Before embarking upon a career in acting, it’s important to understand the difficulties of the profession. While parts of it can be exciting and glamorous, there is a great deal of hard work and effort needed for most actors to succeed. New York City is where the East Coast actors work their trade, Los Angeles is where the West Coast actors congregate and Chicago is the theatrical center for the Midwest.
Learn your craft. When you choose acting as a profession, you are choosing a career that requires a certain level of working knowledge. Although it might seem as if it's a very easy profession, anyone who has ever stood on stage or in front of a camera can tell you that it is more difficult than it looks. Schools such as Act One Studios in Chicago or the Chicago Actors Studio both offer classes for beginners and professionals, as well as internships and scholarships.
Read the trade publications, even if they aren’t specific to Chicago. These include (but aren’t limited to) Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Backstage. They provide insight as to what is taking place on the East and West coasts.
Audition at every opportunity. Websites such as "Theatre in Chicago" and “Backstage” have both paying and non-paying job opportunities, as well union and non-union openings. The best way to improve your chances at becoming an actor in Chicago is to make sure that you are always out there, putting yourself on the line.
Get an agent or a manager. In order to land either of these, you're going to need to sell yourself, to let them know that they've got a great opportunity in you and that they should give you a chance. Most times they are going to send you on your way without giving you the opportunity to show them what you've got, but you need to keep trying until you find someone who is willing to take a chance on you. Ask actors you know for recommendations to agents and managers you should approach.
Go to a photographer and have headshots taken. Headshots are the calling cards that you will be leaving with auditions, agents, managers and anyone else that might be interested in furthering your career. Keep in mind that just because a photographer is charging a lot of money to provide you with headshots doesn't mean they are going to be good. Ask to see their portfolio before having them do any shooting.
Go outside the immediate Chicago area to find theatres that you can contact. Some of the outer area theatres, such as the Elgin Theatre located about 40 miles north of Chicago, have good reputations that can be used to add material to your resume.
Check with local production companies in the Chicago area. These production companies might not be film production companies, but might be used for filming commercials.