Drama School – One of the Only Places to Learn Your Craft

People deliberating over whether to apply for drama school will wonder whether the tuition fees and length of time spent training will be worth it. This is a profession that deifies youth, where the possibility of steady gainful employment is largely non-existent and which has a reputation for being elitist.

This is why it was so refreshing when this week in the Guardian, Anne-Marie Duff described the profession as a “sublimely egalitarian world”. Her working-class background that was untinged with “entitlement” meant that her ambition was in no way neutered: “”I knew if I wanted to do this for a living, I really had to pursue it.” However, she did mention: “When I was auditioning for drama schools, the girls around me were from very different backgrounds. I remember thinking, ‘Should I lie about my family?’” Without wanting to sound trite and melodramatic, being anything other than who you are is a waste of time as it will be your specific experiences and upbringing that will be your most valuable resource.

Duff remembers her drama school training as a “masochistic” but “exciting” time. “It put me through my paces. I toughened up. I was by no means the star of the year. It taught me to be resourceful, to go away and do the work myself. Invaluable.”

There is no substitute for consistent and rigorous daily training; since reparatory theatre no longer gives actors the opportunity to learn on the job, drama school is one of the last places where the actor can learn her/his vocation. Talent can only take you so far and no matter how young and talented you are, there will be someone else who is younger, just as talented and who will have the technique and skills developed over three years. Although drama school training doesn’t necessarily put you in the fast track when you enter the profession, it is proof that you take yourself seriously as an actor and have put in the effort to improve and nurture your potential.

When interviewed by Erica Wagner of the Times about Complicite, Wagner noted how Simon McBurney sees himself “almost as an instrument through which others may find the means to express themselves. Curiosity drives him: curiosity about his fellow human beings, about literature and art, about the world.” This is why Audition Doctor sessions are so valuable; your curiosity about the character and the play is encouraged and pushed further. Analysing the myriad of possible psychological impulses that prompted a character to say or do something means that you have a wide range of artistic choices at your disposal. At a drama school audition, the work you do at Audition Doctor is constantly drawn upon and being redirected is neither surprising nor difficult because you will have explored so many alternatives with Tilly during your lessons.

When one journalist asked to sit in on an audition for a piece on the “secretive world of casting directors”, one casting director opined: “Asking an actor if they mind someone sitting in is a bit like asking a woman if she minds someone watching her gynaecological examination.” Attending Audition Doctor sessions guarantees that your drama school auditions will be as exposing as having your legs in stirrups – but in the good sort of way. Exposing your unique vulnerability and openness is something that Audition Doctor sessions foster and a quality that drama schools prize above all else. This is why Audition Doctor lessons are so essential. They give you the unique opportunity to come closer to fulfilling Laurence Olivier’s credence – that “ The actor should be able to create a universe in the palm of his hand.”


Acting – Art or Craft?

Watching Christoph Waltz, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman, Nicholas Cage, Peter Starsgaard and Stanley Tucci debate over whether acting can be defined as art was a lesson in not only how differently actors themselves view their profession, but also how directors and producers perceive an actor’s job and their place in the creative process.

As Firth casually swills his wine, he says: “It’s an evaluation that people put on it, I mean, I’ve seen acting that is definitely not art.” The others – bar Cage who looks like he’s just sucked a lemon wedge – laugh knowingly. Morgan asserts that an actor is more craftsman than artist because an actor is dependent on a writer. Though an actor uses his body, voice and imagination as his instruments, ultimately he is an interpreter of words.

Here, Cage adopts a tone that betrays just a hint of a dissatisfied whine:

Cage: “Isn’t there a music within you that compels you to speak the words in a certain way?”

Freeman: “Absolutely”

Cage: (pleading):“Could that not be art?”

Freeman: “No.”

By this point everyone else is visibly relaxing into the debate and the standard “There is no right or wrong” consensus is hauled out to diffuse any trace of awkward disagreement. Cage, however, with all the false equanimity that he can muster, announces sulkily: “I’m not trying to be right or wrong, I’m just trying to learn something.” Anyone who has seen the infamous youtube video “Nicholas Cage Losing His Shit” will tense at this point but he seems to be in control of himself on this occasion and calmly uses Hilary Hahn playing Bach as an example of true artistry. (He does unfortunately go onto negate this point later by saying: “I’m not going to denigrate acting…your whole instrument is your mind and your body, we’re not hiding behind guitars here” but ah well.)

Lyn Gardner moved the debate on further by asserting that far from being an artist, let alone an interpreter, actors were increasingly viewed as being merely part of the set – “The increasing trend – one borrowed from the US – in which the “cast” and “creatives” are listed separately in theatre programmes, suggests a rise in the idea that actors play no role in the creative process. They are simply puppets.”

However, at the National Theatre Platform this week, Peter Brook insisted that actors were far from being just moving props: “An actor is not an object, or a robot. An actor is evolving as an artist, and separately as a human being, both through his obligation and his political convictions. It is part of the actor’s job to feel and sense, without analysing, the world that they’re living in.”

Ultimately, it isn’t either or – it’s both. This is why acting is deceptively difficult and despite the proliferation of reality television giving the false impression that “anyone can do it”, being both craftsman and artist requires endless inquiry, exploration and training; this is what Audition Doctor offers.

Whichever drama school you apply for or whichever acting job you want, you have to have the technique to back up your “art” or “interpretation” or whatever it is you choose to call what you bring to a performance. Audition Doctor gives you the space and time to enter what Peter Brook calls the third stage of acting which is the “rarest level of all – incarnation. That is when the great role actually enters every fibre of the flesh; it only happens once in a generation.”

Alternatively, if you feel like you would like to back up your Audition Doctor sessions with reading up on the subject of acting, Wikipedia cites that “In February 2011, Cage claimed to have created a new method of acting he calls “Nouveau Shamanic”. He claims to have used the acting style throughout his career and one day plans to write a book about the method.” Undoubtedly something to pre-order on Amazon.