As we welcome back theatre students to classes in Canberra and look forward to auditions for Great Expectations, it seems an apt moment to reflect on the value of youth and community theatre as a training ground for emerging talent.
See what Robert Pattinson, Rebel Wilson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Emma Stone have said about their formative experiences as unknown budding actors performing in theatre.
Before Harry Potter and Twilight, Rob was a 15-year-old schoolboy taking part in amateur shows at his local theatre in Barnes, London.
Rob told The Mirror, “I just decided that I should try to act. So I auditioned for ‘Guys and Dolls’ and got a little tiny part as some Cuban dancer, and then I got the lead part, and then I got my agent. I owe everything to the Barnes Theatre Club."
Not bad considering he started doing youth theatre so that he could meet girls.
Rebel Wilson had her international breakthrough with the musical comedy Pitch Perfect (2012), but for years she struggled to be taken seriously as an actress in Australia.
She told The Guardian, “I was too different I think and didn’t fit NIDA’s mould. Four times I auditioned for NIDA and got rejected. I remember each time I went to Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet afterwards to console myself. They said I didn’t have the voice for Shakespeare."
Rebel found a warmer reception at the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), explaining that “ATYP was just very inclusive... they were just encouraging of you as how you were."
Chiwetel Ejiofor's first role was as Algernon in a school production of The Importance of Being Earnest, before he started taking drama classes and appearing in shows with the National Youth Theatre.
A few years later, he was accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. According to The Guardian, Ejiofor was told at the time, "It’s going to be quite difficult for you to make any money as an actor." It was also suggested that he lose his African name to increase his chances.
Ejiofor left drama school at the age of nineteen after Steven Spielberg spotted him in a production of Othello and offered him a role in his film, Amistad.
Before Emma Stone became an Academy Award-winning actress, she was a regular performer in her local community theatre in Arizona.
At age eleven, she played the role of Otter in The Wind in the Willows and went on to appear in seventeen more shows with the youth theatre group, including Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Oliver! and Winnie The Pooh.
Emma was seen as a character actor, playing supporting roles like the Wicked Stepsister in Cinderella and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland.
Her former coach told the Daily Mail, "In the eighteen shows she did with us, she really never had the lead."
Emma then moved to LA to pursue an acting career but found herself consistently rejected for roles: “I went up for every single show on the Disney Channel and auditioned to play the daughter on every single sitcom. I ended up getting none.”
After years of rejection, she began to land small roles in TV and film and finally got her big break when she won her first lead role in the film Easy A (2010).
Emma Stone now enjoys success as one of the most acclaimed lead actresses in Hollywood, showing that those who make it are those who refuse to quit.