Sydney Haygood

sydney haygood

Sydney Haygood is taking the Houston stages with fierce courage, and armed with substantial training and practices passed down to her through her experience as a Lamar University graduate with the Department of Theatre and Dance. Embarking on her third post-graduate production, we wanted to know more about her journey and where she is now.

I know the academic path to be mostly prescribed with a little flexibility toward specializations. Without that set road map, how have you continued to hone your craft and continue learning since graduation?

Well, every great artist will tell you to practice your craft, but for actors it’s like: how do you do that? Musicians can bust out music to play and dancers can learn new dance moves, but how do actors practice acting? I found this a little hard to do once I graduated from Lamar University because I didn’t have Joel or Brian (Joel Grothe, Associate Professor; Brian LeTraunik, Assistant Professor) giving me assignments or training with me as when I was in school. I’m currently not participating in any private coaching or paid training because it can get expensive, and I haven’t found a new teacher out here that I want to train with yet. So, I decided that I would find other ways to practice my craft on my own.

One of the simplest ways is by reading plays. When you read plays, you get a better understanding of how stories work; you read faster and most importantly you become knowledgeable about plays and playwrights in the world. Also, going out and watching plays and any other art forms really helps me 1) support local artists and 2) watch great actors act, which is always a plus.

How does that differ from your training at Lamar?

Pretty much how I train now is how I trained while at Lamar - go out find a monologue and practice it. My professors made it very realistic for us on how it is in the real world of finding your own monologues. Rarely did they give us monologues to practice with, so, we really had to go out and find them ourselves and practice. I still use that method to this day and I think it’s essential to being an actor for you to find yourself some monologues and rehearse them.

Auditioning, a key practice for an actor, can look different outside the more controlled environment created in an academic program. What have you learned from this experience?

Oh gosh, I have learned so much from auditioning outside of school. I had never auditioned for professional theatres before graduating, so, I was terrified of doing it for the first time. What I’ve learned so far is that you should just be prepared. If you prepare well for the audition, it helps take away most of the stress and anxiety of actually auditioning.

It’s really not that different auditioning for professional theatres than it is for school plays honestly. Lamar theatre really did prepare me for how it is in the real world. It’s different in the professional world because you may not always recognize or be friends with the people in the audition room or lobby area. You’re by yourself most of the time and you don’t have your peers to talk to.

Any advice you could share with peers looking to audition?

Just go do it, I promise it’s not as bad or scary as you think it is. Go with a friend if you don’t want to go alone, but go do it. You can audition for summer stock if you’re worried about school clashing with theatre, but go audition now so you can get over that hump and get used to auditioning for theatres, because that’s how it’s going to be your whole acting career.

You can go in scared, but always be prepared.

How did your time at Lamar University help shape your career now?

Being at Lamar helped me grow as an actor by all the amazing professional artists that the professors brought in to help us. I got to work with top actors and actresses, artistic directors, company managers, and acting teachers from Houston that really helped develop me further as an actress.

Any particular persons?

I really developed when Joel brought in a woman named Amelia Fischer, who is an outstanding teacher. She really pushed us to dive deeper into finding out about our characters’ life and relationships to other people. We would do master classes with her and it made all the difference in how I approach my characters now. I know if I didn’t go to Lamar, I wouldn’t have had that experience. I was very much influenced by her and the other artists that were brought to the school..

What about your performance experience?

While performing in Romeo and Juliet at Lamar, I was able to play Mercutio, and that has helped me how to understand and perform Shakespeare. There is a lot of Shakespeare out there folks and you have to know the text if you want to explore the character. For Romeo and Juliet, we had a very wonderful and talented director named Rutherford Cravens - we called him Ruddy - and he made sure we did not have our scripts in our hands when we were in rehearsal. It made us freer to move around the space and it changed how I rehearse in shows now.

Where have we seen you post-graduation?

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Alley Theatre was my first production post-graduation followed by Don Giovanni with the Houston Grand Opera.

What was that process like for you?

At the Alley Theatre, the process was a shock to me. Everyone there is so talented it was like I was in a master acting class every day. It was also shocking because at the same time it like it was like it was at Lamar. Lamar really does prepare you for being in the professional world - how you learn about your character and put a show together in rehearsal is a very similar process to the Alley. I was challenged by my social anxiety. Here I was just graduated college, never auditioned professionally, and now acting at one of the top regional theatres in the U.S. I was scared! When I was at Lamar, it was safe, comfortable and familiar. Now I was with people I didn’t know who had way more acting experience than me and it felt like I went from 0 to 100. So, I was very nervous the first few days at the Alley, but everyone there was so kind and professional that I really enjoyed myself and the people that I got to work with. In the end, I realized we were all just artists there to tell a story and that was the most important part of being there.

At the Houston Grand Opera, the process was similar to a regular theatre production except the show is more focused on the singing than the acting. I was a Supernumerary - which is an actor who does not sing - and I played one of Don Giovanni’s ghosts. We had a woman train us on how to move around the set as ghosts and what our jobs in the show would be. The opera was in Italian and it was hard at first to remember and figure out when and where to go next. It was very interesting being in an Opera because I got to see the process for the singers compared to the actors and it was very similar and they were fantastic!

What’s next for you?

I will be in Hamlet at the MATCH Theatre in Midtown Houston where I will be playing Ophelia with the Sankofa Collective (formerly known as the Bayou Theatre Company). I am very excited for this show and happy that I will be playing my first leading lady role outside of Lamar. The show opens August 15th and runs through the 18th. I am looking forward to being in a Shakespeare show again; especially Hamlet because it is one of his more famous plays and Ophelia has been a role that I’ve always wanted to play.


sydney haygood           
Photos by Lynn Layne Photography.