How Studying Technical Theatre Made Me a Better Actor

Written by Kaitlin Bellamy

July 28, 2017

Have you always known you wanted to perform, but just couldn’t find the right niche? If you’re like me, you may have watched your friends get cast in their dream roles time and time again. You watch them become leading ladies or dashing heros, and you might think, “How will I EVER be able to compete when that’s just not my type?” Well, I have good news for you: there is so much more out there than that. Trust me, you can find a place in the theatre that’s all your own. You just have to know where to start looking. Here, let me give you a hand.

We all like to believe we are destined for greatness. As performers, in fact, it is part of the very essence of our career. If we aren’t liked and talented and among the best in our field, there may be no place for us. But what if we aren’t a triple threat? What if Shakespeare holds no thrill for us? What if, through no fault of our own, we just simply don’t get the part?

The numbers have always been against us, and odds are that we simply won’t make it to Broadway. And guess what? It may be better that way. Because now, you have the opportunity to embrace the art of beyond. Look beyond the Golden Age Musical and beyond the absurdist theatre. Find the potential for arts and entertainment and theatre in those little hobbies you might have pushed aside.

I am a firm believer in the power of “Special Skills.” That miscellaneous portion of your resume, where you relegate all of the quirky little talents that you couldn’t fit anywhere else. I say, embrace those quirks. Because when you’re walking into an audition where everyone your age has played the same industry staples, your special passions and talents will be what set you apart. Your portrayal of Juliet may not get you much attention. But your talents as a ventriloquist or a stilt-walker might just be the conversation piece you need to get your foot in the door, and makes a casting director remember your name.

Were I designing a theatre curriculum, especially for those developmental performance years, I would include a very specific class: Special Skills Survey 101. Right up there with Acting 101 and Intro to Stagecraft. In Special Skills, we would devote a month at a time to different art forms that can be extremely important, though often over-looked, in the wide world of professional theatrics. We might study voice acting, or puppetry. We could dedicate an entire week to magic tricks, and another to slapstick comedy.

Too often as student performers, we are taught that the only worthy career paths are those that lead to Hollywood, or 42nd Street. But I have tackled neither, and have never once regretted it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn early on how to utilize our own quirks and passions? Every hobby can be a part of the theatre, if you know how to use it. Open up your minds, and imagine how your special skills could change your career for the better.

Teachers, it’s time to discover where your students truly shine, rather than boxing them behind the fourth wall. And students, it’s time to pull out that old instrument you thought you’d never play again, or the magic set you loved when you were younger. Because at the end of the day, to quote Shrek the Musical, “What makes us special makes us strong.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Kaitlin Bellamy is a freelance performer and writer, with a theatrical history spanning more than 25 years. She embraces the philosophy that multiple jobs at once makes it impossible for life to get boring. Above all, she is passionate about the performing arts, and all that they stand for.