Tag Archives: experience

The Challenges of Earning a Theatre Degree

By Kevin Paley

According to USA Today, the average college student spends 17 hours per week on homework (studying included); that’s roughly two-and-a-half hours per day. Given that the average student takes between 15 and 20 units per semester, that’s about half an hour on each class. What would you say if I asked you to rank the majors or schools at USC in order of busiest to most free, in terms of scheduling? You’d probably think Architecture, Pre-Med, and/or Engineering would be the most time-consuming for the average student, right? Where would Theatre majors land on your list? Some might put it on the bottom of this hypothetical list but allow me to enlighten you on why it would actually be a contender for the top.

Acting, directing, designing, and managing in the theatrical realm are careers where experience is the foundation of the learning process. Homework for theatre classes involves outside of class rehearsal time (similar to group projects), in addition to regular reading and writing assignments. This classroom experience is vital, but the majority of theatre students seek to enhance their education by participating in plays and musicals at USC: both those produced by the School of Dramatic Arts and Independent Student Productions. Rehearsals for these shows are 6-10pm Monday through Friday and 10am-2pm on Saturday (on average). That’s twenty-four hours of rehearsal on top of pre-existing class and homework. One whole day each week dedicated to gaining experience in one of the least prosperous career paths. Why?

For some, the need to sacrifice a social life for the sake of volunteer-work in the theatre comes from the insecurity of landing a job after graduation: it’s the notion that hard work will eventually pay off. For some, it’s a simple and addictive love: acting, directing, or some other artistic platform in the theatre is merely what provides fulfillment in the college student’s turbulent life. No matter what the reason, once one joins the ensemble of a production, the next few months of his or her life are dedicated to making that work of art happen.

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A Homestay Home

By Ida Abhari

When I entered my first year at high school – already a new and uncertain time – my mother told me and my sister that our family would start hosting international university students. I thought it would be a fun experience and, having grown up with immigrant parents, I was no stranger to the joys of diversity. At the same time, I was a little bit nervous too. Would I be able to create an authentically American experience for these students? Would they enjoy my home and family?

The day Yuki (our first student) arrived, we tried to make sure she would be as comfortable as possible. Thinking it wouldn’t suit her taste, we didn’t eat our usual traditional Persian food for dinner; we ordered pizza instead. During dinner, we learned that Yuki had never been outside of Japan but that she was excited and open to learning about her new surroundings and broadening her horizon. I quickly saw how kind and understanding she was and that I shouldn’t have worried about her not liking our home. In fact, she told us she wanted to try Persian food, which surprised and pleased us at the same time.

In the coming weeks, we showed Yuki our city. I pointed out the best tofu house, my favorite boba shop, and my high school hangout spot. Though Yuki went back to Japan after finishing her semester abroad, we were fortunate enough to receive many more  intriguing students. Hitomi, Miyuki, Tomomi, and Mae, among others, became part of our household and constituted an important part of growing up for me. From them, I learned how things I had previously saw as ordinary were actually quite extraordinary – Miyuki, for example, was thrilled that we had a grill in our backyard. She snapped countless pictures of this grill, something I had seen as a standard household item. She explained that where she lived in Japan, houses and backyards were often too small for such features. Likewise, Hitomi introduced me to the Bath and Body Works store. With its varied and delightfully-scented cosmetic items, I am forever thankful.

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Fading Into the Background

By Kevin Jiang

Living in Los Angeles, you are bound to see a celebrity or two walking around. I mean, Hollywood is the heart of the film industry and you can’t walk a block without seeing some sort of filming activity. Consequently, this summer I came upon an interesting opportunity to be a background actor.

To quickly explain, background actors , or “extras”, are all those silent people in TV shows or movies that walk around in the background, cheer in a crowd, fill a party, or sit in a café. Whether you notice them or not, these “extras” are an important part of filmmaking. They make the action on screen believable.

I only got into the background business a couple weeks ago, but I’ve already worked on multiple sets, from the long-running television staple NCIS, to tween programming on Nick and Disney, to a small unannounced feature film. The experience, besides teaching me EXTREME patience due to sitting and waiting for hours upon hours until needed on set, has also given me an appreciation for all the work and coordination that goes on behind the scenes of a TV show or film. I mean, you’ve all seen the credits that roll after a show or movie has ended and you’ve probably wondered, “Who are these people?” Being there on set and witnessing the intricate network of communication and the complicated set-ups for lights, sound, and camera, I fully comprehended the importance of each individual and their role in the crew.

Photo by Paulo Wang on Flickr

To film a single scene, you’ve got your actors, of course, whose job it is to come prepared, but then there’s also the hair and make-up artists who must execute the vision of each character’s aesthetic, and the lighting and sound crews who are in charge of creating the perfect atmosphere and ensuring the sound quality, and the camera crew who needs to get the exact angle and camera movement. And, last but not least, you have the background actors who must get into place and know exactly what to do when the camera starts rolling.  All together, it feels like organized chaos, like when musicians in an orchestra all tune their instruments at the same time. Of course, however dissonant the sound is while they prepare, the cacophony is immediately forgotten once the conductor raises his wand and leads the ensemble in melodic harmony.

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