auditions

The Drama School Diaries Part 5: Hidden Expenses

So, you’re planning on auditioning for drama schools, but you’re not sure if you can afford it. You factor in the course fees, the accommodation, living costs etc. but there are also lots of other things you are going to have to pay out for while preparing for drama school.

  1. Auditions are expensive, as they are around £30 – £55 each, and when you audition for 5+ drama schools, it all adds up.
  2. If you are accepted onto a course, you will be given a list of things that you need to purchase for your training, such as leotards, ballet shoes, knee pads and much more. Again, this all adds up, especially when one pair of dance shoes can cost up to £50 alone.
  3. Your accommodation may not be within walking distance of your college, so you’re going to need to pay for your travel. Also, if you are living in London, you are most likely going to be relying on public transport to get around, so you should consider how costly travel is going to be.
  4. Nights out may not be a cost that everyone needs to consider, however most drama schools run freshers events during the first week of term, and if you are living with other students the chances are you will be going out and experiencing London’s nightlife. Tickets for freshers events can be expensive, and then nights out (especially in London) will be even more so, so this is also a factor to consider.

 

I hope this is helpful if you are trying to budget for drama school, and the best advice I can give is to save as much as possible now, so you can have the funds to make your dreams come true and afford drama school life.

The Drama School Diaries Part 4

Dealing with Audition ‘Competition’

Obviously when preparing for auditions and during your auditions your number one priority needs to be you and what you’re doing. However, as you look around the room you will see countless other applicants, and the reality of how many people apply for these courses becomes very real. Naturally, you will try and compare yourself to them, you may think ‘if this many people are at one audition, how many people am I actually up against?’ and the competitive nature of these auditions can make you want to give up. You can’t see the point because that girl over there is more flexible than you, and that girl next to you has an incredible top range and the boy to your left can do back flips. Don’t get into this downward spiral of thoughts. Look at the boy doing back flips in the corner, and remind yourself that while he may be talented, he isn’t you. He does not have what you have, and neither does anyone else because you are one of a kind. This can be a hard thing to keep sight of when you’re surrounded by your competition, but you can’t let this phase you. Make friends with people, have a chat about how their other auditions are going, what songs they’re singing etc. It will make you feel much more at ease if you have a few friends who you can discuss the whole process with (after all, you’re all in the same boat anyway). Also when you are listening to other people singing and watching them dance or act, don’t judge them as if you are a member of the panel. Be supportive, and never for a second think ‘oh they won’t like him’ or ‘I’m way better than her’ because you shouldn’t bring others down to bring yourself up. A better response would be ‘they were good, and now lets show them what I’ve got’.

Often you will have to work in teams during your auditions, and if you don’t work well with others (you’re bossy, you shy away from the task or you are only focusing on yourself etc.) then the panel will notice this and this will go against you. Actors collaborate and work closely together, it’s not all about one person, especially when there is an ensemble of about twenty to thirty people onstage at the same time. So again, talking to people at your auditions will help you out when it comes to the workshops. Alternatively, if there are any current students at the auditions, ask them as many questions as possible (so you get more of an idea about whether the school is right for you). Basically, although you are effectively ‘competing’ against the other people in your audition, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Be the best you can be, focus on yourself, but get to know the others and support them along the way as well.

I hope you’re all enjoying this series and finding it useful, and I’m open to topic requests so just let me know.

Lots of Love Lucy x

The Drama School Diaries Part One

Hello everyone, I know it’s been a long time since my last post, but now that I’ve finished my musical theatre course at college, I am going to be writing a series of blog posts called ‘The Drama School Diaries’. I’ll be talking about my experiences with auditions, giving advice and basically just being brutally honest about what it is like to try and make it in the musical theatre industry.

Since being offered a place at a drama school on a foundation course, it occurred to me that later this year I will have to apply for more three year courses from September, and I hadn’t even decided where I wanted to audition. After a lot of research I came to the conclusion that I’m going to do more auditions this time around, and I’m going to audition for acting courses as well as musical theatre. So there’s a little update on what my plans are, but I’m now going to talk about the first drama school topic I’d like to cover: Auditions.

Auditioning for Drama School

A lot of the books, articles etc. I’ve read about auditions don’t really give an accurate description of what being in an audition is actually like. I understand everyone will have different experiences and be auditioning for different things, but I don’t think there are a lot of brutally honest accounts of auditions because there is a lot more than meets the eye. Before I attended any drama school auditions, I knew that they would be difficult, but the reality of the number of people applying for about 20-40 places didn’t really sink in. Just to put it into perspective, the number of people on average who will audition for the same drama school course as you is roughly the size of the population of Namibia in South Africa (around 2,000 people). That’s a lot of people right? Of course in a situation like that you need to be confident that you will stand out from the rest, but I think I lost sight of the fact that I needed to be myself and show them what was unique about me, as I tried so hard to be like the kind of person I thought they would want to accept. If you’re confident in yourself, having accepted your weaknesses and acknowledged your strengths, and you can stand in front of a panel at an audition as if to say ‘this is what I’ve got’ then you’re going to go further than someone who tries too hard to come across as something they’re not when under pressure. With that many people competing against each other, people will start to fall into categories in the minds of the ‘judges’. Some people will simply have no experience, lack technique and lack confidence, and the panel will instantly write them off. Fact. Some people might be amazing at one thing, such as acting for example, but then they may not be able to dance a step or sing in tune, and again that’s a write off (because the musical theatre industry requires you to be at least a triple threat now, but in an acting audition this may be different). You also have the dancer types who are incredibly flexible, and are fairly good actors and singers, so they may get through to the next round because they are seen to have potential. There are also a few unique characters who you’ll meet along the way, whose audition you may watch and think they’re odd or outrageous, but often they will get called back as well (because they are unique). Boys always stand out more in auditions because there are less of them, and a lot of girls will fade into the background because there are loads of them. Also, I made an observation during my auditions, which may just have been a coincidence or something only I’ve noticed, but I would like to share it in case anyone else shares the same opinion. When it comes to your looks in acting or musical theatre, they are your brand and your image, because the work is so physical and requires you to use your whole body. In my auditions, two kinds of ‘look’ were often picked for a call back. Firstly, the more ‘alternative’ or ‘unique’ look. Someone who may not necessarily be considered conventionally ‘attractive’ by everyone, but someone who is striking and you could tell apart from the group. Then, of course, a lot of the best looking males and females were chosen. Muscular, slim, not a hair out of place, well dressed and in general well presented people were very popular with the panels. A lot of the drama schools specified that they didn’t want you to wear makeup to the audition, but it was clear that a lot of people were wearing it, and some of them still got called back. Obviously, you have to be castable, and a lot of roles do require actors who are attractive and that’s a fact. Even if being attractive isn’t a requirement, which I don’t think it is, I think they do take into account the way in which you decide to present yourself at the audition. I think age can also affect the drama school audition process, as often a panel will think that an 18 year old who has just finished A-Levels won’t be ready for the level of training at drama school. Of course, you can never tell what the judges are thinking, and most drama schools don’t give anyone any audition feedback (as they don’t have time to do so) so you may never know what you did ‘wrong’. The panel may have already accepted someone onto the course that looks like you (which is possibly a reason to try and audition earlier), they may be looking for a specific type of person depending on what’s on in the West End currently (they want graduates who will get work once they leave, so they have to consider what the industry is looking for at the time as well) and who knows they may have thought that you were amazing, but they might think you’re right for a different course or that you need more life experience before going to drama school.

I met a lot of people at my auditions who had already auditioned the year before, or that this was their third or fourth time auditioning. Can an 18 year old compete with that kind of experience? I personally think it shows a lot of commitment if you try again, because each time you try you will have learnt more about the audition process and about yourself as a performer. I am also a big believer in not auditioning until you feel you are ready. I applied very early on and had auditions from December, when some of my friends didn’t even apply until February onwards. Early applications are good if you know you are ready for the auditions (all your material is prepared and your skills are where they need to be) as then a lot of the places are still up for grabs and the panel won’t have seen hundreds of people before you. However, later applications are also good as you will have more time to prepare, but you risk missing out if the places are filling up quickly. I wouldn’t apply too late in the game, otherwise you may be disappointed, but I think somewhere in the middle is just about right.

Another thing I think the judges took into consideration was where you were already studying/training. Often they aren’t interested in A-Level drama students because the drama school environment is so different to a school one, but if you are what they are looking for this shouldn’t be a problem. With college and drama school students, they definitely take into account where you train. If you went into an audition and said you were in the sixth form at Arts Ed or you go to one of the big colleges like EDA, you may automatically stand out, as you have a lot of experience. Some places may not want someone who has already had a different kind of training from somewhere else, but it could stand you in good stead.

The most honest point I can make about auditioning involves a controversial topic in the arts industry: money. Lets face it, if you have money in this industry, you’re going to get further. I know some people will not agree with this statement, as obviously the arts is all inclusive and you can get scholarships and things, but I will explain my point. There are only a few drama schools in the UK that offer student finance funding (a student loan that university students are given) to students on their musical theatre or acting courses. Often, this is because they are associated with universities, however the majority of schools require students to privately fund their training. Realistically, a lot of people don’t have £14,000 to spend per year on their tuition fees alone, when they will have living expenses etc. to consider also. This does make it a lot harder for people auditioning for drama schools, as this means you can’t audition for as many places, and therefore you don’t have as many opportunities. Yes, you can get funding in some places, but this may only cover part of your fees and not much funding is available. As well as this, if you have money and have been at stage school all your life, of course you are going to have an advantage at auditions because you have so much experience. At the end of the day, if you can’t pay the fees, you can’t go to the school, and that is a harsh truth that many people (including myself) have to come to terms with. So if you can’t afford to audition for some of the top drama schools because they are too expensive, you then face a hard job getting into the schools with funded places, as more people want these places so that they can get funding. Of course, people still have to be talented to get into any drama school, and I’m not saying that people buy their way into the industry, but I do often wonder if I would get into the drama schools that you have to pay for if I could afford to go.

I hope that this helps some of you who will be auditioning for drama schools or are considering it, as I feel if I could have read some honest accounts of people’s experiences before I auditioned I could have had a more realistic idea of what it would be like. Don’t let this post put you off, as your experience may be totally different to mine, and if it’s what you really want then don’t let anything stop you from trying your hardest. I just hope this series will help prepare anyone for what they may experience, and how they should deal with it. The next few parts of this series will be geared towards giving advice and finding the school that’s right for you etc. but if anyone has any specific questions they’d like me to answer about auditions I’d be happy to, so just let me know.

Thank you so much for giving this a read, see you soon!

Lucy x

Drama School

Lately, I’ve been preparing to audition for drama school (as I will have to apply later this year). At first I thought that I would just audition for all the top schools in London and maybe I would get a place somewhere and everything would be fine. However recently I have realised that it isn’t that simple…

The Truth About Drama Schools:

  • It’s expensive. I thought I had far more options than I actually do, because I was under the impression that every BA (Hons) degree course could be funded by a student loan, when in fact a lot of drama schools require you to self fund your place (and realistically, who has £40,000 lying around?).
  • Not every school will be right for you. Each course is different, and if you’re more of a dancer there is no point going somewhere that focuses mainly on acting. Also the atmosphere in a building can differ, as well as the kind of students who attend each school. I have only visited one drama school so far, but this is a useful thing to do as you can start to see what you like/don’t like in a school.
  • If you don’t get into a three year course first time, there aren’t many backup options. Of course you can take a gap year, but if you want to stay in education there aren’t many 1 year courses available that don’t cost the earth (as you can’t apply for a student loan for these sorts of courses).
  • It’s a bigger decision and more serious process than you think. It’s all well and good having the ‘drama school dream’ but in reality you will have to attend this school for about 3 years, and you will have to live there (so making sensible decisions is vital).
  • Many drama schools don’t have accommodation. Often, some drama schools are independent and therefore you will have to find somewhere to live nearby (and for an 18 year old leaving home for the first time, getting a flat in central London could be quite daunting). It’s as much about the area surrounding the school as it is the school itself, as a safe/nice location can make all the difference.
  • Saying that you’ll just ‘audition everywhere and go wherever I’m accepted’ isn’t the best idea. Each audition will cost about £45, so if you go to 10 schools you’ll have to find nearly £500 before you’ve even begun paying tuition fees. Also, not all of these places will be good for you or right for you, so you need to research all your options and think about what you want.
  • I knew that drama schools are hard to get in to, and the audition process is very competitive, but some schools have around 2 thousand applicants for about 30 places.

However I’m glad that as I’m researching my options more and actually evaluating where I should apply, I am learning a lot about what my future could hold for me. I’m hopeful that I will gain a place at one of the drama schools I audition for, but there are always other options so I’ll continue to keep learning.

Another topic that really interests me is the ‘uni vs drama school’ debate, so I will probably be posting about that once I’ve looked into it. University has always been an option I’ve considered, but at the moment I’m pretty convinced that it’s not right for me.

School Musicals

School musicals. Love them or hate them, they happen every year. They give some talented students a chance to practice and improve their skills, and they give false hope to those who are cast “because everyone has to have a part”. But is the casting process in these shows realistic? Is it fair? We shall see.

In many schools it is a case of the older ones get the best parts, and the younger ones are usually just chorus members. “It’s their last show”, “You’ll get your chance when you’re older”, “They have more experience”. Yeah, right. This is not always the case. I understand that it may be their last performance with the school, but if they are not as talented as someone in one of the younger years, why should they be given the lead over them?

As a child I got fairly good parts, but I was usually an understudy who would be asked to fill in for a lead who was ill at the last minute. I was constantly told that I’d get my chance when I was older. And finally in primary school, I got into year 6 (the oldest year in the school) and I thought it was my time to shine. But no. That year they decided a year 4 should have the lead, as it is unfair to keep giving them to the older ones. Typical.

Then in secondary school, I was always a principal chorus member. Also, I continued to understudy leads, and as I mentioned on my blog before had to step in last year as Frenchy in Grease. And this year the production is Moulin Rouge, and I desperately wanted to be Satine. When I looked at the cast list it was the same as every year. The sixth form (the top of the school) were cast as the leads, and although I got a good part it was not what I had hoped for.

The other sad thing about these decisions is when you know you would work harder than whoever got the part over you, but the teachers just can’t seem to see that.

As well as this, some schools have started casting couples in the main romantic roles because they think it will be less awkward for them. Come on! It’s acting, people need to get over it.

Basically, it should be like a professional production. Whoever is the most talented, should be the lead characters, end of. Forget age, relationship status and other factors, the bottom line is the show will only be good if you cast the most talented kids. And if that means the youngest child in the show gets the lead then so what, they will do a much better job.

I’m sorry I haven’t written a blog post in so long, I’ve just had lots of school work to do recently, but I should be posting more regularly again soon. I’m in a play next week, so I may post about that, so watch this space.