Behind the curtains: A look into acting at the University

By Mariah Schaefer

Telling a story. That is what acting is all about. However, being an actor is not that simple. It can require a lot of dedication and training, and many aspiring actors study the craft before jumping into the business.

According to the Division of Management Information, out of 32,878 undergraduate students at the University, only 30 are acting majors.

“What’s so great about being an acting student at U of I is that you get a conservatory-style training while also being part of a major university with a liberal arts education,” said Claire Floriano, senior in FAA.

The acting program is different from many majors at the University because of the way it is structured. Students audition to be accepted into the college but must also pass a performance review during the fall semester of their sophomore year in order to be accepted into the studio program and continue as acting students on campus.

Floriano said that passing the performance review comes down to being dedicated about acting, which she said everyone in the program is.

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“I think (the review) challenges everyone to decide whether that’s what you’re truly passionate about, and if you are, you’ll do all the right things — you’ll work hard, you’ll show up to class, you’ll be prepared and do all the right work,” she said.

Lauren Farbota, sophomore in FAA, is currently going through the performance review process.

Farbota said her nervousness goes on and off as she waits for the decision because very few people have been cut from the program in past years.

After passing the performance review and entering their junior and senior years, the students in the acting program mostly only have classes tailored to acting.

Acting classes go from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, and then students have some general education and outside classes in the afternoon. After that, they rehearse every night from 7 to 11 p.m.

“It prepares you for the real world when you’ll have a day job, and then you have to go to rehearsal at nighttime. It teaches you a lot about time management and how to set your priorities,” Floriano said. “That is one thing that I will say I really have gained from this program is just the ability to become more of an adult and a professional because you have to.”

Janjay Knowlden, junior in FAA, said that studying acting at the University makes him feel like he is actually putting in the hard work to become an actor.

“There is all the creative things and all the skills that you learn here, but there is also a thing taught here that’s like being accountable for yourself,” he said. “Not only how to be a good actor but also how to be a good person — how to be someone that people actually want to work with.”

Dylan Connelley, senior in FAA, said that being an acting major on campus can be a bit isolating because acting students are always working on themselves.

“It’s very easy to click into a small group of actors,” he said. “Yes, we party, and yes, we have our fun, but we really need to take care of ourselves. It is part of our job; our body is our instrument.”

Connelley said the biggest thing about studying acting is finding balance. He said acting students need to be “physically, spiritually and emotionally balanced.”

However, Harry Belden, junior in FAA, said there is something fulfilling about being an actor: transforming others’ perceptions of the world.

“I think one of the most fulfilling things about being an actor is being able to change the way someone views something, whether that’s an element of society or the way certain people act and why – just being able to influence people’s opinions on things and just show them different sides of things that they haven’t considered,” he said.

Belden said the acting program at the University fosters a sense of community for the students because of its size. He said it is “very cool to go to class with your friends.” There are only nine students in his junior class.

“Having that for acting is great because you have a network of people who know you really, really well, and they’re going to be the ones who can help you the best,” Farbota said. “You just have all these people who are on the same page as you trying to do the same thing, which is great support for an actor.”

Knowlden said the real sense of community in the acting program comes from the fact that the students are very different from one another but all have the common goal of bettering themselves as actors.

“It’s such a weird thing because I think (the acting majors) all have different views of (acting),” Connelley said. “Yeah, we’re all in the same room together, but because of the way we work and because it’s so personal, we’re all affected in different ways by the coaching.”

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