How to write an acting resume–when you have no experience

cartoon silhouette of busy woman at computer

It’s a new year (in a few days) so I’m writing an article just for the newbies! I’m also introducing a new category for blog articles: Instructional. By “instructional” I simply mean any article where I give someone step by step instructions to do something. So basically, it’s like my normal listicles except it’s a how-to. 😀

So, you’ve decided you wanna pursue acting. Well, among other things, you’ll need a headshot and resume. But how do you write a resume if you have no acting experience?? Well, unless a big fuckin’ miracle happens, your first play isn’t gonna be with a professional theater company, it’ll be with an amateur company. That’s to be expected and that’s ok. Especially since amateur doesn’t automatically mean low quality. So, expect to be auditioning and networking with a lot of community theaters in your area. They will know as well as anyone else that there’s a first time for everything. So without further ado, here’s some steps to create your first acting resume.

Create a heading.

Cartoon computer on pink desk

Every resume, newbie or not, should have a heading with the following things: your name, phone number, email, websites if any, hair color, eye color, and your height. One thing you should know right off the bat is that an acting resume is not like a standard work resume or job application, ie, something to submit for your uh, day job. DON’T EVER PUT YOUR ADDRESS OR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON YOUR ACTING RESUME. This is because you need to protect your privacy and protect yourself from ID theft. In an audition you’ll likely be asked to fill out an audition form, and this can have your address on it, but it doesn’t need to be on your acting resume. Also, unless you audition for someone who has telepathy, they’ll need to contact you if they wanna offer you a role. So I must reiterate, for God’s sake, don’t forget to put your phone number and email on your resume! (You’d be surprised at how often people forget this.) Here’s an example of what a heading should look like… which is from my resume:

Headshot heading with contact info blacked out

(I blacked out my contact info since this is article is readable by the public.) You’ll also notice I included my pronouns which is a good idea.

Never been in a play? Craft a good statement to introduce yourself.

Faceless cartoon figure entering a doorway

Let’s say you have literally NO experience being in a play. Like, not even in high school. Well, since you have no experience in the theater realm, make a point to introduce yourself, some qualities that would make you a good actor, and what your objectives are. Be sure to use examples. A short paragraph would do the trick, even if it’s as few as five to 10 sentences. Do you have public speaking experience? Have you ever had to work on a project where teamwork was absolutely vital? Do you play an instrument or sing? Do you have good critical thinking skills, and if so, name a time when you’ve used them. Give a reason why you value the performing arts. A lot of times, this may just be a judgement call. Here’s something I’ve drafted for an imaginary new actor:

“My name is [so-and-so] and I want to start an acting career and would love a chance to work with your company. I have many attributes and life experiences that suit me for the theater. For example, I’ve taken public speaking classes at [local community college] and received an A. This gave me valuable training not only in engaging an audience and working with different acoustics, but also with the ability to articulate different things in different ways. Furthermore, I was also in a choir in high school, meaning that while I don’t have experience playing a character on stage per se, I do have experience performing. I’ve also taken a number of literature courses which has given me exercise in critical thinking, something that’s much needed as an actor in order to evaluate how to approach a scene. Most notably I’m currently taking a beginner acting class at [such and such].”

This tells a director that while you don’t have the acting experience that their other candidates have, you still have relevant experience and are responsible enough to be in a play. This gives you a chance to nab a small role or even a supporting one, which is a good start, especially for a beginner. This statement isn’t on a resume for experienced actors. It’s only for newbies who are trying to get their foot in the door and it should be the first thing under your heading. If you’ve been in plays, even if it’s just one or two, you can skip this step. But it can still be good to include it if you’ve been in so few. Especially if they were a long time ago, very small roles, etc.

List your play experience.

Green and purple theater masks

This part should seem obvious: list the plays you’ve been in! 🙂 There is a basic formula to it, but it’s pretty simple. You list the name of the play, the character(s) you played, the name of the company, and the name of the director. It should essentially read as follows:

Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it all For You, Philomena, [Name of theater company] / [Name of director]
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cobweb/Et. al, [Name of theater company] / [Name of director]

The best way to do this is create a table. (You’ll wanna use Word or the free version.) Worried that this section, or others won’t take up space? Don’t be! You have to start somewhere and the director is well aware that you’re a newbie. And don’t use a large font to make up for it. That’ll look unprofessional and sloppy. Times New Roman or Arial with a 12 point size is recommended.

Furthermore, you may be wondering what the “Et. al” is about. Well, it’s not uncommon for actors to play multiple characters in theater, especially community theater. (For one thing, it saves money.) Sometimes, for creative reasons a director wants an extra, usually nonspeaking character, to add to the ambiance to the scene. For example, a bartender in the background for a scene that takes place in a tavern, an extra fairy for a dancing sequence in Midsummer, and so on.

List your training.

Cartoon image of man with graduation hat, a degree, and supplies

If you haven’t enrolled in any kind of acting class, do so asap. Yes, they cost money. But it’s an investment. The good news is, in the progressive era we’re living in, some acting classes (usually community classes rather than a school) will work with people on a low income. Hopefully that will continue. And it’s perfectly fine to list that you’re a current student. (For example, you’d say “Scene study class with [so-and-so], current student.” But you may have other training that’s relevant to the theater world, so include it. Below is an example of how training should be listed.

Public Speaking 101, [Such-and-such community college.]
Shakespeare Tragedies, High school course.

Also, a lot of this is a judgement call. If it’s not specific theater training but you think it’ll come in handy, feel free to include it. Just don’t over do it.

List your skills.

winking emoji ball

Believe it or not, many skills can be relevant to an actor’s career. Playing an instrument, speaking other language(s), karate, sports, dancing, fencing, singing, card shuffling, gun twirling, tumbling, juggling, the list goes on! But don’t forget to list your skill level. (Beginner, intermediate, advanced, what rank you are if applicable, etc.) This is the fun part when creating a beginner resume! Even something like bartending. Do you think Tom Cruise knew how to do this before he made Cocktail?

It’s amazing the things directors are looking for! Believe me! Here’s a good example of how this stuff should be listed:

Guitar: Intermediate.
Piano: Beginner.
Juggling: Advanced.

You get it. 😉

Well, this all should get ya started. Take it all in stride, take it easy, and remember this quote I love… from a play that I don’t happen to like, but why throw away the quote:

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

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