Is It Too Late To Apply for Drama School?

Is It Too Late To Apply for Drama School?

Our official application advice here at Stagepunch is “always apply early.” There are several advantages to this. For one, you probably have a higher chance of getting the audition or interview slot of your choice. As one of the earlier applicants, you will also be competing for more (and bigger) scholarships. We feel so strongly about this topic we included a section about it in the Stagepunch Guidebook (Pro and VIP members can access that specific scene HERE.) But let’s get real, the reason you have come to our blog asking the question “is it too late to apply for drama school?” is probably not to be lectured on why you should have already applied.

What if you missed the deadline for your dream school without meaning to? 
Something unforeseen could have happened, keeping your mind occupied somewhere else until it was too late. Maybe you were too selective with your applications and didn’t end up with the callbacks or offers you were hoping for. Or you had another set of plans that fell through.

Whatever the case, you are finding yourself at a crossroads. So what options are you left with? You could wait for the next round of applications to open. Take a gap year, travel, work and save up some money. You could even attend a shorter course in the meantime. I recommend checking out The New York Teen Shakespeare Intensive Online. Waiting a year is a more than valid option. You will gain experiences and maturity that can only help you on your artistic journey. But if you feel like now is the right time, our advice is, GO FOR IT!

Keep on Rolling

Several schools operate with rolling admissions. This means you can apply at pretty much any time of the year and (if you are accepted) begin your studies in the next upcoming semester. If you’re looking to start in the fall, you can often apply for these programs all the way into August. In the US, you will typically find that larger (often public) universities operate with rolling admissions. For performing arts degrees, you are more likely to find BA programs offering rolling admissions. BFA programs often have several rounds of auditions, requiring earlier deadlines. 

Pro tip: Most performing arts departments operate with their own separate deadlines. If you are looking at programs requiring an audition, the school’s official application deadline might be after the final audition date or video submission deadline. Make sure to read up on the fine print before applying. You don’t want to pay the application fee, only to find out you won’t be able to audition.

A Global Perspective

Another thing you could consider is studying abroad as an international student. Some countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, actually begin their school year at the same time as the calendar year (it kind of makes sense, if you think about it.) This means their applications open around the same time they are closing in places like the US and the UK. Studying abroad is a great way to learn more about a new culture while growing both artistically and personally. There are great performing arts colleges located all over the world, and most of them have long and proud histories of welcoming international students. Head over to the Programs Database and use the filter option to see our selection of international programs that might be the right fit for you.

Pro tip: You might not believe it, but it can actually end up being cheaper to study abroad. Many countries operate with set fees meaning the universities can’t decide their own tuition. Some countries even offer free education to everyone, including international students.

The Secret Deadlines of UCAS

If you are based in the UK (or interested in studying there as an international student,) you’re probably familiar with UCAS. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is the system used to apply for almost all higher education in the United Kingdom. The regular application deadline is typically set in the last week of January. What you might not know is that this is not the definitive deadline; there are two additional rounds to consider. 

First, we have the final deadline, where late applications can be submitted through the end of June. UCAS suggests contacting the school(s) you want to apply for in advance to see if they have any vacancies. Drama schools and performing arts programs are highly competitive. After the official deadline, the major players won’t have any available spots left. But with a bit of digging and determination, you should be able to find drama schools and universities still accepting applications.

But what if you didn’t make the final June deadline? Or you did, but didn’t receive any offers? Enter UCAS Clearing (stage left.) Clearing is where UK universities and colleges can post courses with available places they want to fill. UCAS keeps an updated list of vacancies during all of clearing (July 5 through October 18.) They still recommend you reach out to the school and request an informal offer before adding them to your clearing application.

A Few Final Thoughts

So, is it too late to apply for drama school? The short answer is no!

Sure, you might not be able to go to your dream school this year. But it is not too late to get accepted into a program that could end up being just as good (or even better) for your personal artistic journey. Things have a funny way of working out in the end. Don’t beat yourself up over the circumstances you find yourself in. A few of us here at Stagepunch missed deadlines too (Chat with us anytime, we are happy to talk about it!) 

You can’t change what has already happened. Instead, let that frustration fuel and inspire the rest of your application process. Wherever you end up going, know that Stagepunch believes in you. You’ve got this!


Jonas Kobberdal

Jonas is the Content King at Stagepunch. He leads the research team, writes blog posts, and one time even got PUNCHED in the face for the good cause. Jonas is an actor and artist originally from Norway, currently a world traveler, and a New Yorker at heart. After getting rid of his remaining hair, he now spends most of his spare time channeling his inner Bruce Willis. Having studied for an acting degree himself, Jonas knows the many joys the right program can bring your life. He is passionate about supporting young artists who are chasing their dreams!

Come to Your Senses – Part 3

This is the third and final part of a three-piece blog series by Mari Lyn Henry. CLICK HERE to go to the beginning.

Curiosity: The Seventh Sense

Curiosity drives our development when we are allowed to explore and discover. We need all of our senses, especially a sense of humor.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors or doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

Walt Disney

Curiosity is in our DNA, manifested in our imagination, the instinct to find solutions to problems, investigate, explore, be adventurous, take risks, make choices, ask questions, discover new ways to build a better mousetrap, find the ancient remains in the pyramids, climb the highest mountain, and dig deep for the indomitable human spirit that feeds our creative achievements.

Shakespeare used most of his mental and spiritual and creative powers evidenced by the breadth of his knowledge in all fields. He was a man of all the senses!

Unearthly shadowy apparitions, witches and black magic are in his tragedies and comedies. Hamlet’s father appears to him after death to avenge his murder. Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost; the Thane of Cawdor says “Is this a Dagger I see before me?” Consumed by guilt, he imagines the dagger with which he will kill the King and take the crown as his own. The witches predict his death.

Hamlet’s most thought-provoking question in the history of monologues is open to multiple interpretations. “To Be or Not To Be”. To live or not to live, to die or not to die, to exist in the afterlife? Six words that have been analyzed by great minds for centuries. All of them curious to know the real meaning.    

I wish to share with you an excerpt from Maurice Morgann’s Essays on Shakespeare. He lived in the 19th century and was a renowned scholar who wrote: “The language of the heart explains the working of the brain… We preserve the true Shakespearean meaning through the eye of the soul before we see it through the eye of the mind. His creations are the ‘true and perfect images of life indeed.’”

The Bard of Avon was not an exceptional student; he went to school and learned the classical languages, mythology, great philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, Plautus, Aristophanes. He was a botanist, a composer, a playwright, an actor, a theatre producer. He loved music; it helped him underscore a theme, alter or sustain a mood, herald the entrance of important persons, or create an atmosphere at a dance or banquet. He used instrumental music in his stage directions.

No one knows if he was a gardener but he studied flowers, plants, herbs from classical medieval herbal manuals. He knew about pruning, the forests, and landscaping. His botanical knowledge is evidenced in the roses in Romeo and Juliet and the lilies in The Winter’s Tale. He used the power of plants to evoke emotion and help tell his stories. The most notable example is the symbolism in Ophelia’s speech when she presents the bouquet to Gertrude. “There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance…”

He was also interested in old proverbs and customs. One, in particular, is cited in Much Ado About Nothing:

Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

A proverb from the 1600s stated “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for three he stays.“ – Cats can live more than one life.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio advised Benedick to have “Courage, though CARE has killed a cat, thou hast enough mettle to kill CARE.” Care meant worry or sorrow.

Curiosity did not kill the cat; it made the cat more curious.

What will pique your curiosity? Mine was piqued when I researched the popular sentiment about our eyes referred to as the “windows of the soul”. I thought for sure it was from Shakespeare’s sonnets, poems, plays? I was wrong. With a teaspoon of research, it appears we must give credit to Cicero, the famed orator and Roman philosopher who said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” A biblical reference from Matthew revealed that “the eye is the lamp of the body.”

If you wish to create a character as a living, breathing, feeling, human being you have to go beyond the external clues or just settle for face value. Beauty is only skin deep. The lens you use to go beyond the obvious surface needs all of the senses working together.  

The Seventh Sense is not a figment of our imagination. It is real and we have it in us without knowing it. When you are using all of the resources available to you, nothing can be hidden from the past, the present or the future.   

Tap into your seventh sense and ASK the universe a question. When you receive the answer as your own thought with clarity, the doubt is removed.

“Acting for me has always been an organic process that is absorbing my character’s reality allowing her to saturate the cells and fibers of my being.”

Cicely Tyson on preparation for Sounder

When Cicely Tyson was cast for the role of Rebecca in the film Sounder, the director had her in mind for a lesser role.

Her preparation for the part was a total immersion. In her words:

 “From the opening line, she crawled under my skin. I could see her, feel her, touch her… she was a part I could have played in my sleep, a character of substance, beneath a placid exterior lived a quiet complexity. I knew who this woman was… It was a challenge to do her justice. I was terrified to take the role, a sign that I should. Once I allowed Rebecca’s essence to dislodge my own, she began manifesting in my gestures… I had inhabited Rebecca in such a way that her voice could finally be heard.”

Always be curious. Listen to your inner voice. Embrace your psychic ability. Be unique. Be Memorable. Be Confident. Be proud. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible”. Enjoy the discovery and the challenge.


Mari Lyn Henry

MARI LYN HENRY, author, teacher, actor and theatre historian founded the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History to reacquaint today’s actors with the great actresses and visionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SocietyPTH.com

Her workshops on on-camera techniques, script analysis, auditioning and impression management have been very successful in cities and universities across the country. CAREER INTELLIGENCE Seminars about “The Business of the Business” are based on her best-selling book How To Be A Working ActorHowtobeaworkingactor.com

Come to Your Senses – Part 2

This is the second part of a three-piece blog series by Mari Lyn Henry. To get to the beginning, CLICK HERE

The Sixth Sense

Scientists and psychologists have discovered a sixth sense which is also known as the ‘third eye’ or the mind’s eye. An extra information channel by which you or I can connect with the past or predict the future.

Through research, we can discover a psychic connection to the roles we play on stage and study the history of their cultural lifetimes: the painters, composers and authors from different time periods.

 The casting directors I have met need a sixth sense to find the best actor for the roles in a play or a film or TV series.

Mari Lyn Henry

An audition may depend on the photo(s) you send to their office or online. They may agree that your eyes in the picture communicate a quality and personality which they feel could be right for the role. If they contact you, be prepared to find as much material about the role as you can.

For example:

You are auditioning for the role of Anne with an E which takes place on Prince Edward’s Island in the early 20th century. Anne has an overactive imagination, a poetic connection to life around her. And she is very smart.. an old soul. Have you read the books? Have you looked up the location? Have you found her likes, dislikes, the depth of the relationship with her foster parents and have you explored her past in an abusive orphanage? If you can relate to her life and courage, her tenacity and sense of self, you will impress them with your intelligence, professionalism and energy. Go deep!

Sometimes in our dreams, we find the keys to the doors of inspiration. There is an inner voice giving us clues. Psychics believe in getting messages from people who have died. The great Houdini was convinced about life beyond the grave and seances were held in his home. While he could perform physical feats that were jaw-dropping, spiritualists were unable to conjure his deceased relations.

However, over the centuries there have been ghostly apparitions or ‘sightings’ immortalized in films like Ghostbusters, The Haunting, Casper, The Canterville Ghost, Poltergeist, The Shining, The Changeling, Ghost (Whoopi Goldberg played the psychic). It is in The Sixth Sense that Cole Sears (played by Haley Joel Osment) tells Bruce Willis, the psychologist, that he sees ghosts moving who are not aware they are dead. The psychologist advises him to find a purpose for his gift.

Does our imagination play tricks on our ability to detect the presence of a ghost? During stressful times, perhaps an illness, our sixth sense might be activated. Recently I read the journal of a teacher who claimed that when he was in rehabilitation after a life-threatening operation, he saw a shadowy figure at the end of his bed and heard her whispering that she would be with him until he was fully recovered. He later realized that the woman was his grandmother who had died.

He wrote in his journal: “I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt that she appeared to me in my room. She was dressed in white and looked angelic. Her appearance reminded me of the Ghost of Christmas Past, visiting Scrooge. She entered through the balcony doors and looked like a younger more regal version of herself. She smiled and told me to come with her. She led me off the balcony and we flew over the water to some faraway place.”

My favorite ghost story would have to be A Christmas Carol. During the season to be jolly, there are at least ten versions of the movie. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are the messengers for the cold non-believer, people-hater Ebeneezer. Old Scrooge had a soul after all.  

Do you believe in ghosts? When you go into a haunted house, do you experience a chill, a strange light, a vibration, hear an eerie sound or screams? Probably not.

But aren’t we curious about what adventures we’ll have if we stay a little longer? Like Alice in her Wonderland, we are always facing a ‘curioser and curioser’ future.

In the third and final part of this blog series, we’ll dive deeper into the sense of curiosity. I’ll see you then.


Mari Lyn Henry

MARI LYN HENRY, author, teacher, actor and theatre historian founded the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History to reacquaint today’s actors with the great actresses and visionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SocietyPTH.com

Her workshops on on-camera techniques, script analysis, auditioning and impression management have been very successful in cities and universities across the country. CAREER INTELLIGENCE Seminars about “The Business of the Business” are based on her best-selling book How To Be A Working ActorHowtobeaworkingactor.com

Come to Your Senses

The Essential Five Senses: Our Birthright

When we are growing up our teachers inform us about the FIVE senses: Vision, Hearing, Taste, Touch and Smell. They define us and are necessary to the choices we make as actors. A sense gives us unique information we can’t get any other way. Imagine that your mind is a gigantic storage locker which will hold an infinite number of observations, memories, impressions, emotions, the scrapbooks and the journals which will always be available to you when you need them.

Let’s use the recent holiday season as a starting point for our exploration. I have taken an inventory of the five basic senses which correspond to sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. When Julie Andrews sang “My Favorite Things” to the children in The Sound of Music not only could we remember the lyrics but relate to her ‘things’. So I have made a list of my own, some of which may also be on yours.

SIGHTS we can tuck away for future use when we are creating a character profile. The Nutcracker ballet at Lincoln Center; the huge decorated tree at 30 Rock, The Rockettes at Radio City. The Empire State Building beaming red and green; The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera, vendors selling Christmas trees and holly branches. Ice skaters. Salvation Army volunteers and Santas ringing bells for donations; decorated brownstones with wreaths and all the colorful lights. Snowmen, tinsel, and the yule logs in the fireplace.

SOUNDS of carolers and church hymns, music boxes, the steaming tea kettles, the crackling fire from the hearth, birdsong, partridges in pear trees, the laughter of children, “Ho Ho Ho” from Santas in shopping malls, Theatres featuring productions of Elf the musical, A Christmas Story and The Grinch, and “Bah Humbug!” from the actors portraying Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, jingle bells, silver bells and sleigh bells.

SMELLS of the season: Scotch Pine trees. Chestnuts roasting, fresh baked cookies and gingerbread. Hot chocolate with marshmallow, mulled cider, cinnamon, cloves, oranges, nutmeg, coffee flavors, oven smells from roast turkey and baking pies (pumpkin, apple, mince) scented candles, and fragrances like jasmine, tea rose, gardenia, and vanilla and lavender.

TASTES vary with our taste buds but my favorites include peppermint, egg nog, fruitcake, cranberry salad,  candied yams, Cool Whip on every dessert, chocolate truffles, white chocolate bonbons, crisp bacon and French toast, gingerbread, brownies and licorice caramels.

TOUCH can be a feeling that you get when you use your hands to applaud, to play the piano or the harp, drums, violin, wrap a gift, place the star on top of the tree, respond to the silky, smooth and soft blankets, fleece, flannel, faux fur, velvet and velour; ear muffs, pashminas and knit neck scarves. To apply make-up, wash your hair, cuddle with your pets, and wash and dry the dishes or fold the fresh-smelling laundry. And being able to hug and shake hands in person. We remember every sensation we felt after our first kiss, first prom, first car, first award.

Spice Theory: A Third Dimension

“Variety is the Spice of Life”. Use them to conjure a connection for the characters. I asked some students, “If you were a spice what would it be?” Answers included pepper, oregano, cayenne, curry, mustard, dill, bay leaf, basil, mint, rosemary and thyme. SAGE was my response. I like the color green, the delicate fragrance, and the word connotes wisdom.

Several years ago I interviewed Hilary B. Smith, a soap star and acting coach. She offered this advice. “Develop a character from the script and life experience as a recipe for a cake. Go into your spice cabinet which is YOU. The spices are either good or bad. Learn how to improve them. If you find a recipe that calls for a spice you may not have, mix a couple of spices with some you have to get the same flavor. Understand your strengths and your weaknesses and your passion. Own the best recipe for your needs. You may need to work more on your spices. Always keep taking an inventory to change, evolve and grow.”

“Memory is the power to gather roses in winter.”

In “My Favorite Things”, Maria recalls the joy she felt remembering and connecting with the best things in life. There is no price tag for snowflakes or the raindrops pitter-pattering on the leaves, or being cast in a Nativity play, or the moment when you knew your true calling was in the performance arts.

When the teenaged Luisa sings “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” in The Fantasticks she feels love for the first time. That experience is so special that she wants to ‘hug herself till her arms turn blue”..and shut her eyes and “cry and cry” and taste her tears”. Her senses are on fire. I might add here that crying and crying reminds me of Alice’s (in Wonderland) tears which became a drowning pool.

Emily’s poignant speech from heaven in Our Town is an ode to her home in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. “Goodbye to clocks ticking, mother’s sunflowers, food, coffee and freshly pressed dresses and hot baths. And sleeping and waking up…”

The final line always leaves me on the verge of my own tears. Perhaps ‘welling up’ is more to the point.

“Oh Earth you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you!”

The wonder that Emily feels when she says “Just for a moment now we’re all together; Just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another. It goes so fast.” And Luisa’s premonition about “the leaves, the wind, and the smell of the velvet rain’ indicate an awareness of a wisdom beyond their years, a purity of instinct’. We never can forget the ‘child’ within us.

A great Polish theatre and film director once wrote: “There is no great actor without a soul. Long hard work, a lot of time and experience and the complete possession of all the five senses in various situations.”

When the brilliant Cicely Tyson prepared to play Carrie Watts in Trip To Bountiful, she wrote in her autobiography Just as I am. “I made plans to visit Texas to sink into the research. I approach every role as if it will be my only one. I’ve got to experience the smells, the tastes, the feeling of where Mrs. Watts lived. How can you project a character, if you don’t know where she’s from?”

The development of faith in your imagination and the power of emotional memory and curiosity will be explored in Part Two.


Mari Lyn Henry

MARI LYN HENRY, author, teacher, actor and theatre historian founded the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History to reacquaint today’s actors with the great actresses and visionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SocietyPTH.com

Her workshops on on-camera techniques, script analysis, auditioning and impression management have been very successful in cities and universities across the country. CAREER INTELLIGENCE Seminars about “The Business of the Business” are based on her best-selling book How To Be A Working ActorHowtobeaworkingactor.com

Revisiting the Witches – Part 2

THIS BLOG WAS RELEASED IN TWO PARTS
TO GET TO THE BEGINNING, CLICK HERE

From a plot and literary perspective, the cultural miasma surrounding witchcraft in Elizabethan England is somewhat negligible. We don’t need to be afraid of the witches to understand their place in the story as supernatural agents of evil. However, the weight of their appearance is lost on modern audiences. Imagine the appearance of witches on that stage in 1606, opening the play. These three witches are not just creepy characters to the audience. They are horrors – abominations, the things that go bump in the night. However, unlike the horror movie monsters of the modern era, these creatures were indisputably real. I wish I could give a modern parallel, but there isn’t one. We don’t have anything that is simultaneously unknown and terrifying while at the same time considered completely real. 

So how could we bring the impact of witches into the modern era? Let us say you were directing Macbeth in 2021. What choices could you make in order to translate not only the witches but their historical context to your audience? Many productions have tried different strategies. The one that immediately comes to mind is Orson Welles’ famous “Voodoo Macbeth,” which featured an all-Black cast and swapped medieval witchcraft for, as the name suggests, voodoo. This was in 1936, which, while not exactly recent, is far closer to the present than Macbeth’s original incarnation. The success of this play is likely due, in part at least, to its substitution of witches, which provided the interwar audience with a far more germane fear (although that fear was likely reliant on xenophobia and misconceptions about a different culture, which is problematic in its own right). Despite the relatively small amount of time since this production and the present, this approach would likely fail to strike the same chord today. The combination of increased knowledge about other cultures and general distaste for blatant xenophobia would likely sour a voodoo adaptation of the witches. While the fear of medieval witches was based in part on the fear of “the other,” witchcraft was not seen as a foreign phenomenon. It was distinctly alien but certainly was not regulated to any other culture. Even when Voodoo Macbeth would have been most effective, its portrayal of the witches would still be accidental to their original effect. 

More modern productions have attempted other methods. In the Macbeth episode of ShakespeaRe-Told, a 2005 BBC mini-series that recontextualized Shakespeare plays (although without the original language), James McAvoy portrays Joe Macbeth, a sous chef at an upscale restaurant who kills the restaurant’s owner, celebrity chef Duncan Docherty. The witches in this adaptation are garbage collectors. I find this adaptation to hit the mark in some ways. Sure, garbage collectors are not the scions of evil that witches would have been seen as, but this version of the witches does some things right. ShakespeaRe-Told’s Macbeth develops the idea that the witches know the dirt on everyone (as binmen would). There’s an element of knowingness to these witches, and their profession helps reinforce the idea that they know more than they let on at any given time, which is disturbing in its own way.

Leaning more towards the horror spectrum, Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth (2010), directed by Rupert Goold, features the most ostensibly creepy witches I’ve seen. As in many productions of Macbeth, the witches are featured heavily in the background of various scenes, being a constant presence. However, they are introduced and most often presented as a trio of nurses. While it can come off as a little “haunted house-y,” these witches are undoubtedly creepy. The production evokes a distinctly unnatural feeling, with sterile lighting, bloody plastic hangings, and implications of something supernatural. As Macbeth speaks to the witches, a cadaver wrapped in a body bag begins spasming. In another scene, the witches construct a kind of effigy of Macbeth with an overcoat, IV stand, and blood bag. This production probably does the best of any modern production to bring the abject horror of the witches to the modern audience, drawing on allusions and invocations of horror movie tropes and imagery to deliver something unsettling. However, when viewed alongside the original reception of the witches, one can see a clear delineation. While the witches were terrifying, unnatural, and unknown, they were also considered a reality. Creepy supernatural nurses, while unsettling, don’t pack the same punch.

At the end of the day, it seems almost impossible to replicate the same type of emotional impact that the original witches would have had with a modern audience. That may be too defeatist, but it is undeniable that the witches pose a unique challenge to anyone looking to portray the witches today. Despite that challenge, any actor playing one of the witches, or really any character in Macbeth, should be aware of the historical context around witchcraft. Macbeth is not Shakespeare’s cursed play by chance. Its subject matter is steeped in mystery and magic. If you are looking to perform a monologue or scene from Macbeth, it might be helpful to reflect on the environment in which the play was written and initially performed. How could one approach “Is this a dagger…” or “Out damned spot” differently when considering the role of the supernatural in the events of the story. When Lady Macbeth says, “hell is murky,” is she going mad, or is she actually glimpsing something beyond our world? 

Whatever you do, knowing the historical background of your text can help inform your choices and open up the path to new and exciting discoveries.


Wesley Hayes, Student Ambassador at Stagepunch

Wesley Hayes

Wesley is a Student Ambassador at Stagepunch and a current History Major at Skidmore College with a background in the performing arts. Wesley is also an alumni of the New York Teen Shakespeare Intensive, a summer program run by the team behind Stagepunch.

Interested in becoming a Student Ambassador at Stagepunch? Get paid to write blogs, contribute ideas to make the site even better, and share from your experience through consultations with subscribers. We’d love to hear from you!

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Revisiting the Witches

About a year before William Shakespeare’s birth, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law titled “An Act against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts.” The law stipulated that using witchcraft to “kill or destroy” an individual was punishable by death. This law was a less severe version of one enacted by Elizabeth’s father: the Witchcraft Act, which essentially made witchcraft for any purpose a death sentence for the practitioner. No matter the intensity, the law’s mere existence implies a “regime of truth” about witchcraft in Elizabethan England. Witches were not tools used to scare young children or urban legends believed by a select few. For the Elizabethans, witchcraft was a real and dangerous threat, to the extent that multiple English monarchs felt the need to enact legislation targeting witchcraft. 

It can be hard in the modern era to wrap our heads around this. We exist in an environment where lots of information, especially information we take for granted, is verifiable with a staggering level of redundancy. Everything from genes to political systems is codified and generally understood, and while we don’t go through the work ourselves, there is an established trust in the truths of our lives. Witchcraft, at least in the way that Elizabethans pictured it, would not take hold as a popular belief today. After all, when we have video evidence, photos, articles, and accounts delivered in milliseconds over vast distances, it becomes more difficult for “the unknown” to dominate our imagination and fears.

But if you take a step back and imagine life in Elizabethan England, witchcraft’s solidification into the zeitgeist becomes far clearer. There are two main reasons why witchcraft (and indeed many other fictional concepts like sea monsters and men with faces on their chests) came to be considered fact. The first is the complete lack of information available to the average person in Elizabethan England. One generally had to take what they were given in terms of information about the unknown. Stories and concepts turned into a grotesque game of telephone as people relayed their experiences to others. Circumstances and fine detail became lost. This is how a description of a cotton plant by an Elizabethan explorer was later illustrated as a plant that sprouted live sheep, which was then taken as fact. The second reason is far simpler: life in the Renaissance was hard. While it was a scientific and humanistic revolution, the benefits were mostly conferred on wealthy men. For most of the population, uncertainty, hunger, disease, and death still dominated. With so much strife, it may have been easier to believe in the existence of the supernatural, especially if you could blame your failed crops on demonic intervention. 

Whatever the combinations of reasons, witches were real for Elizabethans; no if’s, and’s or but’s. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes Western Society at the time as one that “believed in the reality of witches as much as modern society believes in the reality of molecules.” Not only did they believe in witches, but they were also terrified of them. Witches came to be personifications of all things evil, unnatural, and unknown, and when your “unknown” encompasses most of the world, that can be frightening; frightening enough that practicing witchcraft was outlawed by England’s rulers. It was even seen to be worse than other “natural” crimes, like murder or theft. James I, Elizabeth’s successor, argued for the allowance of a child witness in the trial of the Pendle Witches, something that was not normally allowed. He also wrote, “children, women, and liars can be witnesses over high treason against God.” There is a whole article’s worth of sexism to unpack here, but I’ll have to move on for now. The quote at its core shows that witchcraft was at a different echelon than other crimes, and Elizabethans seemed willing to do anything to punish it.

Around 1606 (only a few years after James I enacted his new, harsher anti-witch law), Macbeth is first performed at the Globe Theatre in London. Macbeth features three witches prominently. The show opens with their conversation. They serve as the main instigators of the story’s conflict and are also seen performing rituals and communing with Hecate (the Greek goddess of magic). While Macbeth is often portrayed as a flawed protagonist – a war hero who descends into madness and ravages his morals for the sake of power, the witches are more of a force than distinct characters. They represent chaos, unrest, and destruction.

READY FOR PART 2?
CLICK HERE


Wesley Hayes, Student Ambassador at Stagepunch

Wesley Hayes

Wesley is a Student Ambassador at Stagepunch and a current History Major at Skidmore College with a background in the performing arts. Wesley is also an alumni of the New York Teen Shakespeare Intensive, a summer program run by the team behind Stagepunch.

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Becoming an Actor

Becoming an Actor

Dear Actors,

During my 40 years in the industry I have met, auditioned and cast thousands of actors, some who have become major stars and others who chose related careers in the business.

The most important part of any career is preparation which I equate with intelligence, investigation, research, having a plan and most importantly, believing in your talent. Then you can tackle the reality that is necessary for achieving your goals.

Like you, I wanted to act from the age of 10. For me there was no other choice. The love of performing in front of a live audience took precedence over dating, geometry assignments, zoology lab, and other extracurricular social activities.

One of my grammar school teachers cast me in a short skit in which I could wear my mother’s clothes and heels (ouch). From then on I was ‘hooked.  I even had the ego to cast myself as St. Patrick in a short play about him which I also directed. I couldn’t find a seventh-grade boy who was up to the challenge (haha). I wore my dad’s trousers with a belt to hold them up, a hat and ashes for a beard.  Supportive parents understood my passion and a flair for dramatic expression (some call it histrionics) and schoolmates dubbed me Sarah Heartburn. 

After I left high school I found my community when I majored in speech and drama at San Jose State University, four wonderful years of learning how to project vocally on a stage, interpret the text of plays from Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Moliere, to the works of Ibsen and Chekhov. I always loved the rehearsals, director’s notes, final dress rehearsals, opening nights and the adrenaline rush from an audience’s applause.

Always remember that you are a part of a magnificent ‘tribe’ of storytellers, chapter and verse. Do you recall when you decided to become an actor and why? For me it began with that connection I felt in the fifth grade.  Asking students to answer the questions I posed resulted in the following replies:

For Eddie Redmayne, Oscar Winner, Theory of Everything: At age 11, “It felt close to something real. The addiction to acting is about finding moments in truth.”

The moments of truth ARE worth pursuing. The characters you will play, the plays you will enjoy, the community that welcomes and supports you.   The days when you have to be reminded that you are pursuing your dream can seem endless. But there is always an idea, a story, an inspiring performance that leaves you breathless which reconnects you to the when and the why. How precious are the times when you get on the stage and know you were meant to perform. You are home. The audience is with you. They are engaged. They will respond to your creativity, your joy in sharing the story and with applause for a memorable performance.

When actor Jeff Goldblum was 10, he went to a summer camp with a drama program.  He got a leading role which made him decide that he was ‘hooked’. He could not hide his love of acting in his junior and senior years in high school.  Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand was 14 when her English teacher had her class read Macbeth out loud. She got cast as Lady Macbeth doing the sleepwalking scene.  In her words: “I found myself alone on stage. It was the power of the words, the silence, sensing the adults were quiet and attentive.  Magical!

These amazing actors also developed technique and the preparation for production from education and training. The actors’ unique path to empowerment, survival and success depends on the never ending need for continuing coaching, classes and learning new skills.  

I had the privilege in graduate school to be on the same stage with the First Lady of the American Theatre—Helen Hayes. Helen’ s career began at age 5.  And when her mother took her to see a show,  she wouldn’t leave her seat but yelled I don’t want to leave the theatre. And she never did!  “Talent,” she said, “is an instinct for understanding the human heart.”

I would suggest that you find a quote that inspires you every day. Mine is from Goethe. 

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

I would also suggest that you reflect on the Aha moment you said  

I want to be an actor.

Until next time…


Mari Lyn Henry

MARI LYN HENRY, author, teacher, actor and theatre historian founded the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History to reacquaint today’s actors with the great actresses and visionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SocietyPTH.com

Her workshops on on-camera techniques, script analysis, auditioning and impression management have been very successful in cities and universities across the country. CAREER INTELLIGENCE Seminars about “The Business of the Business” are based on her best-selling book How To Be A Working ActorHowtobeaworkingactor.com

The New (Ab)Normal

School is back, baby! You’ve got your binders. Your planner. Your mask! Yes, it’s a strange year. Heck, strange years at this point. And while we all wish we could put this pandemic behind us, it’s still present in so many aspects of our lives. That includes schools. And while we do hope (and BELIEVE) we’ll be back to normal before the end of this school year, we think seeing how colleges and universities are handling this moment could be useful. The future is always uncertain and–while we can pray we won’t see something like COVID-19 again for a loooong time–there’s always the chance a different event will require similar reactions from government and school officials. So let’s take a look at just a few examples of how schools are reacting to the “new normal.”

The measures taken by schools around the country reflect the variation we’ve seen state-by-state throughout the pandemic. Take Juilliard, for example. Considering New York City has been actively establishing mandates, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Juilliard is requiring vaccination for its community. As is the case with most vaccination requirements, there are allowances for exemptions and secondary protocol for regular testing. If we jump all the way over to CalArts in California we’ll see similar measures. Like Juilliard, CalArts is requiring vaccination for all of its community. Both are also mandating masks in all campus buildings, with some exceptions for special circumstances. Again, not surprising when you consider the manner in which California leaders, and officials in Los Angeles county specifically (where CalArts is located), have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now let’s scoot on over to Texas State University. TSU may fly somewhat under the radar for many of us, but their Musical Theatre BFA program has seen some strong success in recent years. Texas’ state government has outlawed vaccine and mask mandates altogether. No organization or institution is allowed to require proof of vaccination, or to mandate mask wearing. TSU is doing what it can by saying, in their official releases, that they “strongly urge” students, faculty, and staff to get the vaccine and wear masks. Texas is a bit of a special case in this regard: No other state has actually legislated against protective measures. 

Let’s stay south but head back to the east. Considering applying to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro? UNCG is a school with a very respectable BA program and a growing BFA track as well. UNCG, like TSU, exists outside of a major metropolitan area in a fairly conservative state. But UNCG requires vaccination or at least periodic testing. Auburn University (which also has BA and BFA tracks) is another school in a mid-sized area within a conservative state. Auburn has gone for the middle route: they are encouraging vaccination while not requiring it. But they are requiring masks for anyone inside a campus building.

And last, but certainly not least let’s hop across the pond and look at schools abroad in the UK. In Glasgow, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland isn’t mandating vaccines, but they are requiring masks in all RCS buildings. Early strict guidelines have been somewhat relaxed–they no longer officially require social-distancing–but they still have several measures in place to protect students’ safety, such as suggestions for ventilation in classrooms and restrictions that allow only RCS faculty, staff, and students at performances. If you look at larger schools with drama programs you’re likely to see more strict guidelines. Edinburgh College has stated that it plans on transitioning to in-person classes after starting virtual, but there’s not a lot of information beyond that. Things look slightly less cautious in two schools further south. Both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and King’s College London are back to in person learning. Neither school is requiring vaccination but differ in their mask requirements. RADA is mandating masks on all of their grounds while King’s College only “recommends” masks in their buildings if the individual is not “exempt” (because of vaccination or other immunity). The UK might differ in overall approach compared to the US, but the internal differences are just as varied.

This is just a quick look at a few overall approaches. We encourage you to do some research on your own. You want to feel safe at the school you choose, and only you know what that means. Again, you can hope this will all be over by the time you’re entering college, but you can’t be sure. And how schools and states react this time around are fairly good predictors for how they’ll handle similar crises in the future. So be informed. If you have questions or just want to talk through your concerns, consider checking out our Wellness Wednesday on the Events page. This is a free weekly session (for Pro members) with our Mental Health Mentor, Magen Huntley.


Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Lessons Learned at Drama School: US Edition

As you transition from the world of High School Theater to Collegiate Intensives, Conservatories, and College Performance Programs, some things stay the same… Your hopes and dreams to grace the Broadway stage or the big screen will remain intact, but you’ll also begin to notice some major changes. All those times your high school teachers said, “It won’t be like this in college!” well, they were correct. Training at a collegiate level can be an exceptionally worthwhile experience, but it can also be incredibly grueling and push you to your limits. For this blog, I’ve interviewed a series of students and recent graduates who attended drama school in the US. The goal is to highlight some of their most important lessons and give you a few ways to prepare for the experience yourself.

Go with your gut

The first major decision a student has to make when transitioning into a drama school in the US is where they want to go in the first place. Which degree are you looking for? What is your ideal location? What kind of programs are you interested in? All of these are essential considerations when making that final decision. What is less helpful are the opinions of others regarding the program you feel passionate about. Don’t get caught up in the statistics or the rankings you see online. Yes, a reputable program may have lots to offer, but you can thrive anywhere you feel supported and at home. Go with your gut because it may become the most important factor in making sure you’re happy wherever you end up.

Pro tip: Try our programs quiz to discover what could be your new dream school. You can also use the programs database to explore our extensive list of drama schools in the US and start narrowing down your options.

Preparation is key

Not all students are provided the resources to get involved in theater early in their lives. As someone fortunate enough to find the love of acting in elementary school and chase my dream to a performing arts high school, I felt secure in my acting foundation when arriving at university. When interviewing these students, I discovered this was not a universal experience. Arriving at a drama school in the US without a wide range of experience in performance or the theater world can certainly be discouraging, but don’t let that deter you from embracing the conversations happening around you! Instead, soak it all in. Write it all down. Then be a part of the next conversation. You can’t be held responsible for your past experience, but you are in control of where you go from here, so take charge!

It’s not a competition

The audition process for drama school in the US can feel quite competitive, but what you might not know is that it doesn’t end there. Sure, some programs foster a competitive environment that pits you against your peers, but in looking back at my interviews, I realized that people mainly felt “in competition” with themselves. Throughout the years, you will often look your shortcomings in the eye. You’ll walk out of an audition room beating yourself up, feeling like you have no control over your career, but this is not the case at all. A friend of mine told me, “You’d be surprised to realize how many things you are in charge of in the audition room.” I think this is true for all rooms. Instead of beating yourself up, you can think of each performance as a learning opportunity for the next. Don’t become your own worst enemy.

You better work

The most exciting part of beginning the college experience away from home is the freedom and autonomy that comes with it. But, what can be the most enjoyable part of college can quickly become one of the easiest pitfalls for students. Holding yourself accountable for your work and growth throughout your time is vital to your progress, especially in that first year. Nobody else is going to do it. Your parents aren’t around to hover over your development. You are becoming an adult who must rely on yourself to do well, not just in school but in life. Don’t shy away from that responsibility. Do the work because you will see it pay off.

Protect your body and mind

Although I emphasized the importance of working your hardest throughout your years in the program, acknowledging your limitations and setting your own boundaries is just as important. There will be times when you are doing great, and the work will feel easy, but there will also be times when you are pushed towards your emotional breaking point, inside and outside of the classroom. That is when it is most important to prioritize your personal needs. Do what you need to feel safe in your space, in your classroom, and with yourself.

The gift of wisdom

The experiences we go through and the hardships we face are fundamental to the people we become by the end of our time in college. Even though we cannot nor should not want to erase any of this experience, it is easy to look back at our past selves and know what we would have done differently. I asked those interviewed what gift of wisdom they would share with their past self if they could.

Some answers were what you’d expect… Let go of your ego, go to classes and do your homework, write more down, listen more than you speak, but nearly everyone mentioned they’d like to embrace their imperfections, to let go of the voice telling them they had to do everything right and just allow the work they were putting in to carry them through. Imperfections are what make each and every performer different. Programs that focus on creating distinctive artists instead of archetypes will embrace those imperfections with you instead of trying to suppress them.

We are the world

This year has, without a doubt, been an unprecedented time in the performing arts industry and the world as a whole, between the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the acts of accountability in the Broadway community. The final question I asked my peers was how this has affected their creative work both inside and outside of the classroom. This time was different for everyone, and that was reflected in the answers I received. Many just felt thankful for their health and the opportunity to go forward, changing the world with art. It is easy to take things for granted when you are surrounded by a world full of art.

Still, this past year, while performance has been scarce, we can be grateful for each and every potential opportunity. Many have taken this period of retribution to assess the importance of change-making in the industry, doing something when you see injustice happening. There is a feeling that we should be taking part in the projects we consider important and tell stories worth telling. We can only hope that we carry these major lessons into the future as we return to “life as we know it.” The changes we are seeing should only be the beginning of what a new generation of artists will define!


Gabbie Pisapia

Hi, my name is Gabbie Pisapia! I’m a New York-based actor, singer, and songwriter. After an eventful childhood full of singing and dancing, I continued my theater education in Manhattan, attending the Professional Performing Arts High School as a drama major. In my senior year, I made the decision to continue that theater education moving from PPAS to PPA at Pace University, working to receive my BFA in Acting. https://www.gabbiepisapia.com/

Audition Monologues

Choosing Your Audition Monologues

Choosing audition monologues for your programs of choice is, of course, an incredibly important part of the application process. Most of the time you’ll have just a few minutes with the auditors to demonstrate who you are as an actor. It’s a daunting task. So let’s get the obvious out of the way: monologues are tough. Talking alone on stage for 90 seconds? To no one?! You’re not alone if your first reaction is “AAAHHH!” But we don’t think it has to be scary. It can be fun. Actually, it should be fun.

One of the main reasons the monologue process becomes so un-fun is because if you ask too many people for their advice, you end up getting a lot of different conflicting rules. You should be careful about who you listen to. That’s why we’re doing the research to offer you the best advice we can. This is the first in a long series of blogs that will deal with audition monologues, and we’re going to start with someone who is very qualified to offer advice: a repeat auditor for professional training programs named:

Robyn Hunt

Robyn Hunt has credentials. She has taught at two MFA programs: the University of Washington and the University of South Carolina. She also has acted extensively, written plays, founded theatre companies, and trained with world-renowned Japanese theatre artist Tadashi Suzuki for over a decade. And yes, she’s seen countless audition monologues performed. So we asked her for her thoughts and highlighted what we think will help you the most as you prepare. Let’s jump in.

The most important feelings about a piece are yours

It takes a lot of work to get a monologue performance-ready, so why suffer through it? If your hair stands up on end when you first discover the piece, then Robyn Hunt thinks you’re headed in the right direction. “If the actor wants the process to be nourishing in some way,” she says, then they should “LOVE the piece itself and be capable of relishing the chance to perform it, under any circumstances.” How wonderful to think the experience could nourish you! Remember, the auditors want to see your passion and joy. Looking for promising artists means looking for people who love what they do. So love your audition monologue. Or I should say, love your audition monologueS. Which brings us to the next point.

Have several pieces ready

We all know that most auditions ask for two audition monologues, but that doesn’t mean that you should only have two prepared. It’s common for an auditor to ask if you have something else you could show, and Hunt says that the answer to that question should always be “yes.” In her opinion, “actors should allow enough time to have three, preferably four or five, good pieces.” So it’s important to keep in mind that finding a good piece isn’t just skimming through a play, locating a chunk of text, and saying ‘that will do.’ Take the time to do some deep play reading and consideration. Start your search early. 

Be wary of extreme emotions

Yes, the moments of extreme emotions in a play can feel really great in performance. But is choosing a piece in which a character “breaks down” the best choice for the stressful environment of an audition room? Probably not. Hunt cautions against emotional “cranking”–putting yourself in a situation where you have to manufacture a big moment. It can be the death of a good audition. You want to set yourself up for success, not stress about whether or not you can find the ‘right’ emotional state when the clock is ticking. In Hunt’s experience, a piece that makes the actor “use the words to build a case to convince the listener” is more than enough to capture the auditors. Remember, acting is doing.

Choose something that fits you

Hunt echoes the oft-repeated advice that the character you choose should match your identity in regards to age (within reason), ethnicity, and gender identity. She goes on to state more specifically that “there should be no appropriation of the struggles and difficulties BIPOC characters have endured, unless the actor has a right, from experience/inheritance, to embody those issues”, Even if the monologue doesn’t feel like it really confronts those issues directly, you’re best to steer clear. You don’t want the auditors to be distracted by the question, “Does this actor know they don’t fit this character?” Remove any barriers that could distract from a great performance.

It’s about the listener

This may seem obvious, but it deserves some space here. Your monologue is about the listener. And no, we don’t mean the auditors. We mean the character you are talking to. Hunt reminds us that the judgment of a good audition is the same as the judgment of a good onstage performance: “Can the actor, in the moment of performance, connect with someone else, make that other [person] real, and the situation matter, and use the words and the ideas to cause something to happen in the other person?” Hunt can still tell the story of a young actress who did just this at the URTAs in New York. She captured the attention of everyone in the room, and ended up receiving offers from fourteen different programs.

That’s it for now. We’ll keep engaging this question with people who know their stuff. And we’d love to hear from you! Have thoughts about what makes a good audition? Have questions about what makes a good monologue? Feel free to reach out to us! Shoot us an email! We’d love to hear from you and help answer any questions about this process.

Robyn Hunt’s bio:

A member of Actor’s Equity, Hunt has acted professionally in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. She worked for over a decade with Tadashi Suzuki, performed in Tokyo and Kanazawa in OPIUM, a joint Pacific Performance Project/Theatre Group TAO production under the direction of Kenji Suzuki, studied and performed in Kyoto under the direction of Shogo Ohta, and between 1994 and 2000 performed frequently at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, under the direction of Jon Jory. Hunt was co-founder and first artistic director of the San Diego Public Theatre and co-heads the Pacific Performance Project/East now based in Columbia, S.C. and E. Sandwich, Massachusetts. In 2001, she received a University of Washington Distinguished Teacher award. In 2013, she was named one of five new Carolina Distinguished Professor endowments.

Acting roles include: Dottie in NOISES OFF, the title role in MOTHER COURAGE (Connecticut, Seattle and Columbia), Ranevskaya in GRAVITY (Seattle Playhouse, and the Connelly Theatre, NYC) and in THE CHERRY ORCHARD SEQUEL at LaMama, Serafina in THE SUICIDE, Titania in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, and multiple roles in BLACK SNOW. Hunt performed in the New York debut of Peter Kyle Dance as Miss Haversham in “To What Extent” at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Arts Center in fall 2007; in 2000, she appeared in another Kyle dance, “Going.”

She has created several evening length dance/theatre pieces, including the trilogy SUITE FOR STRANGERS, which had its Seattle debut in 2004. Other dance/theatre collaborations (with Peter Kyle and Steven Pearson) include: MYRA’S WAR, PRIX FIXE, and Shogo Ohta’s THE WATER STATION (MIZU NO EKI). She wrote FLIGHT, which toured in 2014 to Edwardsville, Illinois, Flint, Michigan and to Bangor, Maine. She appears in the January, 2008 article “Shaping the Independent Actor,” in AMERICAN THEATRE magazine; in winter 2012 GIA READER, “”An Artist Examines the Intersection of Creating and Teaching,” and in THEATRE Forum, fall 2000, in two articles on OPIUM. She performed at DNA in New York in Nancy Bannon’s THE POD PROJECT in 2009, and later as Cherish in Bannon’s DRINKING INK at the 92 Street Y in New York. She most recently appeared as Alisse in FLIGHT.


Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender-neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Let’s Talk About College Essays

Whenever someone asks us when they should get started on their application journey, we always give the same answer: Now – The sooner (is absolutely) the better. This goes for writing your college essays as well. Getting on top of the application game early can give you a massive confidence boost throughout this stressful process. Another bonus is that it will free up ample time for you to prepare for the high-stakes moments like your audition or interview.

But do I really have to spend my summer writing essays?

We are in no way suggesting that you should start writing your college application essay yet, quite the opposite. You’ve just completed a whole year of school and have earned a break from writing. However, this is the perfect time to start cooking up some essay ideas! We often hear from students that the most challenging part of the college essays process is figuring out where to begin. Getting a head start will alleviate a lot of that anxiety.

Pro tip: We have included a full Application Timeline in the Stagepunch Guidebook. The scene gives you an overview of the entire year leading up to the start of your college experience.

Successful examples

When I was writing my college essays, I found it helpful to look up a few successful examples that people had shared online. I don’t think it’s smart to base too much of your essay on the work of others – after all, your essay should be about your personal experiences – but reading other essays gave me a feel for what was possible. How much I could play within the genre, and how to stand out from the crowd.

Some colleges will actually publish selections of essays from previously accepted students as a guide for potential applicants. It is also a way for them to show off the talent that resides within their campuses. One of these schools is Hamilton College, located in Clinton, NY. We suggest you check out their selection of College Essays That Worked.

Just this past week, the New York Times published their annual collection of college essays. Each year they ask high school seniors to submit application essays on the specific themes of money, work, or social class. This year’s NY Times College Essays Article consists of five essays, and they are all worth the read. (You do have to log in with a NY Times account to access the article, but it is free to create one.) Earlier in the year, the New York Times also published an article with excerpts from college essays on the impact of Covid-19, which was included in several prompts (including Common App.) More than 900 high school seniors submitted their essays, and you can take a look at what some of them wrote HERE.

Essay prompts

To get your creative juices flowing, we have also included a few essay prompts for you. These are intended as jumping-off points for the application essay, and most schools will give you several options to choose from. The prompts below are the current 2021-2022 essay prompts from Common App. Some schools will ask you to answer their own prompts instead, so be sure to check out the websites of your top choices. Soon, Stagepunch will be able to help you keep track of application criteria. You can sign up right HERE to be among the first to learn how to pack that PUNCH! In the meantime, I hope you can find some inspiration from the list below:

Common App:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Pro tip: To go even deeper in your college essays preparation, check out “Act II Scene III – The perfect application essay” in the Stagepunch Guidebook.

Have fun preparing. Remember, you’re chasing your dream and Stagepunch is here to help you reach it!


Jonas Kobberdal

Jonas is the Content King at Stagepunch. He leads the research team, writes blog posts, and one time even got PUNCHED in the face for the good cause. Jonas is an actor and artist originally from Norway, currently a world traveler, and a New Yorker at heart. After getting rid of his remaining hair, he now spends most of his spare time channeling his inner Bruce Willis. Having studied for an acting degree himself, Jonas knows the many joys the right program can bring your life. He is passionate about supporting young artists who are chasing their dreams!

Don’t Let the Heat Slow You Down

Summer is here! And while you should definitely use some of it to relax, it would be silly not to take advantage of the extra time to do at least a little something for your future. So here are a few ideas of ways you can spend your summer vacation to set yourself up for success down the line.

Watch!

The past year has been rough for live theatre, but there is one benefit that comes from it: streaming theatre! All you need is a device connected to the internet and you have digital access to more shows than ever before. Seattle Rep, Playwrights Horizons, and the RSC are just three of the theatrical powerhouses releasing old and/or new content for the digital realm. The folks over at What’s On Stage have helped us out by compiling this handy list.

Train!

Summer is a great time to get some extra training, and there are so many options out there both online and in person. If you live in a city with a professional or amateur theater, chances are they offer summer training. Colleges and universities are another smart place to look, locally or further afield. See if the college you are considering offers any summer training. This can be a great way to get a little preview of the school and investigate whether it might be a good fit for you. And while many of these opportunities will come with tuition or fees, there are almost always scholarships. Never be afraid to ask if there’s financial assistance available. Our New York Teen Shakespeare Summer Intensive is online again this year and it’s not too late to register click HERE for details!

P.S. If you’ve already spent some time training you should also consider seeing if you can work as a teaching assistant at a camp or workshop you’ve already attended. I can tell you from experience that teaching is the best way to truly learn something.

Research!

Summer is a great time to start thinking about what you might be doing after you graduate from high school. The time for applying to colleges will sneak up on you, so get an early start. Here are a few easy things you can do:

  1. Contact a program for more info. – Most theatre departments are going to have brochures and information packets about their programs. Go to the websites of the programs that interest you and find a way to request more information. 
  2. Reach out to people who have gone through programs you’re curious about. – Know someone who’s gone through a BFA program? Reach out to them! Have a teacher who’s sent students to a few different colleges? Ask the teacher if they could put you in touch! Don’t have either of these? Reach out directly to a school and ask if you can talk to a current student or recent graduate! 
  3. See where the jobs are. – Cast a wide net and see where people are working. Go to Backstage.com and scroll through the auditions. Where are the theaters? Where are the film production houses shooting? New York and LA aren’t your only options for building a career, so see if there’s something more attractive out there.
  4. Take full advantage of your Stagepunch Membership and use our quizzes and database to guide your search.

Volunteer!

Is there a local theatre in your area doing summer work? See if they need ushers, ticket takers, interns, whatever! If you can afford to give your time to something, this is a great option for the budding professional theatre artist. It will probably give you the chance to see a show or two and get some insight into how theaters operate. 

Work!
I want to include this, because volunteering can be fraught. Sometimes your financial situation doesn’t support it. There’s no shame in having to sacrifice a good opportunity so that you can make a little cash. And when I say “work!” I don’t just mean in a theater. Just work! Having money saved up before you go off to college is never a bad thing (especially if you end up going to a BFA program). And if your job stops you from training or working in an established venue, then produce yourself! Get some friends together! Write a script! Perform outside! Most theatre artists will produce their own work at some point, so why not start now?

These are just a few ideas, but there are so many ways to spend your summer that can help you prepare for the future. My last piece of advice: Don’t let it overwhelm you. Bite off only what you can chew. An hour a week researching college programs is better than no hours a week. Find the options that make you excited. And if it scares you a little, chances are you’re headed in the right direction.


Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Theatre Outside the Classroom: UK Edition

University in the UK is not merely about gaining an academic degree; it’s about gaining life experience and nurturing your passions! It is one of the most exciting places to pick up or continue your involvement in theatre. I went to Edinburgh University and I was surrounded by a vibrant student theatre scene, the Edinburgh Fringe and a network of young creative people, many of whom, like myself, have chosen to pursue a career in theatre. I am grateful for the experiences and life lessons I gained from being a part of student theatre, so, I decided to interview some of my peers from Edinburgh and other UK universities to inspire and encourage our readers to get involved in the theatre scene at their current or prospective future universities.

I asked my interviewees about the top lessons they learned from being a part of theatre societies. In no particular order below, I have listed my favourite points raised by current students and recent graduates of UK universities.  

Prioritize Your Time

‘As an actor, you learn to establish your character early on in the process. Our student drama calendar (pre-COVID) moves quickly, so you have to find ways to access your character quickly as you might only have a four-week-long rehearsal process’ – Anna, Edinburgh University.

‘Don’t procrastinate until the last minute. Starting early by doing small bits is infinitely more useful and way better for your mental health’ – Harry, Edinburgh University.

Think Outside the Box

‘Try new things. I came to university as an actor and singer, but I got involved in other aspects like producing, directing and being a committee member. And it was so much fun! Producing and being the president/secretary especially taught me so many new skills that are relevant even if you don’t go on to a theatre job later. My current drama school loved the fact that I wasn’t just an actress and knew it would see me in good stead further on in my career, as these days being proactive is crucial if you want to make theatre. I’d really recommend getting involved in a production capacity’ – Georgie, Edinburgh University

‘Rigging/Stage Electrics/Lighting Skills. I arrived at uni convinced I was going to be a musical theatre actor, but after a couple of terrible auditions, I gave up on that and fell into tech almost by accident. I had zero experience at that point but have spent the last three years learning as much as I can’ – Emma, Edinburgh University.

‘There are so many different acting styles and mediums to explore. Some you will love and be great at, some not as much. It’s important to be versatile, but it’s not the end of the world if your voice isn’t good enough to perform in a stage musical as that’s only one acting medium’ – Sarah, Bristol University.

‘At Oxford you get a lot of responsibility, so I learnt the basics for how to put on a play from start to finish. i.e., the process of pitching to a theatre/for funding, making a budget, explaining artistic intentions etc.’ – Alex, Oxford University.

Face Your Fears

‘I think rejection and learning to deal with rejection is such an important skill to learn whilst doing university theatre, it builds up resilience for the future when you take that step into the theatre industry after uni. The theatre community at university acts as a microcosm of the theatre industry so you sort of have a trial run of the audition and rejection process’ – Maya, Edinburgh University.

‘You may not always be the best at everything but you’re the best at something. I can’t sing, so I would get so nervy in singing rehearsals – but I found it’s so important to remember that I was cast for a reason. Believe in yourself!’ – Charlie, Exeter University.

Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this piece or any personal experiences of theatre societies at university in the UK you’d like to share! We’d love to keep the conversation going!


Izzy Parriss

Izzy is a producer and director. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 2020 where she directed, produced and stage-managed multiple plays and operas alongside running Candlewasters, a new writing theatre company, in her final year. In addition to being the producing intern for Yonder Window, Izzy produces and directs for the Bomb Factory Theatre, which is an emerging women-led theatre company based in North London. She also produces theatre independently and has worked freelance for a number of theatre companies such as Wessex Grove and the Birmingham Rep.

To BFA or not to BFA?

To BFA or not to BFA?

Should you commit to highly specified training at the expense of a liberal arts education? Are you better suited to a good BA program, knowing that you can continue your training post-college in professional studios or by studying for an MFA? How do you decide whether a BA or BFA program is best for you? Truth is, that’s not a question we can answer in a single blog post. It’s not a simple equation where we can add up your must-haves, subtract your must-nots and end up with a clear sum. This is a big question that we’re planning on approaching from a bunch of different angles for a long time. So what can we do for now? We can offer a personal experience

My BFA journey

I have a BFA. I’m very proud of the work I did to get this degree. But sometimes I regret not going to a more generalized BA program. This perspective is shaped by so many things: the particular conservatory program I attended, my artistic philosophy, the work I wanted to create, how my vision of the work I want to create has shifted since graduating, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This is why there’s no simple answer: artists and their needs are unique. So let me tell you a bit more about my personal experience.

I attended the conservatory program at Rutgers University to study acting. When I attended, the training was grounded in Meisner technique (and still is), but I also took classes in Michael Chekhov, Clown, a few different movement techniques, stage combat, devising, on-camera work, and spent an entire year in London studying approaches to acting Shakespeare and more. It was an amazing four years. Almost everything was laser-focused on acting, but since I’ve graduated I’ve also worked as a sound designer, composer, director, and producer. I never considered taking on these roles during my college years, but they’ve since brought me so much joy. I might have discovered that earlier–and been able to train in them -if I had attended a program that wasn’t so singularly focused on acting. 

Looking back

Though my acting training gave me a lot of tools, I’ve since come to think Meisner was not the best foundation for me. But I couldn’t have known that then. Nor could I have known the value of the liberal arts education I was giving up. It might sound cliche, but theatre touches on ALL of the human experience and it’s impossible to overstate how often your work will touch on history, science, philosophy, religion, literature and more. Some BFA programs recognize that importance, but some will train you like a technician who only needs a specific set of skills. You’re an artist, not just a technician. And we need artists who can think big, ask big questions, and take big risks. I encourage you to look for the programs (BA or BFA) that want to train those artists.

While part of me wishes I had chosen a BA program, I’m also extremely grateful for my BFA experience. However, I wish I had done the in-depth research that would have helped me understand the options I had. I knew I loved highly physical training, and I wish I had prioritized that more when looking at schools. In a highly competitive field, it’s easy to feel like you’re lucky to have any program accept you. But your school search should start with what you want from your training. There is not one objectively “best” school. Different artists need different things.

Choosing a program for YOU

So here we are at the end of this post and if you were hoping I would switch courses and come through with some nice, clear-cut wisdom you’re going to be disappointed. What I do want to end with is a reminder that I have to give myself repeatedly: YOUR CAREER IS NOT A SPRINT. It’s so easy to feel as though we have to find our success early and fast or we’re never going to find it. THAT IS A LIE. But it’s a powerful lie that can push us to choose our college program based on the desire to break into that professional market ASAP.

You need to choose a program FOR YOU. For the artist YOU want to be. One of the definitions for success in this field is simply longevity–good artistic training helps you develop an artistic core that will let you run marathons. So if you want the time to explore other interests the way a BA program would allow, then good for you! If you want a highly focused education in one specific area of study from a BFA program, then go for it! I’ve worked with a ton of amazing artists from both backgrounds. You can be outstanding in both. And we’re going to use this blog to keep exploring this question so you can make an informed decision. So stick with us. We got your back.


Tim Giles

Tim Giles is a theatre artist who likes to make work capitalizing on risk, coming together, and a little chaos. He also makes music, bakes a mean loaf of bread, and runs around outside a lot. As a Southerner, he thinks everyone needs to recognize the beauty of one of the best words ever invented: y’all. It’s gender-neutral! If y’all start to incorporate “y’all” into y’all’s everyday vocabulary, y’all’ll quickly understand its usefulness.

Lessons Learned at Drama School: UK Edition

Drama School in the UK offers a number of different types of courses from acting to stage management, multiple design disciplines, musical theatre and more; it is a vibrant and exciting place that is sometimes a little overwhelming. It can be hard to know whether drama school is the right path for you and what to expect from the experience once you get there. I decided to give our readers an insight into what it’s really like to study at a drama school in the UK by interviewing a selection of final-year acting students and recent graduates. I asked my interviewees what their ultimate drama school takeaways were. Below I have listed, in no particular order, the real-life lessons they learned and the top tips they have for the aspiring actors following in their footsteps. 

Imagination is key!

‘Your imagination is the most wonderful and unique tool you have as an actor – use it! At drama school, you are given the opportunity to play characters you might never get to play in real life. It is such a fantastic way to stretch your imagination and transform yourself into characters that feel very far removed from you and will end up being a massive help in your work even with characters that feel close to you. The chance to make bold and brave choices is an exciting one, so make them!’ – Anushka, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama


Always be true to yourself!

‘The most important lesson I learned at drama school in the UK was to BE MYSELF. I spent so much time trying to emulate others in my year or other actors that I loved on TV. As soon as I stopped trying to be someone else and started reacting in the moment, that’s when I started to do my best work. There is only one you. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone else’ – Emily, Royal Welsh

Read between the lines

‘Subtext. I love thinking as the character. What did he do this morning? What’s on his mind during the scene? How might his feelings about the other person evolve as he listens to them? I think it’s useful to wonder generally about these things without being rigid. Exact thoughts can’t be controlled or conjured’ – Zachary, Guildhall

Find balance

‘I think the top lesson I’ve taken away would be just to live life. Drama school in the UK is intense and a lot of hard work so it’s easy to be consumed by it and feel like you’ve got no time or energy for anything else. Finding a balance in life is really important. Remember to make time for other things you enjoy, time to relax or time to try new things and see new places’ – Kat, Mountview

‘Having so many creative people around you Monday to Friday can be incredibly exhausting. So many different opinions and personalities flowing through one space can leave you feeling overwhelmed at times and just wanting to be alone. Please take time for yourself. Be yourself’ – Romario, ALRA

Focus on your fellow actors

‘How to read people, I seriously thought that I could be hired as a spy after 1st year, we go deep into Meisner and it was magical’ – Libby, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

‘There is so much to learn from your fellow actors – drama school gives you friends for life because you go through quite a unique experience with each other. In our first week, one teacher told us to look around the room at all the strangers who we would come to know so well and it’s true. Watching them change and grow is the best way to grow yourself and I probably learned more from watching them develop as actors and as people than in any formal class’ – Anna, LAMDA

Do your research, then let it all go! 

‘Importance of doing research, but then letting it go. When I’m playing a character, I research and imagine as much as I can about them. I will fill notebooks with ideas and facts and dreams and objectives. Then when I’m actually acting, I let all that fall away and just react in the moment. Because I’ve done the work, I’m reacting as the character instinctively’ – Georgie, Drama Studio

Boundaries!!!

‘Knowing and enforcing my boundaries. Being at drama school has been one of the most challenging and demanding experiences of my life. The highs are high and the lows are low. I’ve really had to learn how to take care of myself and let myself say no when the work becomes too much. At drama school, you can so easily put the work above all else because you are entering into such an intense environment, sometimes you just have to take a step back and remember exactly why you are here and what you need to do to protect yourself’ – Laura, Manchester School of Theatre

A little bit goes a long way

‘I learned not to take myself too seriously. Everyone spends so much time worrying about how to hit that specific note, or nail that triple pirouette, but in reality, sometimes the harder you push the harder it gets. I learned, especially vocally, that a little bit a day goes a long way, rather than trying to bash it out until your voice is sore’ – Alice, Royal Academy of Music.


Now it’s your turn! Share your biggest drama school lesson in the comments below! Haven’t been to drama school yet? Tell us which tip from this blog resonated with you the most! Let’s keep the conversation and good advice flowing!


Izzy Parriss

Izzy is a producer and director. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 2020 where she directed, produced and stage-managed multiple plays and operas alongside running Candlewasters, a new writing theatre company, in her final year. In addition to being the producing intern for Yonder Window, Izzy produces and directs for the Bomb Factory Theatre, which is an emerging women-led theatre company based in North London. She also produces theatre independently and has worked freelance for a number of theatre companies such as Wessex Grove and the Birmingham Rep.

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