Applying to drama school is undoubtedly an exacting journey that can span over the course of several months. Every applicant will be constantly reminded of the punishingly unfavourable odds of successfully securing a place. I wanted to seek professional advice from someone who was experienced in coaching actors for auditions. I looked through dozens of acting coaches on the internet and Audition Doctor was the only website that distinctly stressed how Tilly Blackwood ensured that every student that she took on benefited from intensive classes that were specifically tailored to each individual. Already feeling like a very small fish in a sea of 4,000 applicants, I thought it would be a wise idea to get in touch. Her warm and approachable manner combined with her enthusiasm and thoughtful advice allowed me to start the process with structure and confidence.
As Tilly stressed, investing time to pick speeches that show off your strengths as well as your potential is key. Depending on how many drama schools you apply for and how successful you are in getting recalls, the odds are that you’ll be doing the same two or three speeches twenty times in auditions, not to mention using lines from them during audition workshops. Knowledge of the play as a whole is vital for when you are hopefully redirected. It puts you in a position to be able to make intelligent decisions and justify them. The ability to analyse and articulate thoughts on character is rooted in a deep understanding and familiarity with the text.
Going into Samuel French or Waterstones and being faced with seemingly unending bookshelves with centuries worth of plays is, without question, intimidating. There are some reassuring guidelines that help narrow the search such as “Modern” being rather arbitrarily defined as being post 1956. Certain drama schools such as the Central School of Speech and Drama have a list of audition speeches that you must choose from. RADA offer helpful criteria such as advising candidates to pick speeches that feature characters that are close in age to them and not picking modern speeches that require an accent that isn’t your own. As some people found out, some drama schools are averse to certain audition speeches. With Shakespeare, this is clearly unavoidable, however, Tennesse Williams, Steven Berkoff and Chekhov were at times deemed to be “overdone.”
I bought a selection of plays. (As long as you are careful not to bend the spine and smear the pages, Waterstones allow you to return “unwanted items” and obtain a full refund within 21 days. I would advise only doing this a maximum of two times as you will be strictly reprimanded for “using the bookshop as if it’s a university library, which it isn’t” and banned from purchasing not only books but also stationary for a month.) I auditioned them with Tilly and it was immediately clear which speeches were not suitable and which were real contenders. We did this for about 3 weeks until we narrowed it down and when the final 2 were chosen, I felt a bit like I had climbed Everest as the general consensus is that when you’ve chosen your speeches, you’re half-way there. Little did I know it was only Base Camp.