Quest for the Big Stage

Writer’s note: Lars Lee is my cousin, and I have always known he would do big things. I come from a very musical family, so Lars isn’t the only one that is involved with theater and music. When I was young I remember going to see him in one of his many school plays. At family events, he is always sharing about his acting experiences. I haven’t seen him in almost two years because he is so busy with school and shows. We all believe in him and support his dreams.

New York City; center of the universe. Home to some of the finest art and theater in the world, including Broadway. Aspiring actors around the world fight their way to step on that Broadway stage and shine. Broadway bound and ready for the spotlight, Lars Lee of Minneapolis has been preparing his whole life for his chance under the lights.

Lee started acting as a child, and from his first performance on, he knew this was his future. “I did a children’s theater workshop, which I don’t recall very well, but it obviously left me with a good impression to the world of theater. I always liked playing sports as a kid, but theater was my escape from the stress of competition,” Lee said.

He admired every aspect of theater. “In every form of a performance you have to work with everyone else around you, not just your fellow actors, but your directors, stage managers, tech crew, costume crew, etc. You’re all trying to make the best product possible. I loved that environment so much, plus the ultimate result of the all collaborated art forms, that I knew I was going to pursue a career in it,” Lee said.

Lee attends the Hartt School of Music, Dance and Theater in Hartford, Conn. It is extremely difficult to make the cut for this school, as they only want the best to train with them. “I am studying to receive a BFA in Music Theater. To get in you have to audition typically by doing a dance call and singing two contrasting 32 bar cuts. Basically you get about two minutes to prove you are right for their school,” Lee said.

There are many ways he could have auditioned, but Lee chose the Unifieds. “I happened to participate in what’s called the Unifieds, which is a sort of common application for theater school. A lot of reputable schools will convene in the same place to hold all of the auditions at once, making it so the potential student doesn’t have to travel to every city in the country. I did the Unifieds in Chicago and auditioned for about seven schools,” Lee said.

Theater school is not for the faint hearted; aspiring actors have to put in many hours and a lot of hard work. “Anyone in a BFA program can tell you that school is no walk in the park. Whereas most college students have class from Monday-Thursday with their first class starting at noon, BFA students have classes Monday-Friday with their first classes being dance starting at 8 a.m., going through the whole day with a half hour for lunch and getting off at 5,” Lee said.

Lee is involved with many different shows through the school as well. “Typically you have rehearsal for a show which goes from 7-10:30 at night every weekday, with a Saturday rehearsal 11-4 in the morning. I also have my voice lesson and performance lab on Sunday. You have to love it to survive, so you find out pretty quick whether it’s the right fit for a career,” Lee said.

When auditioning for a role in a show, as an actor one must know which roles are best for oneself. “Knowing your ‘type’ is probably the most important thing to getting a role. In theater, television and film there are all types of roles, from an ingenue to a character actor and all those that fall in between. If one is perfect for the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would be the right fit for Tracy in Hairspray. If you know the kind of roles you can play, you can better promote yourself as an actor. When one is confident in themselves, they can be confident in their character. If you can believe that, and you have the perseverance to keep auditioning, you will get work,” Lee said.

The ultimate goal for Lee is, of course, Broadway. He has auditioned for roles and been close to getting them. Lee is still in school, however, and is only 20 years old. His time is coming. “I have not been on Broadway, yet. It is the equivalent of getting to the Major Leagues in baseball, so it is extremely hard to get on Broadway,” Lee said.

From years of experience, Lee has learned so much from the world of theater. “The biggest advice I could give aspiring actors is don’t go into this career if you just want to be famous. Being the star of a show isn’t everything. Theater is the window into society, it’s the ability to give as much perspective of the human condition as one can. I’m sure your English teachers have had the discussion over a story’s theme, and it’s not something one can just gloss over,” Lee said.

To go into theater, Lee said, one has to have a huge passion for what one does. To make it in this business, one has to put everything one has into it. “This career is hard. The dean of my school on the first day of freshman year gave us all one dollar. He told us if we think that we can be successful in this business without working harder than everyone else that we should take that dollar and spend it on a lottery ticket, because that’s our chances of making it,” Lee said.

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