A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness. - Alfred Korzybski
Your resume is a lot like a map; it renders a representation of you through a clear and focused list of your accomplishments. Jam it full of too much detail and it becomes indiscernible, too little and it is useless. How do you create a concise document that creates a useful and detailed "map" of you as a student actor? Begin as soon as possible.
In her article Respect, Create, Learn: setting the stage in a new theatre classroom (Dramatics Magazine) author and educator Gai Jones describes directing her students to track their theatrical accomplishments by logging details into a "“conflated” résumé":
Students often forget their past accomplishments until they are required to list them. This résumé should include every theatre performance, monologue, scene, original work, dance recital, and vocal performance they have completed in their lifetime in order from the most distant to the most current. They should also list every bit of theatre training they have undergone, every festival they have attended, and every honor and award bestowed upon them, no matter how mundane. This includes best smile, most improved, best runner, speller of the week, and so on. Encourage the students to type up a special skills section, specifying whether they are at the beginning, intermediate, or advanced level, and tell them to round out the résumé with accents, novelty talents, and athletic skills. Now they have a résumé that they can add to or hone down depending on their needs.
But what if you need to compile your resume for a task right away?
Begin by sitting down and listing what you've been doing in the theater. Start with roles and plays, note where and when they were performed, and who directed them if noteworthy (Ms. Carter in 4th grade may have been very nice, but wracking your brain over her name and researching the play in which you played an owl won't win you any admiration).
As a high school student it is best to include any roles you have performed with your school program, classes held at the school that you have taken, and perhaps reach back to middle-school productions if necessary, but your grammar-school work is best left off of the listings unless there is something exceptionally notable.
If you have performed any work with community or other groups outside of your school programs, these should be listed along with making note about where and when these events occurred. They serve to illustrate your willingness to pursue your goals as a theater artist beyond the easy reach of school programs.
Do you sing in a choir? Perform in other ways like public speaking? Are there other places that you have worked or volunteered in a public forum? These are all possibilities for inclusion on your resume.
Make several lists of the various categories that your work could be organized under. Examples include School Productions, Classwork, Community Productions, Professional Productions, Technical Theater, Volunteer Work, Awards, or other choices particular to your experiences.
The website Ace Your Audition lists several examples of beginner and student resumes, and has this to say about composing your page:
Keep it simple. You'll notice there's a lot of white space. That's okay. Just make sure it's well formatted and attractive to the eye. Make it look professional. [...] [A]nyexperience is experience. Were you a spear holder in Hamlet at your high school? Were you Joseph in your church's Nativity play? Done any children's theatre? Put it all on your actor resume. Had any training? Write it down. Put it in bold so that it draws the eye. Training shows that you're serious. And there's always the chance that your auditors know your teachers.You've made your lists, now look at the information and begin to organize it. What is the most important information you want the reviewers of your work to know? That goes near the top. Think about that map: what is the important information that is needed to include. You don't need to represent every tree on the road, you need to sort out the best information and make it concise but clear.
In his book The Actors Audition (Vintage Original, 1990) theater director David Black describes the goal of a clear and well-organized resume:
The most important function of your résumé is to support the opinion of someone who has taken an interest in you. [...] If you do not have enough credits to fill up a résumé, list what you have done under the heading "Representative Roles." This allows you to put down parts you have performed in college, school, camp, and so on. Even roles you have studied or wish to perform can be listed under this heading. (pp. 94-5)He cautions against excessive padding, or listing false credentials, "What may seem , in a moment of poetic license, to be harmless padding can come back to haunt you and might even cost you a job rather than get you one." (p. 94)
Remember that you are drawing a map -- creating an easy to follow, informative representation of your history in theater. That history will indicate your intent as a theater artist and serve to point toward your continued goals. Remember that the people requesting your resume are interested in learning more about you. Make that process as simple and straight-forward as possible.
Make a map that the people interested in your work can follow, a map that represents your experience, your common-sense, and your accomplishments thus far as a theater artist.
For more information and samples online check out these resources:
Ace Your Audition
Respect, Create, Learn: setting the stage in a new theatre classroom by Gai Jones
Or get some books:
The Actors Audition by David Black
I GOT IN! The ultimate Guide for Acting and Musical Theatre! by Mary Anna Dennard
PS: for a story about what not to do with your resume and college interview, see Bad Resume; Worse Excuse right here on Puzzlewit.
this post originally appeared in Das Drama Coach