I clung to the stage. Doing theater was the only place in my small town I could perform”.
Growing up there were many obstacles in my path to getting to where I am today. Some were fairly easy to get over and others felt like a mountain. Even now there are some that I haven’t tackled yet. I was raised in central Wisconsin, I have nine siblings, and grew up mostly with three of my brothers. My mom was a single parent working two to three jobs the whole time I was growing up and getting her Bachelors Degree. I remember the first time I ever thought I wanted to act. I was in first grade watching Caroline in the City with my mom and she said “Do you see that girl with the dark hair, Caroline’s best friend? That’s our cousin. I decided right there I wanted to become an actor. As childhood went on I always kept that in the back of my mind, but for a long time I tucked it away and didn’t tell anyone. Around this time I was diagnosed with a learning disability and I was put into assisted learning classes.
In eighth grade, auditions for the middle school plays were coming up and I told my mom that I wanted to do one, but up till this point I struggled with confidence and was very shy. She told my English teacher about it and he gave me a kind of gentle shove in the right direction. I did my first play with the part of a game show host. It was a small part with just a few lines, but I will always remember it. That was the first time, since that day I watch my cousin act, that I stood before someone and said this is what I want to do, this is it, this is what I want to spend my life doing.
Toward the end of the year all the “assisted” learning kids met one by one with the guidance counselor to talk about their plans for high school and afterward. I talked about my love for performing and ambitions to become an actor. It was at this point when the counselor brought up a topic that made me very upset. She explained that with my learning disability, the school didn’t believe I could handle going to college, that I should consider not going to college. They told me I should wait a few years after high school and then if I still wanted to go, I should look at some of the technical schools nearby. I was sad at first that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college. Not that I had really considered going, but now that I was told I couldn’t, I wanted to. I was angry at her, but didn’t say anything. Rather, I decided right then and there I was going to go to college. Even if it was just to show her she was wrong. Looking back, I know that they were only trying to prepare me for what they saw in my future, but I can see how their un-encouraging words have motivated me to this day. Not only am I the only one of my siblings to graduate from college, but much to my surprise I am applying for a MFA!
After the middle school play, I clung to the stage. Doing theater was the only place in my small town I could perform. I did all of the community theater plays and tried out and got in both of the high school’s musicals. Most of them were small roles, but I got some nice supporting ones too, I loved it. I learned that it’s ok to be a small part. Sometimes they can be the most fun. The bigger roles helped me understand the seriousness of what I was doing. I found that my confidence grew with every role I did. My second year of high school I discovered the forensics speech team. I joined and participated in solo acting all three years, qualifying for state every time. My senior year I did both solo and group acting. Our group selection was written by our group instead of choosing a scene already made and it was a big hit. People were laughing like crazy and we flew straight to state and getting a silver medal. Out of all the clubs and sports I did in high school I will always look back most fondly on my acting experiences.
During high school and into college I worked the summers at a Boy Scout Camp. I worked in many different areas. No matter where I worked though, one of my favorite things every year was the staff camp show. We spend a week during the training and setting up camp, writing skits and putting together a fun and entertaining show based around a theme. I always had my hands in this and was in as many skits as possible. This is the place I felt I really shined. I have never felt the kind of energy I put out when I performed at the camp shows. I grew up going to that camp, watching the staff do the shows and when it was my turn I gave it my all. That one night a week I felt as though I could do anything, and be anything. It was always amazing.
In college I started running into problems dealing with rejection and having to give up other things I really enjoyed. The first decision I made was to stop pole vaulting and focus on acting. There wasn’t enough time to do them both and they overlapped so much. I knew vaulting was more of a hobby, so I let it go and found other hobbies that were more flexible. My second year of college I didn’t get into a single show. I spent the whole summer preparing for these four shows. Reading them, learning the music to the musical. I didn’t care about a main role, though that would have been great, I just wanted to be in the shows. After not getting into the musical I was pretty down and second guessed what I was doing. It was my first time not getting into a show and I knew it would happen. People told me and I told myself that I wouldn’t get in everything, that’s just unrealistic. Even though I prepared for it, it still was being really hard on me. That’s when I remembered I wanted to do film, but never really had the chance to do it. I can see now that not being cast in those shows gave me a chance to develop my skills as a film actor.
While helping backstage, I started talking with the Digital Film and Television (DFT) students. The DFT program was our film program, but it didn’t include acting. They may not have had an acting program, but they did make films and frequently had projects that they needed talent for. I even started learning some basic camera work and did make-up for some of their zombie films. I really enjoyed helping film students with their projects and I found my love for film acting. It reminded me that as a small child, I once dreamed about it. I still did a lot of theater, but I also became the host of the student TV channel and worked a lot with the DFT students.
As I went through school I sometimes felt down about my skill level compared to the other students. They were so much better than I was, but I thought about it and realized there are always going to be people who are better. Knowing that motivated me to work that much harder. No matter how many times I got discouraged I knew I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Even if I spent my life just in the bit roles working a full time job to support what I love. I decided that I should put myself out there and I started emailing agents around the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. Which lead me to getting on a free actor’s website and because of that I landed my first paid film acting gig in a movie called Dear White People. I was an extra and the six days I spent on set made me think back to that middle school play. I felt like I was on my way.
From emailing the agencies, I got into a couple of them. I ended up going with one to Launch Chicago, where I met David Vando for the second time. I was very nervous to audition for him because I had done it once before but didn’t put my strongest foot forward. I can there with a monologue I didn’t really connect with, because my coach told me it was a good one. When I didn’t get Davids approval I looked at myself hard and found a monologue I really like and I worked to improve my abilities. After gathering my courage I went and talked to him and it was great. First he gave me grief when I told him I was intimidated to come talk to him. He had me do my monologue, and worked with me. I was amazed by how much the few pointers he gave me changed what I was doing. I knew then and there that I could gain a lot by going back to school and furthering my training and education. To my surprise I was given a scholarship, and was ecstatic for the next month.
I decided to go to the NYFA and at first, I was set on the New York school. After all, that’s where David taught and I really wanted to work with him again. Once I had done my research I found that with the MFA program I was looking at, I would be better off going straight to the LA school. I had figured out what I wanted to do, so I sat down and talked with my family more in depth and came up with a plan. I would take a year off from school to save up money for the move. I would become independent from my mom so I could get more financial aid. I also decided after school to join the National Guard or Coast Guard to help alleviate any financial strain.
These last two months as I have gathered more information about school, it has really started to sink in. I am on my way down the path I want, working toward the field that I have dreamt about. I couldn’t be more excited. It makes me look back at that little kid watching TV and think, “You were right. You may not have known what acting really was, but you were still right.” This is the next chapter in my life and I expect it to be difficult and trying, but just as amazing as the ones that came before it.
Wisconsin based Actor: ~ Logan Arneson