dance

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

The Top 10 Shows I Want to See Next

  1. An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre) – A beautiful Gershwin musical that is the talk of the West End, which I cannot wait to see in May!
  2. Mamma Mia (Novello Theatre) – This is a long running show, but I am still yet to see it. I love the film, and all of ABBA’s classic songs, so I think this show would be very entertaining.
  3. Motown the Musical (Shaftesbury Theatre)
  4. School of Rock (New London Theatre)
  5. The Girls (Phoenix Theatre) – After their stunning Olivier Awards performance, I would love to see this show written by Gary Barlow.
  6. Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)
  7. Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre) – Who doesn’t want to see this smash hit musical?
  8. Judy! (Arts Theatre)
  9. The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wale’s Theatre)
  10. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Duke of York’s Theatre)
  11. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 (Palace Theatre) – Technically, this makes my list a top 11, but I couldn’t not include this play that was highly praised at the Olivier Awards!

I hope this list has given any theatergoers some inspiration (if you’re looking for an idea of what to see next). Of course there are tonnes of amazing musicals and plays in London and on tour right now, and this list names but a few. Let me know what shows you’ve seen recently (ones you’ve enjoyed, or even ones you didn’t).

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.

University Fees (Specialist Arts Training)

As you may know if you have read my blog before, I want to be in the musical theatre industry when I’m older, as a performer. To be able to achieve this dream I have decided I would like to go to university. I researched several of the well known schools, and soon began praying that I could take out a loan large enough to cover the extortionate fees for taking a 3 year course.

These establishments are not only hard to get into (as they are so popular, and are only looking for the best new talent), but they are incredibly expensive to attend – with some courses adding up to about £40,000. This is of course without the cost of living in London, which would also amount to a huge debt, and that is very worrying. I have read articles about Andrew Lloyd Webber and other well known theatre personalities delivering speeches recently on why fees should be lowered, and I could not agree more!
Imagine: the richest student at the audition is the least talented, but is able to attend as they have the funds to support themselves. However, a student who comes from a family who aren’t as wealthy, but is very talented, may not even have a chance at auditioning due to their low budget. Money does not define who is more talented than who, or who will work harder or who is more deserving of a place.

I feel that it is unfair to make students rely on bursaries, scholarships and loans which they may never be able to pay back. Perhaps the government should consider reducing fees for everyone, or even just those who really cannot afford to live their dream. So much talent will go to waste if something is not done to provide students who need financial support with the reassurance that they can still attend university, and not have to worry about any sort of debt.

The Musical Theatre Tag (edited version)

So this is the musical theatre tag! I have edited it slightly, as some of the questions didn’t apply to me, or I wouldn’t have been able to give a good answer. It is a list of questions about how musical theatre relates to me, so that my blog gets my views across as well as the facts.

1. Plays or musicals?
I love plays a lot, but I think it would have to be musicals. Purely because I love hearing an amazing chorus harmony, and seeing all the dancers performing flawless routines in perfect time! Also I love the way musicals combine acting, singing and dancing and still manage to tell the story. The plot lines that the musicals are based on are always great too, and seeing talented triple threats perform is really uplifting, even if the musical is sad or tragic. In a way that just makes musicals more powerful, as they evoke emotion not only through speech but through music and choreography.

2. When did you start liking the performing arts?
I started ballet classes when I was two and a half years old, and I fell in love with dance. So when I discovered I could do acting and singing too I was amazed and I discovered how much passion I had for the performing arts! My family are musical lovers too, so I’ve always listened to show soundtracks and been taken to see musicals, plays and ballets so I have been aware of the arts and loved the theatre all my life.

3. Ever been in a musical?
I have been in a lot of musical productions, plays and shows so far in my life, but none of them have been amateur and not professional. The latest one was this year and I starred as Dorothy in an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, which was a dream come true! I’ve also taken part in competitions in dance, singing and acting, so I have had a lot of experience which will hopefully prove helpful in the future.

4. What was the first musical you saw in the West End?
I had seen a lot of productions up until I was 7 years old, but none of them had been in the West End. Until finally I saw Disney’s The Lion King in London which was incredible! The cast all had such powerful voices and I really felt uplifted and moved by the performance. It really made me more determined to have a career in musical theatre, and I’m glad my first West End experience was as magical as it was.

5. If you could be any female character in any musical who would you be?
One of my main ambitions is to be in Les Mis, so probably Eponine, Fantine or Cosette. I would also love to play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz! But for me if I am ever lucky enough to be in any musical I don’t mind which part I have, it would honestly just be a dream come true even if I’m at the back of the chorus.

6. Which male character?
Again I would love to be in Les Mis so Jean Valjean would be a fantastic role to play! Also Miss Trunchbull in Matilda would be fun, or Billy Elliot or one of the Jersey Boys, or Elder Price in the Book of Mormon.

7. Favorite musical song to sing in the shower?
I will sing any musical song in the shower, mainly I just sing whatever is in my head. Or if I’m about to see/ have just seen a show I will just sing anything from it’s soundtrack.

8. Who is your favorite theatre actress?
This is one of the hardest questions for me to answer as I have so many! Of course there are legends such as Judy Garland, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, but really I love any theatre actresses who I feel are amazingly talented. So I cannot really answer this question as the list would be too long and I’m sure no one would want to read that.

9. Actor?
Again this is very difficult, and I love Michael Ball, Robert Lyndsey, Ramin Karimloo, Tam Mutu and lots of other actors. Also there is of course a place in my heart for Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and all the other legends, so I simply do not know.

10. Favorite film adaptation of a musical?
I love musical films such as Grease and the Wizard of Oz, but I do not like a lot of the modern day film adaptations of musicals. I feel like they are just for celebrities who are trying to “sing”, just so more people will go and see the film and they will make a more sizeable profit. Although I do like the film version of Mamma Mia as almost the whole cast are very talented singers and I adore Meryl Streep!

11. What do you think is most overrated musical?
I personally think that West Side Story is overrated. Please don’t hate me. I love the musical and I think it is amazing, but I do not agree with the popular opinion that it is the best musical of all time. I do not think it is overrated because it is no good, because that is untrue, it is a wonderful musical and I recently saw
a production of it which was stunning! I just feel that it is not the best musical of all time, but only one of the best.

12.What musical made you cry?
I generally cry at every musical I see, even the happy ones. But of course the one that made me cry the most was Les Mis.

13.What musical made you laugh?
One of the things I love about musicals is the fact that every single one has lots of humour in it, even ones which are thought provoking or sad. But I have to say that Matilda, The Drowsy Chaperone and We Will Rock You were very funny and I found myself laughing frequently throughout the performance.

14.Are there any musicals you saw and hated?
Lucky, I have never seen a musical like this and I don’t think I ever will.

15.What musical do you want to see as a film?
Personally I think the less musicals that are made into films, the better.

16.Which musicals are you dying to see?
I am currently desperate to see:
Thriller Live
Once
The Book of Mormon
Jersey Boys
and The Phantom of the Opera.

17. What is your all time favorite musical?
I don’t think I have one all time favourite but I have three that I could narrow it down to, although even that was a difficult decision!
1. The Wizard of Oz
2. Les Miserables
3. Grease.

18. What would you do if theatre didn’t exist?
Nothing. I would have no plans for the future or anything that I was really passionate about, so thank goodness for theatre.