The performing arts are incredible! As a side hobby, its no/ low pressure. But like any chosen profession, its hard work & there is no silver-bullet one-size-fits all recipe to succeed in the theatre or auditioning. However, you need: natural talent in the skill set; persistence and grit to focus on your short-term & long-term goals; education components and real-world experience to diversify your skills; and a village of people encouraging you :) A touch of luck, big prayers, and a kind heart will be elpful as well!
I got the theatre 'bug' early and was in magnet/performing arts schools from 5th-12th grade. In my HS years, we attended large audition conferences both for professional gigs and college entry. Be sure to explore the resources and opportunities through your school and community. There are many strong programs and schools to grow your skills, but be diligent in selecting them. I attended Wright State University's Musical Theatre and it was an excellent program (Tom Hanks Alumni). If you're seeking to make a profession in the arts, not only do you need the arts-centered curriculum but as an entrepreneur/self-employed professional, you need to nourish your business acumen & audition muscles as well!
I moved to NYC 4 months after 9/11 and was thankful to have both my professional theatre and college experiences to prepare me. The network of more seasoned professionals was valuable too...building relationships is key. I grew my resume in the non-Equity space on national tours and regional gigs, before earning my Actors Equity Union card and working professionally based out of NYC for 10 years. Having a strategic plan and passionate commitment is critical. Then, you can be open to opportunities as they come, for learning and stretch growth!
Google searches for audition tips may help as well (from reputable publications https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/tips-winning-audition-52162/). - Network with your College Professors. They should be from the business, or still active in the acting community, and they'll know other professionals in the space. As they nurture your education, they should also be able to guide you to coffee chats with working actors in NY, Chicago, FL or wherever your long-term vision lies. Ask them about audition opportunities/resources in the local theatres they may be aware of; or if you're heading out post-grad, see if they have guidance to a solid tax professional for you as a self-employed individual; research & explore audition events (like Backstage https://www.backstage.com/casting/open-casting-calls/theater-auditions/).
- Work hard and learn as much as you can. Craft a strong resume; align a good headshot photographer for professional photos. Take continued classes from reputable industry professionals; explore the intro program (called EMC) to pursue a long-term goal of becoming union AEA (https://www.actorsequity.org/)
- Keep an open mind. If you have multiple skills and interest for the stage, screen, design, backstage, production elements etc, be open to learning and seeing opportunities that may be a fit!
In terms of the skills for a theatre actor, they are different for film actors, so thanks for being specific. Theatre acting is generally bigger and broader. Much of the meaning is conveying with vocal inflection and physicality as most of the audience is not close enough to see your facial expressions. Let's look at each of these:
1. Physicality - This is how you use your body to express things about your character to the audience and your scene partners. The most versatile actors are flexible, fit, and possessed of good endurance. That doesn't mean you can't act without it. There are character actors of all body types and fitness levels. But you give yourself the most opportunities if you can move with energy and still speak clearly.
2. Vocal interpretation - This is about understanding the text you are performing and giving it your personal meaning. There are books on books of acting exercises to help you access your emotions as well as coaches who can get you there. At its heart, it is just making whatever you are saying believable. However, there are elements to this such as enunciation, projection, and inflection.
3. Characterization - This is knowing how to combine the other two elements to create a variety of unique and memorable characters. Many young actors basically play themselves in every role they play. Strive for more than that. When you read the character, decide whether they have an accent or any unusual vocal quirks. Do they have a particular walk? Mannerisms? This is why different people will play the same character with the same lines drastically different. Learning how to make interesting choices that fit in the reality of the script is a skill worth developing.
4. Triple threat - You don't need to be a musical theatre actor to be a stage actor, but it helps. And it opens more opportunities. So, take voice and dance lessons. Someone who can sing, dance, and act is called a triple threat and is highly sought after.
Let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck!