It’s your first year, and you’re excited. In high school, you were the actor. That’s how people knew you. You were in all the school plays, and you received rewards, recognition, and bouquets. To improve your craft, you have come to McGill, where you actually get to interact with people who care about the theatre and aren’t just in the class for an easy A. But upon arrival you discover something shocking: most plays are not directed by knowledgeable professors, pros in your eyes, but by—gasp—other students! Not someone trained in the art of directing a play and leading the actors, but just another kid. “What the shit?!” you exclaim, while shock clouds your once-passionate eyes.
A small piece of advice, frightened little one: get over yourself. You are not the best actor anymore. There are dozens of people at this school with talent equal to or greater than your own, people who deserve parts more than you do. If you get a part with six lines, be thankful. Another lesser candidate probably didn’t get any. Nobody here knows how talented you were in high school, and no one cares. What people care about is seeing your performance abilities now, at this moment, at this stage of your “career.” You are being cast by the performance you put forth in your audition, not how good you were as Stanley in your mid-winter production of Streetcar two years ago.
This may be a lot to take in, but when I overhear a first-year (who makes it known that they are a first-year) complain about how they thought they’d be directed by “real directors,” i.e. professors, I feel compelled to point something out: there are students who you should thank for directing, and pray that they consider you worthy. I’ve seen student-directed plays here at McGill that have shaken me to the core, and overhearing someone with no previous McGill acting experience insult directors they have never worked with offends me as a friend of some of these directors and as a fellow theatre student and performer.
Student-directed plays succeed because they are fantastic productions put on by people who care for and appreciate theatre, not by those students in high school who only did drama for the quick marks and for the chance to say “fuck” in front of a teacher because it was asked for in the script. These plays are meticulously crafted, with whole teams running every aspect of the productions. Yes, they are all students, but they are students who know what they’re doing.
Don’t just complain. Sign up and audition. Take pride in these auditions! Take pride in knowing that the majority of theatre at McGill is student-run for a reason. You have no grounds for apprehension and no basis for your insults. Not auditioning for a smaller, student-directed play because you want to be on the main stage is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a theatre student. The best plays are not necessarily the biggest or the most extravagantly-produced or those with the biggest budget—some of the best are produced on barely any budget at all. It’s talent that drives plays and makes them what they are, and if you are talented, you will be recognized, main stage or not.