Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

School & Community Theater

ACTING FOR THE LOVE OF IT

Students: If you go to a K-12 school in America you’ll be lucky to have a theater program, even luckier to have an actual stage at your school and luckiest of all if you have a competent and dedicated acting teacher running it. Sadly, theater and the arts in education are not a priority in this country. I could go on about this aspect of the unfolding tragedy of American Education, but I won’t. The important thing is for you to take advantage of what opportunity that is available. Happily, you have lots of options, many of which cost you only time and gas money.

If you want to get art and theater into your life you will have to actively lobby for it. You can’t wait for it to come to you! You gotta step out and go for it or it will never happen. If you can get involved in theater at your school, go for it. Anything from plays, musicals to choirs and talent shows can be a great first step for someone curious about acting. See where it leads.

If there is nothing happening at your school, many towns have some kind of community theater you might check into. This will be run by stage enthusiasts who pour their hearts and souls into making shows for no money. Keeping such operations up and running financially is a perpetual challenge, as is keeping the cast together and rehearsing. Rehearsing a show probably takes a few hours a night rehearsing for maybe a couple months, which is a lot of time away from family and work, again for no money. This form of theater may operate with some assistance of city money, but they still must make enough box office to pay for the theater space. 

A city might have a civic theater that may even be associated with a local college or university or that is otherwise at least partially city-financed that you can get involved with. This can be a great way to get exposure to more experienced performers and see what it’s all like without the cost of paying for a workshop or classes. 

I have great fondness for school and community theater, as those involved are in it for the love of cooperative creativity and the stage. One can find artists of great skill and dedication in this realm who have much to teach. There is something pure and beautiful about local theater and I feel we frankly could use a lot more of this kind of thing in a country increasingly obsessed with superficial fame and the heartless extraction of wealth rather than focusing on the collaborative creativity that makes our world a better, more human place.

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Side note: The bane of this kind of amateur theater is the “theater critic.” I take a dim view of these types because they often stifle or destroy what they presume to criticize. These appointed “experts” are invested with a disproportionate amount of life-or-death power over the local theater arts scene, which often hangs on by a financial thread. The fate of a show’s run or even an entire theater company can rest in the opinion one such critic. My advice? Ignore the reviews and critics and just keep doing your best. 

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© Dee Bradley Baker 2017
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