Alternative Forms of Training

In The Guardian, Nick Asbury wrote: “Being an actor is hard, both in its delivery and its expectancy. Nothing trains you for standing in front of thousands of people and starting a long Shakespeare speech, or having to get the final take of the day right, because if you don’t it’ll cost thousands in overtime. No one can train you for simply waiting for the phone to ring.”

However, far from advocating the doing away with drama schools altogether, he is urging drama schools to rethink the structure of how they teach their students. He suggests “having shorter courses that last a year, maybe two, that offer technique and confidence and place actors in front of the industry people. Then perhaps we need replenishing and reinvigorating courses throughout the ensuing years.”

He acknowledges the indisputable quality of training and valuable connections that drama schools provide, however, he laments that “It’s getting to the point where they’re simply finishing schools for the wealthy – either that or they saddle people with so much debt that following a stop/start formative acting career is unthinkable. This is repugnant, and against everything the new wave of the 1950s and 60s stood for.”

Susan Elkin in The Stage writes of how “given the phenomenal success of National Youth Theatre’s first full training rep company this year, I think we can expect to see an increasing number of viable alternatives to traditional drama school training.” This is a free form of training, with ” all 15 participants [having secured] good agents and many of them are already in professional work.”

Citing Fourth Monkey Rep Company and Cygnet at Exeter, she writes of her prediction that similar companies will mushroom in 2014 as “more and more people are worried about the huge debt which drama school incurs and fretting about whether or not it represents value for money.”

However, while she concedes that emerging rep companies can provide quality training, she still insists that “drama schools – just 18 are now accredited by DramaUK – are still, obviously a major force to be reckoned with…”

Whether or not to go to drama school has been a hotly debated topic, but the necessity of training – in whatever form – has never been questioned. As Nick Asbury said:  “Acting is all about practice and confidence. If you keep working or studying it, you get better. I am a great believer that cream will rise to the top, and if you work hard enough – raise money to do shows, keep on inviting people, get to know people, don’t be an arse and keep your head above water – then you will get jobs and get through doors.”

This is what Audition Doctor offers students – the chance to keep working and studying – whatever stage you are at as an actor. Audition Doctor sessions are hard work but they are opportunities to practice your craft. Furthermore, students have found that the buoying confidence that is engendered from the sessions has led to successful auditions.

However, the gift that Audition Doctor gives is the ability to stop acting. As Olivia Colman said in this week’s Telegraph: “To be honest, I don’t think that much about acting. If you’re genuine and you’re reacting truthfully to what’s being said, you don’t have to do any more. You’re still acting, but really it’s just honesty.”

Training is Vital – Whether at Drama School or Not

The Stage recently reported on the success of the NYT’s rep season. This new form of training actors is the brainchild of the NYT director, Paul Roseby, who was also responsible for controversial remarks earlier in the year questioning the benefits of three year drama school training. The program trained and rehearsed 15 actors intensively since spring and then brought their three plays into the West End programmed alongside STOMP at The Ambassadors Theatre.

Roseby’s concerns with drama school training wasn’t the quality of the teaching but the consequences of beginning with a £27,000 student debt in an industry synonymous with instability.

Roseby’s pioneering new form of training is evidence of the importance he places on training actors properly for the profession they want to enter. Roseby said that “All fifteen [of the NYT rep company] are now either signed with agents, including Markham and Froggatt, Troika and Independent and United Agents, or they are in discussions with them.” It’s clear only after some form of rigorous training that students feel prepared to perform a showcase. Drama school showcases are still currently the main viable opportunity for getting signed by an agent.

Last September, The Stage hosted a discussion on how the nature of casting and by extension, the wider industry, had changed enormously over the last 20 years. Henry Bird reported: “With reality TV shows turning untrained amateurs into West End stars, and people getting cast on the street for spots in TV adverts, an outsider could be forgiven for thinking that breaking into acting has become easier. Of course, the acting industry is actually more competitive than ever. It seems that in acting, as is so often the case, it ain’t what you know, it’s who you know. Or rather, which casting directors your agent knows.”

John Barr got his first big role, in Jesus Christ Superstar, in 1981 through an open audition that he saw advertised in The Stage. That was just how it was done then, he says. “We all did those open calls for years. I remember when Cats was being cast, walking by theatres and seeing all these dancers warming up. It’s not like that anymore. It’s done through casting directors now.”

Although casting directors now hold the most power in the industry, agents still play an important role as the link between actor and casting director. It is often a closed circle, however, which can be frustrating for those at the start of their careers.”

Although the financial debt incurred from drama school may cause applicants to think twice about applying, agents still highly prize the calibre of student that drama schools unfailingly produce.

Audition Doctor has proved time and time again that sessions are vital to securing recalls for auditions. There are normally 4 stages to an audition and Audition Doctor lessons are essential the further along you get. Although there are significantly fewer applicants, the recalls require even more of you. Audition Doctor ensures that you are able to bring new colours into speeches that the audition panel have probably already seen you do multiple times. It’s at this stage in the audition that the competition is at its height and Audition Doctor ensures you always enter fighting fit.