Sandford explained how he feels when stepping on the stage for the first performance of a production.
"It's all about seeing the audience satisfied and having them say, 'Wow. That's great,'" he said. "There is not a better feeling in life, and that’s why I do this.”
Students from other schools also had exciting stories to share.
Sammi Grant from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois and Kendall McGuire, a recent graduate from Clearwater Christian College in Clearwater, Florida, both agree that outdoor drama is a special genre of theatre.
“Being outdoors makes the play even more spontaneous. Since it’s outside and more in the moment, anything can happen,” said Grant. “A bird could fly by during the show, so you are working with the spontaneity of the outdoor elements.”
McGuire echoed Grant’s thoughts about the special characteristics of outdoor drama and said that the productions seem to be larger than life.
Students relax in different ways before auditioning.
“I love the big setting; it makes the play ultra dramatic,” she said. “Outdoor dramas seem even more theatrical, and I think acting in one would be a lot of fun.”
In addition to sharing what makes outdoor dramas special, the students also discussed what skills they were most excited about honing while working on the dramas.
Melanie Wiliford, from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Scotland, said that she wanted to further polish some of the skills she picked up while in school.
“I want to work on the heightened language and vocal production that I will need for an outdoor theatre that seats 2,000 people,” she said. “I want to keep those skills up-to-date.”
Not only have the students learned how to audition and how to hone their acting craft, but they have also learned valuable life skills as well. The most common themes that kept emerging were that an actor must learn how to be true to himself and to always give 100 percent in performances.
“Acting has taught me that I must be able to show who I am and not really put anything on top of that to cover my character up,” said Colin Funk from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. “I have learned that being myself is not only enough in acting, but in everyday life, as well.”
Grant agreed that not only has she learned how to be herself but to be the best version of herself and to put as much work as she can into whatever she strives to accomplish in life.
“You must be the best you can be in any moment. When you go to audition, the producers want you to give it your all, “ she said. “Giving anything less than your best makes me question why people would even put the time and effort into a production, just to waste it by not giving their all.”
These talented, passionate actors also had advice for those individuals interested in theatre.
Todd Manley, a recent graduate from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri advised budding actors to constantly take acting classes.
“You are never done when you think you are done. You must continue to train,” he said. “I just graduated and I am already looking into taking more courses. Literally, with this job you will never be done learning.”
In addition to receiving as much training as possible, Joshua Stein from Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, North Carolina, also recommended that actors be courageous and not let fear control them.
“You can’t be afraid to step up, be bold, and make choices and decisions,” he said. “Even if it is a wrong choice, if you make it big and proud and go with it, then the directors are going to notice and commend you for being brave and standing on the stage giving your performance and your all, even if you make a mistake. You must let your nervousness feed your energy.”