to know as many upperclassmen as possible and really immerse yourself in the program. I also go running, not only to invigorate myself, but also to calm down and to release nerves and tension.
When’s the best time to reply to your emails?
Best time to reply is anytime. If you can do it, then do it. You should check your email frequently so you don’t miss any opportunities and you’re always up to date. There are always last-minute calls, last-minute changes, so you’ve got to stay in the loop. Check your email throughout the day.
Noura Deane – Boston Conservatory at Berklee, junior musical theater major
What do you do to keep yourself in physical shape?
A lot of water and a lot jaw massages. I go to the gym maybe five times a week and give myself an hour to focus on myself, not be around other people, and listen to angry rap music. Vocally, not yelling a lot on the weekends. I don’t do any [dietary restrictions] like no dairy, but I know when to back off.
What do you do to keep yourself in mental shape?
I take pride in watching a season of “Jersey Shore” alone on Sundays. Everything here is so heavy and so intellectual and personal; [it’s important] to have time to do something mindless. You need to have a hobby outside of this, because this was our hobby and now it’s our lives, so to enjoy it you need to find something that has nothing to do with it.
How do you prepare for an audition?
For singing, I always go for songs that I’m comfortable doing even if it might not be right. I’ve sung “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder at so many auditions. It’s important to follow guidelines, like don’t sing a rock song at an opera audition, but also go for material that shows you off as a person. If you are your most authentic self, then they’ll see that and want to work with that.
How do you deal with competition?
I try not to play into it because I feel like everyone that puts this extra energy towards competing against others is a waste of time. At the end of the day when you get to the audition, it’s not about your intimidation tactics, it’s up to who they like better for the part. If you are going to try to compete, it should be with who you were this time last year.
Best time for a nap?
We start in the morning and go really late so if you nap too late you’ll be groggy. My dream nap time is 12 to 1:30 p.m. because when I wake up I’ll be ready to rock from 2–7 p.m., but still be able to go to sleep at midnight.
Sarah Hough – University of the Arts, sophomore musical theater major
When do you find time to have a social life?
You end up spending a lot of time with the people in your major, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. You don’t always get to meet other people but you do end up forming a very close bond with them. A lot of my social life is, I’m with my friend because we just had this class together, so we go out and we eat together.
How do you prevent getting sick?
We all have packets of Emergen-C everywhere. A lot of us just get very good at learning how to take care of our bodies. I know I personally take a lot of herbal supplements to help with my immunity. If somebody finds out that someone else is sick, everyone is immediately pumping up their own systems to avoid it.
How do you handle performance critique?
It can be hard to get critiqued on the thing that you love and the thing that feels the most you. It’s one thing if you get a bad grade on a math test, but in something like theater, you come in and bear your soul on a stage. I try to remember all the times I did take the advice of my professors and it paid off. I remember that I’m a human being beyond my artistic abilities; I have value because I’m a person with a soul. I matter, so it doesn’t matter if today wasn’t my best performance.
Best time to eat?
The second you wake up in the morning. You might not get another chance for a little while, so I like to eat as much as possible right away. I end up packing a lot of my food and eating during some of my classes.
Want more great advice? Get all of your acting questions answered by peers and experts on the Backstage Community forums!