Student Voices: Life as an artist | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Life as an artist | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Life as an artist

Fine arts student Jessy Ardern shares the highs and lows of life as an acting student, and explains why even the most grueling days are worth it in the end

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current Arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an Arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.

Last month our BFA class was visited by some high school students, eager to shadow us for a day and get a sense of what the programme is like. Unfortunately, their timing was terrible — they came in the 10 skinny days between the class finishing Fight Night (the biggest, most stressful project of the year) and the previews for our clown show. (For those of you who don’t know, ‘previews’ are delightful events where we perform in front of an audience and none of the mistakes count.)

Those 10 days were hell. We were chronically low on sleep, working 12 to 15 hour days, running on caffeine and sugar, and TERRIFIED that the show we wanted would never materialize. Being in theatre school is like always being in exam season, except your failures are very, very public.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to say to those young students: what you saw was the pressure cooker, and what you missed was the joy.

Because of this timing, I worry that we may have traumatized those high school students into becoming accountants. I can’t imagine that they still want to be actors after seeing 12 people wobble and weep through an entire day of singing, dancing and theatre history before getting down to the REAL work: rehearsal. My memories of that day are a bit fuzzy. I can’t remember whether or not I actually cornered a poor, bewildered 17-year-old on the third floor of FAB and ranted to him about Shakespeare while winking madly through bloodshot eyes and drinking a double espresso. That may have been a hallucination. If it wasn’t, my apologies to him.

At any rate, I thought I’d take this opportunity to say to those young students: what you saw was the pressure cooker, and what you missed was the joy. That came later.

Photo Blog 3Every actor could tell you insane stories — of extremely short rehearsal periods, mad directors, sets that fall apart. A friend of mine directed a FoundFest show this past summer that had to come to a halt because there was an unconscious body in one of their performance locations. 

Yet no matter how rough things get, most of the time we still find ourselves nostalgic about the projects we’ve done. Which is why it’s not uncommon to hear an actor, who’s had a glass or two of wine, say wistfully, “Sure, we made no money, the set burned down over the course of intermission and Terry got shot in the face, but the audience liked it.”

I can’t really explain it. Maybe being creative is like a drug. Maybe the pendulum is such that the harder the grind is, the greater the satisfaction when someone applauds your work. Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic. But to those high school students: come back some time. We’ll invite you into the dressing room, ply you with coffee and talk about all the things that get us jazzed about what we do. It will be a very long conversation, because (and I’m sorry if this is saccharin — I’ll get back to ranting next time) being an artist is pretty much the greatest.

And please don’t become accountants. (Unless that’s what you really want to do… I hear they actually pay accountants…)


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About Jessy Ardern

Jessy Ardern

Jessy is a 3rd year BFA acting student. She hails from the wintery wasteland of Winnipeg, Manitoba. When she is not busy being outraged, Jessy enjoys playwriting and making puns. She also enjoys it when people take her out to drink coffee and rant about art (she doesn't figure that anyone will actually do this, but she thinks it is worth a try).