May 072010
Authors: College Avenue staff writer Elizabeth Cornish

“Making it big” is the dream of many theatre majors –– but how realistic is this dream in a world of thousands of others hoping to reach the same goal?

For some, getting onto Broadway may be quick and easy, but, for the majority of actors and actresses, “living the dream” is a long, tiring process.

“It’s like rolling dice,” said Walt Jones, professor and co-director of the Division of Theatre and Dance at CSU. “It has less to do with talent and more to do with luck.”

The Broadway audition process, Jones said, has a number of levels that make it very difficult for the inexperienced actor to get chosen. “They try to cast actors with a track record, so that rules out anybody new ,” Jones said “ … unless they have star potential.”

Assistant casting directors trawl through sheaves of pages of actors sent in by agents and make the initial casting decisions based on looks and track history. This is then passed on to the casting director who narrows the decision down further.

There is also a casting call, more commonly known as a “cattle call” by those in the business, open to anyone who is not represented by an agent. In general, Jones said, the show has already been cast before the casting call, making it even more unlikely that an unknown actor will be cast.

“It’s all about how to mingle; about connections,” said Judd Farner, a 22-year-old senior theatre performance major.

Networking is essential in the theatre industry, as it opens doors to various opportunities that would otherwise remain closed. Graduate schools make it easier for students to make the connections that will help them succeed, Jones said.

There are other ways of making it onto Broadway, such as through stage management or as a technician. Having a particular skill is especially valuable as it enables theatre graduates to get jobs backstage while working their way onto the stage. In some cases these jobs lead to their success.

“You can hear a lot more about acting and make more connections by working back stage,” said Corey Seymour, professor of Stage Management and Stagecraft at CSU. “You hear about auditions and meet people in the area you want to work in, giving you better opportunities.”

Nevertheless, a career in theatre is unpredictable, hard work and often requires the sacrifice of a normal social life and a comfortable style of living.

“You have to want it genuinely … It takes a certain type of person to deal with the reality,” said Farner, who plans to move to Chicago following graduation to live the dream.

To make it on Broadway, Jones said that actors move to New York and perform in as many roles in as many theatres as possible to build up a track record. They also have to promote themselves effectively to get noticed. Even then it’s largely based on luck.

“Work really hard, take it really seriously, try and find every opportunity available to make connections, be passionate and never give up – it’s not going to be easy,” Seymour said.

_College Avenue staff writer Elizabeth Cornish can be reached at

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