As a successful theatre major, Ryan Westwood '09 was no stranger to competition. He'd won a few awards in his day and garnered several accolades.
But what he earned this past spring was something monumental, something career-changing. He auditioned–along with over 2,000 other hopefuls–for the Acting Apprentice Company of Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Ky.
And he got it.
Fast forward to today when Westwood is working his day job but daydreaming about his impending 15-hour days at the theater for nine months straight on 40+ productions. To any other person that might sound like a nightmare, but for any actor who wants to "make it," it's a dream come true: a door opening endless doors of opportunity.
"We meet with everyone who comes through the theatre," Westwood says of just one part of the apprenticeship. "We come out with this network of people from all over the country."
The networking comes from the requirement that all apprentices–all 22 of them, 11 women and 11 men–audition for each Actor's Theatre show. It's the idea that repetition followed by correction and constructive feedback will inevitably produce a better thespian, one skilled at the art of auditioning.
"That's what I'm most excited about," Westwood admits. "I'm going to come out a better actor than I ever imagined."
On top of the theatre's productions are the apprentice company's own productions. It's almost as if you put in a whole day's work and then afterward, go to a second job with just as much work and no break. Somewhere in there, you get to sleep and eat. Apparently, that's for the weak, because the way Westwood looks at it–and asking any other Actor's Theatre wannabe, they'll say the same thing–actors either take this opportunity or leave it. Leaving it is just plain ludicrous.
An over-used saying especially rings true here: this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I'm going to be in an environment where everyone is as–if not more so–driven and talented than I am," Westwood says. "I get to be in an environment with my peers who are all awesome and all learning from each other."
At the end of this long, arduous road at Actor's Theatre, there's light, and in this business–at this level of craftsmanship–an understanding that a job waits for you.
"Ideally, someone from whatever theatre says, ‘you're great,' and hires you for a show," Westwood explains, with a hint of wistfulness in his voice. "I'll get work right out of the apprenticeship, sliding into a theatre somewhere."
"If that doesn't happen," he says, "just the growth I'll gain as an actor will be enormous, and I will find work somewhere."