Amanda Charney, TMU contributor and sophomore at USC

Hello and welcome to my second semester of TheaterMania University blogs!

For those of you just joining me this semester, I am currently a sophomore Theatre BA student at USC's School of Theatre. I was raised as a performer, doing all kinds of music, singing, dancing, and shows from the time I was in diapers. I saw my first musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, when I was about five years old, and from then on I was hooked. Musicals are my passion, but I also love plays, movies, and music. It was this deep fascination and enthusiasm that carried me through high school, college applications and auditions, and to where I am right now.

However, I often ask myself why I go through all the trouble. Why spend thousands of dollars on a fantastic university education, only to graduate into a field where the chances of me supporting myself through acting are so slim? Am I wasting a college education on acting training, when I could be studying -- I don't know, economics, and graduating with a job already lined up for me?

The thing that motivated me to be a theater major at USC is what still keeps me going today. I keep coming back to the fact that if I don't give it my best shot, I will always regret it. I would much rather look back in 10 years and say to myself, "You know what? I gave it every last bit of passion I had and it just wasn't meant to be" than always wonder about what could have been. That kind of regret sticks with a person for life.

So, am I taking a risk by committing myself to being an actress? Most definitely. But for me, the bigger risk is not taking one.

And since being involved in theater is one of life's most rewarding experiences (in my humble opinion), I'm having the time of my life telling stories, connecting to complete strangers in the audience, and meeting the amazing people who have joined me in this artist's quest. Just this past fall I had the good fortune to be involved with one of the productions here at USC's School of Theatre. This show (an Arthur Miller play) had an amazing cast of talented people and a story that really connected to the audience in a meaningful way.

One of the most rewarding things that can happen to you as an actor is having someone come up to you after the show and say, "Wow, that was really incredible. It made me look at things in a whole new way." Having people tell me after that show that they were genuinely touched by the story we presented made the long hours of rehearsing more than worth it. The ability to have that kind of effect on an audience reminded me that live theater connects to the humanity in us all. When we as actors do our job right, there should be someone in the audience going, "Oh my god…that's me."

One of the things I have been forgetting to do lately, though, is live in the moment. Last semester I focused this blog on the future: preparing for the future, worrying about the future, getting excited about the future. This semester, my aim is a little more close to home. Most of us are putting an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy into our college education. I want to help us all get the most out of collegiate theater right here and right now!

I'll be interviewing professors, students, and professionals about how you can make the most of your acting classes, get involved in the student theater community, and learn the ins and outs of college theater. Check back every week for updates on how to live in the present in a meaningful way and how to have the best college experience possible!