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Find Inspiration at Dallas’ 4 Funniest Comedy Clubs

The only thing great performers love more than performing is seeing fellow artists do their thing – and that often goes double for comedians! Whether you’re looking for local improv or some of the biggest national acts, Dallas comedy clubs have a lot to offer. Here are four venues to catch a show and maybe even get your feet wet on stage.

Dallas Comedy House

Comedy Clubs In The Dallas - Fort Worth Area

Of all the Dallas comedy clubs, the DCH offers one of the best combinations of homegrown comedy that’s still delivered professionally. The friendly, communal attitude fostered by the classes offered at DCH also filters down to the pricing structure, with tickets costing a mere $5-10. Drink prices are reasonable and the food gets decent feedback as well, which pretty much makes it Michelin-star quality by comedy club standards.

In addition to the well-regarded classes, DCH supports up-and-comers with scheduled open mic nights for stand-up and improv jam blocks where anyone can join in. These nights can be good networking opportunities for newbies to build relationships with like-minded performers, as regulars will see each other often.

Hyena’s Comedy Nightclub

Want to laugh like the cartoon version of one of nature’s most famous scavenger animals? Some would say you can act like a disgusting beast at home, but since we’re talking about Dallas comedy clubs here, you might as well go to Hyena’s.

With a good mix of local and better-known national comedians, Hyena’s keeps it real by offering open mic every Wednesday night with drink specials. The last part is likely appreciated even more by nervous first-time standup comedians than the thirsty patrons watching them.

Backdoor Comedy

backdoor comedy

This tiny club is located in the corner of a Doubletree Hotel; it’s basically a conference room, but instead of PowerPoint presentations on maximizing synergy and choosing icons in cornflower blue, you get to watch comedians up close and personal!

Backdoor lists Johnny Hardwick as an alumnus, and if that name is unfamiliar, then you may know him by his voice acting alter ego, Dale Gribble on King of the Hill.

Fairly cheap shows, open mic nights, and available workshops round out the reasons to go to this Dallas comedy club. Moreover, the content of the comedy shows has been described as funny, but also family-friendly. So feel free to bring Grandma and the kids.

Addison Improv

Falling under the aegis of the nationwide Improv™ chain, Addison Improv features big names and correspondingly big ticket prices. If you want to see that guy your friends keep sending YouTube clips of or maybe just a familiar face from a funny TV show, Addison Improv is your place.

Like a lot of Dallas comedy clubs, they have a zero tolerance policy toward heckling. Normally, this would be a good thing, but Jamie Kennedy has been known to play the club and if you were to hurt his feelings enough, you just might give him material for another anti-heckling documentary and be immortalized therein. Win-win for you and Jamie, but you’d probably be thrown out before you could even get going.

Whether you want to be a comedic actor, improv performer, or stand-up comic, these five clubs can give you all the inspiration you need in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Does the idea of adding your name on the list for open mic night or jumping up on stage for an improv jam with no preparation intimidate (or even terrify) you? If so, it might be worth working with an experienced acting coach beforehand. Your instructor can teach you the tricks and techniques to boost your confidence and have the time of your life on stage. Good luck!

 

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 Photo by Allen Sheffield, Backdoor Comedy Club Facebook page

5 Acting Warm-Ups & Games to Do Before an Audition

warm ups

Being in the entertainment industry is not much different from being in the sports world. In addition to some natural talent and interest, a huge overlap with both industries is the time spent honing your craft. Of course regular practice is a necessary evil, but come race or audition day, our minds and bodies still need to be prepared for what’s about to happen. Just as we see athletes spending time stretching and warming up before a performance, it’s mandatory that actors warm up before auditioning. Good acting warm up games help you to get into a relaxed, focused space, where you feel ready to go out and nail that performance! There are plenty of fun acting games you can try on your own either in your acting lessons, or before an audition.

To begin, our bodies need to be loose and limber. Here’s a quick checklist to work through:

  • Gently roll your neck backward, forward, and then around (clockwise and anti-clockwise).
  • Roll both shoulders forward and backward to release any nervous energy.
  • Extend your arms and begin to open up your chest. Remember to breathe deeply from your diaphragm.
  • With arms extended, twist your waist side to side.
  • Do a forward bend, dropping your head as far as it can go. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Finally, shake out your entire body starting from your hands.

Now that your body is getting warmer, you can get more playful with these acting warm up games!

Game 1: Energy Ball (for the nerves)

Stand in front of a wall and imagine that you’re gathering your energy in an invisible ball. Really start to feel it pulsating while holding it with both hands in front of you. When it starts to feel too intense, throw it against the wall. Feel it bounce back by leaning your body to receive and pitch it back to the wall. This is an awesome acting warm up game to help you focus your energy and get your body moving.

Game 2: Small Face, Big Face (for great expressions)

Micro-muscle facial control plays a huge part in your ability to express yourself, so it’s important to stretch out your face as well. Start by scrunching up your face like you’ve just eaten something really sour. Get your face as small as you can get it and hold that for 10 seconds. Now stretch your face with the widest, most surprised smile you’ve ever made (like the one you’ll have when you actually book the job you’re auditioning for!). Now hold that for 10 seconds and repeat the whole exercise a few times.

Now that you’re physically warm, it’s time to let your voice be heard. Remember, you don’t have to be a singer to warm up your vocal cords – it’s important that all actors do vocal warm ups before performing.

Game 3: O E (for a strong voice)

Even though it’s far from boring, start this game with a good yawn. Really – have a few wide yawns to open up your mouth and throat. Then start by slowly making exaggerated ‘O’ and ‘E’ sounds. As you repeat the letters, begin to speed up until you run out of breath.

Game 4: Good Buddha (for a flexible tongue)

Tongue twisters are one the best acting warm up games for the entire mouth. You can use the common ones like “Unique New York” or “She sells seashells on the seashore,” but this is one of our favorites for the palette as well as the upper and lower parts of the tongue – try saying, “Gooda, Gooda. Buddha, Buddha.” Repeat and progressively speed up. You can also try this in different tones so you can work on your range.

Finally, we’re sure you’ve spent a great deal of time learning your script and perhaps researching or imagining the character you want to bring to life during your audition, so here’s a fun exercise to throw in at the very end…

Game 5: Theme Song (for the right mood)

Music is a fantastic tool to help you get into the mood of your characters! Based on your understanding of your character, take some time to pick out a theme song for him/her. Answer this question: If your character were a piece of music, what would they sound like? Now process this idea around whether he or she would be modern, instrumental, slow, techno, etc. Once you’ve settled on a song, plug it into your phone or iPod and make sure you listen to it while rehearsing, warming up, and just before you sign into your audition.

Good luck!

 

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5 Good Audition Songs for Musicals by Voice Type

audition songs for musicals

Ready for your big break? Check out this list of good audition songs for musicals to discover all the fantastic options you have to choose from!

Musical theatre auditions can be daunting, especially when they’re only asking for 16-32 bars of a song. No matter if you’re asked to prepare a cut or if you’re lucky enough to sing your whole song, it’s super important to find the song that really sells your voice.

Musical theatre goes beyond voice type- it’s equally important to have tons of personality and serious acting and comedic chops. With this in mind, selecting your audition repertoire can be a lot more fun. Here are 5 good audition songs for musicals, for each voice type, representing a mix of classic and modern shows.

Good Audition Songs for Musicals

Sopranos

  • “This Place is Mine” from “Phantom” by Maury Yeston. Everyone sings from the OTHER “Phantom” – don’t make that mistake! Funny divas can really sell this song. It’s as big as anything you’d find in the major hits from that era (and you know what they are!) but this song is hardly overdone.
  • “To Keep My Love Alive” from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Rodgers and Hart. So outrageously funny! This is for the soprano who’s also a comedienne. Plus, it’s always good to have some Rodgers and Hart in your repertoire!
  • “Unexpected Song” from “Song and Dance”. This is an absolutely beautiful ballad from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser-known works. You can’t go wrong with a single song in the show, in fact; it’s a one-woman show and you have a lot of great audition songs to choose from!
  • “One More Kiss” from “Follies”. It’s not always a good idea to bring in Sondheim unless they specifically ask for it (too complicated for many accompanists), but this is a simpler tune in the style of song from an old operetta.

Belters/Mezzos

  • “How ‘Bout a Dance?”  from “ Bonnie and Clyde” by Frank Wildhorn. This is a sassy and fun song perfect for a younger actress that belts. This musical is fairly recent, but due to the fact it was not a hit… well, chances are not too many other people will be walking in with this one!
  • “Wherever He Ain’t “ from “Mack and Mabel”. What a score! This is an up-tempo, rag-timey song that is just plain fun to sing by a spunky leading lady. While “Mack and Mabel” is respected for its glorious score by Jerry Herman, this show never took off!
  • “Home “ from “The Wiz”. This a pop-like song that builds. Memorable melody and you can really put some emotion behind it. Perfect if you’re auditioning for something like “Dreamgirls” (but again, it’s best to avoid those songs unless they specifically ask for them).
  • “All Falls Down” from “Chaplin”.This song is sung by the character of Hedda Hopper in the show. It’s a real scene stealer! Another modern (2006) musical that was not a hit, but has a marvelous score (see a theme here?).
  • “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from “Funny Girl”. We all know that Barbra owns “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, but this lesser-known ballad from the show is gorgeous and a solid choice.

Tenors

  • “A Bit of Earth” from “Secret Garden”. If you need something a little more modern that’s a moving yet simple ballad, this is a great choice.
  • “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love” from “Finian’s Rainbow”. This is a mid-tempo song for a tenor with charm and personality, from a more “classic” show.
  • “Seeing is Believing” from “Aspects of Love”. Another one of Sir Andrew’s flops – but what a score! This may be a better choice than “Love Changes Everything” from the same show, which many performers tend to oversing.
  • “Shiksa Goddess” from “The Last Five Years”. This is for a comedian! A mid-tempo number from another more modern show with very clever lyrics that will leave the audition panel rolling.
  • “You are Beautiful” from “Flower Drum Song”. Ballad for a young lyric tenor from one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lesser known shows.

Baritones

  • “C’est Moi”- from “Camelot”. Need something classic? Are you a solid actor? This one’s for you.
  • “Gonna Be Another Hot Day” from “110 in the Shade”. Mid-tempo as well as lyrical, and could suit a variety of types.
  • “I’ll Be Here”- from “The Wild Party”. Wonderful song from another more modern show for a baritone who is a bit more pop/jazz-like and comfortable with some vocal improvisation.
  • “Love Sneaks In” from “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. Need something current that’s also a ballad? Perfect choice!
  • “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”- from “Spamalot”. Perfect for the man who is an “actor first, baritone second”! Very patter-like and needs a comedian to sell it – but that goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Repertoire selection becomes a piece of cake once you establish who YOU are (comedian, ingenue, baritone, belter, etc.). After knowing your “type,” it’s all simply a matter of two really big things: what shows are being cast (all modern? All classic? A mix of the two?), and what YOU truly enjoy performing. There is so much out there that there’s no excuse for using a song you think is just “okay” as an audition piece. The audition panel will always be able to tell!
Not sure what your voice type is? Watch the video below to find out more.

Have fun – discovering new shows and songs are one of the best parts of being a “musical theatre geek”! Want even more audition song ideas? Check out our list of 400+ songs to sing, and our newest article – the 50 best audition songs for musicals.

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

 

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How to Get Into the Top Acting Schools

acting schools

Dreaming of attending one of the top acting schools in the US? Check out these tips from online teacher Liz T. to get a head start! 

 

If you are an actor serious about having a career as a performer on the stage or screen, or want to pursue acting from the writing and directing side, it is important that you take the time study your craft and further your education at one of the top acting schools or universities.

Getting into an acting conservatory is no easy task; programs are very competitive and expensive, and also require a very demanding and intense course load. If you have done your research already, and know that this is the profession and education you want to pursue, I applaud you! There is no guarantee for getting into college these days, but having a plan will definitely increase your odds at pursuing your dream at a top acting school.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice
You’ve heard the saying, and it’s true. Hopefully you are doing your research, and learning that acting is not something you can just pick up overnight. You need to be developing your performance skills and knowledge over the course of several years to be ready in this profession, by performing in local plays, taking lessons, going to see live theatre, watching films, and reading books. If you have not started this, now is the time to indulge yourself in the industry and learn as much as you can. Absorb everything while you are young!

2. Use Your Summers Wisely
Whether you are looking to go to graduate school, or will be graduating high school soon, or are even younger, it is very important that you do not waste your summers, but use them to your advantage to make acting connections and improve your skills! The year is so busy with school and working, so the summer is a great time to go to an acting camp, or audition for a summer stock show and build up those acting credits on your resume! Don’t just sit at home all summer, go out and be creative! Some of the best moments of my life growing up were performing in summer stock theater productions in Maine, and going to French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in Upstate NY. I worked extremely hard these summers, and could have been at the beach all summer long, but these experiences truly shaped me as a young actor wanting to gain experience and make lasting connections in the acting community. They also helped me get into one of the world’s best music colleges.

3. Make Your List of Top Acting Schools
By your sophomore year in high school, you should already be researching and targeting your dream schools or programs. Make a list, and see what the requirements are for getting into each program. Many will require an audition in person, or several taped auditions before granting a live audition. These auditions are an intense process, and you want to be as prepared as you can. Again, this is not an audition you can just wing overnight; it takes time to work and prepare for these.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, I encourage you to actually start visiting these programs. See if you feel comfortable on campus and in the classroom. Many acting schools are in the heart of downtown cities, and sometimes this intimidates students. Find a school that you can picture yourself at for four years!

Next, research current alumni, students, and faculty members. Perhaps you can sit in on an acting class and observe, or take a private lesson and tour with an alum of the school to get their perspective. Also, many schools such as Juilliard and the Boston Conservatory have summer intensives just for high school students to study at the college; here you can network with the faculty, develop your craft, and prepare for a career in the arts. These programs are often expensive, but there are scholarships available.

If you work hard practicing, researching, performing, and writing, you will be ready for your acting school audition. Doing this “homework” years ahead of time will help you get prepared, and it is never too early to start! And if you’re older or switching professions, please do not get discouraged – start now, and if you give the time and devotion to your acting career, you will be well on your way to becoming a professional actor!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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My Juilliard Entrance Essay | Sample Essay and Tips

Jasmine featured image

Writing your college admissions essay can feel intimidating. How do you relay your life story and impress the admissions board in so few words? Check out the sample essay excerpts below, written by New York teacher Jasmine B., and her tips for writing your own winning essay:

Writing a college entrance essay? Here are a few helpful hints, along with examples from my very own entrance essay for The Juilliard School. I applied for, and am currently a part of, the Drama Division.

LET THEM IN

I thought about titling this part “Introduce Yourself,” but ideally, what you want is to do better than give a simple self-introduction. Give the readers a peek into who you are, and don’t be afraid to be honest. Assume your reader is incredibly intelligent, amicable, and someone you want to know. If you don’t know who will read your essay, imagine writing to someone you care deeply about and whom you admire. I wrote my college entrance essay after a particularly tumultuous time in my life, and rather than hide that, I decided to be honest. I realized that my story was one of strength and resilience, and that there was (and is!) great value in the power to overcome.

Four months ago, I was kicked out of my childhood home. It occurred two months prior to my college graduation and I was suddenly left homeless; without a family, without a sense of stability, of hope, or promise. While my colleagues and dear friends planned cross country trips, made plans to travel the world, and scheduled flights to start their new and promising lives, I was trying to deal with loss.

WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL?

For the past three months, I have been fighting harder than I ever thought I would. I’ve somehow made a way to still attend auditions in New York, Virginia, and Ohio while working forty hours a week at a coffee shop, saving every penny that I earn for the dream that I just won’t give up on. It is a dream that I cannot give up on; its every bit a part of me as the physical form that I inhabit. For as long as I can remember, every time that I’ve felt lost, alone, or cast away, I’ve found my purpose in the theater.

Little did I know that in confessing my hardships, I was painting the picture of someone who could endure the long days and nights of school; exactly the kind of person that any rigorous program is looking for. Instead of listing your accolades and accomplishments, why not tell a story that allows your character to shine through?

WHY WHY WHY

For every job opportunity, audition, or teaching artist position I’ve gotten, I have had to answer one question: WHY?
“Why do you want this job?”
“Why do you think Shakespeare is important?”
“Why should middle school students learn hip hop dance?”

In order to answer this WHY most effectively, I felt the need to be as honest as possible.

Acting makes me happy.

BE YOURSELF!!

(That seems to be a running theme in this article, yes?)

If you are going to spend the next four, five, or even six years of your life with a group of people, don’t you want them to know who you really are? It is a lot harder to find the perfect fit for your college experience if your admissions material does not truly reflect its maker. Also know that the admissions process is a two-way street – not only do your adjudicators need to know you, but you have the power to evaluate them. It’s like a date: How can you know if you and your school are compatible if you act like someone else when you meet? So when you tell them why you want to be a member of their college community, tell them the truth!

Acting gives me a sense of a purpose; a way to express different sides of myself, discover myself…to remember myself. I get to take unimaginable risks – to fight with swords, to be honest about anything and everything, to fight the good fight when it would be so much easier to lie down and quit. I get courage from my work. Delving into an imaginary circumstance somehow always helps me conquer fear. It not only helps me, it helps the other people involved – the audience, the other cast members, the director, the writer, the producer – everyone is affected by one piece, by one moment in time that I get to be a part of it. What else can make this kind of impact? Theatre is the only thing of progress that has stood the test of time. For me, there is no other option. I cannot imagine a life without the pursuit of this dream…

INCLUDE REFERENCES

Yes, of course you have to include professional references, such as a teacher, coach, or mentor, but in this case I mean LITERATURE. A well-read student is a valuable student. Don’t be afraid to include passages that help you tell your story in a unique way. Before writing my essay for Juilliard, I had been inspired by Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. Here is how I incorporated “The Alchemist” into my personal statement:

In Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist, a wise character says to a young Shepard: “People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being…Maybe that’s why they give up He describes the reason for being as a ‘personal legend,’ and that, “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the I’ve come to understand that this is my personal legend. I am closest to the Soul of the World when I am actively contributing to creation, when I use the talents given to me to affect the lives of others and to bring about a change in them similar to that my personal legend has brought to me. I have grown to understand that they make me who I am: the difficulties are what push me to keep trying; to move forward.

FINALLY, HERE ARE SOME GOLDEN RULES:

  • Be concise. ‘Nuff said.
  • Check your grammar and spelling – don’t just spell-check. Have a trusted friend/parent/teacher/mentor read over your statement and check for grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Have fun! Applying for college is stressful, yes, but this is one of the opportunities you have to truly have fun, be yourself, and shine in your own way. Use it and enjoy it – it’s not everyday you have a platform to speak on things you truly care about; this is a gift!

Good Luck!!

 

Jasmine B.Jasmine B. teaches speaking voice, stage performance, and acting in New York City. She’s studied acting from a young age, graduating from the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and Wright State University’s Professional Actor Training Program. She currently serves as an educational outreach fellow for the Juilliard School.  Learn more about Jasmine here!

 

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The 6 Best Acting Colleges for Aspiring Thespians

Best Acting Colleges Do you have a passion for acting? If you’re serious about turning your hobby into a career path, higher education is the perfect time to take your studies to the next level. Plenty of undergraduate acting colleges offer Bachelor’s degrees in acting or theater, and other creative subjects. Whether they’re located in the heart of Manhattan’s theater mecca or nestled away on an Ivy League campus in New England, each of these undergraduate universities can help you hone your skills and prepare you for a life of acting.

The Juilliard School

Location: New York, NY

Successful alumni: Jessica Chastain, Kelsey Grammer, Laura Linney, Kevin Spacey, Viola Davis, Robin Williams

The Juilliard Drama Division currently offers more full-ride scholarships than ever before, having recently added $10 million in grant funding. Don’t let its legendary name intimidate you; the conservatory-style curriculum encourages creativity and free thinking. However, it’s one of the most exclusive acting colleges in the world, accepting only 20 new students each year, a fraction of the thousands who audition.

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Successful alumni: Warren Beatty, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, David Schwimmer, Zach Braff, Ann-Margret

Northwestern University offers graduate-level acting work, too, but the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences includes a drama major in one of academia’s top-ranked liberal arts programs.  Illinois might seem an unlikely place to become an acting great, but you’ll be close enough to Chicago to take advantage of its rich theater scene. Proximity to The Second City improv troupe has paid off for several alumni who honed their comedy skills here. Stephen Colbert, for example, majored in theater here, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus hadn’t even graduated yet when she received (and accepted) her career-making offer to join the cast of Saturday Night Live.

New York University

Location: New York, NY

Successful alumni: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael C. Hall, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Piven

The Department of Drama at Tisch School of the Arts offers a conservatory-style education that takes full advantage of its very theatrical location: the New York University (NYU) campus nestled right on Broadway itself in downtown Manhattan. The unique audition process and specialized curricula distinguish Tisch from other acting programs in the Big Apple. Prospective students audition not only for a spot in the prestigious department, but also to qualify for one of eight different acting disciplines.

Boston University

Location: Boston, MA

Successful alumni: Julianne Moore, Geena Davis, Marisa Tomei, Jason Alexander, Ginnifer Goodwin, Michael Chiklis, Rosie O’Donnell, Emily Deschanel

The School of Theatre is the most well-known of three performing arts degree programs at Boston University College of Fine Arts. It incorporates a unique type of conservatory training that’s far less strict than other acting colleges. High school students can get a head-start on their higher education at the Boston University Summer Theatre Institute, which trained notable future thespians such as Winona Ryder and Nicolas Cage. The school stresses hands-on learning, using the Boston University Theatre as a training and performance venue.

Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Successful alumni: Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Zachary Quinto, Patrick Wilson, Rob Marshall

The Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama holds a special place among the world’s best acting colleges; CMU was the first institution in the United States to incorporate a conservatory training program into its college diploma curriculum. The intensive, highly exclusive school in Pittsburgh teaches students how to understand and embody their characters through deep analysis of scripts, plays, film, and TV. And the formula works – the university’s alumni have gone on to win six Oscars and almost a hundred Emmys combined.

Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT (acting auditions also held in Chicago and San Francisco)

Successful alumni: Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Clarkson, Frances McDormand, Angela Bassett, Paul Giamatti, Paul Newman

Yale School of Drama is one of the most prestigious acting colleges in the country for post-graduate work, offering a Master in Fine Arts (MFA) and unparalleled production resources. Undergraduate students at this Ivy League heavyweight can also take graduate-level acting coursework for credit toward their Theater Studies major. A senior thesis project sets Yale’s undergraduate theater program apart from the other acting schools.

 

With so many worthwhile choices, as well as many acting scholarship opportunities, it may seem daunting to make such an important decision. Keep your options open, and apply to as many schools as practically possible. Learn as much as you can from the invaluable experience of auditioning for spots in conservatory programs and exclusive acting colleges, and most of all – enjoy the experience!

 

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How to Find Scholarships for the Best Acting Schools

How To Receive A Scholarship For Acting SchoolsBecoming an actor takes hard work, dedication, passion, and drive. For high school students thinking seriously about a career in acting, now is the time to prepare for the training you will need to help you succeed. After all, high school is a time when you have opportunities that may be harder to find or simply will not exist later on.

Most of the actors you see on television, film, and even the stage have gone through years of education and training, and getting into one of the best acting schools can tip the odds of success in your favor. It takes talent and passion to get into a good acting school – so it’s time to get to work!

What are Some of the Best Acting Schools?

The Hollywood Reporter has an excellent list of the best acting schools around the world. The criteria for the list include programs with top-notch training and an impressive list of alumni. Juilliard is one of the schools on the list, with famous alumni including Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Kevin Spacy, and Viola Davis – just to name a few!

Of course, the United States is not the only place to find excellent acting schools. The UK is also world-renowned for being home to some of the best acting schools, such as the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). These institutions boast alumni such as Rhys Ifans, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom, and John Lithgow.

How Do You Get Accepted?

Most actor training programs have a limited number of spots, so admissions can be extremely competitive.  The best acting schools want to see talent. In fact, schools like the LAMDA and Oxford do not have academic requirements for their courses – entrance to their programs is based solely on auditions. These schools also want to see commitment. Recruiters want to know that the students they are admitting are going to take their training seriously.

To that end, high school is an excellent time to collect experience and develop the skills for which schools are looking. The best way to do this is to get involved with school plays and local theater.  Consider going to drama camps, or working one-on-one with an acting coach. Anything you can do to gain experience and improve your craft will be valuable to you.

How Will You Pay for Your Education?

The best acting schools are rarely inexpensive.  But luckily, most offer financial aid and scholarships. Finding scholarships may take some research on your part, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Irene Ryan Scholarship

The Irene Ryan Scholarship is awarded to outstanding performers at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, held both nationally and regionally. There are a host of scholarships associated with the Irene Ryan Scholarship also awarded at the KCACTF, so this is definitely a festival worth attending. For more information, visit the Irene Ryan Scholarship website.

  • Donna Reed Performing Arts Scholarship

The Donna Reed Scholarship was created for students who wish to pursue a career in acting. Scholarships are awarded to notable performers through a series of regional and national festivals. For more information visit the Donna Reed Scholarship website.

  • CBC Spouses Heineken USA Performing Arts Scholarship

Applicants must be pursuing full-time study in the performing arts, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, exhibit leadership skills, and show evidence of public service. For a full list of required application materials, visit their website.

  • Princess Grace Awards Program

Applicants for grants through the Princess Grace Foundation must be nominated through a non-profit organization by school department chair or dean, or by a company artistic director. For more information, visit the Princess Grace Foundation’s website.

You can also check out the following databases for more resources:

How to Increase Your Chances

Don’t think that because many arts scholarship and training programs base acceptance heavily on talent that you can allow your grades to slip! In order to round out your education and make you more appealing to scholarship committees, make sure to do the following while in high school:

  • Keep up your GPA.  Many performing arts scholarships may be based on artistic talent, but there are plenty of other types of scholarships that take your academic record into consideration.
  • Participate in productions.  Every production and performance is an opportunity to learn and expand — whether it’s a school play, community theater, or even semi-professional productions.
  • Study acting. You’ll need professional guidance and feedback to really develop your craft. Consider taking private acting lessons and attending theater camps in the summer.

Study hard, work hard, and maintain a positive attitude as you apply for scholarships and prepare for your college education. Good luck!

 

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You Know You're an Actor When...

You Know You’re An Actor When…

Actors are an incredibly diverse group of people, but because we love to act, we actually have a lot in common! Whether you’re working in theater or film, you probably have more than one of these funny quirks and habits…

You have headshots everywhere.

If your acting career is important to you, you know that having headshots that accurately reflect what you currently look like is mandatory. Did you get a haircut? Time for new headshots!

You are a master of the quick change.

You can get in and out of costume in ten seconds flat, and you’re probably not shy about doing it. The show must go on!

You are totally unphased by men in makeup and/or tights.

You’re no stranger to stage makeup and period costumes.

“I can’t, I have rehearsal.”

Is there life after rehearsal? Who knows!

Your brain is mostly lines and lyrics…

…and if you hear your cue, you’re not shy about busting out your lines in any situation. This goes double for musical theater actors and singers!

While watching a movie or a play, you can’t stop imagining yourself as the lead.

You could totally nail that part!

People think you’re talking to yourself…

…but really you’re just practicing lines. It might sound intense sometimes, but that’s only because you throw yourself into character every chance you get. Anyone interested in acting careers should know that they require lots of practice and memorization.

You spend hours practicing faces in the mirror.

Your facial expression game is on point! You can go from happy to sad to angry on command.

You’re no stranger to a little bit of stage fright.

You still get nervous sometimes at auditions and certain performances, but you’ve learned how to soothe your nerves and keep stage fright at bay. When it counts, you’re cool, calm, and in control.

You cope with rejection like a pro.

No matter who you are, you’ve been told you are too young, too old, too blonde, not blonde enough, or just not right for the role for all kinds of reasons. But you’re okay with it because you know there are other parts out there that will be perfect for you.

And finally, when you are a part of a great cast, your castmates become your family.

You love your fellow actors and you’re so grateful for the experience you get from working together! You’ll treasure the memories of the productions you work on now for many, many years to come.

 

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Introduction to Voice Acting: Books & Resources to Check Out

Tips On To Get Into Voice ActingWhen it comes to the performing arts, voice acting attracts some of the most fiercely dedicated enthusiasts, despite the relative anonymity compared to acting on stage or on screen. In the old days, radio dramas were the most common inspiration for aspiring voice actors. Today, it’s animation.

The key component of voice acting, even more than secrecy and seclusion, is versatility. An in-demand voice actor may be called upon to provide the pipes for a cartoon rabbit in a kid’s show on Friday, a grizzled space marine in a video game on Saturday, and an overly-enthusiastic customer in a cheesy radio ad for a used car dealership on Sunday.

If jumping between mediums, moods, and characters appeals to you as an actor, then voice acting is a good fit. But how do you get started in such an isolated industry? Below are some voice acting books, documentaries, and resources to start with as you research the industry, learn how to record yourself, and understand how to take care of your voice.

Introduction to the Business

If you’re a fan who knows next to nothing about the world of voice acting, I Know That Voice is the best place to start. In this trailer for the documentary, you can see the names and faces behind some of the most famous animated characters.

Delve deeper into the world by reading Harlan Hogan’s essential text, VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor. Like the subtitle suggests, it combines memoir with instruction. For a greater focus on the business aspect, you have a few options for voice acting books. How to Start and Build a Six-Figure Voice Over Business is a by-the-numbers introduction that reads less like a book and more like a transcript of a slightly repetitive talk. There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is and The Art of Voice Acting cover similar ground, with all serving as great primers. Flip through them at a bookstore (or check out the “Look Inside” previews on Amazon) and decide for yourself which author’s writing style appeals to you more.

Set Up Your Home Studio

In reading the extensive bios of the above authors, did you notice that all of them have experience on the other side of the studio glass as recorders and engineers? The ability to record yourself and others has gone from a “leg up” sort of skill to a must-have! Recording demo tapes (as they’re still called, despite having been on disc and online for well over a decade) and audio auditions are a key part of any VO artist’s career plan. Fortunately for you, this no longer requires costly studio rentals.

If you have a computer or laptop, you have the foundation of a perfectly adequate home studio. There are extensive resources online for building a studio on any budget. RecordingRevolution.com, for example, is a great place to start for any home recording, although it focuses mostly on music. The host, Graham Cochrane, also has a ton of videos on his YouTube channel where he focuses on the basics of recording.

For something completely focused on voice acting and in a form you can take to the beach, the Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home and On the Road is one of the best books available.

Taking Care of Your Voice

All of this theoretical and technical knowledge is for naught if your voice is weak and can’t handle marathon sessions in the studio. Voice acting can be even harder on your body than singing because you may be expected to move between SpongeBob and Darth Vader at the drop of a hat. You need to be able to add gravel to your voice as a character or make it velvety smooth as an announcer.

Despite being marketed mainly toward singers, The Voice Book (which includes a CD) and Raise Your Voice are two useful voice acting books about treating yourself like an athlete who needs proper exercise, conditioning, and protection.

Helping You Succeed in a Lonely World

The best voice acting books, videos, and equipment in the world exist only to capture one thing in voice acting—the human element. Unlike other forms of acting, voiceover work can feel lonely, with almost all performers recorded on a different day (or a different continent!) as opposed to working together.

To really set yourself up for a successful career, working with a dedicated, one-on-one vocal coach or acting teacher can be a huge help. An acting coach can teach you the techniques, as well as help you improve your confidence as a voice artist. This solo instruction replicates almost exactly the day-to-day life of a voice actor, where it’s just you and a director in a studio, working together to create a character with nothing but ink on a page and vibrations on your vocal cords. Good luck, and have fun with it!

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Tips for Parents: How to Help Your Child Prepare for an Audition

how to prepare for an audition

Parents, are your kids heading off to an audition? You play a big role in their success! You’ve probably offered tons of support along the way, but how else can you help your child learn how to prepare for an audition? Read on for some helpful advice from Nashville & online voice teacher Heather E.:

 

Whether it’s for their elementary school or for a college scholarship, your kid is going to be nervous. There aren’t many other times in life when we are as totally and completely vulnerable as during an audition. If you aren’t sure how to support your kids through it, here are some tips for how to prepare for an audition:

Consider All Possibilities
One of the scariest parts of an audition for me is the fact that I don’t know what to expect. Will it be one judge, or five? Will there be an accompanist? Will we be in a classroom-type room or an auditorium? Will they ask me any questions, or will I just sing and leave?…. and so on. You can see how out of control this could become. So, talk about it with your child. Ask them how they will adapt to different situations, and talk through different possibilities. This will help them feel more confident, no matter what gets thrown at them.

Have a Routine
They should do the same thing every time before they go on stage for an audition. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with nervousness, or start to have the wrong attitude (like, ‘lets just get this over with!’) and then regret it once you finish the audition. If your child has a routine to get them focused and in the right mindset as they prepare for an audition, I’m certain it will be better. I have a phrase that I say to myself (in my head!) right before I start to sing at an audition. It helps calm me and remind me that this is my shot and I need to be in the moment, doing my best.

Practice Together!
It seems obvious to say it, but I’ll say it anyway: practice with your kid whenever you can. They may get annoyed with you, but when they get to that audition and they know their piece backwards and forwards, they will be grateful. A teacher or judge can always tell if you’ve been singing the song for weeks, or if you tried to cram it in the last few days or hours. Kids have a natural confidence when they are sure they know what they are doing, and the judges will see it for sure.

Be Overprepared
Your accompanist lost the music? No problem, you’ve got an extra.
Your accompanist forgot her piano? No problem, you have a pitchpipe.
Your son decided to use his shirt as a napkin for his Cheeto fingers? No problem, you have a change of clothes for him.
You get my drift, be prepared.

And one more thing, parents. Sometimes it gets overlooked in the moment, but your kid needs to know that you love them, no matter what. I have seen way too many parents berating their kids after a concert where their child made a mistake. You are their cheerleader! Your kids desperately want to please you, and fear is not a good motivator. Even if they forget the words, or come in at the wrong time, or even barf all over the stage. You love them, and your love isn’t based on their performance. It’s unconditional.

HeatherHeather teaches voice lessons Nashville, TN, as well as online. She has a BA in Music from Winthrop University and specializes in classical voice and audition prep. Learn more about Heather here!

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