Dear Sir or Madam.
To whomever it may concern:
Do I really need this kind of opening? No.
After long years of working in the outside world, I have decided to apply to graduate school.
I would like to attend graduate school because the working world is for the birds. The American Corporate Machine is unfulfilling and hollow. The expectation that you work long hours far beyond the scope of your job function for a salary that's far lower than you deserve, coupled with the fact that nobody actually really likes the work that they're doing has finally taken its toll on me.
Sounds too much like I'm bitching.
Let me into graduate school before I go absolutely batshit fucking googily-eyed foaming-at-the-mouth insane out here in the "real world."
Phew. Got that out.
I am looking forward to graduate school because I want to expand my knowledge and appreciation of the art that I love so much.
Sounds too pretentious.
Since my undergraduate studies completed I have been in the outside world, and have experienced many things. I have learned how to live with people I don't like, I have learned how to work really crappy jobs just so I can buy a box of pasta at the end of the week and put food on the table.
So what? Bah. It's about life experience, damnit! Doesn't matter. It sucks.
Since completing my undergraduate work, I've dabbled primarily in directing.
Dabbled? What.. in the kiddie pool?
Since completing my undergraduate work, I've spent a fair amount of time directing. Volunteering as a director at MIT, I've learned hard lessons about working independently in theater. My experiences there have run the gamut. I tried directing an original musical work, with the playwright present. It was a disaster, including a physical altercation with the author, and a brief call to the police.
More details? No. HELL no.
I learned to work with undergraduate students and their varying sleep schedules, as well as their varying levels of talent. I've been technical director, choreographer, lighting designer, master carpenter, makeup designer and house manager to my own plays, all with varying levels of success. I've had to step into live performances because actors have not shown up. I've had sold out houses and standing ovations, and I've had shows that were so great that I couldn't believe that the actors in front of me were undergraduates studying physics and engineering rather than any of the performing arts. I've learned that I like directing because at the end of the day, it feels like you get to act in every role. Unfortunately, you don't get to do it in front of the audience.
I've learned that my place is on stage.
Bam! There ya go! You'll write this beast, yet!
In the course of my time in the "real world," after securing solid community theater roles as "Construction Worker", "Person #3", and the (stunningly!) romantic role of Sidney in Arthur Miller's "The American Clock", I finally learned a valuable lesson:
Always wear a condom.
Don't get the leads wet, and never, ever feed them after midnight.
Trotsky had it coming to him.
I am not leading man material.
There. I said it.
I will never be tall, golden, and gorgeous. I am not a good romantic lead. I will never sweep fair maidens off their feet. Not unless I'm about to tie them to the railroad tracks and twist my moustache maniacally.
I am a character actor. I can play quirky roles. I can play comedy. I can play the villain. But I cannot, and should not, be the Traditional Leading Man.
Good! We're getting somewhere!
While this realization was a wonderful epiphany, it also means that years of my acting experience were wasted in pursuit of roles that somebody else would, and did, play better than I.
What a whiner. Why must you whine? STOP THAT.
It's taken me valuable time to learn where I fit, and now I want to perfect it. Having run a sketch comedy show in college, I've always had a soft spot for comedy. I want to capitalize on my experience there and make it blossom.
Like a beee-yooo-tiful flower! Please. You disgust me. Grow a spine.
It's taken me years to--
Look, here's the thing. This is crap. Why do you need a written personal statement to accept me into graduate school for acting? How often am I going to write something on stage? I need to go. Don't look at my undergraduate grades, don't read this trite piece of trash that's just telling you what you want to hear anyway. Take me. Put me on stage with a good cast, give me a modicum of direction, and if I disappoint, send me away. Won't. Happen.
In my time since my undergraduate studies, I've learned my place in the world and on the stage. I know what I want to do, and I know where I want to do it. I need the guidance of your program in order to avoid paying my student loans back long enough to be able to afford to make it somewhere.
I need the piece of paper your program will provide so that other people will believe me when I tell them what I already know: that I'm really damn good.
Honesty will get you nowhere.
I need the guidance of your program to perfect my craft. I am comfortable with what I've achieved, but I know that it is merely the tip of the iceberg. I need your experience to add to my knowledge so that I may grow to act professionally --
I need your experience to add to my knowledge so that I may take steps toward becoming a professional actor and, perhaps, be an acting coach myself someday.
What more is there to say? Really. What more do they need to know?
Note: I am actually applying for graduate school, and this was the writing process of my personal statement, if you'd like to read the whole thing, as it came out in finished form, you can find it here (Adobe Acrobat PDF).
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.13.04 @ 2:25a
Congrats. I wish you the best of luck. Or, considering the field you've chosen, break a leg.
I definitely identify with your thought process here. I feel much of this every time I write a query letter and send it to a publisher. Honesty and talent can only get you so far.
It's a shame that you have to go through so much bull before talent and honesty are recognized, and then usually after you've been forced to compromise everything in which you believe.
Now go knock 'em dead.
12.13.04 @ 9:51a
Rock on, baby! Best of luck with all that.
"Army of squirrels" indeed.
Lately, I have also thought about going back to school, simply to have the credentials to support my innate talent. :)
Seriously, Matt* was asking why I needed credentials to do some of what I'd like to do 10 years from now, and I didn't have a good enough answer except "other people think it's better." I've always been of the mindset that advanced education can be found in the real world as well as an acedemic setting...
...but it's now cool to be in school.
12.13.04 @ 9:58a
Well.. I'd like my place to, eventually, be in academia, and you just can't do that without an advanced degree. No matter how much experience I have, nobody's going to hire me to teach acting if I don't have that piece of paper with those 3 funky letters on 'em.
12.13.04 @ 12:05p
On the mark, Tracey. I can do a lot of things very well, but I've been out of the working world for eight years now. No matter what I am capable of, unless I have a piece of paper that says so, no one's going to believe me.
12.13.04 @ 12:15p
...but it's now cool to be in school.
It's because the economy is so strong.
12.13.04 @ 12:31p
My foot! It's sticking to the dripping sarcasm!
12.13.04 @ 12:38p
Why else would people want to bury themselves in debt for a mere shadow of a hope of employment after they're finished?