Everyone needs to have a support network for any activity they are involved with. This might not be a huge network and it certainly doesn’t need to be ‘in person’ support, but people need people. Don’t feel that you are weak or incompetent if you seek help and support. The best projects and people on the planet will tell you that support is a huge part of why they are so successful. It must be noted that these relationships are two way streets.
So, on to the support groups which are available to anyone…
Community theater is one of the most overlooked training grounds for performing arts. Most of these theater groups are small non-profit organizations that are looking for people who want to become involved, and for your time the return is tremendous. A series of behind the scenes positions and tasks can give you insight into how theaters of any size work. Starting out by building sets and assisting backstage sets the groundwork. Moving up to being a stage manager and producer can help you learn the inner workings of a show – how it happens and what drives it forward. If you like you can move up to a director position and really take charge.
However, most people who get involved want to act, and this is where you can really work your chops. Different groups often have different focuses; dramas, musicals, original works, socially significant plays, etc. By working with different theaters and directors you can try your hand at all kinds of work. This can fill out your theater resume, so if you have a desire to shift to professional work, casting people will see you’ve had some level of experience. It all helps.
On a more personal note, try to find some people who have been around the scene for a while. Talk to them and find out if they would like an assistant on their next project. Chances are huge that they will be happy to have you, and you can gain much personal insight and advice from these folks. Another benefit and one you shouldn’t overlook is that they are more likely to cast you in future productions. They see what you can do and you have the advantage of that relationship forever.
Another piece of support can come from former formal instructors. There are lots of training centers of various types that are available (Google acting class if you don’t believe me.) Once you have taken a class these instructors can become friends or consultants. It may develop into a mentor type relationship or you may start taking private acting lessons, but instructors in this field generally are doing it because they love what they do and discovering new talent is a feather in their cap.
Lastly I would say read a book. There are lots of books out there on theater, lighting, acting, ‘the method’, improv, and other aspects of the theater. Not only is this an invaluable resource, but also, perhaps surprising to some, another personal connection. Most of these authors are pleased to hear from readers and are willing to communicate through e-mail, over the phone, or sometimes even in person. People appreciate people who appreciate their work, and you have supported them financially by buying their book.