Say "Cheese": The Importance of Headshots

Over here in The Theatre School, members of the graduating class are focusing on preparing themselves for the professional world. This means securing jobs and internships, preparing portfolios, and for the actors in the house, getting professional headshots.

Headshots
In many of our exit classes (those that help us prepare for the real world), we’ve had many discussions about the importance of good professional headshots. For those who need a little clarification, this is the image of your face that will be stapled to your resume and submitted at every audition, casting call, or agent meeting you have as an actor. But there is more to it than just a pretty picture, or whatever you use as your latest FB profile pic.

There are a few key qualities in a good professional actor headshot:

1. It looks like YOU. This is where we steer away from glamour shots or anything that takes us too far away from the real, everyday you. The picture should look how you look on your best day, and should look how you would appear when you walk into an audition.
2. It tells a STORY. There are plenty of great pictures one could take. You look fabulous, you’re smiling wide, the lighting is great….but what else? What are you saying in this picture? What glimmers of personality are we seeing? Where might I see you in the world I know and the world I am imagining?  It is crucial that your shot not only say “I’m cute” but also says more about you and what you bring to the table. If you are known for your fire, confidence and sass, and can play lots of characters like that – I should see a glimmer of that in your eyes and in what you chose to wear. If you play more of the shy or goofy person, then I should see a bit of that humor behind your eyes as well. It’s about telling people what you want them to know about you before they get to meet you.
3. There is versatility and variety in your shots. Different shots can be used for different things. For instance, on one hand I can play a lot of commanding roles – people who are in charge and know what’s going on, but I can also the shyer, sweeter, offset-of-ingénue type. Now, when I am auditioning for different roles, I want different photos that showcase those qualities. You only need a couple great shots when you are starting out. They should capture the couple sides of your “type”, and when you nail those down, you’ll be able to use your shots for a variety of roles, projects, and companies. Realize that styles are a bit different in each city, so knowing what you need ahead of time and planning is the best way to go.
I recently got my headshots done in preparation for showcase and I can say I am quite pleased! There are a ton of different headshot photographers in Chicago, and each one has a little bit different style, energy, and way of doing things – there is no one way! When choosing a photographer it is important to go with someone whose work you like, and who makes you feel comfortable. You will take your best shots when you feel the most yourself. Everyone prefers a different vibe, so go with your gut. It should be a helpful experience and most importantly FUN.

Lights, Camera, Action

One of the coolest things about the 4th year of the acting program at The Theatre School is the sprinkling of really fun and less common classes. By now we no longer have the same quantity of intense acting technique classes, but have a few different classes that give us a taste for other kinds of techniques. 

One of these classes is an On Camera acting class taken in the winter quarter. This one-quarter course is taken once a week for 3 hours downtown at Acting Studio Chicago. Our teacher, Rachael Patterson from Acting Studio Chicago, guides the class through audition technique and scene preparation for on camera work, helping us all to become more confident in our ability to tackle that aspect of the industry post-grad. 

On Camera
We began the quarter working on commercial copy. Students would receive various pieces of text from different kinds of commercials and work on preparing them for commercial auditions.  From pasta to health insurance we worked on making specific choices to make an impact when you only have a couple sentences, or a couple of words to work with. We then moved on to working on scenes from TV and film, and we learned what it takes to prepare for those. The quarter was topped off with scenes selected from various films and TV shows that we have prepared and will take in to audition for Gray Talent agency​

It has been a really interesting to learn about how the on-camera acting and auditioning works. The main focus during this course has been learning how to bring more of your own unique personality to the work. We’ve also been learning how to simplify your choices, and modify your actions to fit the frame of the medium.  I am appreciative that at this point, after 3 years of working on transformation in acting, we are coming back to ourselves and bringing ourselves to the party. After taking this class I am really looking forward to working on TV and film work in the future and putting these new skills into practice out in the real world! 

Acing the Audition

For many students in their last year of undergrad, in addition to finishing up their studies, and enjoying the last moments of their college experiences, a lot of time and energy is spent planning the next steps. For some this means making connections, learning about possible career paths, securing jobs and internships, making plans for graduate degrees, travel, and more. As I have mentioned before, the 4th year of the acting program makes a lot of moves to prepare graduating students for the professional world of acting. One way to prepare students for the profession, is preparing them for the real job of an actor - auditioning. 

For actors, auditioning is the way to get in the door, get in the room, and get a job in the world of professional theatre. This is a time for you to make an impression with casting directors, directors, producers, and the creative team of a project, or particular theatre. It is of extreme importance to make the most out of your auditions, those few minutes in the room make a big impact on those watching. For those watching, ideally, they get to meet you and get a sense of who you are, see your work, and find out if you might be right for their project or season. 

Auditions
Additionally, it doesn’t always matter if you book the specific role you are auditioning for. What I mean by this is that sometimes those watching may not find you a perfect fit for the project at hand, but if they like your work, and you as a person, they are likely to call you back in the future or recommend you for other projects. You really never know what they can lead to in the future. This is the reason why it is important to work on getting confident and comfortable with auditioning. The best way to do this is through practice, and luckily the 4th year of the acting program gives you the chance to do just that. 

In the BFA performance program, students take multiple quarters of audition classes, to learn how to prepare, practice coming into the room, and presenting material. Over this fall quarter, 4th year students participated in an audition class that took the practice to the next level, by inviting guests to come watch. This class met once a week, for 2.5 hours every Friday. The first few weeks of class were spent searching for monologues that fit your “type” or personality well, and rapid fire working them to presentation readiness. Other classes focused on cold-reading scenes, presenting scenes without much preparation or information. Many times when auditioning for a role, you will be sent ‘sides’, or short scenes to prepare to bring in. The goal is to come in with strong choices, even under a time crunch. Later in the quarter, guests were invited to come in and watch our auditions and give feedback. Professionals from various theatres around Chicago, including Timeline Theatre, Writers Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre​, and more, watched us all perform our monologues and gave their honest feedback to help up reach our best potential. Then they sat down with us and spoke with us about the industry, auditioning in the future, and shared some tips and stories about their experiences working in Chicago theatre, and more. This was extremely informative and it was helpful to get an outside perspective on our work so far, and get some really helpful advice moving forward. This is a great way for us to learn, but also to make connections with professionals in the city, that we may be auditioning for in the future. Classes like this make me look forward to getting more experience and practice over the next quarter, and then taking on the real world! 

The Kid Who Ran for President

The Theatre School mainstage season has officially begun with this week’s opening of the Chicago Playworks production, The Kid Who Ran for President.  The Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences series is a wonderful DePaul tradition.

These shows are fully produced each quarter just as our other mainstage productions, with a team of dedicated student actors, dramaturgs, designers and technicians for the lighting, set, sound and costumes, and often headed by a faculty director. These shows take place downtown at the historic Merle Reskin Theatre, now a venue specifically used for these children’s shows.  The stories told on this stage are often adaptations of well-known books for kids, or spins on popular characters and important figures, creating a mixture of classic and new material. Chicago schools and families are then invited to join us for 90 minutes in the magic of theatre.

This election season is kicked off rather appropriately with The Kid Who Ran for President by Jeremiah Clay Neal, and directed by Chicago Playworks Artistic Director, Ernie Nolan. This is a stage musical adaptation of the children’s book by the same name written by Dan Gutman. Here is a short description of the play:

“When sixth grader Judson Moon runs for President of the United States under the guidance of his campaign manager and best friend Lane, the campaign trail is turned upside down. Can Judson deliver on his promises once he is elected? This musical comedy full of hope and song brings some common sense and a rockin' pizza party to the White House, if only for a few days.”
The Kid Who Ran For President

This play hopes to engage its young audience in the conversation about our upcoming presidential election, the importance of good leadership, the power of privilege, and will explore what would happen if indeed a kid ran for president. Throughout the show, the kids in the audience are asked to be a part of the action by voicing their own political opinions, cheering along, and by seeing other “kids” engage in politics on stage, we hope to show them that they can in fact, change the world.

With its catchy songs, and interesting characters, audience members young and old are in for a wacky and rather relevant morning of theatre. I have already heard the songs and cannot wait to see it this weekend! With young characters, a striking parallel to our current election, and both kids and grown ups will appreciate, “Kid Prez”, can be enjoyed by a wide audiences of theatre goers. It is always the goal of our productions to stay current and relevant to the our community in Chicago, and by picking themes that align with a current climate, hoping to draw the most crowds and have the most impact on our audiences.

This show is now open and runs through November 12th, 2016. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:00am and Saturdays at 2:00pm. There are plenty of chances to see it, so do not miss out!

For more information about this show, our season, ticketing and more visit the TTS Website.

On Campus Jobs

If there is one statement that goes without saying, it is that college is expensive! No matter where you go, public or private, trade program or 4 year university, it all costs big bucks. DePaul offers many scholarship, grant, and loan options to help finance your education, and make getting a degree affordable. But what about the other stuff? 

It is always nice, and often necessary, to have a little money on the side to take care of other costs related to school or your personal life. Depending on your schedule at school, the possibility of internships or paid part-time jobs can vary a lot. For me, I have a very busy class and rehearsal schedule from 8am to about 10pm every day. This makes it difficult to squeeze in an outside part-time jobs that work with my student schedule. I am sure this is true for many students. But we still need to make money, gain skills and experience, and build our resumes, right? That is where on-campus student jobs come in. There are a variety of campus jobs that students can have. At The Theatre School, I have a position as an office assistant to my Voice and Speech professor. I help with clerical duties such as copying and filing, organization, scheduling, and any other tasks my teacher needs help with in order to go teach her classes as efficiently as possible. This position is great for me because I get to spend time with a professor I really like, doing simple work throughout the day. The best part about it is that it works well with my crazy schedule. I can spend my hour breaks in between classes and rehearsals performing my duties, because I often don't have many consecutive hours to work. This position was offered to me by a professor, and I know that many professors throughout the entire university have students who help them with their office tasks. There are, however, many different jobs that one can hold on campus here at DePaul, at any campus location. 

A great way to find out what is available is to visit the DePaul Campus Job Board. This is a webpage managed by the DePaul Office of Student Employment​. To do this simply visit the Student Employment webpage and login as a student using your school-issued Campus Connect username and password. Next click on the tab that reads "Jobs" on the top of the page and you will see a new page that looks like this:

This page lists all of the student jobs that are available now. On the right hand side of the screen you will see options to refine your search. This page enables you to look at student jobs by department, campus locations and more. Some jobs require more experience than others and are clearly labeled here as to whether they are entry level to experienced job opportunities. By clicking the link to each job you will see the description of the job, and the requirements to apply for the position. Need an entry level job on the Loop campus? No problem, able to take a more experienced position at the Lincoln Park location? You can find that here, too. On-campus student jobs are great because since they are made for students, the schedules are often very manageable around your class schedule, and there is a limit on the number of hours you can work in a week, because DePaul believes in giving opportunities, but that studies come first. ​

Finding a job off-campus is not too hard to do either. Being in a busy city, there are numerous businesses that hire. If there is a particular business or company you would like to work for, I recommend visiting their website or calling to see if there are positions available. Other ways to find part-time work to supplement your class schedule are to visit job search engines, such as Handshake, Snagajob, Indeed, and more. Or visit the DePaul Career Center. And never doubt the power of word-of-mouth. Put it out there that you are looking for work, spread the word, and often you will come across someone who knows of a position that is available and might be the right fit! 

College is expensive and students are busy, but trust me, using this handy Job Board site, and keeping your eyes open can absolutely lead to part-time jobs that will work for you as much as you work for them!

My Trip to New York: Jackie Robsinson Conference

As a college student, it is important to create networks of people to support you. While I have a wonderful community of people here at DePaul, I also believe in expanding your network. 

I currently am a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar. This is a scholarship foundation created in the legacy of the legendary black baseball player and civil rights activist, Jackie Robinson. 

I have been a part of this foundation since I applied for this award before entering college. The Foundation is made up of college students across the country studying various things. Each spring, the scholars attend a Mentoring and Leadership Conference. 

This is a four day event in New York City where all the scholars come together with professionals to learn about career readiness, professional skills, networking and more. The weekend is full of guest speakers, workshops and seminars where students get to interact with other students and industry professionals. This conference takes place the first week of March each year, and I have just gotten back from attending my third conference of my college career. 

While I was there I attended social justice panels, sessions on interviewing skills, financial planning, networking, being a career focused woman (the men attended a session of their own) and more. These were all so informative and I learned a great deal from listening and practicing these skills. 
While I was there I entered the JRF's Got Talent competition with a monologue I had prepared at school, and won 2nd place! I had a great balance of business and pleasure, also getting to attend a black tie formal gala and the ballet during my stay. 

Here is a photo of me and the other scholars from the Pacific Northwest, last weekend at the conference.
While I learned a lot and had great fun, one of my favorite things about attending is simply the people I get to be around. As an ambitious college student of color, it was great to spend time with so many other smart successful and talented students of color. The group of students involved in the Jackie Robinson Foundation are some of the best and brightest young minds in our society, and I am always so grateful for the opportunity to be in their presence and learn from them. What is especially amazing is just how supportive, encouraging, curious, and uplifting they all are. They are all individuals destined for greatness, who want everyone else to be successful in their prospective fields as well. That is the key. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. This is what JRF gives me. 

It is essential to your own well-being and your success in whatever you do to have people around who will lift you up, encourage you to strive for more, and inspire you along your journey. As I move closer to the professional world and my adult life, I am learning that there will be some people and places that do not foster the kind of growth you might want. So I am learning to create a network of people near and far that I can learn from, be supported by, and will be interested in my goals regardless of their own success. And I can do this for them. 

This past weekend in New York really has given me a breath of new inspiration to keep working toward my goals. I think everyone should create that network, and maintain relationships with people who help you to grow.