drama school: a reflection
Updated: Apr 13
I went away to drama school at the age of 16. I had only ever known structured education and was still insecure about my talents and what I could offer to a company of actors. In hindsight I would have waited a few more years before going, because when I graduated, I felt like I had more to learn than when I started. Not because I was more aware about what performing involved, but because I had spent my time there worrying about who I was, where I was and not truly getting stuck into the training or connecting with my classmates. I believe if I went back to the same place now and had exactly the same education, I would gain more from it. So I reflected back, what exactly was it that I had realised? What tips would I offer someone else going to train? A whole list of tips popped into my head, and below are my conclusions on a few:
The school. It doesn’t matter where you train but it matters how you train. It is so easy to get swept up in a ‘this school is better than that school conversation’. Especially in such a competitive industry. The truth of the matter is, no matter where you go, it is about how you are connecting and what you are taking away from the training; know your goals and where you want to improve. I have seen many a self tape now, from people who have trained at many different schools and I can tell you, from tape to tape I couldn’t tell who had trained where. I will not lie, there are certain agencies which value certain schools, but that does not block or change your talent nor does it stop you from creating every opportunity you can. The school is not the be all and end all, it is what you do there that counts.
Failure. When I was training, I didn’t quite grasp that the lessons where there for me to try and fail, and then learn. I felt that because I was there and because I had this opportunity I needed to be getting it and getting it ‘perfect’ every time. Perfection is a myth my friends! It also doesn’t make sense. There are so many ways of doing things, so many techniques that will or will not land. Enjoy failing, enjoy figuring out why you failed and enjoy changing your angle. If you do this, a fail is never really a fail.
Competition. Another thing that I was wrongly obsessed with, was the idea of competition. I don’t think I ever truly relaxed. I was obsessed with the idea of not being the worst, and was constantly thinking about third year, when the teachers would cast us, I felt like I had to make every lesson count. It was exhausting. None of the lessons truly sunk in, as I was always trying to prove things to others and didn’t take time to simply learn things for myself. If I could go back again I would tell myself what I know now… no one is like me, I cannot be worse than someone because they would never do it like me and I would never do it like them. The only competition that I need is with myself. Create a space where you can be joyous for others success, if they get a win it does not take away the from the capacity for you to win too. There is space for everyone to succeed. Just because someone else has a bigger part than you, it doesn’t mean you have done badly; you are on a different journey, you need to learn different things and you suit different things.
Team work. This ties in with point number 3. If you go into drama school with the idea of being the best company member you can be, you will not fail. Be generous to others and not only will your class mates want to work with you when you graduate, you will have the strongest foundation and the best network of people that you could have ever wished for.
Bubbles. It is easy at drama school to forget the outside world and run around in a High School Musical daze bubble. Don’t! Keep connections with friends outside, keep that hobby up and go to museums and galleries. Yes, you want to live and breath acting, but I promise this tip will keep you grounded and help with perspective. It will also help with those times when there’s one big role that everyone wants and it seems like the be all and end all if you get it. What happens in drama school is not a true reflection of how the outside world will see you. Keep plugging away, doing your thing and keep perspective.
Showcase. I have never met anyone who has attended a drama school, that hasn’t unnecessarily stressed about this. Again, I urge perspective and a deep breath during this time. Just because you don’t have the part you want or that offer that you want, it does not matter. You can still create a path for yourself within the industry, you do not need a big guns agent to have a career. The showcase is one of many opportunities to come, if you want opportunities, you can find them, this doesn’t make or break you.
Tax. As dull as these life and tax session where, do listen and take notes. The first time I filed my taxes I had a wee bit of melt down to say the least. So, take note and get prepared.
And now we wait. If you graduate with an agent or without, if you study at a big school or not, do not sit by the phone and wait for a call. Get doing, create, write and go to workshops. You still have more to learn and more ways to grow. Never become stagnant.