There has recently been talk of how to address the disproportionately large number of freshly trained actors entering the industry every year. Equity President Malcolm Sinclair asserted: “Compared to when I started there are so many more drama schools and university courses,” Mr Sinclair said. “There are far more young actors coming out and it feels like there is less work around. There are too many actors and too few jobs.” The Stage reported that a Casting Call Pro survey found that over three quarters of actors earn less than £5,000 a year from the trade they trained for.
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.”
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.”
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.
Whenever advice is proffered by teachers at drama school before auditions, they always encourage the following: Be open to suggestion, be willing to be vulnerable and be receptive to your fellow actors.
It’s difficult to follow such advice when experiencing the often fraught atmosphere of an audition. Frequently, lines that you were so sure of weeks before are inexplicably wiped from the brain as you engage in a group exercise.
Drama school auditions cannot be predicted and it’s essential to know that you will be entering them in a prepared state. No matter how connected you feel to your speeches and how impressive you believe your performance to be, it will all go out the window if you don’t have a measured and practiced state of mind.
This is why Audition Doctor is an essential prerequisite to any audition. Aside from cultivating the character’s psychological state, Audition Doctor prepares you for how you choose to present your own personality. It is this that the panel, more than anything, want to see in a candidate. (“We want to see you“) After all, it is you that they are interested in; it is your character that they will be training.
Being open to vulnerability and having the ability to listen are characteristics that have to be acquired and practiced. This is what Audition Doctor sessions allow you to cultivate.
Furthermore, much as Audition Doctor is about building up particular qualities that are useful in auditions, lessons are also about removing any extraneous “acting” that acts as a hindrance to truthfully portraying any character.
When Judi Dench was interviewed in The Sunday Times, the article mentioned that “at the Central School of Speech & Drama, her group were given the task of preparing a mime by the old actor Walter Hudd. They were to take a few weeks. Dench forgot about it and had to improvise on the day. She came up with a very minimalist performance. “I did it on the hoof, I hadn’t thought about it. Everybody else did very complicated pieces. Walter just said after mine, ‘That’s how you do it.’ And that was it, it was really accidental. He made me think.”
Audition Doctor sessions are about stripping away the unnecessary complications and blending improvisation with informed decisions as a result of exploring the text. It’s this that drama schools are looking for – the ability to use the text as a springboard for a variety of different possibilities and to find the truth in each decision and situation. If taken on as a student, Audition Doctor lessons are a rare opportunity that give you the time and space to allow you to do just that.
“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.
There has been much debate recently over the usefulness of drama schools. Derek Jacobi averred: “It can teach you movement, it can teach you voice, it can teach you deportment, it can teach you fencing skills, all sorts of things. But I firmly believe that it cannot turn someone who walks into a drama school as a non-actor into an actor.”
This is precisely what Audition Doctor affords every one of her students. The way you perform you speeches is absolutely linked to confidence and self-image. Even if you have the will and the talent, a speech cannot be performed at its best if you are self-conscious in anyway. As mercenary as it sounds, an audition is also an opportunity to market yourself to the panel as a student worthy of a place. Audition Doctor sessions strip all the extraneous “acting” and self-conscious ticks which leave you knowing that you will be your greatest asset as opposed to your own obstacle at your audition.
No one in the arts world would deny the advantages of having a commercial success. Money is always short and the profits from lucrative shows often fund less economically viable, yet artistically daring productions. However, England is currently saddled with a Culture Minister who recently asserted that arts funding should be regarded as “venture capital”. Maria Miller’s expectation that art should yield fat fiscal returns is a clear indicator of how there is less patience, time and money for any kind of creativity, let alone any risk-taking, which so often the most compelling art involves.
Drama schools offer fewer bursaries while having no choice but to increase their fees. However, drama school has always been only one (albeit successful) way of entering the Industry. This month, The Stage wrote about how training companies such as Fourth Monkey and Bridge Training Company are on the increase. The launch of the National Youth Theatre’s rep company this year is a sign that industry practitioners are eager to offer students without the financial means an alternative to drama school. NYT’s rep company comprises of 15 NYT members who are given the opportunity to work for nine solid months on productions, as well as given voice and movement lessons. Students also receive bursaries from the Kevin Spacey Foundation, are taught by the likes of Nick Hytner and Michael Grandage and perform their shows in The Ambassadors Theatre in the heart of the West End. It seems that repertory companies might look as if they will return as a reasonable substitute for drama schools.
Training companies such as these are garnering more publicity as they are seen as“effectively an alternative to the third year in drama school”. That, along with “each one [having] a personal mentor from the top reaches of professional theatre” which allows for “masses of networking opportunities” means that aspiring actors will increasingly look to training companies such as these to hone their craft. That and not being £27,000 in debt makes it undoubtedly a more attractive option.
While the competition is not currently as stiff as entry into drama schools, this is set to change. Audition Doctor has noticed an increase in the number of students applying for acting schemes such as these which are advertised on Ideastap. Because the opportunities are usually so unique, competition is fierce, which means more students are coming to Audition Doctor for help. While it seems crude to view yourself as a marketable commodity, you are trying to make it as an actor at a time when the Westminster agenda is at odds with your chosen profession. This means you must make the most of what the Industry is fighting to offer you for free. Audition Doctor sessions mean that you present the best you – the you that is worthy of investment.
Susan Elkin, The Stage’s Education and Training Editor, was asked so often whether drama school was a necessity that she wrote an article arguing why the widely-held misconception of “if you can act or sing, surely you can just stand up and do it” was palpably misguided.
“Debunking attitudes like that is probably one of the most important things I do as The Stage’s Education and Training Editor. After all, however great your footballing potential, you wouldn’t expect to walk in off the streets and immediately play for Manchester United. It takes years of training to achieve the right skills. And you never stop learning. Exactly the same principle applies to performing on stage or screen.”
She goes onto mention how young people often cite actors such as Sheridan Smith as examples of actresses who have been successful without training. However, as Elkin states: “Smith studied singing, dancing and acting part time for many years in her native Lincolnshire and trained extensively in her teens with National Youth Music Theatre. Untrained she clearly was not.”
There are indeed respected actors who haven’t gone to an established drama school. However, many started early and were trained on the job. This was often supplemented by sessions on set with acting coaches. Elkin invites her readers to “take the three leads in the Harry Potter films: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. For nearly 10 years and seven films, starting when they were barely out of primary school, they were trained on set which included many systematic, carefully thought out classes to develop the necessary voice, movement and acting skills. And the same applied to the many other children involved. Those films were, effectively, their training provider.”
Attending a drama school is not the only form of training potential actors can receive. There are amdram productions, schemes such as the National Youth Theatre, joining a theatre company and also training privately with professionals established in the acting profession. Audition Doctor is one such example. Audition Doctor works with many students too young for drama school entry (minimum age is 18). This is an increasingly popular method of giving younger people access to focused quality training.
Elkin is one well-schooled in the requirements of the profession, writing extensively on the ever- changing landscape of drama schools and the wider industry. As she so staunchly says: “No one…makes it in this competitive industry without training at all”, which is an indicator that it makes no sense to hang onto delusions that you will be the exception any longer. It is in your best interests to ensure that you have the tools to not just survive, but also achieve the ambitions you have for yourself as an actor. However pretentious it sounds, this does require a commitment to the art of acting. Like all forms of art, talent only reaches its full potential with the back-up of hard graft and practice. Audition Doctor is an ideal place to begin.
The Guardian have introduced a new series called ‘The Secret Actor’ in which a well-known actor reveals the varied experiences of the process of auditioning. The first column was a sobering reminder of how “there is no other profession in which, to nail the offered employment, you are called upon to replicate the talent qualifying you as an applicant in microcosm, and in a positively hostile atmosphere: the antithesis of the environment in which you will be working, should you get the part. Science and meritocracy have no place in this world.” It’s what prospective actors have heard countless times before – the fact that luck plays a far larger part in the lottery that is the actor’s life than talent and the fact that auditioning is often at best dispiriting, and at worse demeaning.
Listening to Ruby Wax describe her drama school auditioning experience was significantly more cheering. She is a testament to how you can succeed in the Industry despite auditioning badly. “I didn’t get into any drama school. I was appalling, I had never seen a play. I thought I’d be an actress because it would keep me out of America and my parents understood that English drama schools were better…I never saw Shakespeare…I knew it was the death scene [in Romeo and Juliet], I had a wimple on…and I stood on stage and I went “my dog is dead, my dog is dead” and that would make me cry but I said it out loud and then I went (Wax’s twangy American switches suddenly to a breathy theatrical plumminess) “Alack alack, is it not like that I, what with loathsome smells, And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth…” and then at the end when she beats herself over the head with Tybalt’s bone, I thought better to bring something visual so I brought a turkey leg. Didn’t get into RADA strangely.”
The first thing to say is that Audition Doctor would never advocate relying on either cold cuts or Elizabethan headwear in a drama school audition. Books on the process of auditioning so often advise applicants to distinguish themselves from other candidates by wearing something “outrageous”. If you have any acting ability at all, you should be able to be able to get into character and take direction in leggings and a t-shirt. Sporting a fanciful ruff and elaborately designed codpiece will not guarantee you a recall and the panel will more than likely find you tiresome. Audition Doctor ensures that you are remembered not for your choice of clothing but for your acting.
Audition Doctor sessions are chances to explore the character’s emotional journey and to “get there” without having to robotically intone “my dog is dead” aloud. As soon as the panel says “in your own time”, you only have the length of your speech (never more than 3 minutes) to show them that you are capable of delivering what they are looking for – the truthful portrayal of another person. A mixture of discussion and experimentation means that Audition Doctor gives you the luxury of being specific in your performance instead of playing the piece on one general note. For people who have never auditioned before, lessons at Audition Doctor mean that you are given the opportunity to audition your own audition, so to speak, so you can critique how you come across and have the benefit of Tilly’s direction to ensure that you don’t repeat Wax’s mistakes. Presumably you are auditioning because you want to bolster your talent as an artist with professional training and not because you want to “keep [yourself] out of America”, so there is too much at stake to waste your three minutes.
The Guardian recently devoted an article solely to the cutthroat climate that is associated with auditioning. It opened with the true yet now timeworn cliché of a young and hopeful actress “queuing in the rain outside the London Palladium for five hours, waiting to take her chance at the open auditions for A Chorus Line…Eventually, she was ushered on stage with a group of 50 other hopefuls, and asked to do a double pirouette on the left, and then another on the right. Her future rested on their perfect execution.” Contributions by Bob Avion (choreographer of the original New York production of A Chorus Line) such as: “when you are panning for gold among hundreds, you have to eliminate quickly”, are additionally indicative of how punishing the process can be for actors.
Unless you are part of that exclusive coterie of actors who are so well-established that they are in the privileged position of no longer needing to audition, chances are you will have to if you want to get into drama school or get an acting job. Drama school auditions are effectively job interviews and the pirouette of the musical theatre world is what an audition speech is to the acting world. It’s the moment to prove your agility as well as your ability and attending an Audition Doctor lesson means that you are much less likely to squander the unique moment of being the sole object of the panel’s attention.
As Siobhan Redmond says: “”The audition should be a microcosm of what you’ll do in the rehearsal room,” says Redmond. “By the end, you should at the very least be labouring under the delusion that you speak the same language.” Three years is a relatively short amount of time to equip an artist with the skills she/he will use throughout an entire career, so drama schools are looking for students who are malleable and who are atune to direction.
Audition Doctor sessions allow you to experience what an audition is like without the nerve-wracking atmosphere. If you are applying for drama schools, Audition Doctor can be helpful as it also means that your audition isn’t the first time you have performed to an actual person, as opposed to the bookshelf in your bedroom.
Siobhan Redmond says that the best time in every actor’s life is “the period between being offered the job and actually having to start it. Nothing beats it.” Coming to Audition Doctor gives you a significantly better chance of being in that position.