With so many "ways in" to this art form called acting, what can you focus on to grow the most as an actor before applying to drama school?
You might have a long time before college auditions, or a short time.
You might have a lot of acting experience going in, or not a lot.
I had 3 years of acting experience before auditioning for drama school. I auditioned for 7 schools and got accepted into all of them. I chose Juilliard. Which is great!
But my classmates - and other great students who got accepted into top acting schools - had a range of experience from "none" to "decades."
So what helps the most? Speaking for myself, the one word that helped me grow the most as an actor is mentors.
What I delivered in my audition was more than just monologues...
I brought in the culmination of who I was as an actor up to that point. My philosophies, my sense of play, my standards, my ability to be present all came through because I had a point of view about my art, which stemmed from the conversations and the support of my mentors.
Was I the best actor they saw? I would never know that. But I wasn't afraid to bring my full self to bear because I trusted what I had learned from my mentors.
Surrounding yourself with people who support you and have the resources to guide your next steps powerfully has a GREAT impact on your artistic growth, and consequently your drama school auditions.
Working hard is good. Reading acting books is good. Watching great actors and developing your instrument is all good. But without the guidance of quality mentors, you might go a little too far in the wrong direction.
For example, it's always good to watch great movies, but without understanding from a mentor what to look for in the acting, you might fall into the trap of mimicking another actor, which is a terrible path to go down as you grow.
You might love devouring Stanislavski's acting books, but without a mentor to help you apply the concepts to your acting work, you performances might come across too heady, academic, or inauthentic.
So I had a lot of mentors.
Good mentors are people you can ask questions to and update with your progress and get next steps from.
They are farther down the road than you on the path. They can help keep your standards high and your expectations realistic. They are an ongoing source of inspiration as you progress.
They appear in different ways in your life. Some appear very organically (like parents, teachers and colleagues). Some you actively seek out (like coaches and trainers). Some are just individuals who appear magically with no explanation. It doesn't mater where they came from as long as you feel they are a reliable resource who can usher you forward in your artistic journey.
It's important to have good conversations with your mentors.
For example, understand how your mentors think about the craft. How do they approach a piece of material? What questions do they ask first?
If you can understand the pillars of their artistic philosophy, you will begin to establish a growing framework for yourself and feel more comfortable in your own process.
So yes, read as many plays by great playwrights as possible...because your mentors do.
Yes, read books on acting...that your mentors suggest.
Yes, constantly be working on something (monologues, scenes, productions etc) and trying to get better...based on a way of working your mentors instill in you.
There are millions of intangible gifts you get from mentors just because they're being who they are and doing what they do.
If you want to grow farther and faster as an actor who is preparing for drama school auditions, get mentors.