Saturday, May 11, 2013

In Regards To Cornish and Theater School

So I've had a few people ask me about my experience with going to school for theater and even specifically my time at Cornish College of the Arts and if the financial blow was ultimately worth my time there.

The TLDR Version, I suppose would be: 

Am I under a mountain of crushing debt? Absolutely.

Would I trade that for the four years I spent at Cornish? Not a chance.

But there's more to it so if you'd like to keep reading, I'll explain myself.

In regards to acting school in general... I have some very conflicted feelings on this to be honest.

I would say that if you are determined to go to college for theater (rather than individual classes or workshops), make sure it's one that gives you a degree. People will try to tell you that a Bachelor in Fine Arts is useless, but actors have something that a lot of people go to ten million classes for and still have trouble mastering.

We can talk to people.

Even if we don't like talking to people, we're trained to be able to put on a face and be charming and warm and inviting, even if we'd rather run from the room. People skills are paramount in both our world and theirs and that will be something you can use to market yourself for the dreaded day job etc etc.

Because at least when you start out, there will need to be day jobs. And that's okay. There is no shame in needing a day job to support your acting (or really any artistic) habit.

Regarding Cornish specifically?

Cornish was simultaneously the best and worst four years of my life. Half of the time I felt horribly depressed and worthless and the other half I was too tired and buried in work to bother belittling myself. We did 16 hour days at school and I probably took a few years off my life from the absolute lack of sleep I struggled through. It absolutely dismantled me.

But I'd do it again.

Not because I'm a masochist (though there may be some credit in that theory) but because it completely changed me as a person. I was already broken when I went to school, and what I went through there picked me apart piece by piece so I could more or less rebuild.

Cornish taught me to accept failures without excuses and to learn from them rather than be discouraged. It taught me how flawed we are as people and that it's not only okay but it's beautiful and interesting and "Perfect" could not be more boring.

No one wants to see perfect. I cannot stress that enough.

Now mind you I also did go through 4 years of hell and at the end come to the realization I prefer storytelling to acting (not that I don't love acting, it's just not the root of my passion) but then you have to remember most people go through half their life before realizing they aren't doing what they really want. And I was lucky that my time in theater actually helped give me a new perspective to my writing. So that all kind of luckily worked out for me.

This may not be the case for you, so before skipping off to theater school (dum dee dum) I would very strongly suggest you consider the "what next" after college. No, really. I don't want to sound like your parents here, but you need to seriously think what that lifestyle will ask of you and if it's something you want to do.

What happens after? Are you going to LA? New York? Are you ready to spend every free time between day jobs going to auditions? Is making this thing you love the thing you depend on to make your living going to sour your opinion of it? Important things to think about.

I will tell you, however, if you do decide to go the college route, look at the cost realistically. Out of anything I wish someone would have sat me down and worked out a realistic loan program and maybe have said "You may want to look at a less expensive institution."

Am I glad they didn't? Every day. But at the same time, until I got my footing and while my family was undergoing some financial crisis, I have never been so tortured by the idea of, "Will I be able to make my next payment". I'm staring down $120,000+ in student loan debt. I pay roughly $1,800 a month. That's like a house payment. So please don't think that I mean any of that lightly. It is worth serious consideration.

And on that note, don't let yourself ever be convinced that you can't get something from anywhere but the most expensive institutions. You'd be shocked what you can learn even from individual community college classes.

If you would prefer something like an acting coach, I would encourage you to take workshops and seminars--not one on one. One on one is great for things like fine-tuning audition pieces, but for everything else you want that group experience. You will learn just as much from the actors sharing your class as you will your teacher and possibly more. That socialization is important.

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