|Riley Steiner and Hallie Cooper|
On Tuesday, the campers attended a lecture entitled “Careers,” given by ASC Theatre Camp director Riley Steiner and her daughter Hallie Cooper. Because Session II of ASC Theatre Camp often includes older teenagers who are beginning to think about college, this lecture’s purpose was to help our young aspiring actors select a college program that is a right fit. At the start of the lecture, Steiner, currently a student of Mary Baldwin College’s MLitt program , stressed the need for higher education. She maintained that actors need to diversify not only by attaining an undergrad degree, but also by taking a variety of classes throughout adulthood. She held that the more education a person has, the more they have to offer to the world, making an actor more employable.
Steiner divided her lecture into two parts, beginning with college selection. Steiner explained the difference between the different types of degrees that institutions will offer, going over BA, BFA, and conservatory education. Steiner briefly, but pointedly, mentioned that there are certificate programs out there that will not offer a full degree. She held that the campers should always seek programs that offer an undergrad degree. With the exception of that statement, Steiner and Cooper did not favor one program or another, but instead assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each one without bias. Throughout the lecture, Steiner and Cooper both named universities with good programs in each kind of degree, both in the US and abroad. At this time, Sara Glancy and Emily MaCleod, both recent college graduates from theatre programs at NYU and Vassar respectively, briefly explained how their programs worked, what set them apart, and their own personal experiences within the program.
The second part of Steiner’s lecture dealt with auditioning for admission into universities. Auditions are always a stressful topic, and Steiner and Cooper gave advice on broad matters, such as audition piece selection, as well as specifics such as audition clothes. The lecturers explained that the prepared songs and monologues have to represent who the auditioner is as a person. If the auditioner fails to reveal that heart, then he or she will not properly stand out against the backdrop of hundreds of other nearly-identical applicants. Thus, it is important to select a piece that is age appropriate, that is polished for performance, and that represents and markets the student’s talent.
Steiner and Cooper then brought up the matter of resumes and headshots. They brought in examples of their own resumes, so that the campers could look at the format and see what information they included. Then the lecture evolved into a panel that judged what was a good or a bad headshot, using the past headshots of our lecturers. During this time, all present learned that the headshots need to be in color, that the headshot can’t be more beautiful than the performer really is, the background needs to help make the subject stand out, and that you have to be comfortable around and trust your photographer. The most important part of the headshot is the eyes, so Hallie taught the campers a trick. Claiming that the eyes should stand out of the headshot no matter what, she suggested that an auditioner should turn the headshot upside down. If the eyes still stand out, even when upside down, then it is a good headshot.
Steiner and Cooper, both experienced performers, were full of great advice, tips, and tricks for our campers. I can honestly say that what they had said really stuck with the campers, since the afternoon after rehearsal I caught some of our female campers taking pictures of one another and commenting on whether or not it would be a good headshot. Steiner and Cooper addressed important issues and thoughtfully answered the questions of the campers. Because each actor has a different experience, our own counselors frequently chimed in with their own background (and occasional tales of woe). While the difficulties of the theatre business were in no way sugarcoated, Steiner and Cooper encouraged the campers to market their strengths and to keep educating themselves. Who knows? Perhaps the next James Keegan or Alli Glenzer is among us!