Three, Two, One…Action!
There’s a saying that circulates the thespian culture and it goes along the lines of the “world being a stage.” While that may not apply to all people, but that sentiment rings true for sophomore Haley Smith, a theater student at Pepperdine University. Sitting on the hardwood-stage floors, without her stage makeup and costumes, Haley seems like your typical girl-next-door who laughs with elation when she thinks about how she got here and is living her dream.
“Every little girl kind of has their dream of what they want to be,” said Haley while softly laughing between her words. “And for me, I wanted to be a movie star.”
Haley knew by the time she was 5 that she wanted to be an actress, and starred in her first commercial, which advertised the Denver Zoo in Colorado. A passion for drama, no pun intended, came quickly as a result of Haley’s first time in front of the camera. In fact, so much that she got her agent and manager when she was 13.
“I was flying back and forth from Colorado to Los Angeles to audition for Disney shows and like for the little girls in horror movies, which was really fun,” said Haley. However, with a dream for a life in the camera lights, Haley quickly learned that she needed more of a home structure and less of a career at such a young age.
“I wanted to make sure I was really balanced,” said Haley. “I decided to go back to high school and have a normal life, which a lot of kids don’t really have when they start acting young.”
However, Haley had to come to terms with the fact that, being from a small town, it wasn’t typical to leave for an acting career and then go home and try to live a “normal” life.
“I remember I didn’t get very good feedback from my friends about it,” said Haley quietly as she recounted her memories from when she first went home. In middle school, her friends didn’t understand why she went back and forth to California as opposed to staying at home and just doing theater when she got into high school.
“They weren’t very receptive of it,” recounts Haley. “And now it’s funny because they’re artists and one of my friends is pursuing a music career in Nashville.”
By going back to high school, and taking a short 4-year hiatus from her acting career in Los Angeles, Haley found a different kind of success.
“I was really blessed because I got to play the lead in the musicals all four years of high school and got the opportunity to choreograph every musical, which was really fun,” said Haley about furthering her career while still in high school. Haley grinned as she said that she wouldn’t change her experience for anything because not only did she get to continue acting, but she also got to make a lot of life-long friends that not a lot of actors get to do.
Now Haley is a full time student at Pepperdine, and learning that her passion for acting may be more than memorizing lines for a camera.
“Acting is not easy, like it’s not something that people just become famous for magically,” said Haley, “people have to work really hard and it’s a job.”
When Haley came to Pepperdine, her acting classes confirmed her passion for acting. According to Haley, the proximity of Pepperdine to LA offers a unique opportunity because she’s around other people who want the same things; which is an environment that Colorado was unable to offer her.
“You feel like what you’re doing is real and it’s important,” said Haley about being so close to Los Angeles and the opportunities it provides artists. “It’s something I’ve had to work really hard at and that makes me want to do it even more.”
Haley is currently in the musical, “South Pacific” by Rogers and Hammerstein. With the musical being in tech week, the week before the opening where the cast and crew constantly runs the show until it is perfect, Haley is definitely starting to feel the pressure of being a student and working.
“A typical day would probably be waking up and going to class all day,” said Haley, which every other student does, but Haley’s day doesn’t end then. “I grab a quick dinner and go to rehearsal,” continued Haley. “I get to rehearsal by 5 o’clock, get in hair and make-up and costume, put my mic on, and then we run the show,” which is only the beginning of a very long night.
“We usually get out of rehearsal around 10:30, because we have notes, we have to take off our costumes, and do all of that kind of stuff,” Haley said. “All of us bring our homework and we go act our scene and get off and finish a page of homework and go back on stage,” which shows just how little time Haley and the rest of the crew have for work and school.
Even with all of the time and commitment that Haley has given to her career and to school, she holds firm in the belief that all she needs to do is trust that this is the plan that God has for her.
“It’s interesting because when I was younger, I really wanted to have my big break and all of a sudden be huge and be in movies and everyone would know me,” chuckled Haley. “Now, it’s not really about that. It’s because I love to act.”
Haley humbly reiterates that she’s not concerned with how she’s going to get there (into the acting scene) or how successful she’ll be, as long as she gets to do what she loves. In fact, she may not want all of the fame, because she dreams of also having a family and being able to raise her children.
“I’m not really expecting to graduate college and have a big break and all of a sudden be like Angelina Jolie,” joked Haley, she said she does find inspiration in Jolie’s passion for philanthropy. She finds her true passion in “the artists who want to make things and tell stories that are important to them,” which Haley finds excitement in being able to collaborate on those projects.
“I just want to be able to tell stories that are important and affect people with what I create, so we’ll see what happens,” said a hopeful Haley as she stood up and glanced around the empty theater.
With a hopeful glisten in her eyes, Haley couldn’t hold back her “dramatic” self as she took a graceful bow, and opened the curtain to what the future had in store for her.