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Do Many Schools Recognize Their Rising Stars?

MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
edited March 2013 in Musical Theater Major
D recently overheard some professors talking about how they usually seem to fail to recognize which of their Theatre students would go on to be famous, and I've heard that one of the most successful recent BFA grads from a different school was never cast in a mainstage production while enrolled. Plus I know of a girl who recently graduated from a respected MT high school, where she never had a lead, yet she was admitted to a top BFA program.

So... how is your school's track record for recognizing those students who would go on to build successful performing careers?
Post edited by MomCares on
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Replies to: Do Many Schools Recognize Their Rising Stars?

  • SongSearcherSongSearcher Posts: 161Registered User Junior Member
    I think talent has a time and place. Students are young, still maturing and their talent and abilities are not always ready for certain roles and students get lumped in with the rest of their peers, peers whom they might not stand out next to as much as they will elsewhere. Teachers know what they see right now but they are more concerned about today and the next four possible years much more than when a student will become famous.
  • MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
    @songsearcher - I agree with all that you've said.

    In some ways it's the same as the admissions discussion of whether schools sometimes "miss" Sutton Foster and instead admit a student who goes on the work on cruise ships their whole life (not meaning to dis cruise ships, which I think could be a fun gig).

    It does somehow seem comforting, when casting doesn't go your way at whatever school you're currently in (high school or college) -- and honestly it's probably much better if it doesn't always go your way lest you get a false sense of infallibility -- to remember that the folks at your school are probably neither omnipotent theatrical kingmakers OR perfect judges of potential.

    That said, though, from what I hear a favorite student at Ds school is now, as a would-be junior (?), about to start his second national tour so there's no doubt they sometimes do correctly spot a star in the making.

    Maybe none of us have enough history with our specific schools to know what the prof's track record is of recognizing the future "big" talents in their midst, and maybe since so much of a career is based on timing and luck it's not even a valid thing to wonder about. I just found the discussion D overheard (and I'm not even sure they were profs at her school -- I think it was at an off-campus audition) to pose interesting questions.

    Did everyone on campus know that Stephen Colbert would grow up to be Stephen Colbert, or that Sutton would become Sutton?
  • CanadianMTgirlCanadianMTgirl Posts: 146Registered User Junior Member
    Perhaps this anecdote is a little off-topic, but I felt like it was worth sharing. I have a friend who graduated from a well-regarded BFA program and has gone on to perform on Broadway. Recently, while chatting about the college admissions process with her, she said that when she was narrowing her acceptances down, there were colleges that tried to rope her in by essentially saying "come here and you can be our leading lady, you can be our star!" She really cautioned me against going to any program who would tell me something like that, explicitly or otherwise. Her reasoning is that "[one] should never want to go somewhere where [they] will be the best. [One] should go to a program where they feel they are going to be pushed the most. Perhaps that means that [one] will be the "worst" in [their] class. Perhaps there the cards will fall in such a fashion that it means that [one] won't ever get cast in a mainstage show. But the training will be invaluable when they care about what [one] could be rather than what [one] already [is]."
  • megpmommegpmom Posts: 2,696Registered User Senior Member
    Funny - some of the most successful kids (and adults) that we know (stage and film) were the kids of whom we all said "Him?/Her? Really?" One of D's friends from HS theater magnet program was picked up by an agent during their soph year on-campus auditions (usually one or two from each class are picked up). We all said "really?" He was cast in his first best-picture Oscar winning movie during the summer between junior and senior year. Was kicked out of HS during his senior year (yeah, that kind of kid..) Has since gone on to be in a 2nd best picture winner, a blockbuster superhero movie and a several other projects. Everytime we see him on film, we just laugh. Who would have thought?

    Oh, and I went to college with both Dermot Mulroney and Stephen Colbert and I would not have bet on either of those guys to succeed in the business.
  • alibabba808alibabba808 Posts: 163Registered User Junior Member
    My D has been told that she will really hit her stride in her 30's (given her voice and "Type") - that's a long time for a 19 year old to wait...not that she has not had success in her college program - but I thought that was interesting.
  • MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
    All of these are great anecdotes.

    @megpmom - How perfect that you could specifically answer the Stephen Colbert question from personal experience!

    I think there's been discussion on another thread that a former American Idol competitor who ended up on a smashing TV show wasn't the star of her BFA program, and I can think of lots of people who went on to fame who either dropped out of programs or switched schools, which might imply they weren't getting all the love they'd hoped for.

    I also have to assume there are plenty of kids who have swept many leads in BFA programs who go on to lackluster careers.

    Maybe what some of this illustrates is that it's tough for anyone -- MT professor or otherwise -- to guess what confluence of talent, training, connections and circumstance will come together to create success in the entertainment business. It's easy for people to say with hindsight "I always knew they were special" but probably far harder to honestly pick many 'winning horses'.

    It's such a contrast to Engineering School where, in my experience, people pretty much landed the types of jobs everyone expected them to based on their college performance.

    Interesting!

    On the other hand -- maybe @megpmom's story suggests that there are agents with a special gift for spotting "that" performer even in a raw state... though maybe that's more applicable to film than to MT?
  • EwanesEwanes Posts: 102Registered User Junior Member
    "Maybe what some of this illustrates is that it's tough for anyone -- MT professor or otherwise -- to guess what confluence of talent, training and circumstance will come together to create success in the entertainment business. It's easy for people to say with hindsight "I always knew they were special" but probably far harder to honestly pick many 'winning horses'."

    I want to put this on a tee-shirt! This truly sums it up --- there are no guarantees and so very many variables in show biz. Perfectly said, Mom Cares!
  • MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
    There are two kids from our town about whom I said years ago "they will be on Broadway unless they decide they don't want to" (I never think about such things with our D as I KNOW I will never be able to be objective). So far the girl has already been and I'm still waiting on the guy though now he's in a great BFA program. But there are easily twenty other kids we know who I wouldn't be remotely surprised to see famous some day, and I'm sure D knows many more.

    So much talent, so little fame. ;)
  • 3965231039652310 Posts: 89Registered User Junior Member
    I think it's a good learning tool. Those students who were probably not "Stars" in their program learned what it was like to really fight and work hard for that role or show. here at Webster it was said that Norbert Leo Butz was only in ONE show for his whole four years, NOW look at him. I've heard stories of Karen Olivo only being cast in ONE show at CCM which was a dancer in "Cabaret." I don't think this is the case for everyone, but I do think it's a great lesson to know that everything will not be handed to you. It's a hard lesson to learn but the college wouldn't be teaching you anything if you were to get cast in every show and you really didn't work as hard as you could have for it. It also shows that it's not JUST about talent, but looks, relationship with the director, and how you are as a person.
  • prodesseprodesse Posts: 763Registered User Member
    I'm interested to see that everyone here has drunk the kool-aid about stardom. Just because someone is a star doesn't mean he/she is the best out there. The stars were in the right place in the right time, were cast in a role that matched and showcased their talents, and became a familiar face. Plenty of non-stars are every bit as good but not as lucky. How often does a star seem to come out of nowhere, and then it turns out he/she has been a working actor for decades?

    Training, hard work, talent, and luck are all essential. If you have the third, go out and get the first two, and hope for the last. If you have the first three you're ready when the fourth comes along.
  • amtcamtc Posts: 2,698Registered User Senior Member
    Just what I would have written prodesse - so much more than talent, actually, talent might be the smallest requirement to success!

    alibabba808 - Yes, character actors need more growth and life experience than ingenues and leading men. But they last much longer!
  • MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
    I'm interested to see that everyone here has drunk the kool-aid about stardom. Just because someone is a star doesn't mean he/she is the best out there. The stars were in the right place in the right time, were cast in a role that matched and showcased their talents, and became a familiar face.

    I'm sure many in America have drunk the fame=talent Kool-Aid, but here on CC I think that's exactly what everyone here has been saying. :) Here was my version...
    it's tough for anyone -- MT professor or otherwise -- to guess what confluence of talent, training, connections and circumstance will come together to create success in the entertainment business. It's easy for people to say with hindsight "I always knew they were special" but probably far harder to honestly pick many 'winning horses'.

    I think anyone who has spent time around the industry is very aware of this, but during the post-college-audition season while people are getting results from schools I think it's harder for many kids to remember that no single person on an audition panel or head of a department they auditioned for has any real idea what someone's performing future will hold.
  • halflokumhalflokum Posts: 1,290Registered User Senior Member
    I lack the perspective to add anything to this thread but I've been mulling it over. The question of: "how is your school's track record for recognizing those students who would go on to build successful performing careers" I believe does have an answer but it has nothing to do with a successful (or unsuccessful) performance outcome.

    If an instructor consistently gives a student some of the most challenging material to work on because they think he/she has the capability and passion to tackle it, isn't that at least a micro way of saying that the school (in this case the instructor) recognizes something extra in that student? Whether that translates to a successful career or not is as already pointed out, subject to many factors of which talent is only one. Perhaps having the bar raised just a bit higher for the most capable students is validation enough.
  • MomCaresMomCares Posts: 2,497Registered User Senior Member
    I think there are lots of ways to tell if a professor thinks a particular student has talent and can be pushed, much as there are ways to tell if a Director or Department Chair likes an actor after an audition.

    But I don't think any of that gives much insight into a future career... although many similar collected data points over years probably gives more indication.

    In some ways it would be so much simpler if we knew that one or two key people could give our kids a real indication of their odds for making a future in performance. But I figure if even the heads of the top MT programs can't do it, the rest of us don't have much chance.
  • supportivesupportive Posts: 441Registered User Member
    As a parent of theatrical kids, we have to stop guessing whether our kids will be successful in the business. NO ONE really knows that answer and I believe it puts a lot of pressure on your kids to think that way. I believe every BFA and BA program takes kids with some sort of talent. I also know of many kids who takes years of dance and theatre and never really have IT! Then there are the kids who drop out of high school and win Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys. I just let my kids get the most out of what they want in college and not worry about who gets cast in what. If they get in a show, great- if not, it's not the end of the world because they are still trained. Many lead parts go with a certain look or color of skin. Also, just because you were cast in the lead of all of your high school productions, it does not always mean you are the most talented. In college, one semester, you could have a professor who loves and pushes you and the next semester, it's the complete opposite. To me, in college, you are there to learn- not to be the star!
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