Broadway actress talks show business

This Monday, students hoping to pursue professional acting careers received advice from an experienced Yale alumna.

The Yale Drama Coalition and Yale Undergraduate Career Services co-hosted a workshop led by Maria-Christina Oliveras ’01, an actress who has starred in films, television series and Broadway shows. Roughly 22 students attended the workshop, which was titled “Beginning Your Career as an Actor: The First Six Months.” The event marked Oliveras’s return to Yale after she held a similar workshop here two years ago. Oliveras said that her aim in holdings these workshops is to provide students with the kind of guidance that she never received when she was beginning to establish herself in the world of professional acting.

“I conduct workshops like these because I want to demystify the process of ‘getting your foot in the door’ and offer up resources to facilitate the transition to places like New York City and Los Angeles,” Oliveras said.

The workshop focused on life immediately after graduation, addressing a variety of issues aspiring actors might face, including housing, budgeting, hiring an agent, writing resumes and taking classes. Oliveras said she wanted to emphasize the importance of staying committed to artistic work without completely losing track of practical necessities — including money. She noted that while she wants actors to focus primarily on developing themselves as artists, they must also face the “unfortunate reality” that individuals looking to get involved in show business also have to understand the field’s financial side. While aspiring artists today cannot be successful in such a competitive talent pool without having a strong passion for what they do, Oliveras added, they also have to think about about more than just creating art.

Michael Protacio ’14, who attended the workshop, said that balancing one’s artistic goals with the need to earn a living can be challenging. He explained that oftentimes artists will delay or even stop pursuing their artistic dreams after spending too much time and energy earning a side income. At the same time, Protacio added, artists may abandon all commitments for the sake of practicing their art form only to realize that they cannot sustain themselves financially.

Former YDC alumna and career chair Kate Heaney ’14, who worked closely with UCS to organize the event, said that the idea to bring Oliveras back to conduct this workshop was inspired by the results of a survey the YDC sent to the performing arts community last semester. When asked about what types of workshops they most wanted to see at Yale, Heaney added, more students expressed interest in professional acting-related workshops than in any other category.

“There are many students here who wish to pursue careers in the arts,” Heaney said. “But there are not many formal opportunities here for them to see what life is like after graduation.”

UCS Associate Director Katie Volz, who specializes in arts-related careers and resources, said that workshops like this one are part of UCS’s broader initiative to expand its resources for students interested in pursuing the arts beyond the recreational level. She added that recent surveys of the arts community have indicated that a great number of students are concerned with the practical aspects of living as a professional artist, such as writing resumes and preparing for auditions. Volz explained that many students who attend the workshops are in a position where they need to start thinking about life after Yale. Over half of the students who attended the workshop were seniors and nearly all of the rest were juniors, Volz noted, adding that a large portion of the attendees are planning to pursue professional arts-related careers in New York City.

Heaney said that she does not recall any workshops focusing on professional acting during her time as an underclassman. She explained that many of the workshops the YDC organized in the past have been focused on specific art forms such as Middle Eastern Theater and Commedia Dell’Arte, instead of career-oriented topics.

Heaney said the YDC and UCS have greatly improved in their offering of career-oriented events over recent years, while Protacio said that while UCS has increased the number of workshops that specialize in career-related topics, he does not think they are held very frequently. Current YDC alumna and career chair Leah Salovey ’17 said Yale already offers aspiring artists many opportunities to practice their craft, but not as many opportunities to learn about the other aspects of life that these students will need to worry about after graduation.

Oliveras currently stars in the Broadway show, “Machinal.”

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