Both the Upstaged column in Ideastap and the Education and Training column in The Stage addressed the issue that most prospective actors face: How “going to drama school is increasingly like betting thirty grand on a three-year game of poker; fun, interesting, a good lesson in bluffing but more than a little risky.”
The pros and cons of drama school have been endlessly rehashed in various publications. Most come to the conclusion, however reluctantly, that it is still an important stage in an actor’s development.
“Training gives you discipline, a collection of tools and techniques to fall back on, industry contacts, time to develop and the chance to try out different genres, approaches and theories. It is invaluable, if not inexpensive.”
Even actors who have been successful without the help of training acknowledge the benefits of drama school.
Russell Tovey mentioned: “I feel like I’ve missed out on the fact that I haven’t got loads of mates from drama school in the business, but it was all kind of kicking off for me around that time. If I hadn’t been in work I would have absolutely done drama school. I feel like it’s the route to doing it properly and so I’m absolutely all for it.”
Ideastap were running a competition with Sky Arts that granted emerging artists £30,000 worth of funding. When asked what he would do with the money, he said: “I’d spend it on the year post-grad at LAMDA because courses are expensive, so I would use it to further my education and knowledge.” What’s clear is that the quality of education offered at drama schools is not being questioned, merely the price tag.
While Audition Doctor is known for getting applicants recalls for drama schools, sessions are also an excellent preparation for drama school itself.
In Ideastap, advice was given to those about to start training. “Keep an open mind about what you’re going into. Jane Harrison, Interim Dean and Head of Acting at Arts Ed, acknowledges that although many students may have studied acting to a high level in the past it’s vital they “accept that they’re going to what may be a new way of working and not feel that the way they did it before was right. There is no right or wrong in actor training so the best thing is to come completely open-minded. A willingness to embrace new ideas is particularly important in terms of a student’s interactions with others on the course.
At Audition Doctor, you will inevitably experience a varied way of working and any student at Audition Doctor will tell you that the prevailing tone of a session is positivity. It’s why beginning your training at Audition Doctor is worth every penny.
The forward march of autumn signals the advent of that sentence that many applicants have nervously been waiting for on drama school websites – Applications for September 2014 are now open. Download application form here. While it can often feel like you are one of many just bursting through the starting gates, filling out whether you are male or female is the least stressful part of the entire process. While the advice “get your application form in early” is not without foundation (RADA even have different audition fees for applications received after a certain date in December), sending off the form knowing that you have the right audition speeches is a far better move strategically.
You can be called to audition within two weeks of you sending it; two weeks is not enough time to have sat in French’s or a Waterstones researching various monologues as well as have explored the countless ways of playing the character. There is also the simple fact that the longer you have to work on your speeches, the better you know your lines. This means you are far less likely to dry in front of the panel. Forgetting your lines when you’re redirected is common; performing a speech with opposite intentions when the panel watch you in the process of discovery. Knowing your lines inside out means that you can concentrate on exploring the acting side of things, as opposed to making your audition a memory test.
Today on Ideastap, the Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre, Paul Roseby, spoke about what he looks for in auditions. He emphasised the importance of finding “a speech that suits you. I like ambition – people coming in with ambitious ideas about their future, themselves and what they’re doing. But we want to see great characters. Look for something or someone that interests you because, if it interests you, then it’s probably close to you.” He also averred “There is no guarantee in auditions. Like we say, we want to ban the bland. It’s about watching somebody who is watchable. That doesn’t mean they have to, technically-speaking, have the best audition. It’s about the personality as much as the audition technique.”
Having said this, some drama school applicants do seem to believe that their personalities are the most important aspect of the audition. They think the panel have to “like” them. While there is an element of truth in this, they’re not there auditioning you to be friends with them, they want to pick the people with the best potential. As Audition Doctor repeatedly attests, it is always the audition speeches that can afford you the best opportunity to show them this.
Many people come to Audition Doctor believing that they can succeed in the industry without training. While this has worked for some, Tilly is the first person to always stress how training is the best possible route to secure credibility and longevity in the profession.
When Arthur Darvill was asked how useful he found his training, his responded: ” Training is a funny thing. I was very lucky and went to RADA. That was the Holy Grail for me, before I went. But it meant that I spent my first year trying to “get it right” rather than get what I could from it. The truth is that you never get it right, you just keep learning. Drama school was a great opportunity to do that and – like any place of learning – you get out what you put in.” Audition Doctor works on the same basis which means the number of sessions you will have will be totally up to you. However, you absolutely get back in spades what you put in, which makes Audition Doctor your best bet for getting into drama school, as well as being a taster of how you want to approach your training should you get in.
Every so often, Ideastap will interview eminent actors on their careers and their perspectives on the acting profession. This is in the hope that the advice disclosed will provide some solace and useful guidance to those occupying the already overpopulated waiting-room that leads into “the Industry.”
Anthony Head’s interview raised some interesting points on the topic of drama school and training. Although he was of the view that drama school “isn’t a prerequisite, some people suit drama school more than others”, he deplored the fact that British “actors are the only artists that don’t practice their craft when they’re not working. Americans do classes once or twice a week.” For actors, drama school is the most obvious method of achieving professional instruction.
However, there are other avenues to explore such as classes offered at the Actor’s Centre or private Audition Doctor workshops – both of which Tilly teaches. Training in any sphere – be it artistic, scientific or business – is an undeniable necessity if you want to become a professional and acting is no different. British Theatre is known for being an exemplar of unsurpassable quality, largely due to the consummate pairing of talent and rigorous training that British drama schools offer. However, British actors who fail to hone the skills that they learned at drama school may find themselves lagging behind their American counterparts. Attending regular workshops is a way of topping up and building on skills that could easily become rusty.
As Daniel Mays stated in his interview in this week’s Independent: “the daily rigours of theatre work are the best work-out he could hope for. “It’s a muscle you’ve got to come back to, and it’s a discipline. It’s like playing sport…You’ve got to turn up and deliver every single night, and sustain that character for two hours.”
It seems that drama school can give you a solid grounding but if stamina and longevity is desired, attending regular acting classes throughout your career is a necessity. Private lessons at Audition Doctor or Tilly’s group workshops at the Actor’s Centre are a fantastic way (to quote Anthony Head) to “keep that energy and feeling of success going when you’re not working and to practice not falling into your default mechanism…it’s when you feel a bit unsure, you go back to your old schtick – all the stuff you know you is not brilliant but it’ll get you through. It’s a chance to get to recognise and avoid that.” Sessions at Audition Doctor are a way of experimenting and stretching your acting muscles. It’s a chance “not to be lazy and not to stick to what you play time and time again.”