5 Best Tips from Drew Alumni Working in the Arts

Actors and writers share advice with undergrads.

October 2018 – Drew University theatre and dance students received real-world advice from a cross-section of alumni working in the arts who returned to The Forest.

The alumni—Andrew Barnes C’15, Sophia Blum C’13, Ryann Carey C’14, Emily Dzioba C’18 and Dan Studney C’89—also networked with undergraduates at the event, which was hosted by Drew’s nationally ranked Theatre and Dance Department and moderated by Professor Rosemary McLaughlin. Here are their five best tips.

1. Be versatile. “The more things that you’ve had a chance to do, the more marketable you’ll be in this business. Try everything while you’re here,” said Carey, manager of institutional giving at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. She’s also is a playwright, stage manager and designer.

2. Respect the day job, but make sure it’s flexible. “You’re going to wait tables, work in a coffee shop … I don’t think that’s bad,” said Barnes, a playwright (The ABCs of Sexuality, Canarsie), actor and script editor who manages a restaurant. At the same time, he added, create time for your art and keep the real goals in sight.

3. Be confident. “Once you get to Hollywood or Broadway or wherever, you’ll see that everybody is winging it,” said Studney, an Emmy Award winner who co-wrote, produced and composed music for the musical Reefer Madness and has worked as a scriptwriter and extra in television. “You need confidence without arrogance.”

4. Mind your business and learn how to deal with rejection. “The business aspect is as important—if not more important—than the talent part,” said Blum, an actor in the upcoming movie 17 Bridges starring Chadwick Boseman. And while rejection is difficult, it needn’t be debilitating. Besides, she added, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

5. Connections are key. The graduates were unanimous on this point. Tackle internships, residencies, festivals and classes, immerse yourself in your craft and the connections will develop. “The industry is so small, you run into the same people all the time,” explained Dzioba, a dramaturg and reader who works as an arts administrator at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J. “Your reputation will precede you.”

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