musical theatre blog

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

Everything’s as if we never said goodbye

When was your last blog post?

January, so about 5 months ago.

Why?

Unfortunately, I am at the age where I have to sit tonnes of exams (GCSEs), so I haven’t been able to write any blog posts as school seems to take up the majority of my time. I now only have 4 exams left, and I thought this was long overdue. 

Advice for people taking GCSEs next year?

  • Start revising a few months in advance, even if it’s only a little bit
  • Don’t underestimate how much work you have to do
  • Prioritise subjects you want to continue studying after GCSEs (and revise them more) 
  • Try not to cry
  • Make a pile of notes and books of subjects you have finished after your exams are over, so then you can destroy it all 

What musicals/plays have you seen this year so far? 

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the nighttime (but I had to write an essay on it and take notes during it, so I probably missed a lot of it) 
  2. Cats 
  3. Matilda (for the second time) 
  4. And next week I’m going to see Children of Eden 

What sort of blog posts will you be writing once your exams are over, and when is that?

My last exam is on the 12th of June, so after that point I should be able to start posting again. I’m not really sure what I want to write about, so maybe I’ll just see what inspires me. Of course if there is anything I get asked to write about I will, but we shall see. 

Into The Woods Film: First Impressions

Due to be released in the UK on Christmas Day this year, Into The Woods is looking good so far. From the trailers that I have seen I think it could be brilliant! Here is one of the trailers so you can have a look for yourself: http://youtu.be/2Byk9Is3TjY

The Witch – Meryl Streep
I love Meryl Streep. I think she has a great voice and is an amazing actress, so I think she’s perfect for the role. She is one of the biggest names in the film, and although I usually dislike the use of celebrities in films just so more people will go and see it, she will be one of the best things about the film I’m sure.

The Big Bad Wolf – Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is one of my favourite actors, as he is just so versatile! He is an incredible actor, and he has a pretty good voice too. Although his singing isn’t as strong as his acting (in my opinion of course) I think he will be an asset to the movie.

Cinderella – Anna Kendrick
Probably best known for her role in the film Pitch Perfect, Anna has a really good singing voice. Technically speaking, she probably does not have the right kind of voice for musical theatre, but at least she can actually sing.

The Baker’s Wife – Emily Blunt
A great actress, but I have never heard her sing, so I will be interested to see what her voice is like. Again, I do not know if technically she will be as able as a trained musical theatre performer would be, but she is a very good actress so I’m sure she will not disappoint.

The Baker – James Corden
I am a big fan of James Corden’s work, and I believe he went to stage school, so I have a feeling he will be excellent as The Baker. Hopefully he will bring some technique to the singing aspect of the film, and he could end up being one of the best things about the film.

Other cast members include:

Cinderella’s Prince – Chris Pine
Cinderella’s Stepmother – Christine Baranski
Cinderella’s Mother – Joanna Riding
Lucinda – Lucy Punch
Rapunzel – Mackenzie Mauzy
Rapunzel’s Prince – Billy Magnussen
Red Riding Hood – Lilla Crawford
The Giant – Frances de la Tour
Jack – Daniel Huttlestone
Jack’s Mother – Tracey Ullman
Florinda – Tammy Blanchard
The Baker’s Father – Simon Russell Beale
Grandmother – Annette Crosbie

I shall be uploading another post of a more in depth review after I have seen the film, as this is just my brief first impressions. So, watch this space.

This or That Tag (Musical Version)

This tag is mainly done by beauty gurus and fashion bloggers, so I thought I’d put my own spin on it. So, I filled a hat with the names of 20 musicals, and I had to pick out 2 at a time. I also have 10 “would you rather” categories (it should all make sense in a minute). So here goes:

1. Which would I rather see?
Jersey Boys or The Book of Mormon:
I was so annoyed when I got these two for this category, as they are both at the top of my list for shows I want to see next! But I’d have to say The Book of Mormon purely because I want to see I believe live really badly.

2. Which would I rather be in?
Les Miserables or Grease:
Ever since I have wanted to be in musicals I have wanted to be in these two. I have been in two productions of Grease (read about one of them in my post: The Understudy), and that was really fun so I would love to be in a West End version. But I have to chose Les Mis as I desperately want to be either Eponine, Fantine or Cosette. Imagine going out on stage and belting out one of the tragic songs from one of the greatest musicals of all time? I think it would be incredible to be a part of.

3. Which would I rather marry a character from?
Cats or Miss Saigon:
I knew straight away I would like to marry Chris from Miss Saigon. Who wouldn’t? I think I’d marry him and then sing Sun and Moon with him. Perfect.

4. Which soundtrack do I prefer?
Billy Elliot or Starlight Express:
I love the music from both of these shows, but several of the songs from Billy Elliot really move me (Mainly The Letter). So, I would have to chose Billy Elliot.

5. Which choreography would I rather perform?
The Wizard of Oz or Moulin Rouge:
I am currently in a production of Moulin Rouge, and although I love the show I’m not a big fan of the choreography. However I love doing the classic “wizard of Oz step/skip” that Dorothy and Co do on the way to Oz. So I’d have to pick dancing in Ruby Slippers over CanCan skirts.

6. Which would I rather was real?
Thriller Live or West Side Story:
It would be cruel to wish West Side Story was real, even if I would love to meet all the Jets. So, Thriller Live it is.

7. Which main character do I prefer?
Fame or Blood Brothers:
Fame is a great musical, but I don’t feel like I connect with the characters the way I connect with the Blood Brothers cast. Blood Brothers really moves me and Mrs Johnstone is one of my dream roles, so I would have to chose Blood Brothers.

8. Which costumes would I rather wear?
Matilda or Phantom of the Opera:
The costumes from Phantom are beautiful and very elaborate, but I have a huge desire to put on a Matilda blazer and sing Revolting Children, so I’d have to chose Matilda The Musical.

9. Which set do I prefer?
High Society or Wicked:
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love seeing the gorgeous emerald city and the ending of Defying Gravity? Also even the curtains have a beautiful map on them, so I think Wicked wins hands down.

10. Which would I rather see everyday if I had to?
Oliver or Joseph:
I really love Oliver, and it was one of my childhood favourites. But I can never get bored of the Joseph soundtrack, and it would be pretty cool to be able to see the Technicolour Dream Coat come to life every night, so Joseph is my winner for this category.

And there you have it, The This Or That (Musical Theatre Version) Tag.

Now normally at the end of a tag, the blogger is supposed to tag other blogs to do it as well. But seeing as I don’t know who it would chose, I tag any musical theatre or theatre blogger reading this to take on the challenge, and let me know you have completed it so I can read yours too. You could do this tag with any musicals or plays of your choice, so give it a go, and I look forward to reading more from this tag.