Alumni Spotlight: Faren Collins (’08 BFA Musical Theatre)
Faren Collins, a native of Georgia, knew that she wanted to study musical theatre and was drawn to the Penn State School of Theatre’s conservatory-type program because of the large university setting. Also of note is that she had always heard about Penn State because her father almost played football for the school.
While many teachers influenced her, the first was acting faculty member Wendell Franklin, who helped her to navigate the audition process. At the other end of her time in the program, on her graduation day, she stopped by the office of Dr. Susan Russell, who gave her a piece of advice that she would always carry with her. “Faren, the plan is the plan until that plan changes and that becomes the new plan.” These words would resonate with her from that moment forward.
In 2008, armed with her BFA in Musical Theatre, Faren moved to New York City, rooming with a few other alumni and hitting the audition circuit. She says she “fell into pageants,” competing in the Miss USA and Miss America systems. She found pageants to be a good performance opportunity and loved how they allowed her to create a character that was still her authentic self but also showed a different side of her. Pageants have a performance side and are technical in how a competitor has to walk, speak, and dress and be able to pull focus without saying anything. She had to learn how to listen and then how to articulate a response quickly, which helped with future interviews and auditions.
It was while auditioning in the Miss America system on the state level that Faren wrote and self-published a children’s book called Sister Queens (available on Amazon). She told the story of two young girls who compete in pageants and learn the importance of friendship.
A lot had happened in her first year out of school and Faren found her way back to Atlanta for time with her family. While there, she auditioned for an agency and was signed by Click Models, who sent her to an Atlanta Hawks NBA cheerleading audition. She did not make the team, but soon got a call from the coach of the dance team for the Boston Celtics. That coach had been one of the judges for her Atlanta Hawks audition and wanted her to come to Boston to audition there.
New plan. Faren moved to Boston, where she was a dancer for the Boston Celtics for the next three years. “I loved it,” said Faren.
Was it the goal? No. But it was an opportunity. The plan is the plan until the plan changes.”
Faren retired from the team after three years and had to make a decision: New York City or Los Angeles. She chose Los Angeles on a whim after meeting a couple in Boston that was about to move to Laguna Beach in southern California. Faren settled in nearby Laguna Niguel, began working at a ballroom dance studio (thanks to the couple she had met in Boston), and got involved in the local chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association.
Next, with the help of a connection she made through the alumni association, Faren moved to Los Angeles proper. She wanted to get into the acting scene, but felt that she needed to better understand how the industry worked in Los Angeles. She found a job with the Brogan Agency working as a “kid agent.” She learned a lot about the industry and about how casting directors and producers move, the hierarchy of the systems, the ratios of who and how and the logistics. At the same time, she was still auditioning and networking through the alumni association. One of those auditions led to her becoming the face and voice for the new Disney World roller coaster attraction based on the sci-fi movie TRON: Legacy. The ride opened in April 2023.
It came time to focus on acting, so she left her agent job to spend more time networking. Where could she do that? A yoga studio. Yoga is a practice full of actors, directors, and casting directors. She found a studio where she could both learn the practice and meet people. It wasn’t long before she was teaching at the studio, with a number of celebrity clients. She fell in love with the practice and the community.
Along the way, Faren discovered painting. She turned her paintings into designs on athletic leisure wear and her company Fareverart was born. Wearing her creations while teaching yoga classes got her students interested in the line and before long her clothing and art had spread far beyond the studio. Faren says that the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement was when her clothing business took off. She started to see her clothes on people out on the streets of Los Angeles, and soon her designs were featured in British Vogue, New York Magazine, House and Garden, and more.
By this time, Faren, always with the words of Susan Russell in the back of her mind, had decided that she wanted to make yoga her full-time occupation with the goal of opening her own studio. But then COVID hit, which meant the closure of the studio where she worked and the loss of her job. She moved back to Atlanta to work out what to do next.
A Penn State alum came through once again. Rebecca Force, who had studied costume design at Penn State and was then a Graduate Fellow at the Smeal College of Business, encouraged Faren to consider pursuing her MBA. She applied to Penn State in May 2022 and was accepted one month later. Nearly 20 years after she first came to campus, Faren is now working towards her MBA and a Certificate in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship with a concentration in marketing. After graduation she hopes to return to Los Angeles to start her own yoga studio.
The plan is the plan until the plan changes and then you need a new plan. Faren’s plans have led her to a new plan time and time again. Today, she studies across from her freshman dorm in a building where there used to be a parking lot. In March, she returned to the Theatre Building to talk to the Acting for the Camera class and has connected with some of those students to continue to advise and to mentor them. The Penn State connections are strong and she is returning the favor of the alumni that have helped her along the way while always working on the next plan.
Interviewed by Allison Lee (’95 BFA Stage Management), immediate past president of the School of Theatre Affiliate Program Group (Theatre Alumni Group). “Spotlight on Alumni” is a project of the SOT APG.