Chris Collier

Chris Collier (BA, 2015)

Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?
Well, coming to Pitt was sort of a compromise with my parents; I remember them wanting me to stay close-ish to Philly, so Drexel. I was looking to get a bit farther: JHU. When it came down to it, Drexel and Pitt made decent and comparable offers in terms of financial aid, so Pitt won. Really, all I had when I got here was a desire to get out of Philly and no idea what the heck I wanted to do with my life.  In my freshman year, I did RTP with a bunch of friends from high school who also liked theatre. I really enjoyed it and the group of people, which, back then, was mostly made up of Theatre Arts majors and minor. I started to look more at Theatre Arts classes and took Intro to Dramatic Art in my second semester. I liked it, so I took Intro to Performance with Ariel Nereson in my third, and she convinced me both that theatre was something that I was good at and could make a future of some sort in. I still sort of hated the idea of performing at the time though, so I resolved to be a director and playwright, and in my sophomore year I joined the department. Cindy was the one who convinced me to come to season auditions at the beginning of my junior year, and then my trajectory was sort of set. I guess I should also note that I got an Italian minor while I was here, I just don't use that one as often these days.
How did the program help prepare you for life after graduation? 
My time in the Pitt theatre helped me develop a versatile skill set to maintain employment in a number of different aspects of theatre. I have obviously carved out a career as a performer since graduating, and that is the thing that most consistently keeps me employed in theatre, but I have worked in a number of other role within the industry. I've taught, directed, designed, painted, board op'ed, and even been a de facto master electrician for a short period. I imagine that's sort of the blessing of getting a B.A. instead of a B.F.A.; even when the acting work has been difficult to find, I have other skills to make myself a valuable asset. There's also a certain level of scrappiness that we had to develop. There were a lot of late nights figuring out how to build a thing or figuring out why the cues aren't working for this Performance Collaborative show. I'm sure mentioning how the lights used to be patched in the Studio would probably give JC nightmares. You just kind of had to have a flexible imagination because the budget was small, and really, only useful for emergencies. There are of course the networking and mentoring resources as well. There are a number of opportunities that I've been able to find because of professors from my time at Pitt mentioning my name or telling me about opportunities that I might be interested in, and I still am lucky enough to be able to call upon those resources for advice or coaching as I navigate the industry or prepare for last minute auditions and such.   
What is your current position and how did you get it?
I'd describe myself as a freelance artist, primarily as an actor. I'll be in a production of 12th Night playing Aguecheek out in Minneapolis in a little over a month. At this point I'm AEA eligible both through EMC and open access. I guess the best way to sort of explain my life now is that I have a decent-ish reputation and enough people who trust me to do a bunch of different things, so I sort of bounce around a lot. I've been in CT, MN, AK, and obviously Pgh, and a lot of it has just been working hard and saying yes to things. I have enough people who just throw my name around when opportunities come up, so I generally stay kind of busy. I've also definitely worked hard to deliver on the things that are asked of me. I've found a sort of peace in the grind, which I don't think is a thing that school always prepares people for, but it's definitely been necessary especially when it's just a bunch of auditions and not a lot of offers.
Do you have any thoughts or advice for current students?
Enjoy the time you have now and diversify your skills as much as possible. When you have to audition for or make requests of the gatekeepers of the real world and/or make the art happen for yourself, you'll appreciate a time when you didn't have to do all the planning and searching on your own. Do your best to curate a group of friends you'd aren't be afraid of losing when it comes time to decide who's gotta do the tedious work to make the next dream art project a reality, but also be aware that not all good friends are good collaborators for you. You may love their work, but if you don't like their process, you'll hate working with them. In all things, always know why you're doing what you're doing and if that's enough to make you happy; if you're doing something just because you can rather than because you need/want to, you're not being intentional, and thus, not serving yourself. Never be afraid to pivot at any point; there's no deadline on when to start enjoying the things you're doing, if something feels wrong fix it if it's worth it or drop it if it isn't. Lastly, and this is sort of tied to the last one, there's no timeline on success, so cut yourself some slack. Set an actionable goals and work towards them while taking breaks and reassessing along the way. You'll get there, but where you're going is allowed to change and how long it takes is arbitrary in a lot of ways. Best of luck!