By Jamie Read – Director of Theatre Faculty at READ College
This article first appeared in The Stage in 2014, and you can hear Jamie talk on the subject at this year’s Move It show at London Excel!
The five top tips…
1. Know your casting bracket. If you don’t know the roles that you are likely to play, or the companies you are likely to work with, then it is very hard to know what training you need and therefore how to get in to drama school. Look at how these roles have been cast before, both in terms of skill base but also look, build, age, etc. It is important that you are honest with yourself about this, and that you feel you could reasonably be cast in the role. Next, research the actors who have done these jobs recently, and find out where they trained. That should give you a shortlist of the schools that are likely to get you into the kind of work that you want.
2. Remember that you are choosing the school – it’s not just about them choosing you. You will spend two or three tough years in training at drama school/dance college, and some of the training can be exhausting both emotionally and physically. If you’re not happy in the environment there, then it is very hard to get the most out of your training. Check out the level of pastoral care, try and get personal recommendations about the atmosphere in the school from students or graduates, and most importantly look at the school’s graduate success rate. If they’re not getting many people into the industry then you’ve got to ask why? That’s why lots of people choose to do a foundation course like our’s at READ College – our graduate success rate is the highest in the industry, with over 96% of students from our Foundation Course in Acting and Foundation Course in Musical Theatre getting in to colleges.
3. Prepare thoroughly but don’t over rehearse! There is a very fine line between being really well prepared for your audition to get in to drama school, and being over-rehearsed to the point where you look staid. Good preparation should include research of the play/writer/choreographer/composer and a good, rounded understanding of the roles that you are playing in your audition rep. However, the audition panel want to meet someone who is pliable and ‘trainable’ so if you appear too stuck in your ways then it can really put them off. Try doing your songs or speeches as many different ways as possible, right or wrong. Find as many facets as you can in the characters and don’t let anything put you off. That way, if someone redirects you or plays your song at a different tempo it won’t feel like the earth has moved.
4. Research your funding in advance. There is nothing worse than being offered a place at a college that you cannot possibly take up. It is soul destroying. Although funding your course can be a real minefield with the changes to degree course fees, DaDA means testing, and everything else that comes with it, there are plenty of other ways of funding yourself through training out there if you look. Local charitable trusts, foundations supporting young people or the Arts, corporate sponsorship, philanthropy… Do as much research in advance of your auditions as possible, so that if you are made an offer you are ready to accept it. It’s all very well figuring our how to get in to drama school, but you need to make sure you can go when you get the offer!
5. Don’t be star-struck. We regularly meet students who are hung up on training at a ‘big name’ college, without remembering that the whole point of the exercise is to get out into the industry at the other end. If you are stuck on auditioning at a small pool of elite colleges, then you are focussing only on your training and not on your career and even though they may well have a proud history, that is not the be-all and end-all. Equally, it is absolutely fair to say that there is a plethora of small and under-established schools that lack industry contacts, and these may not serve you in your goal to work as a performer. However, in the middle are some fantastic organisations doing great, creative work who are not able to rest on their laurels due to a historical ‘good name’ – they have to innovate and work hard, and in my opinion they often instil this work ethic in their students which is the single most important skill needed by a self-employed person working in the creative industries!