Thinking on the Line at Audition Doctor

tilly-blackwood-19In an interview, Jack Lemon spoke of his experience working on Glengarry Glen Ross and working with David Mamet’s text:

“We had about two and half weeks rehearsal…if we had not had it, we would’ve all been fish that were drowning. As great a writer as Mamet is, I don’t think there’s a playwright in the world whose lines are as difficult to learn. They are unique, slightly off. The whole trick is to make them sound like normal conversation…He has another thing in common with other great writers such as Billy Wilder and Neil Simon and that’s what he doesn’t write. He never writes too many words and every single one of those “if, ah, ums” is written…When you forget one it’s like dropping a whole sentence – the whole rhythm goes. David has his own rhythm, each character has his own rhythm and each actor has to find that rhythm.”

For many of Audition Doctor’s students, sessions are focused on finding this rhythm. Similarly to Mamet, Shakespeare is a writer whose characters literally speak in a rhythm. Shakespeare is unavoidable for those who come to Audition Doctor to prepare for drama school auditions. Audition Doctor sessions take the fear out of performing Shakespeare by encouraging students to become comfortable with iambic pentameter. Eventually, the language becomes a tool in their arsenal and students find that the rhythm and syntax actually become an indispensable aid in communicating thought and emotion.

Lemon went onto say of rehearsing for Glengarry Glen Ross: “For the first couple of weeks you go absolutely bananas, not only trying to remember the lines but to make them natural so that you’re not just listening to cues or thinking of your lines but really behaving as a character truly would in life and that is as I am now. I’m not thinking of the words, I’m thinking of the thought I’m trying to get across. When you’re really in the scene, that’s what an actor does.”

Those who come to Audition Doctor regularly over a period of time usually find that finding the thought on the line becomes easier than those who leave extended gaps between lessons. Like with many other aspects of acting, routine and rigorous practice is the key to getting to the emotional and intellectual space the role requires more effectively.

Julie Walters recently described the freedom of working with Stephen Daldry: “He’d just say let’s shoot another scene here now. Let’s say they’re in this room and this happens. We’d just do it. I just love that.”

Audition Doctor’s students, whether professional actors or drama school applicants, all benefit from a similar mode of direction. The spontaneity of the sessions means that actors have the freedom to experiment without too much over-thinking. 

Benedict Cumberbatch recently spoke of what it’s like for an actor when there is the right chemistry between you and a director: “It’s a great thing to have rehearsals and to know that you’re coming at it from the same point of view. It just means you can be more free, you can play and enjoy it and I think that’s what elevates good work to great work or really daring work.”

At Audition Doctor, students will attest that Tilly undoubtedly creates this possibility.

Strengthening Your Instincts at Audition Doctor

Acting Classes by Audition DoctorIn an article for Ideastap, Caroline Leslie, Head of Acting at LAMDA, advised those auditioning to “really get inside the mind of your character – think about what they hide and show of themselves, and how they think other people think about them.”

“Choose a piece and a character that fascinates you. You can really tell when someone has chosen a piece that they connect to and auditions almost always work better if the actor has chosen something they love.”

At Audition Doctor, choosing the speech for you is a lengthy yet integral part of the process. Julie Walters has said “In a role, I’m mainly looking for truth and integrity. No matter what it is, even if it’s a comic cameo, there’s still got to be a truth behind it. And I’m not just looking at my character, I’m looking at the whole thing.”

Audition Doctor encourages you to pick roles that are challenging and beyond your reach, however, that will be fully grasped and inhabited by the end of the course of Audition Doctor sessions.

Walters went onto advise: “You want to know who that person is…so I will do my own rehearsals as if I were rehearsing with a director but on my own.” While the line-learning process is often done alone, many professional actors come to Audition Doctor because they desire a more collaborative rehearsal process. Rehearsing alone can be counter-productive if there is no one to tell you which of your interpretations works better and why.

Andrew Buchan recently advised actors when learning lines to “get it in your body, don’t just sit on the edge of your bed because they won’t go in, get it in your muscles.”

Many actors and drama school applicants come to Audition Doctor because they want to get a performance into their muscles, see it up on its feet in front of a professional and to also strengthen their ability to take and act on direction.

Walters said: “I don’t like being over-directed, some people feel that they need to be seen to be directing…All you have is your instincts and they can be interfered with sometimes rather than nurtured and then you begin to doubt them.”

Audition Doctor’s popularity relies on the fact that Tilly only ever strengthens your instincts and simultaneously coaches you to harness any nerves into a truthfully sustained performance.

Audition Doctor sessions, however, are not for those who are unwilling to take risks. In the same interview as Walters, Tamsin Greig urged young actors “to be more brave about failing”.

It is in this willing to not be perfect and to dare to expose her vulnerabilities that Julie Walters has  featured in an article entitled “Julie Walters – a heroic talent” in which it says: “She disappears into her characters and gives them hearts so loud you can hear them beating.”

Audition Doctor students have found that sessions have pushed them to do the same and have made them braver and more astute actors as a result.

Vocational Training at Audition Doctor

unnamedThe question of whether aspiring actors should go to drama school or enrol in drama based university courses seems to be continuously debated at the moment. Both Ideastap and The Stage have devoted articles offering the pros and cons of both institutions. However, when asking professional actors, the consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of drama school.

Brian Cox remarked: “The things I learnt at drama school are things I still employ to this day, almost 50 years later. It’s only as I get older that I think, “Oh, I see, that’s what it meant.” It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, and formative in every aspect. It gave me inroads to everything.”

Julie Walters went onto say: “Training gives you the chance to play roles that you will probably never be cast as; to act without the pressure of real audiences and critics. You’re students, so you’re forgiven. You can have a go at finding out what it is that you actually like doing.”

Although many will see university as a safer option, many such courses are simply not equipping students with adequate preparation for the profession. Intensive training at an accredited drama school is a three year time period in which you are given permission to experiment and fail within a demanding framework. Furthermore, the majority of Audition Doctor’s students are professional actors who already have gone through the rigours of drama school. This confirms the widely held credo that developing your craft is a process that is only begun at drama school and that it is up to the individual actor to continuously advance and evolve.

Susan Elkin in The Stage wrote: “In most university departments, for example, only six hours or so of contact time per week are provided when students are formally taught by staff. Drama school students are guaranteed at least 30 (and it’s often more). It isn’t always easy to persuade the rest of the university of the necessity for this.”

The idea that a student can master Shakespearean language, plumb emotional depths and explore voice and movement in six hours that are scattered through the week is highly unlikely. This explains why aside from professional actors, many of Audition Doctor’s students are on university courses. Audition Doctor sessions provide the vocational and practical aspect that theoretical courses don’t have the resources or time to offer.

Richard Eyre once said that“the paradox about acting is that it’s a perfect balance between being conscious of yourself and not being self-conscious.” Whether you are a professional or aspiring actor, Audition Doctor sessions give you the opportunity to get as close as you can get to solving that paradox.

The Difficulties of Getting Started

Aspiring actors know that the profession they are entering is hard. They’ve probably been told countless times by friends, family and actors themselves: “If you can do something else – do it.” The stock association of an artistic profession with penury and struggle is not groundless.

When asked “Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?” Anthony Sher replied: “Peace of mind. All the creative arts involve struggle.” Entering any artistic profession – whether it be writing, painting involves an element of surrender. Relinquishing the security of a monthly paycheck and the knowledge of whether you’ll ever work again is the price the artist pays for doing what he/she loves.

However, now young actors face the added difficulties of even getting started. Sher went on to say that government cuts were hugely damaging for the next generation of thespians. “Our theatre is the envy of the world; it has a huge value for us spiritually. I feel so sorry for younger actors who aren’t able to have the opportunities that I had, starting out in repertory theatre. It’s really tough on young actors now”.

Adding to this was Julie Walters declaring last Tuesday: “If I was coming out into the business now I would never get into drama school…It would have been a really hard journey if I had ever made it at all, because there are no grants for them, it is really, really difficult.” For students who lack the requisite funds, the Industry will be impenetrable and has a risk of being populated solely with actors who have the ample means to fund drama school training – ironically potentially rendering the stereotypical image of the financially struggling actor obsolete.

But ultimately, despite the fact that entering the acting profession seems more foolish than ever, for a lot of young aspirants, they can’t imagine doing anything else – it is in all senses of the word – a vocation. Drama schools panelists are inundated with thousands people desperate to prove that they have what it takes to not only survive but thrive in the Industry. In this climate, they are perhaps less willing to take chances on people who have potential but will take more time to acclimatise to the rigours of training . As someone who has been through drama school training and is a working actress, Tilly at Audition Doctor can often accurately single out the faults and anxieties that the panel might have of you. Throughout Audition Doctor sessions, these are addressed and your natural talents are enhanced to ensure that you are fighting fit to beat off the increasingly stiff competition.

Even if you are not applying to drama school, Audition Doctor is an ideal place to explore scenes and work on texts that will undoubtedly make you more confident when you are giving your next presentation at work or auditioning for your next acting job.