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How to build a career in theater – a discussion with Ethan Metz, Montclair State University Theater

Ethan Metz as Juan Bates in Daughters of The Rebellion directed by Melissa Crespo (MSU MAINSTAGE)


As part of our focus on early careers, and to launch our new Carpe Art page on theatre, we bring you an interview with New Jersey native, Ethan Metz (a current theater major at Montclair State University), to discuss his path into a promising, early career. Ethan’s example is important for so many of our creative arts students at Montclair State University and in New Jersey as a whole. This is a particularly difficult industry to enter but we know that our state has birthed fabulous talents in theater and in the film industry, so it is feasible. Just think of examples such as Meryl Streep, Peter Dinklage, or Queen Latifah! Theater is a vital part of the entertainment industry estimated to be around $25.9 billion for film alone ( The seeds for many careers began in New Jersey’s community and regional theaters and wonderful educational institutions such as Montclair State University allowed young talents to flourish. Just look at the impressive list of alumni on the site for the Theatre and Dance Department:

The focus of this post is on how a young actor, Ethan Metz, has used the opportunities provided by the department to practice his craft and gain confidence. Graduating in May 2022, Ethan has acted in multiple productions, most recently playing the role of the father in the department’s spring 2022 production of Mark Haddon’s 2013 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This production used Simon Stephens’ adaptation of the novel.

Ethan Metz as Ed in Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time directed by Heather Benton (MSU MAINSTAGE)

Optimize Time at College and Gain Creative Confidence

In talking with Ethan, it is clear that there are very specific steps he took to get to a promising point in his early career. Here are a few tips that he shares in his interview:

Seek out classes that build your knowledge and skills

Develop your self-confidence by taking as many classes and workshops to build your skills and abilities. Then, have a positive attitude and believe in yourself - believe that you are ENOUGH! After doing rigorous class assignments, acting in as many as seven different shows at different Montclair State University stages, Ethan recommends positive self-talk and internal work of self-discovery. In other words, know yourself and your strengths.

Say YES to opportunities!

Cultivate an open mindset and say yes to experiences and opportunities. Do justice to the process of acting and to the process of discovering opportunities. His most recent opportunity for an acting role outside of the University came via a previous professor reconnecting with him to see if he had interest in a film role - “It’s the random connections that you make … that can get you in the room.” This bring us to the issue of networking …

Network, network and then network some more…

The most important gift to yourself is to build a strong network while you are at college. Professors, peers, mentors and administrators are invested in the career success of students. Be sure to attend events and build a strong network of professional contacts that you may not have access to in your own inner circle of family and friends. You never know when a distant acquaintance will connect you to an influential producer or director. Justin Nguyen, founder of Declassified Media, and a recent graduate, has one of the most compelling podcasts for young graduates and has this to say about networking to connect with influential people in your industry:

“Well… that’s the hard part. Unless you’re Gen Z Mafia and get featured in the New York Times, chances are these communities never make it into the general public.”

He provides helpful tips about his own experience on his podcast that you can find here: By the time Nguyen graduated college, he had secured several amazing internships. He explains how he deliberately built networks online, starting with LinkedIn and then creating additional professional profiles on sites such as Instagram, etc., to exhibit his talents, knowledge and experience.

So, Get Out There!

Our key takeaway is that a fabulous career is feasible in theater. We have amazing resources at the University to support students and we invite you to join our theater page to showcase your talents. Drop us a line here at Carpe Art, and check out the new theatre page and our LinkedIn site where you can follow us and connect with us.

So, head over to our video page and watch the interview with Ethan Metz to listen to his story of how to thrive at college and launch an acting career!


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