[Sept. 2016 Arts] Staples students pursue acting excellence

By Brendan Massoud ’17 Web Sports Editor

The college process can be stressful — discussion of applications, essays and interviews buzzes through Staples High School every fall with an anxiety enough to get to even the most level-headed student.

Yet, most students are unaware that for some people, this aspect is only about half of the difficulty of getting into college. If one is attempting to gain entry into an acting or theater school, the process itself becomes a whole lot more complicated.

Each year, a number of Westport eighteen-year-olds attempt to crack into the nation’s most prestigious acting institutions. In addition to writing standard Common App essays and supplements, most must perform live auditions, qualifying academically and theatrically.

For many students, such as Remy Laifer ’17, going to college for theater has been a lifelong goal. “My dream in life is to be able to make or act in a show that has some type of social meaning behind it. In order to keep that dream, I want to study theater and acting at a higher level,” Laifer said.

Despite enthusiasm about studying the arts in college, theatrically-inclined students are confronted with extraordinary low acceptance rates. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, accepts about 16 percent of applicants as a whole, according to its website. Its School of Drama? Just three percent. Compare this with the acceptance rate at Stanford University, one of the nation’s most selective academic institutions, and the school takes about 4.7% of applicants.

David Roth, director of Staples Players, attributes the small number of kids accepted into schools of drama and acting to the necessity of having small class sizes and one-on-one tutelage. Yet, through Staples Players, a program in which “expectations are rigorous” and “dance abilities are high,” Roth feels Staples alumni are ready to perform at the next level.

Quite a few of Roth’s former actors and actresses have gone on to succeed past high school. Bailey Claffey ’15, for instance, is currently studying theater at Wagner College.

“I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I could and master ‘the craft,’” Claffey cited as the reason she chose for pursuing theater.

However, Claffey’s, and many others’, pursuits did not come without hard work. “Most people I know actually hired some sort of audition coach to help organize the process and train for the auditions,” Claffey said.

Between the months of January and March, most people audition about once a week, often driving hours to visit and audition for each school, a process Claffey described as “stressful.”

Although this is the path many people pursue if attempting to be a professional actor or actress, there are other options. Zoe Samuels ’17, for example, is not looking for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Instead, she will apply to more typical liberal arts colleges and potentially major in theater.

“This way if I choose to go into the world of theater and start auditioning for plays or T.V. after college, I have something to fall back on,” Samuels said.

Whichever way Staples students follow their aspirations, they are sure to end up some place great. “Because it’s my dream,” Laifer said. “I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep it alive.”