We’re well into the school year, and you’re way past prepping for back to school—you’re living the reality. Your days may seem beyond full; been there, done that. But all that business could leave you feeling like your back-to-school theatre goals have fallen by the wayside.

Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to get back on track. Here are three tips to help get organized and make time to do more theatre.

Tip 1: Learn to (Respectfully) Say No

It’s trite because it’s true: There are only so many hours in a day. While we want to spend plenty of time with our “want to” activities, like theatre, we’re often left with a lot of “have to” chores—it’s hard to enjoy anything when we’re over-committed.

We suggest you make time to talk with your theatre teacher or Thespian troupe director. Why? They want to see you succeed and have some fun doing it. Be brave enough to ask for help organizing (or reorganizing) your days so that you can balance your responsibilities with your passions.

Until you get the chance to have that important conversation with your teacher (and if no one has told you yet), it’s OK to say no.

How? Practice the pause. That is, every time you’re asked to volunteer for a cause, participate in a group project, or are invited to an event, learn to say, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” With a bit of time to consider the offer, ask yourself if saying yes supports your goals and passions.

It’s not too late to get your schedule under control, and honing the “just say no” skill will help you manage well in all aspects of your life.

Tip 2: Get Back to Basics

People who stand out in their chosen fields often possess a small amount of natural talent, but those who find lasting success developed discipline. They all know that practice makes progress and understand the proven value of preparation and repetition.

What that means for you: Right now is a great time to get back to basics.

With auditions in your future, you can regain a sense of control by revisiting what you’ve been taught from the very start. Audition coach Laura Enstall put together this easy-to-follow audition etiquette guide. “Act like you’re auditioning the minute you arrive,” she advises. “Maybe the stage manager is holding the door for you, or maybe you run into the choreographer in the hall. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings.”

Maybe you’re already cast in the first show of your school’s season and you have a table read coming up. Arrive well-prepared and you’ll help the entire process flow a bit more smoothly. Do you know that you should read the whole script ahead of time, and not just your parts? Plus, here’s a separate post if you’re the playwright running a table read.

Tip 3: Get Curious with a Purpose

To be the kind of actor who transforms into a character so authentic that the audience suspends disbelief, you must understand people.

And to meet a variety of people, you’re going to need to go where you don’t normally go; talk with people you may not normally talk with. Get to know people outside the theatre. Yes, the musicians, the STEM gang, the 4-H crew, the athletes, and whomever else you can interact with.

Talking with new acquaintances opens doors into worlds you’ve not explored. For example, be curious and ask the first chair trumpet player in the marching band how they honed their skills. Ask about their practice routines or performance-day rituals. Connect with students in the STEM program and listen to what motivates them to be part of those activities. Even find out how the kicker on the football team stays ready to play when they’re only on the field for a few opportunities in each game.

And when it comes to your theatre skills, now’s a great time to explore new parts of every production. Instead of auditioning for an acting role in the next production, join the tech crew and experience what goes on behind the scenes so the show can go on. You may even discover talents you haven’t tapped into yet.

Remember that it’s not too late to begin again. Schedule a meet-up with your theatre teacher. Return to the basics and practice, practice, practice. And light a fire under your curiosity so you can achieve all your theatre goals.

Patty Craft is a regular contributor to the Educational Theatre Association.

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