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What are the odds of me making in in musical theater?

Hey there! Currently a high school senior about to make the biggest decision of my life. Since I was a little girl, I have been in love with performing (seriously, I loved to sing linkin park all the time when I was two.)
When I got into middle school and got my first supporting role, I knew thats what I wanted to do. It was my passion, what I looked forward to every day after school, especially so, as I am an honors student. But, as I'm getting ready to apply, and maybe audition for colleges, I'm starting to wonder if it is really worth it.

I know I have potential, for sure, but is it really enough to get me to the top?
My strongest suit is my singing and music. I have been taking music theory classes for about three years now and have been in choir classes since the fourth grade. I adore music with all of my heart. Only problem is that I haven't taken any acting or dance classes. I can follow a choreographer pretty well, but ask me to freestyle and I freeze up. My acting skills, I'm not to worried about, but I'm scared my singing has been more of a handicap in our school's shows.

Of course I've been the lead in our drama club's shows for the past two years, but that's just the problem; 1) I haven't faced true rejection yet and 2) My school doesn't have drama classes. I don't know anything about real world auditions, along with other things people learn in Theater I and II. All I know is that I love the thrill of performing and just being able to showcase my talents and share the joy of musical theater to people who, like me currently, truly appreciate the art of theater.

My stepmom is a pretty successful celebrity makeup artist, however. She's done many people's makeup and has very good relations with celebrities like Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (who wrote the 2016 tony nominated broadway show, Bright Star) and Anna Camp, amongst many others. Of course it's rude of her to talk to them still and ask favors, but the kind of influencial people that she has gathered due to her cliental may see one of the many videos she posts of me performing. This may give me a slight edge in the industry. However, this alone probably isn't enough to get me in. I just want to know if it is really realistic for me to make it on broadway.

I don't care about the money or fame. I don't even care if its on or off or even off-off broadway. As long as I am performing for people, I'll be happy. I know there are certainly risks to take, but I want to know the odds of me being able to do what I love most for the early years of my life.
Thank you so much for sticking to this and reading the whole thing. Any advice is seriously appreciated and taken into consideration!
#theater #broadway #broadway-musicals #acting #dance #singing

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

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Tracy’s Answer

100% You can do it. It is about perseverance, persistence, training and commitment. Having a music theory background and stage experience are two truly important things to have under your belt. If you want to be a Musical Theatre performer, start taking ballet NOW. Make sure you are taking with a teacher that has performed with ballet companies or as a professional dancer. Look at George Ballanchines' Stories of the Great Ballets for a perspective on proper technique, so you are sure you are taking with someone who's not going to screw you up. You MUST have two years of ballet to be considered in most regional/professional casts. Take jazz and musical theatre and tap classes, as well, too give you the edge over other singers.
Keep taking voice lessons. Never Stop. Read Stanley Meisner's On Acting, Uta Hagen's Respect for Acting and A challenge for the Actor. These are great resources to illustrate what acting is about, and to give you a perspective on finding a good acting class. Come to New York. Just do it. Move here with a friend, get a room in an apartment, get a day job and start auditioning. The best way to learn and get better is practical, hands on experience. Another EXcellent resource is K. Callan's New York Agent Book. https://books.google.com/books/about/The_New_York_Agent_Book.html?id=SdJE8jhDpWEC She gives you really practical advice, being a successful actor herself, on succeeding in NYC.
As for rejection: unless you're Sutton Foster or Alan Cumming, it's going to happen. The thing to know is that it's NOT ABOUT YOU. Casting Directors are basing their decision on a number of factors, and unless you're Kristen Chenowith, if you don't fit what their looking for, or don't make a light bulb go off that makes them change their mind, you might be passed over. JUST. KEEP. AT. IT. Honestly, the best way to succeed is to never, never, never, never, never give up. I have seen numerous shows with people who are adequately talented, but nothing stunning, all over Broadway. They persevered, they kept at it, they became known by Casting Directors, they networked and they kept at it.
Look up regional theatres near you, NETCs, Straw Hats and Summer Stock. Find out how to audition for these. Subscribe to Backstage magazine which lists auditions for show all over the country.
If you want to go to University; Carnegie Mellon, Yale Drama, Southern Methodist University, NYU Tisch School - all have excellent musical theatre departments.
BREAK A LEG!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice! I really do appreciate it. I plan on taking dance lessons really soon as well as starting community theater in the spring. Unfortunately I won't be able to put those things on my college application or resume, but its better than not doing anything at all. It is good to know that I should definitely take ballet. As for colleges, I plannon trying to get into George Mason University, which is relatively cheaper for in state tuition and has a pretty good theater program, as far as I know. Of course I am still going to look out of state. I really do appreciate the advice though, and I am definitely taking it to heart! Taylor
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Trevor’s Answer

Well you're asking two different questions. Can you spend your life doing what you love? Absolutely. Can you make a living while doing it? Maybe. The reality is you will most likely be doing this as an avocation rather than your main income. Local, regional and children's theaters abound now in this country and so there are many more opportunites than there used to be. Now as far as Broadway. That's a completely different issue. Those who make it on Broadway on average do not go to college and get a degree in musical theater. They've got it already. They have been singing, dancing and acting their entire life and have been taking private lessons since childhood. Auditioners are expected to be able to sing like no other, dance like a professional and know all about being an actor in a theater. It's called the Triple Threat and is the only fine arts profession in the world that requires expert ability across several disciplines. Can you tap? Have you had ballet lessons? Is your voice like that of no other? If no to any of these that means you're late. Too late. One of the many things I have heard over my career from newcomers coming to New York to audition is that they didn't realize the huge number of people who have such a high level of talent and who are pursuing the same exact dream. We tend to think that because musical theater is a rather niche genre of entertainment in our society and in our towns that there won't be so many to compete with. That is wrong. If you were to come to New York right now, you wouldn't have a chance. If you were to come to New York after a 4 year degree at the best theater school in the world, armed with the highest ability level you could obtain you will simply join the thousands and thousands of actors/singers/dancers who are already here and have been here for years waiting tables, working temp jobs going to audtions waiting for their big break. It is just so very very rare to get in that way these days only because there are so many talented people. In this world, a high degree of talent is not rare it is the norm. Being the best at this isn't good enough. It's whether or not you have that "it" factor which cannot be explained or defined. It just is. Then after all that is already present, the way you get in is by somehow knowing someone who has seen you and believes you are the next star. That's how people get in. Look up the stories of people like Bernadette Peters, Sutton Foster and Neil Patrick Harris and hear how they got discovered. None one of them went to college and all of them studied privately and have been singing and dancing since they were little kids. You are wrong what you said about this topic. It's ALL about WHO you know and WHO has seen you. The story about your stepmom is actually really good. It's way more than most have to go on. The fact that your stepmom is in the biz and hasn't already convinced any of her big name clients that you are the next one, tells you it's not going to happen. Sadly, our public education system is rooted in the one goal of creating citizens who know how to be self-sustaining in the workforce. They aren't about teaching about how to make it on Broadway, be an oscar winning actor or how to become billionares. This is unfortunate because by the time we're done with the government's requirement it's too late for most people to create a mindset and achieve the skills needed to reach the tippy top. People who do were able to somehow circumvent or supplement the government's plan for all of us and through the smart guidance of their parents were able to take a different path. Those three names I gave you earlier share that as part of their story as well. We only live one life. Don't waste it. Do what you love where you are and you will walk away feeling blessed. One final word. It's really interesting, in my experience I have found that most of the people on Broadway weren't necessarily looking to be on Broadway. That wasn't their dream. Their dream was to do what they love and make a living doing it. Broadway just "happened" to them. And so there's a lesson here. There's something about focusing on something really really big and holding onto that once in a lifetime dream as the sole motivation for your life. It seems by doing so we miss a lot of chances on the way and unintentionally we make that dream upon which we are so focused even more impossible. Dream a big dream but don't dream the impossible dream. The inside joke is that though it's a good song, sadly, it is really bad advice. Don't dream the impossible dream, dream a big dream and the impossible will happen - whatever that is for you. It is the equivelant of setting your sites on winning the lottery, having that as your dream and refusing to be happy unless that dream is fulfilled. What a foolish waste of life! It is possible and even likely that you will achieve that same high level of happiness without having to "win the lottery." Good luck to you!

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David H.’s Answer

"I want to know the odds of me being able to do what I love most."

Taylor, I think you've already answered your question. You already have the passion the drive the love of performing and have done quite a bit of work on your vocal apparatus. You say that you are not comfortable with movement and dance. This is good. A friend once said, "too much comfort is debilitating." So it's time to concentrate on those aspects of performance and auditioning that you find uncomfortable. An actor never stops working on her technique. You know what you have to do. 1. Get out there and dance, move, look for dance classes or martial arts classes, and study the dance sections in all your favorite musicals. 2. Work on audition pieces, monologues that are uncomfortable for you, that require you to stretch, to grow and practice them in front of anyone who will stop and look: family members, class mates, friends....audition pieces that require movement. Audition for everything, even if you think you can't do it (whatever "it"is). A life in the Theater is all consuming, but it looks like you already know this.

I suggest you choose an institution of higher learning that has good theater, music and dance programs. There are literally hundreds of them scattered all over the globe and throw yourself into all aspects of performing. Do not forget those courses that are called general education courses. An actor's education must be broad and never ends. With your passion for performing coupled with an equal passion for learning and hard work your chances of success are good, no matter what Emily Dickinson says. And read more poetry (tons of good audition material there).
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. I do appreciate it so much. I intend on going to George Mason University, as to not end up in debt and have that looming over me, but still has a really good theater program. The location is perfect for me because it is so close to D.C that I could attend shows at the kennedy center and get a more in-city experience with theater. But I really am grateful for the advice! Taylor
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B.J.’s Answer

Hi Taylor!

Congrats on all you've accomplished so far, and especially on your mature and realistic outlook about your future and potential career. You have great perception for a high school student, and I think that will serve you well in life, no matter what path you choose.

Ok, short answer to your question: I can tell you what your chances are of living your dream if you don't take a shot at it - zero. So on those grounds, go for it. But of course, it's not entirely that simple, and I'd like to share the same perspective I give my high school students who are considering a career in music.

I'm fortunate that I've been able to do what I love and to get to a point where I make a good living from it. I decided to pursue my dream, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn't imagine any other life for myself; I had to do it. That's probably the most compelling reason you could have for making that choice, but bear in mind what that could mean.

1. How ever much fun you think it will be in working your way up to success, cut that in half. But you'll have lived a life full of amazing stories hardly anyone gets to live, and you'll be doing exactly what you wanted in life.

2. How ever much work you think it will be in working your way up to success, multiply that by at least 100. But every completed semester, show, audition, rehearsal, or lousy day job shift will cement the notion in your mind that you can survive and succeed at anything.

3. You will be faced with the hardest psychological challenge I can think of: some days you'll HATE the thing you love the most. I think that's why so many arts majors don't complete their college programs or enter the professional field. It's great when you get to do the thing you love on your terms and on your time, but when it's forced on you by someone else, it can turn sour quickly. At that point, the thing you usually turn to for refuge is exactly what's tormenting you. and there isn't any other relief.
Once you decide to pursue theater as a profession, it's not just on your terms anymore. Don't want to practice one day? Tough - you have a responsibility (and a grade/job riding on it), so get in the studio and work. Feeling sick and don't want to go to rehearsal today? Tough - if you skip, you lose your role. And if you lose this one, you probably won't get another because the performance community is small and your reputation precedes you.

4. A "fall back plan" = almost guaranteed failure. The only way to be successful in an arts field, especially theater, is to be single-minded and focused. You must commit your whole self to doing the work that will get you where you want to go. Dividing your attention by "hedging your bet" with another area of expertise will mean that you aren't fully prepared for either job. You can have a backup plan for AFTER your theater career (or career attempt), but it can't be put into action until you're ready to move in that direction - to pivot, as they say in the business world. If you aren't ready to commit 100% to your craft, you shouldn't be pursuing it.

5. Assuming everything goes as planned, and you are successful, there likely won't be fame and fortune... well, maybe a little fame (hopefully a lot, but statistically speaking, probably not), but still probably not much fortune. And in the early years, there will seem to be a negative amount of both. Be ready to ride that out, both psychologically and financially.

6. Speaking of finances... If you want to build a successful career from the ground up (which is pretty much the only way), don't rack up a bunch of student loan debt. Figure out a way to get the education and training you need without a $500+ a month loan payment when you hit the real world. Your initial opportunities, the ones you'll need to get experience and build your resume, aren't likely to be very lucrative. Having that monthly bill hanging over your head will make you turn down gigs you really should be taking - the ones that lead to the big gigs later.

7. Your career path won't be a straight line. In fact, it won't even be a single line. Be ready to follow a winding professional road to your destination, and expect to keep multiple irons in the fire at all times. Artists are mercenaries, and we have to follow both the money and the muse. My career started about 20 years ago, and in order to land on solid ground as a professional musician, author, and speaker now, I was a high school teacher, a radio DJ, an instrument salesman, a small-time event and band promoter, a corporate educator, and a freelance whatever-would-make-some-money. It took a lot of years for it all to coalesce. Your journey will be long and unclear, so faith and hope are a must.

8. Don't just rely on faith and hope. They won't actually get you anywhere, they just make the work and anxiety tolerable. The answer is always: hard work - but not just hard work, the right work. If you have deficiencies that you think will get in your way, start tackling them now. Embrace the suck, and like Michael Jordan said, turn your weakness into your strength. If singing is a problem, find a teacher, a coach, or a mentor that can help you. If you need help with acting, look outside your school - colleges, community theater groups, community education programs, and private acting schools all have resources you should take advantage of.

9. Leverage your contacts, but do it smartly. If you stepmom has those contacts, don't randomly blanket them with "help my daughter" kind of stuff. You only get one chance to lean on a contact, so make it count. Make a specific request that is appropriate for where you are and what you can do. For example, do you need a reference for an audition and one of those people knows the producer? Demonstrate that you have real potential for the role (and be honest with yourself about that), and ask for a good word to be put in. Looking to get an internship with a theater group and one of those contacts knows the director? Ask for an introduction. Be specific and be respectful. People will help you if you're legit, but once that lifeline is used, it's done.

Having said all of that, if after reading it, you still feel like you want to perform on Broadway, go for it. You're about to enter one of those most exciting and critical times in your life. It's the time to think big, take chances, and pursue dreams. You'll have a ton of energy and few major responsibilities, which probably won't be the case later in life, so take advantage and go for what your heart tells you to do.

Good Luck!
B.J.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice! I definitely have a lot to think about and talk to my parents about before I fully commit. I really, really appreciate the truthful but still encouraging advice and it will really help me in the long run! Taylor
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