Archives for posts with tag: Drama School

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I think the title of this blog is the most obvious and cheesy lyric choice yet but, let’s face it, Larson is always poignant when you start thinking about the passing of time. I’m sticking to that.

A year ago, to the day, I graduated from drama school. In wishing all of the new graduates luck and quoting the school’s anthem “It’s Just The Beginning” I’ve become very nostalgic and have spent some time reflecting on these past 365 days. It is tradition at the London School of Musical Theatre to pass on some wisdom to a new student arriving in September to help them out (or terrify them) for their year ahead. So, I’d quite like to write a little post as an updated version of advice for all those beautifully talented people about to take their first steps in the industry.

 Graduates of 2014, this one’s for you.

Now I have the gift that is hindsight, I can say that your first year in the industry will be an unexpected roller-coaster ride. I say unexpected because as far as careers go there are very few that you plan and dream the details of quite as much as a career in the performing arts industry. Of course, there are a very lucky number of people whose journeys will play out like a dream and it’s amazing to bask in their happiness (I’ve spent a lot of evenings crying with pride at professional debuts this past year). However, 9 times out of 10 your journey won’t play out quite as you had envisioned from aged 7, doing one-woman shows in your living room. It seems silly to say so, but remember that! You’ll have been told it plenty of times but it’s so easy to lose sight of that and cry tears of the green-eyed monster watching a friend’s debut rather than the aforementioned tears of joy. It should be all about the joy grads. So here are some tips to help keep it that way:

#TipOne: Pinch yourself occasionally…

…and remind yourself you’re one of a lucky minority (yes, it will seem like a large old industry at times but we’re still a minority) following their dream career. Even if you’ve finished a 13 hour shift carrying plates up and down 5 flights of stairs (yes, that’s what I do) remember that it’s all a means to an end.

#TipTwo: Pat yourself on the back for the small things too.

For your sanity’s sake I think it’s important to think of any achievement as a big one in your first, intrepid, year out of training. Things might seem like baby steps but they are all significant. From a good audition to (god forbid) actually getting a job don’t forget to take stock and note your achievement. It will help your esteem in the long run.

#TipThree: Keep your friends close.

You’re all in it together. You’ll need a network of people that you love and trust that you can call on when you’re struggling for audition material, need picking up off the floor when you don’t get a job or to chat to in an effort to calm your dance-call-first nerves. It’s also necessary to have a group of nearest and dearest who you can celebrate good news (and fight over press night plus ones) with too of course!

#TipFour: It’s a small industry.

That’s more of a statement than a tip. I guess it’s more of a reminder! We’ve all heard it a thousand times before but it still shocks me, almost every day, how everyone is connected. Naturally, there will always be some people in this industry that you’ll want to keep at arms length because of their negativity (amongst other things I am sure) but as long as you kill with kindness you’ll be fine. Plus, I’ve also learnt that playing ‘how many mutual friends do we have’ at auditions is a great way to pass the time. I dare you to try playing ‘do you know Ridout?’ and please report back any findings.

#TipFive: Enjoy every second.

This year will really be about finding your feet and learning how to get the career you’ve envisioned out of your head and made into something tangible (well, as tangible as an acting career can be). It’s not an easy process. I’m a year out and I still don’t have all the wheels in motion – it’s a Reliant Robin at best – but try to enjoy it as much as you can. Allow yourself to cry when you need a cry but start patting yourself on the back again as soon as possible. Get out of the house, find a show you only need £10 to see and get re-inspired. Sing in the rain, dance in the street and use all the world as a stage.*

*Was that sentence too much? Am I too much? Or is the rest of the world not enough? Answers on a postcard please.

#TipSix: Run your own race.

I won’t repeat myself on this one so if this is the first blog of mine that you’ve read then please reference this post on what I mean by that. I will, however, add one more ridiculous running analogy just for my graduation anniversary (mainly because I’ve been using MapMyRun far too much recently): For every 10 minutes of a marathon you may achieve varying distances for each but, ultimately you’re aiming for an end goal and to finish at your personal best. Which roughly translates as: Each year you may achieve different levels of accomplishment in terms of building your dream CV but you know your personal end-sight and you can only ever do your best. Just because one year you achieve less on paper than the last doesn’t mean you’re not going to end up where you want to be. I hope that makes as much sense to you as it does to me.

THAT’S IT!

Like with the tradition at LSMT, I could write a book of advice for what to expect for your year ahead. I hope that these select few nuggets of advice were of interest and that they will serve you in the incredible year you have ahead of you. 365 days later and I’m perfectly contented with where I am right now in terms of my career and I am a very happy individual. I can only hope that you feel the same in another 365 days time. 

Here’s the graduation anthem from LSMT’s own Charles Miller to set you on your way. Just give those lyrics a listen and you’ll be alright. 

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Final day of LSMT. Class of 2013.

“Down the road, around the next bend, who knows what’s ahead? But we’ll keep on and still keep in mind what so many said…”it’s just the beginning”…”

– Rebecca Ridout

 

 

Three days ago I was sat in a coffee shop comforting my friend following his unsuccessful drama school audition. He was keen to hear any advice that I had to offer him and my obvious response was “everything happens for a reason”. I did have to laugh at myself though as three years ago, when it was me in his place, I wanted to scream every time I heard someone say “everything happens for a reason”. It’s the last thing you want to hear when you feel like your reason for living* is being thrown back in your overly-enthusiastic full-out-performance face. But it’s now a phrase I find myself using daily and it’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt in my three years of drama school training – and I learnt it the hard way.

*cheesy phrases like this appeared in my personal statements c. 2010-11 – isn’t hindsight the best?

I am probably the most confusing drama school graduate you are likely to meet. The usual audition small talk of “where did you train?” is instantly regretted by the questioner when (where normally a 3-5 word answer would suffice) I answer with a short monologue. In brief: I trained part-time for a year at Arts Educational, full-time for a year at the Guildford School of Acting and finished with the most intensive one year imaginable at the London School of Musical Theatre. If you’d told me three years ago that that was what was in store for me I probably would have responded: “don’t be ridiculous, I’m not even going to get into one school” or “THREE SCHOOLS!?” and fainted shortly after. It certainly wasn’t what I had intended to do. I envisioned getting a BA at a CDS (Conference of Drama Schools) accredited institution and failing that I would have followed my ‘back-up’ plan and read Economics at university. The path I took, whilst rewarding in numerous ways, was also incredibly testing. I had three years of  ‘no’s (from schools that I was incredibly emotionally invested in) with the odd ‘yes’ thrown in to keep me biting. That’s what gave me my thick skin and my understanding of the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and now, sitting here as a graduate, I am proud of my pick ‘n’ mix path into the industry.

I was once told that training can be thought of like a necklace and you can only fit on so many pearls of wisdom – you have to pick which pearls work for you to make the perfect, individual necklace.

(I’ve also been told to think of training like a buffet but that is far less glamorous.)

Where am I going with all of this? Well, another advantage of my three years, three schools and numerous auditions is that I have met a lot of lovely people who’ve gone down alternative paths to get into the industry. So I’ve rallied the troops and have asked people from various training (or not training at all) backgrounds about their experiences and whether they were glad it happened for them the way that it did.

NB: This post is aimed at people auditioning (or wanting to audition) for drama school/professional work in the future but I do hope it is of interest even if you don’t fall into that bracket of reader. I won’t blame you if you don’t read the whole thing though. Feel free to skip ahead.

Path No. 1: ‘The one where they get into drama school first try…’

“I was lucky enough to get into my first choice of college straight from sixth-form. On reflection,  a gap year would have been nice to break up the courses and it would have given me different experiences prior to training. That said though, it’s an opportunity you can’t turn down. I was very much still in that educational mind set. My technique in acting, singing and dance had a solid base to work from and my fitness was at an optimum level to start training. I was grateful for getting in the first time because I knew other people who wanted it as much as I did, but were not as lucky in their first year auditioning. This spurred me on to work hard and value the opportunity I’d been given.”

Path. 2: ‘The one where they get into drama school first try but have to take a gap year…’

“It was actually a god send that I didn’t go to drama school when I was supposed to (I had to postpone due to funding) as it made me want it even more. I grew to love my passion all over again, when you have a knock back in your career you tend to have second thoughts, but working a normal 9 to 5 (I sang the opening to 9 to 5 the musical in my head when I wrote this) makes you realise that stacking shelves and selling TVS in Currys  is definitely not the life you want to lead. Although, the main reason I’m glad I had my year out is because I wouldn’t have met the people I now call my second family who I couldn’t live without. Fate is a strange thing. Everything happens for a reason.”

Path No. 3: ‘The one where they get put on the reserve list…’

“My situation wasn’t that easy at all. I was on reserve and was all set with my plans for a year out so when I got offered a place I was going to turn it down! So after the most confusing two days of my life I accepted. But because of all of the drama (and tears shed), I was hardly excited by the prospect of drama school, if anything in that first week I felt it had ruined my life…little did I know it would actually make my life! When I got my reserve letter, my singing teacher sang the line “some things are meant to be” from Little Women…this didn’t help, I was so upset. But he was right, ultimately everything happens for a reason.”

Path No. 4: ‘The one where they do a foundation course and then get in…’

“My foundation year enabled me to grow as a human being as well as a performer and afterwards, suddenly, somehow, I was grown up. I moved away from home, I trained in musical theatre all day every day and did that for the absolute love of the craft. Also, there’s a camaraderie you don’t get anywhere else and in such an intense environment, having friends do it with you is the best thing you can find. The year of training is also guilt-free – the pressure is auditioning and you get a heap of training in that department that you carry through the rest of your life – auditions are auditions, after all – and actually, subconsciously the displacement of pressure allows you to fly as a performer. You can do all you want to further your training without it being ‘the only training you’re going to get…’ On a foundation, it is yours. I would recommend a foundation year before drama school to anyone and everyone. I know my foundation year was the reason I got into drama school. That’s what worked for me.”

Path No. 5: ‘The one where they take a year out and try again…’

“When I got my rejection letters in the first year from auditioning I was distraught and it was only after I got my written feedback from some colleges that I realised just how much I had to alter about my preparation and presentation. I didn’t go on a course in my year out but I was lucky enough to have a great set of friends and teachers around me that offered honest guidance towards reaching perfect and solid performances. In hindsight, a year out was ideal. It meant that I could grow as a performer and save some money to help out with the fees! I was so grateful going into my course that bit older than most of my year as I knew that it was what I wanted to do and I felt really focused on the things I wanted to achieve!”

Path No. 6: ‘The one where they get in “third time lucky”…’

“I feel like my path to training has formed the performer I am even more than the actual training itself in some ways. If it weren’t for the 2 years of solid rejections then I would never have been so incredibly sure that this is the only thing I want to spend my life doing. It meant that I had the hardest times before my training even began, which made putting the pressure and intensity of drama school into perspective that bit easier. I sometimes feel like my appreciation of where I am it is on a different level compared to people coming straight from college. I also made some friends for life on our foundation course whom I would never have bonded with had I gone straight to my current drama school. If I could go back and do it all again I would do it the same, except I wouldn’t take myself so seriously and I would have had much more fun right from the start!”

Path No. 7: ‘The one where they go to a small performing arts school to get a performance degree…’

“I trained at a school which isn’t CDS accredited but you do get your BA (Hons) degree in Acting in 2 years. I could have gone to a well known school in order to get the recognition in the industry but  I could always do a masters somewhere later if I feel the need. I’ve learnt that you can build your CV and can have success no matter what school you go to.. Going to my school pushed me to work harder for myself as we were responsible for doing everything ourselves – writing to agents, sourcing costumes for shows, tech-ing shows, building sets etc… I’ve realised now that success and constant work doesn’t come from the name of the school, it comes from the amount of effort you put into the training. You only get out of it what you put in.”

Path No. 8: ‘The one where they go to university, get a degree and go to drama school for a post-grad…’

“I spent half of my time at University (whilst studying Geography) at dance classes, directing shows, acting in shows and singing such that when I got to my final year I was sure that there was nothing else that I wanted to do other than be an actor. That is when I decided to audition for drama school. As my course leader says it is possible to fit the training into one year as long as students are able to ‘burn the boat’ – you need to put the fact that you have a degree to ‘fall back on’ out of your mind. When you have something to fall back on you inevitably fall back – this often feels like the biggest hurdle of the process. Ultimately though being successful is about so much more than talent and I think as a postgraduate I can really use my experiences pre drama school to my advantage. Doing my degree is something completely different was still the right choice for me.”

Path No. 9: ‘The one where they didn’t train and went straight into the industry…”

“The first two years in this industry were the hardest for me. I had a plan to go to drama school and even got onto a musical theatre course but decided to take a job instead. I realise my successful start is rare and for a long time I felt a big hole where I felt my training should have been. I felt I couldn’t make any mistakes on a job because it would be recorded for all time by those who would decide future employment. That pressure wasn’t something I had thought about. However, as time went on I grew to appreciate the individuality I seemed to have developed that set me apart from others. Directors would ask where I had trained at auditions and would always be impressed by my perseverance and grounded attitude. If you don’t go to drama school you have to be prepared to put in the effort and access every resource you can and make up your own mind. I never let a month go by without a singing lesson or acting workshop. It’s part of the training you create for yourself. The pay offs to being your own boss and creator are incredible but there is much more chance of loss and heartache along the way. Whenever I am hit with a knock back that really makes me question my right to work in the industry I remind myself that we never stop learning. I don’t consider myself an untrained actor. I consider myself an actor that hasn’t undergone full time training…yet. I might still train full time one day. The moment you decide your dream is to work as a performer, you are one. Do what it takes to make yourself feel the part.”

Life’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t spend your time watching people run past you and letting that affect you – you could take them over again down the line. Just focus on your route and run your own race.

I hope that this is what all of these people’s experiences demonstrate – there is not one clear route into the industry and yours is what was/is meant for you. I had more replies and more people willing to share their stories with me and it’s such a shame I can’t include all of them because each one is individual and each one is inspiring. I wish these stories had been available to me, sat despondently in a cafe, three years ago. That is exactly why I wanted to share them now – for all those performers of the future who just need a little lift to get them through (as one of my friends brilliantly put) the bloodthirsty, incredibly pressurised and incredibly exciting arena of drama school auditions.

Throughout my training I kept log books and can now look back and read my (sometimes cringe-worthy) thoughts and track the changes in my mindset. Whilst flicking through them yesterday it surprised to see me that the biggest lesson I learnt (which I thought took me years to get my head round) appeared relatively early on in my musings. I titled an entry ‘Dooms Day’ (Dramatic? Me?) following a rejection that day and the very next entry was called “Contemplation”. In the middle of that page in big, fat, eagerly highlighted letters were the words “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON”! I truly believe that now and I hope that if you were skeptical before you may have been won round by some of these people’s stories. I certainly wouldn’t change my story for anything or anyone (too many re-writes for a start) and if you’re doubtful about yours at the moment, know that in a few years you’ll be thankful for the hurdles you’ve had along the way. Just try to be happy running your own race.

If you are auditioning (or thinking of auditioning) soon please feel free to ask me any burning questions that this post may have prompted. I’ll try to help out as best I can. After all, “When in doubt, ask Ridout” was the original inspiration for this blog!

Happy auditioning!

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Last day with my Arts Ed flatmates.

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First day of GSA: goals for the end of the year.

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Last day at GSA.

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Last day at LSMT.

“Just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it, if you always take it on the chin and wear it nothing will change. Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you musn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you. If you sit around and let it get on top, you might as well be saying you think that it’s okay and that’s not right. And if it’s not right you have to put it right…”

– Rebecca Ridout