Would-be stars chase their dream, but competition is tough
Would-be stars lined up early in the morning Monday for the entrance exam at the Shanghai Theater Academy.
A record number of students — 30,929 — will take part in the exams for just 464 places in acting, directing, TV hosting, scriptwriting, dance and stage art. The exams run until March 11.
Over 10,000 candidates from all over the country are competing for the two most sought-after departments: acting and TV hosting.
Zhu Haofang, a 19-year-old from Hubei Province, said his performance at the acting department's first round was not bad.
"I failed in last year's competition because of my poor score at the national college entrance exam," Zhu said.
The increasingly fierce competition for a place in China's art colleges hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for stardom. Zhu also applied for admission to the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and the art schools of his hometown. He had to travel between different cities to boost his chances of success.
This year, the acting department of the Shanghai Theater Academy will enroll just 50 students. Only one in every 126 applicants will make it.
In addition to displaying their skills in recitation, impromptu performances, singing, dancing and gymnastics, candidates are also required to achieve good performance in the national college entrance exam.
Competition at the Central Academy of Drama is even fiercer. Only one in every 195 applicants will get into the acting department there. Heartthrob Yi Yangqianxi, a member of boy band sensation TFBoys, is one of those taking the entrance exam at the Central Academy.
Officials from the Shanghai Theater Academy said that a lot of measures have been taken to ensure a more open and fair examination system. The jury panel is composed of both theater scholars and famed directors.
"Our judges are not allowed to coach candidates at training classes," said Hu Min, an academy official. "Each of them have signed a letter of commitment to clarify their responsibilities."
Young people's enthusiasm for art colleges has steadily increased in recent years. Shanghai Theater Academy has seen its number of candidates increased about 170 percent since 2012.
Academy director Huang Changyong, attributes the fever to the cultural prosperity of China nowadays, from its cinema to variety shows.
"Art professionals with all-round expertise will be in high demand," he said.
With the popularity of hit reality shows such as "The Sound" and "The Making of An Actor", more and more young people have become aware of the hardship and challenges facing would-be stars.
Zhang Yujie, a Jiangsu Province candidate for the Shanghai Theater Academy's acting and TV hosting departments, said she was not chasing overnight fame, but a chance to improve her skills in communication, creativity and self-expression.
Many parents of the candidates are realistic. A woman surnamed Chen said she had talked with her daughter about the reality of an acting career, but she respected her choice.
"I told my daughter that the career is not quite stable and secure, and I would rather her to be admitted to a comprehensive university," Chen said. "However, she convinced me of her passion for performing arts. I think I should support her to have a try because it is her dream."