While Audition Doctor has always maintained that training at drama school is the wisest way to enter the acting industry, said establishments have come under fire recently for a myriad of reasons. They have been criticised for being too expensive, not preparing students for television work and failing to teach students how “to remain mentally strong and professionally active when work is not forthcoming and 40 years in a call centre seems to be beckoning”.
A former student wrote in The Stage “Drama school can be an introverted place. You learn, you observe, you grow, but you spend a huge amount of time surrounded by the same 14 to 40 people who know things about you that some of your closest friends may not yet have realised or deem appropriate. It’s a place where you should be focusing on yourself and your personal growth, but this very easily creates a bubble that dulls your awareness of the outside world…There are positive aspects to the effect of the bubble. It allows a student time for self-improvement and growth, a cocoon stage if you will. However, to fully grow as a performer, and mature as a person, an understanding of the wider world is needed and this should never be forgotten.”
In another article, Julius Green, author of “How to produce a West End show” spoke of how graduates are sometimes ill-served by their drama schools: “[Drama schools] could usefully spend a bit less time teaching their students how to find their ‘motivation’ and a bit more teaching them how to fill in a tax return and explaining to them how to go about booking digs. It is a constant source of amazement to me how ill-prepared for the exigencies of life drama school graduates can be.”
While all this is valid, no institution can shoulder the sole responsibility of the careers of all 35 graduates. Their obligation lies in laying the foundation; it is down to the individual to ensure that they build on this foundation and carry their training through. Accredited drama schools already provide their students with a significant amount of direction.
Geoffery Coleman, Head of Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama states: “Typically, students might have sessions with agents, accountants, casting directors, producers, Equity, Spotlight, voice-over companies, corporate performance companies, radio/film/TV/theatre actors, and many other sectors within the industry.”
Seeking out someone like Audition Doctor is your responsibility if you keep failing to land auditions. Gaining a fresh professional perspective is indispensable – especially if you’ve just come out of drama school and have only had the instruction of a certain group of teachers and have acted with the same 14-40 people spoken of earlier.
Everyone in the Industry is adapting to suit the ever-changing nature of the profession all the time – even drama schools. Though the fact that drama schools are thinking of expanding their curriculum to teach students how to fill out a tax returns is undoubtedly useful, it is not why anyone wants to go/ is at drama school. They go to become better artists.
As Coleman said: “We realise a vision of training artists. I want to engender in all our graduates the sense that they are shape-changers, not commodities, and that through their performance they can change people’s lives…We train artists, not passive vessels or mere pretenders.”
Lessons at Audition Doctor are about training artists – whatever stage you are at as an actor. They are a bubble in the good sense; they provide counsel and encourage self-development. Furthermore, Tilly ensures that you aren’t a pretender and are always honest in your acting.
Much has been written about Paul Roseby’s declaration that three year drama school courses are a waste of time and money.
Nick Asbury’s response to it was a considered one; while he deplored the “astronomical” costs of drama school that meant “[it] saddles people with so much debt that following a stop/start formative acting career is unthinkable”, he also refused to agree with Roseby’s assertion entirely.
“In my view, there are two main reasons to go to drama school: the first is to learn something. The vast tendrils of “technique” – breathing, stagecraft, listening and generosity etc – are taught differently in each school, yet knowing something about yourself inevitably makes you a better actor. Training gives you the time and space to experiment – to fail, and work out why. It’s wonderful to do that, and important.
The second reason is to meet people who are going to give you jobs. Agents use the main drama schools as a filter system. They can take actors on, fresh from school, and then put them in front of casting directors. In most cases, actors with no experience and no drama school training simply won’t be taken on by agents, unless they have a USP that stands out, like being the child of a famous actor, or being stunningly attractive. Or if they can play the accordion while reciting Shakespeare on one leg.”
There is another reason to go to drama school, which has somehow, in the panic that has ensued from rising tuition fees and increased competition, been forgotten. You should go simply for the love of it.
As Geoffery Coleman (Head of Central School of Speech and Drama) wrote in The Stage: “British actor training continues to aspire to the notion of a tradition and craft being passed down through the hearts and minds of successive generations. Actor training must never be founded upon a vocational rhetoric that is actually nothing more complex than a student’s need for employment. We must ensure that the reality of training actors today does not, by default, result in the students exclusive grasping attainment of a commercially viable technique – one that will get ‘picked up’ – but also a culturally valuable experience whatever the future employment statistics may say.”
In other words, you must want to go to drama school to pursue the art itself. It’s only with this passion for your craft, married with an awareness of how to market yourself that survival and success in this business is possible. To have one but not the other is useless.
Audition Doctor is in the unique position of being able to guide you in both directions. The emphasis is on choosing speeches that you are passionate about and that showcase you in a “marketable” light. The panel want to see you at your most vulnerable and malleable as these are the two qualities that are most likely to mean that you will be easy to train and flexible within the industry.
While it shouldn’t be all about employment statistics, it’s important to realise what makes you “bankable” – in other words, what makes you different from the person who is going in after you. Sessions with Audition Doctor are essential as this is quality is drawn upon in your speeches.
This is the asset that will get you a place at drama school and upon which a career can be based. This is why Audition Doctor has proven time and time again to be so invaluable – because going to drama school is as much about love of the art of acting as it is about putting food on the table.
The Times reported that “in a report published by the Conference of Drama Schools, it was revealed that more than 25,000 applications were made to the 22 accredited drama schools in England and Wales…Which means that they are now twice as difficult to get into as Oxbridge.” The number of applicants is ever increasing, seemingly immune to the hike in tuition fees. The main reason cited for this was the proliferation of audition-based shows on television.
Geoffery Colman (Head of Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama) stated: “This year, we received more than 4,000 applications for a place on our degree course and that figure is going up every year. But we’re finding that fewer and fewer of those applicants will have ever set foot in a theatre, understood what it means to train for three years to be an artist, or have any idea of the professional world they’re signing up to. Audition-based shows have made it look quick and easy to attain a kind of celebrity-based stardom…You have only to work on your voice for about three weeks and, bam, you’ll be good enough for the West End or No1 in the US charts. Whereas what we’re saying is that it takes three years to train a voice. Young people are increasingly coming in with this idea that talent is an instant right that should be ‘spotted’. They aren’t coming in with a real commitment to the work required to become an actor.”
Edward Kemp, artistic director of RADA insisted that despite the fact that such shows encouraged record numbers to apply, the panelists are not of the Simon Cowell persuasion: “What we want to see is not the commercially lucrative finished product of the TV audition show but unformed raw material that we can mould. That is a totally different auditioning experience, for a quality that is much more difficult to spot.”
The idea that a drama school audition is a talent show is a misguided one; drama school auditions do not solely comprise of performing audition speeches, the interview is also regarded as an integral part of the process. This is where the panelists gauge your commitment to the Theatre, how receptive you are to direction and your dedication to the training process.
What Audition Doctor can help with is not a rigidly polished performance but the capability to respond authentically to the circumstances of the play. As you have more lessons at Audition Doctor, Tilly also opens your eyes to the fact that the interpretation that you might have both agreed on is merely one out of a thousand possibilities; Audition Doctor gives you the freedom to adapt and play around with the character. This is why Audition Doctor sessions are such golden opportunities – the chance to be vulnerable in the presence of a professional eye is rare and it is one of the assets that drama schools most prize. As Colman says: “What we are looking for is authenticity, pliability, a core radiance. It’s up to us to find that. But my best advice is – be vulnerable. And, for God’s sake, go to the theatre.”