How To Survive Theatre School

You will not be a normal person when you finish this. You may wake up from this in four years and be like "who is this person that I am now?" I'm always sort of on the verge of tears, I'm too busy to eat or shower, I can't not articulate every single word, I haven't worn real pants in years, I'm not as funny as I used to be, the list continues for literal days.
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Dear First Year Hannah,

Let's level with each other real quick. You're great! You're smart and talented and hard working. You are completely deserving and so lucky to be starting your journey through theatre school. That being said, I've got some bad news for you. You don't know shit! You are a child, trust me, I know that because I am five years older than you and I am a LITERAL child! I've compiled a list of things you need to do/work on in order to not make the same mistakes that I did. Pay attention kiddo! There is only six because I know exactly how long your attention span is!

1. Take Better Notes: First Year Hannah you are a terrible note taker! Just because right now you can rattle off all of Michael Shurtleff's guideposts and you think you've got your movement viewpoints on lock down DOES NOT mean that in five years when you're actually trying to work as an actor you remember any of that! "Sure, I'm a theatre school grad I could rest on my technique laurels for years!" You may say to yourself post graduation but the truth is you can't! This learning business that you're doing right now doesn't end once they hand you that piece of paper. You gotta constantly be bettering yourself, working on your skills and finding new techniques. You know what would really streamline this process for older you? If she didn't have to re-learn things she learned in first year. Take good notes! Label them well! Make sure you actually understand the concept don't just memorize the terminology so you can spout it out on a quiz or sound like you know what you're talking about when your more studious friends ask you! You'll want that shit some day!

2. Chill the Fuck Out Girl: Remember in Grade Ten math when you had to using graphing calculators and you cried for like six weeks straight because you couldn't figure out how to calculate Parabolas or even really what a parabola was? Did that help you learn it? Did it make you a stellar mathematician? No it really didn't, you barely know times tables! So guess what? Crying about scene study class, or getting panic sweats about choosing a monologue, or fear procrastinating on your vocal masque will not make you a better actor! Turn that shoulder tension in to work ethic. Cut down the amount of times you hyperventilate at your rez room desk and amp up your focus. The more you can eliminate that anxiety the easier it will be to open up your brain to the enormous amount of information that is coming your way. Plus your crying face is tres not cute.

3. Cut Your Hair: They will tell you not to cut your hair, you will convince yourself that in order to be a good actress you need long flowing locks, and you will look like shit for four years. Do yourself (and your future self) a favour and cut your friggin' hair! Here's a little secret, your hair stops growing once it hits your shoulders and its so thin that you look like you could be the lead singer of a grunge rock band and you will never in your whole four years get cast as a princess! They will not kick you out of the program for having a bob! Grow a set and cut your hair!

4. The Sooner You Stop Trying to Please, the Sooner They'll Be Pleased: You are a unique and special individual. You bring something to your work that no other person on this entire planet can. Dude, that's so cool! Acting is all about authenticity so the sooner you can stop doing an impression of what you think your teacher or director or classmates want to see the sooner that beautiful unique style will shine through. That is what they want to see, they want to see you! Plus, it is so much easier to be you than to layer on a bunch of bullshit cause you think it's "right", there is no "right" in acting there is only you and the text. Use the instrument you've got! Don't play the flute if you spent 18 years taking piano lessons. You've already spent 18 years learning how to be you so when you're approaching a character you should probably start there. Oh, P.S. this will be impossible for you to do, but knowing that this is what you're aiming towards can't hurt! Maybe?

5. Enjoy Being Told What to Do: This is possibly the only time in your life that you will have someone demanding you to create every single day. Don't look at the mountain of assignments as work look at it as opportunities. These assignments are opportunities to define your artistic voice, opportunities to explore a different side of you, opportunities to grow artistically and professionally. If you don't take advantage of these opportunities while someone is giving you feedback it's going to make it way harder for you once that structure is gone. This is a VERY important time for you to decide what kind of an artist you are going to be so use it very wisely! When you get out of school no one gives a shit if you create anything and they especially don't care if you hand it in on time. It is so much harder to self motivate your creation, which makes it so much harder to define your unique voice as an artist. Put in the work now so you have a great foundation for the work you ant to make four years from now.

6. You're Going to Lose Yourself. Don't Worry! You Come Back: You know that part in the movie Taken where the daughter is under the bed on the phone with Liam Neeson and the kidnappers are looking for her and he says something like "Now this is the hardest part, they ARE going to take you" and the girl freaks out. That is this moment. I am telling you right now things will happen to you and you will get weird and sad and feel like you're loosing your mind but Liam Neeson is waiting for you post graduation to bring you back home.

This WILL break you down. You will not be a normal person when you finish this. You may wake up from this in four years and be like "who is this person that I am now?" I'm always sort of on the verge of tears, I'm too busy to eat or shower, I can't not articulate every single word, I can do both parts of the entire "deception" scene from The Glass Menagerie at a moments notice, I haven't worn real pants in years, I'm not as funny as I used to be, the list continues for literal days.

That's okay and totally normal! Once you detox from theatre school you will level out again the things that made you uniquely you will come back and you'll remember why you started all this in the first place. But, now you have the knowledge, technique, skills, qualifications, support systems, friends, vocal qualities, ideas and creativity to be so much better than you were before. You will lose a few things about yourself during this process but the good news is you get all of it back and a billion more things that make you even better. Don't freak out! Liam and I got you girl!

First Year Hannah, you are going to be great one day. I don't know when because one year post-grad you still have a fuck ton to learn. Trust me it's all gonna work out in the end. It's going to be nothing like you imagined but I suspect its gonna be way better. Keep your chin up, stay as positive as you are, accept all the weird, keep laughing uncontrollably while wearing a cheetah print snuggie as a toga, and if you stick with me kid, you'll go places!


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