School is coming to an end…where do I go from here?

I came to Baker knowing three things:

  • I wanted to be a name, not a number.
  • I wanted to be involved in the things I wanted, and be able to do it all.
  • I wanted to be pushed in my abilities as a student of the theatre to improve my career prospects.

Sometimes I think students who go to school so blissfully ignorant of their future and what they want to do, but go just because it’s a great school, have it easy. Who cares that you have absolutely no idea what you are supposed to do with your life just a few years away?! You have two whole years to figure it out before you need to declare a major. But for those of us who always had an inkling of where they’d be when they received that university diploma, picking schools can kind of, well, stink.

As I approach this next week, I am faced with memories of myself four years ago when I was trying to make my college selection. I have been involved in the theatre since I was 4. It’s one activity that I’ve always moved others things around to make sure I could accommodate. My senior year I honestly had no idea what I would major in, but I knew I would be involved with the school’s theatre department. Well, that’s a starter for a college pro/con list. *Must have theatre department*

In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be a famous actress. But let’s face it, unless you are born with a really cool name, or have parents who can afford to send you to all the right places from the time you’re two days old, it’s a tough business to break into, and it doesn’t tend to pay much in the beginning. But it was a dream of mine. And If I couldn’t be famous nationally, maybe I could make a name for myself at the school.

In Colorado, as in many other states, there is a state-wide thespian conference in the winter. I attended this for three years while I was in high school and every year I saw my dream come closer. As a senior at the conference in Colorado, you have an opportunity to audition for theatre scholarships from about 50 schools from across the nation that send representatives out. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Here were all of these schools, some I’ve never heard of, willing to potentially see something in myself I didn’t.

Luckily, one of the six schools that called me back to talk money was Baker. Not only had I heard great things of the school from people at my church who are alumnae, but Baker’s gifted, talented, and personal recruitment officers knew exactly what someone wanting to follow their dream needs to hear.

“At a small school like Baker, you really get an opportunity to learn hands on, and in the field.”

There are many stereotypes of theatre departments in schools.

  • At a big school, you won’t even get looked at until you’re an upperclassman. It’s just a popularity contest.
  • Small schools are never heard of once a student graduates.
  • It’s all just a big clique; it doesn’t matter where you go.
  • Theatre students aren’t like athletes. There is no “award” to work to.

Are these stereotypes true? It’s hard to say, really. I’m sure they are somewhere but what I knew I would get out of Baker, was an education that really mattered, and an opportunity to attend the Kennedy Center American Collegiate Theatre Festival (KCACTF) every year I was here. This festival, like the state thespian conferences, is an opportunity for college kids to attend workshops for continued skill learning, audition for theatre companies looking for actors and technicians during the summer or year-round, and for students to compete in the Irene Ryan Scholarship auditions.

For those of you who don’t know, Irene Ryan was the actress who played the loveable Granny from the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show. Now, through the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, there is a scholarship competition for collegiate thespians to compete in. But it’s a difficult competition to break into as each state is split into a region of the US, each region has thousands of schools, and each school can only send up to four nominees each winter to the regional competition. That’s right…nominees. Personally, I look at the “Irene Ryan Nominee” that now sits permanently on my theatre resume as an equivalent to a ‘Tony’ or a ‘Golden Globe’ for college students.

To receive a nomination is a huge honor, and a goal easier achievable by attending a small school like Baker. This is because we have faculty who still “practice what they preach” to say the least. Over the last four years I have grown in my abilities because I have been able to attend class with a brilliant auditioning coach, and then watch her performance in a professional show in Kansas City. Because of the skills I learned from her, I was able to have a solid audition for summer work at KCACTF two years ago and work as a professional actress, stage manager, and props design. I gained knowledge in light design and stage management from two professors at Baker who continually work outside of Baker in their craft, and have spent the last few months preparing for my competition in the Irene Ryan rounds by working with another brilliant, friendly professor who knows what he’s talking about, but is able to pass it onto his students while still directing at other venues and doing voiceover work on his own.

If you’ve been reading up to this point and have no idea what you were supposed to get out of it: here’s the cliff notes. 1. At Baker, you are a name.  2. If you’re interested in going to a school that will take your dream and push you to achieve it, Baker is that school. 3. If you want to learn from faculty who is on top of their game and has continuing real world experience (not just in theatre) Baker IS THAT SCHOOL. And 4: For those of you who are theatre students and don’t know what you’ll do when you graduate without your Thespian club, Baker offers Alpha Phi Omega (the National Theatre Honor Fraternity) and attends the KCACTF regional festival yearly.

KCACTF Region V is January 16-22 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I will travel there with my scene partner for the competition, the other Ryan Nominees and their partners, as well as a few other Baker Theatre Students. This is the first year I am fully attending a conference, and so for those of you who think this may be something you can look forward to, I’ll be posting daily with updates on how myself and the other nominees are doing in the competition, what exciting workshops we have attended, shows we have seen, and where we plan on going from there.


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