The Drama Student Magazine - Issue 1

Page 1

issue 1 | winter 2009


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contents

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6 About a New Boy Russell Labey talks about his play New Boy at the Trafalgar Studios

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NSDF

Mark Ravenhill recalls fond memories of the National Student Drama Festival

prologue It is my pleasure to welcome you to the first issue of The Drama Student Magazine, the new and exciting publication for current and prospective drama students in the UK. A journal dedicated to those seriously pursuing a career in the industry through training has not existed until now, and we’re proud to be creating a magazine that is not only entertaining and informative, but also one that brings together a very passionate community of students. It’s exactly nine years since I embarked on the drama school audition circuit as a wide-eyed young actor from the north east. I clearly remember what an exciting (and sometimes nerve-racking) time that process was, and what it meant to me being offered at place at The Central School of Speech and Drama. Training at drama school was one of the best experiences of my life. I took from the course a colourful tool-box of skills, knowledge and personal understanding that I have used in my professional career. At whatever stage in your journey, whether you’re considering training, already on a course or even preparing to graduate, you’ll find The Drama Student filled with inspiring interviews, articles and news, that are sure to assist you in your chosen career path. In this edition we have a wonderful exclusive interview with award-winning actress Zoë Wanamaker. You’ll read about her fascinating career and hopefully take on board some nifty advice. Playwright Mark Ravenhill tells us why he holds the National Student Drama Festival close to his heart and director Russell Labey chats about his play New Boy starring Nicholas Hoult (and erm... me!) In addition to this, each quarterly issue will be filled with the latest drama school news, student support, theatre, culture, health and much more. Remember this is your magazine, so email me with your feedback and suggestions, so we can create a publication that you’ll trust. The journey begins here… Enjoy! Phil Matthews Editor editor@thedramastudent.co.uk

10 Zoë Wanamaker

The renowned actress of stage and screen takes centre stage for our launch

Francis Ortega

The Spotlight Prize winner on graduating into the industry

4 The First Word 16 Take Control 24 Student Support 42 Picture Board 44 Wellness 47 Culture 50 Classified

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Into the Profession 14 Actor’s Tool Box 20 Training 28 Case Study 43 Theatre 46 Reading Room 48

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the first word

Flash

When Sam Peter Jackson was asked to take a trip down memory lane, he couldn’t help feeling a little nostalgic. Dance belts, myths and freaky applicants. It all came flooding back. The phone rings. It’s Phil. Somehow this feels strange. We have been friends for eight years since we met as fresh-faced drama students and now he edits a magazine for exactly that demographic. Gosh, have we really grown up so fast? “You’re good at this kind of thing,” he says. “What do you mean?” I reply, knowing damn well what he means, but, hey, this is making me feel old and I need to hear the compliment today. “Well, you know, speaking to people at the beginning of their career journey”. “Hm, right…” He usually uses more flattering words like ‘funny’, ‘punchy’, ‘intelligent’ so I’m a little bit thrown. “Ok so what? You mean like ‘don’t do drugs, stay in school, never drink and dial, wear kneepads when you rollerblade, don’t make out with your boss’. That kind of thing?” There is a long silence. “Erm… I meant more in relation to drama school” … “Oh, drama school right. So don’t be embarrassed buying your dancebelt? Don’t make out with a techie?” “I was kind of hoping you could give people an insight into the process,” he interrupts, “auditioning, getting in, what to look out for.” “Oh right. Like a grown-up piece you mean?” There is a renewed silence. “Yes, like a grown-up piece.” “Can I swear?” “No.” “Can I namedrop?” “No.” “Oh, come on, like people wouldn’t want to know stuff about Peter

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Mandelson when he was President of Central?!” “Ok, fine, but not too much. By when can you do it?” “Call me in a month,” I say and hang up. It’s a month later and I fish a big red folder marked ‘BA Acting 20002003’ out of a box I haven’t touched in over five years. In a strange way I owe it all to Jeremy Irons, I think. I don’t really think that, but now the namedropping rule is relaxed, I may as well take advantage of it. Although Mr Irons did say something interesting at a workshop I went to once when I was still auditioning for drama schools. Finding myself behaving very awkwardly and unnaturally in the process, I asked him how I should enter the audition room. “Not too cocky, not too sleepy” he replied and there was something in the simplicity of this instruction which stuck and somehow made things easier. I wrote him a letter afterwards. Poured my heart out. Never got anything back. If you know him, please complain. The audition process introduced me to the strangest people. A girl that had brought her own table, chair, Restoration period dress and selection of props (including a blood-stained handkerchief) on the train from Birmingham, became somewhat of a celebrity for all of us on the drama school audition circuit. You just knew that at the first conversational pause in the Guildhall waiting room (you know, before you do all that sea-monster stuff) someone would go “Did anyone see that girl with all the crap?” and we would all smirk knowingly. Another favourite was a middle-aged practicing doctor with a psycho-stare who


thefirstword is also something to consider if you are thinking of going for a universitybased drama course instead. If you want to be an actor, then having trained at drama school with a great reputation (many of which also offer BA and MA programmes) is definitely preferred in the industry. There was a common myth going around at the time of my auditions that drama schools had the habit of “casting” their year-groups like a Benetton ad. That once they had their red-haired Irish girl, their mixed race guy with curly hair and a selection of blonde prettyboys, they would close their doors to anyone with a similar look. In my experience of the process (I later helped out on audition days at Central) this is utter rubbish. The people that were considered talented and ready were the people that were offered a place. If you don’t get in, don’t find excuses. If this is really the path you want for yourself, find out what you could improve on, take classes, join a local theatre group and try again the following year. Another common myth is that drama schools are about ‘breaking you down’ and imposing a certain method. Obviously I can’t speak for all schools, but this definitely wasn’t the experience that I had. Instead I

hback performed the snake-frying speech from ‘A Pitchfork Disney’ and talked about still seeing patients at the weekend if he got in. This was a time pre-X-Factor, so nothing prepared us for the extent of ‘eccentricity’ on offer. In a strange way it gave us confidence. Seeing people making odd decisions, being scared, being human – it took away the myth that everyone we were going up against was a superconfident Adonis channelling the ghost of Laurence Olivier through their performance. It made me realize that maybe I had a shot at this. I applied at most CDS schools, got into three and ended up going to the Central School of Speech and Drama. For me it was a gut decision based on the feeling I got from just being in the building and I’m glad I went with my instinct rather than trying to strategically second-guess which drama school would be the best political career move at the time. I chose the one where I thought I would be happy and as it turned out, it was where I was happy. Around the time I accepted my offer, I remember talking to a few people that wanted to be actors, but who had a “I don’t need to train, I’m good enough already” attitude. My thoughts then were the same as my thoughts now, i.e. if you are moving into one of the most competitive industries in the world, why would you not want the luxury of having a three-year platform to work at becoming the best you can possibly be? Why would you not want a safe environment to play, investigate and make mistakes without having them reviewed in a newspaper the next day? Of course there are successful actors who have made it without training, but unless you have somehow managed to gain a lot of professional experience in your formative years, very few agents will take a chance on a young actor who has not been to drama school. This

The audition process introduced me to the strangest people – A middle-aged practicing doctor with a psycho-stare who talked about still seeing patients at the weekend if he got in. encountered a form of training that extended an offer - “We’ll show you many ways to do this - you take or leave what you want and use what works for you.” It gave me confidence in all areas of my life and showed me that acting was about taking off a mask, rather than putting one on. About highlighting your unique characteristics, rather than hiding them. Looking through my red folder, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. If I could change one thing, I would worry less about the industry and enjoy the ride a little bit more. These days I have moved into a different direction. Although I still act occasionally, I discovered that writing plays is what gives me the fulfilment I used to look for in my work as an actor. Do I regret going to drama school? Not for one second. It taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life so far. As I put the folder back in the box, the phone rings. It’s Phil. “Do you ever miss drama school?” I ask him. “Sometimes,” he says “although I was bloody embarrassed buying that dancebelt.” If you are auditioning this year - good luck! If you already have a place – congratulations, enjoy it, it’s over much quicker than you think.●

Sam Peter Jackson has worked as an actor in the theatre and on television, most notably as Richard Sonnenfeldt in Channel 4’s Bafta-winning ‘Nuremberg’. As a writer he was nominated for the 2006 Oscar Wilde Award for his first play “Minor Irritations”. His new play “Public Property” was recently workshopped by Old Vic New Voices and will premiere in the West End this year.

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ABOUT A

New

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Photo: Christian Coulson www.arsonistphotography.com


coverstory Russell Labey brings his critically acclaimed play New Boy into the West End after a sell-out revival on the fringe last year. TDS meets him for a cup of tea to discuss this important milestone. How life?

has your training impacted on your professional

I didn’t train. I ran away to the circus. Well, to be precise my local TV station in Jersey, Channel TV. But it did have animals, a stuffed Puffin called Oscar, the station mascot. My first job was reading birthday greetings with Oscar Puffin.

How do you get from that to writing and directing a West End play like New Boy?

play, ‘I had a friend like that at school’ which sets of all sorts of questions in their heads. ‘Do we make friends with people we find attractive?’ being one of the most obvious. That then sets off a whole other set of questions especially if that friend was of the same sex. But here I go again and that voice in my head is saying ‘it’s just two boys intent on losing their virginity, throw in a sister, a brother and a French teacher and it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions and embarrassments full of twists and surprising turns. End of.’

The first thing you have to do is extract your hand from out of the puffin. Especially if it’s the one you write with. Seriously, it’s a long story but if we cut to near the end I was still working in television, this time at the BBC when I wrote New Boy, took out a bank loan and took it up to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh. That was the scariest first night of my life until the first laugh from that first audience. They got it. I knew I was safe. We turned out to be more than safe; word spread quickly, we got the coveted five stars in ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper and it was a sell out for the rest of the festival. The London Fringe followed, as did a UK Tour, an Off-Broadway transfer and now, best and most importantly of all, the Trafalgar Studios.

Nice plug.

So you’d recommend doing the Edinburgh Fringe?

Who else is in it?

Not just Edinburgh, the fringe wherever you live; Birmingham, Brighton, Bogner. Better to be working in a fringe play for nothing than working in a pub for next to nothing. It’s exercise, contacts, experience. If you’re trying to get an agent they will always ask to see you in something, a fringe play provides them with that opportunity. Though it’s tough enough getting them to the London Fringe let alone Bogner.

Gregg Lowe plays the title role of the new boy that arrives at school and sets pulses racing. I first worked with him when he was 14 and I was directing for the National Youth Music Theatre. What did I tell you about contacts?

What is New Boy about?

You said it.

It’s about a boy and we’ve got Nicholas Hoult in it! Just thought of that, damn I should have used that on the poster. Okay, well that first review in the ‘The Scotsman’ called it ‘a scintillating exploration of modern attitudes towards sex and gender’, which is great but doesn’t make the play sound very sexy or funny does it? So every time I find myself having to intellectualise it, a voice in my head is saying, ‘look most if it is two lads in a locker room talking about shagging but not talking about shagging each other, which it has to be said, is very much on their minds.’ But it is not a gay rite of passage. There are plenty of other plays that do that better, like Beautiful Thing which is the warmest and most beautiful play I’ve ever seen.

Who is the play for? Any director or playwright or producer will always answer that question with one word, ‘Everyone’ so there’s no point asking it. (I worked as a journalist too as well as puffin operator). I’ll answer it by saying it’s for anyone who has ever been to school.

Oh God, was it that obvious?

Yup. You’ve also cast Phil Matthews, our Editor. He tells us you gave him his first job out of drama school. Yes, I always keep in with members of the press. No, Phil did a play with me in Edinburgh; I’d seen him in a play at Central. The Edinburgh play was again at The Pleasance and was about people in the porn industry called, Hardcore. Phil was spotted doing that by a director at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and went on to land two juicy parts there as a direct result. What did I tell you about the fringe?

And you have the hilarious Mel Giedroyc and the beautiful Ciara Janson. It’s

certainly a scoop getting Nicholas Hoult from Skins and About a Boy. We heard a rumour that you travelled to Los Angeles to audition him; you must have really wanted him.

That’s not true, I’m afraid. Well, I did really want him but we met in London, signed him up and a month later we both found ourselves in Los Angeles on film projects and the producers were screaming for an image for the poster so we did a photo shoot out there.

So you work in films too? I’ve worked on one film. I was hired as script doctor for the movie Milk which stars Sean Penn as assassinated San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. The screenplay by Dustin Lance Black was so incredibly good I had very, very little to do. But it was exhilarating putting a few words into Sean Penn’s mouth. He’s tipped for an Oscar. And I thought the puffin was as close to an Oscar as I would get! ●

See what you did there. Shameless I know, one becomes such a whore when trying to sell tickets. But it’s not entirely untrue. People have said after seeing the

New Boy plays at the Trafalgar Studios from 17 March until 11 April. Box office: 0870 060 6632 / www.theambassadors.com

Nicholas Hoult (left) and Gregg Lowe (right) star in New Boy adapted by Russell Labey (far right)

Boy 5


Photos: © Allan Titmuss

The National Student Drama Festival returns in March for a week long celebration of theatre, live performance, discussion and special events. Students from around the UK will descend on Scarborough to take advantage of the many shows, workshops and debates covering all aspects of theatre and performance, incorporating acting, dance, writing, directing, designing, devising and production. For over fifty years, NSDF has been a launch pad for many of today’s biggest names in theatre and the arts. Contemporary playwright Mark Ravenhill, a ‘festival graduate’ of ’86, still holds the event close to his heart. Whist studying at Bristol University, he and his peers were invited to perform their production of Strindberg’s ‘The Ghost Sonata’ and he quickly embraced the festival’s rich culture. “I had an absolutely fantastic time as a student,” explains Ravenhill. “You get to see lots of other student shows and there’s workshops with professional theatre people, which was beyond my university tutors. So that was a really new experience, an exciting time.” Ravenhill went on to hit theatre headlines with his explosive first play “Shopping and F**king” in 1996 at the Royal Court, with a series of other successful plays quick to follow. He has been a respected figure on the London stage ever since and was made an Associate at the National Theatre in 2003. Ravenhill’s fond memories of the NSDF have seen him return as a visiting workshop practitioner in recent years, and he believes that the event is more accessible than ever. “The NSDF is completely unique, there isn’t anything else that gives students the forum to both see each other’s work, and to interact with theatre professionals in such a close environment,” he says. “In a way, they get something of a similar experience if they go to Edinburgh [Festival], but then Edinburgh is prohibitably expensive and there’s no guarantee that people will come and see your show, or that you’ll meet those interesting theatre professionals. It’s the best bits of going to Edinburgh all squashed into one week, and none of the bad bits.” It seems the festival has evolved in recent years with the expansion of higher education. Whereas it was once largely the work of a handful of universities who came back year after year, Ravenhill now believes NSDF is more inclusive. “It felt a bit more elite before, but now it’s much more varied and open, and that’s made it more exciting,” he says. “Different classes, different races, different backgrounds. It’s become much more diverse.” NSDF is now in its 54th year. The team see over one hundred student shows from across the UK each year, transferring the most exceptional to the festival. In 2008, the event saw fifty performances in six days and was watched by over eight hundred students. Each day comprises two workshop sessions, two shows, one discussion and one late night event. NSDF 09 sees a series of top industry professionals and organisations leading inspiring workshops, namely Khalid Abdalla (actor in The Kite Runner and NSDF board member), Anthony Alderson (Director of The Pleasance Theatre), Neil Alexander (Deputy Head of Sound at Guildhall School of Music and Drama), and David Babani (Executive Director of Menier Chocolate Factory), Joe Penhall (award-winning playwright for Blue/ Orange), Thelma Holt (International Producer), National Theatre Studio, Spotlight and Methuen Drama, who are sponsoring the Emerging Artists’ Competition. The London Academy of Dramatic Art will also have a strong presence. Ravenhill of course has a special affinity with the school, having workshopped his play Mother Clap’s Molly House with their students ahead of its triumph at the National in 2001. “I’d never written anything with a lot of people on stage, I needed to learn how,” explains Ravenhill. Working with the second year students on their Long Project, he found the whole experience beneficial to all. “It was great for me, but it was nice for them as they were able to work on a new play, and lots of people came to see them in it,” he says. “They were able to make contact with the National. So yeah, it was good for everyone.” ● NSDF 09 – 28 March until 3 April – Visit www.nsdf.org.uk for information on events and venues.

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Photo: Simon Annand www.simonannard.com

NSDF09

Mark Ravenhill talks to TDS about his involvement at the National Student Drama Festival


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closeup

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closeup Famed for her popular television appearances, acclaimed for her classical roles in the theatre and decorated for both, from sitcoms to Sophocles, Zoë Wanamaker shines effortlessly in all she does, establishing herself at the very top of the acting profession in this country, writes Phil Matthews. I fell in love with her first aged eleven watching Love Hurts every Friday night and then years later as a young actor from the cheap seats, when as Beatrice she parried with Simon Russell Beale’s Benedick in a famous Much Ado About Nothing. Like me she trained at Central and I awarded myself a special affinity to her. If I was going to be Editor of a drama magazine, Zoë Wanamaker would be my first choice, for my first interview for my first edition. But would she do it? After all this is the daughter of the great Sam Wanamaker for whom we have to thank for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is Madame Hooch of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this is the double Olivier award winner for Electra and Once in a Lifetime. I put in the request and the answer was, yes. Now all I had to do was hold myself together sufficiently to get the questions out. I couldn’t expect her to make it easy for me. But she did and that warmth, wit, depth, compassion and sincerity so in evidence in her stage performances, are all there in the real person. Perhaps that’s one of the keys to her success, she’s the real deal and I’m proud to exclusively present Zoë Wanamaker in conversation with me.

Was

it a natural progression for you to follow your parents into the profession?

Well as far as I was concerned it was. I don’t think they were too happy about it only because of its obvious for obvious reasons. Particularly if you were a girl. I think they were just nervous for me because I am not very good at putting myself forward.

Didn’t they describe it as a “soul destroying career”? They sort of did, yes. Having been through that themselves they knew what was to come. So in order to prove myself, I had to learn shorthand typing which I was terrible at, but I did it. Now I’ve forgotten it all, but that was to keep me in employment in case I didn’t work as an actress.

So you auditioned for Central?

Do you think it’s always been like that? Yes. I think it has. I think the Arts have to fight for every little snippet that they can get. It’s a sad thing that we’re not thought of as the lifeblood of our society.

What advice would you give a young actor who has that real passion and is preparing to audition for drama school? Of course they really have to want to do it, this is a huge commitment. I think they have to find a speech that is very individual to them, that they feel comfortable with, that they feel show’s their talents in the best light. The great thing about drama school is it does teach you to walk and talk,

For me insecurity never disappeared. It’s a good thing to have yourself as a critic, but not to let that critic get in the way.

I went to Art School first for a year, to do a pre-diploma, and then discovered that was very lonely. I was very determined to become an actress.

How did you find your training at Central? The training at that time was a conservatoire training, which it’s not any more. It’s much more a degree based situation now and Central had two incredible teachers, Lipz Pisk being one of them, the movement and dance teacher, who is no longer with us. And another teacher by the name of George Hall who is still with us thank God, and is still going, doing various things. It was a great privilege working with those people, I must say they were for me inspirations and extremely good. So I had a great time. I was very combative about it as well, because I kept thinking we should be doing more. More improvisation, stuff like that, but that was not the way Central worked. But it was a very truthful time.

It certainly is a truthful time. The thing about drama school at the moment, I feel this country doesn’t believe in drama as a serious thing, it doesn’t respect it. Performers really should be respected as they are in other countries in the rest of Europe, and that is a great sadness and it’s reflected in the funding that they give, and I don’t know if that will ever change. It’s a career and a lifelong commitment to an artistic thing that we believe in. It’s sort of treated as if it’s “showbiz” and therefore to be sneered at.

and that’s what you want. You want to be able to have that opportunity to train and to expand yourself and that’s what you’re aiming for, and to show that you’re committed to doing that.

What

guidance would you give to a graduate, having gone through three years of training, who is about to launch into the industry perhaps without a job waiting?

The whole thing is self-believe and courage, and to try and find any outlet that they can, any cheap ticket to the theatre, to constantly try and expand their knowledge of the world that they’re going into. If they don’t have a job, you have to subsidise yourself somehow – be it learn shorthand and typing! (Laughter). Find groups, keep working, keep eating, try not to get destroyed by it. Also to use your talents in other ways if you can.

Zoë

Wanamaker

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closeup What were your first jobs out of drama school? My first job was with the Manchester 69 Theatre, which was based at the university, which is now the Royal Exchange. It was Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Then the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh with Richard Eyre, and a production of The Cherry Orchard, which was a fabulous experience.

You

described yourself as ‘incredibly insecure’ early on in your career. Do you think actors become less so with experience?

I’m afraid that isn’t true. Well for some actors it might be true. For me insecurity never disappeared, I don’t think it does and it’s a good thing to have yourself as a critic, but not to let that critic get in the way. My problem is my self-critic gets in the way. It’s trying to learn to transcend that critic but also if your critic strangles you at birth, that’s no good! (Laughter) It’s about trying to keep that critic outside the room.

I

first saw you act in the early 90s, sat down in front of the TV every Friday night with my Mother, watching Love Hurts. You must have realised that series was special? You had real chemistry with Adam Faith.

Yes, it was a very good experience. I mean I was very careful about doing it. But Adam and I got on extremely well. We fought tooth and nail about the script together and there was a very good collaboration going on. Now things have got much more about the collaboration as far as television is concerned. It’s being aware of what is good writing and what is crap writing, knowing that the language and subtext should go together and inform that. As far as Love Hurts was concerned it kicked off with very good scripts and it was the fight to try and keep those scripts good, which was all encompassing really. Adam always said it was a big mistake that we got married, and thought that was the kiss of death. But I felt that it wasn’t.

So you’re a romantic then. Yes exactly. But also I felt that it was a series about relationships, but relationships with women of the 90s trying to juggle family and work, which was very important.

You

did a series before what was that?

Love Hurts

that was successful,

It was called Paradise Postponed, a John Mortimer script which was very good and with very good people. David Thelfall, Jill Bennett, Michael Hordern. I think that was probably the first series that I did, and Love Hurts seemed to follow. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to, and this is what I want to do, is to mix the theatre with TV, film, and radio. So I’m constantly challenged in every medium.

Talking of theatre, you’ve played some amazing roles, won two Olivier’s, countless productions for the RSC, is it possible to have a favourite stage role? Hmm. Well you fall in love with all of them. I did Much Ado recently and that was a wonderful experience for me going back to Shakespeare. I hadn’t done a Shakespeare in a very long time. I enjoyed playing Beatrice tremendously. Kattrin in Mother Courage I enjoyed doing, which I did with Judi Dench at the RSC, really because I didn’t have to learn any lines! (Laughter). And I died, so everyone felt sorry for me! (Laughter). But that was a favourite role, being able to use my body to express myself, which I’ve always found very enjoyable in the theatre.

You were a dancer in your early years weren’t you? When I was young I trained at The Rambert School on Saturday mornings and I loved it. That was a childhood fantasy, wanting to be a ballet dancer. Then it was just too difficult, they work too hard! It was a discipline that I just wasn’t ready to embrace I’m afraid.

A

lot of graduates coming out of drama school only have stage experience. With acting for screen, do you find you have to technically work in a different way?

Yes. You have to know your lines backwards, because you’re working in isolation completely and it’s also bringing something out of your imagination. It’s much more scary because there’s so much technicality and I think you have to try and fall in love with it if you can. It is a different medium, but it’s also extremely exhausting because there’s a lot of hanging around. You have to hold your concentration all day and then suddenly be used at six o’clock at night when actually you’ve just had it, and you’ve lost the will to live!

It’s an awful question and I apologise for asking it. Do you prefer stage, film or television? I sort of love each one. When I’m doing one, I want to be doing the other. Each one has a totally different rhythm. I suppose naturally I prefer the theatre because that is what I was brought up with. It is more organic for me. Starting at the beginning and finishing at the end. Whereas sitcom is very fast and very concentrated. Filming is very long and very concentrated. Each one requires a different discipline, and it’s getting your head round both of them, and feeling comfortable in all of them.

You’ve

got such a distinctive voice and every day voiceover of yours on TV and radio.

I

hear a

I only got into voiceovers after I did Love Hurts. It’s that syndrome which is “Who is Zoë Wanamaker? Get me Zoë Wanamaker. Get me somebody like Zoë Wanamaker. Who is Zoë Wanamaker?” That is our

From left to right: Love Hurts (1994) with Adam Faith, My Family Christmas Special (2008) with Robert Lindsay, Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2008) with Susannah Fielding


closeup career, and that’s why it’s a tough career. I think this happens universally in a lot of professions. You’re an unknown, then you become known, and usually become discarded. You just have to realise that what you’re doing in life is a big commitment to something where you can be unappreciated. You have to actually love the work that you do, love the business that you’re in. As far as voiceovers are concerned, it’s a cattle market, but you have to go for it. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

You pick yourself back up. You have to know what fits, and that’s in casting as well. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about talent, it’s about what fits. I think it’s quite interesting if actors get interested in the production side of things as well, they will understand what a director or producer wants and needs, and what goes with what. So as far as Adam Faith, Robert Lindsay or Simon Russell Beale and myself are concerned, it’s about chemistry. I worked as a ‘go-fer’ in a casting office before I went to drama school and that was an important realisation. You have to try and get into the head of a director and how they see the script. You may be physically wrong. They want someone tall and blonde? So they get someone… short and famous!

You mentioned the chemistry with Robert Lindsay. Did you ever imagine that My Family would be such a success? Not in a million years. When I first read the script, in the first draft that I saw, I thought it had something that was my kind of humour, which is American and slightly off the wall and slightly ironic. And because it was attached to an American writer, my humour is more American than it is about slapstick English. I think it is Jewish New York humour. Ironic and self-deprecating. So it was that that threw me to it. How it is developed is a different thing. But no we didn’t think it was going to be that successful, we only hoped it could. We finished shooting eight or nine scripts in Summer 2008 (to be shown Spring 2009) and up to now we have completed one hundred episodes.

Is

it true that you once made someone crash their car because they recognised you from TV?

(Bursts into laughter) Yeah…

Come on, what happened?!

Student membership – taking the song and dance out of joining your union.

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I didn’t make them do it! (Laughs) This was after the first showing of Love Hurts. I was walking down the street and there was a very small accident. Nobody was hurt. It is extraordinary. I mean you can do wonderful performances in the theatre for a thousand people if you’re very lucky, then you do one night on television and it’s as if you’ve just been born. Well it’s natural. Twelve million people watch My Family. That was the first time I realised how powerful television is. It was quite a shock. ● Watch out for Zoë in Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC1 in February

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Mamma mia! by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

into t

Dancing Queen Making the transition from drama school student to full blown professional is always daunting. Daniella Gibb recalls graduating from Guildford School of Acting into the international tour of Mamma Mia!

I had done the hard part. I’d survived three years of intense training, successfully auditioned for a West End casting agent, negotiated with The Guildford School of Acting the practicalities of working professionally whilst finishing my degree and I’d bought my season ticket for the commute to rehearsals (ouch! There goes the rest of my student loan and probably my first wage packet!). So off I went to realise my life’s dreams and ambitions. Easy! But no amount of jazz warm ups, voice exercises and Alexander technique can prepare you for the fear you experience on the first day of your first job. I’m not talking ‘first date’ fear or ‘driving test’ fear (although the symptoms are similar; your heart beating ten to the dozen, sweaty palms and the loss of your ability to speak) it is the fear of standing in a plane at 40,000 feet and preparing to jump! You’ve been in the comfort of your drama school aircraft where you know everyone and they know you. You have all the equipment and besides, the whole point of being in there is to prepare you for that jump; but then you’re pushed out and you’re in free fall, freefalling into… a grotty north London rehearsal room. You realise you’re not ready at all.

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My first day of rehearsals. I was an hour and a half early. I realised that getting the 07.30 train from Guildford for a 10am start was slightly daft as I was now pacing a street in north London with nothing to do for the next 90 minutes – except to get more nervous. One of the most important things I learnt at drama school was punctuality. Never be late; it is disrespectful and you always need time to warm up. However, on this particular day I think I took it a step too far! Once I was inside the rehearsal room only one question consumed my mind: “How did everyone else already know each other?” Of course I vaguely recognised faces from the audition but why was everyone kissing, hugging and chatting like old friends? Had I missed some prerehearsal warm-up party? I regressed back to my first day at drama school, a startled deer in headlights, but at least everyone else had looked at each other in the same way then. I later came to realise that this industry is very small and you are likely to work with the same people several times but I also learnt that these people had honed the art of being comfortable with new people and surroundings. If you can just be yourself or even “act” like yourself, then it makes the hurdle of an awkward first day so much easier. I didn’t speak for my entire first day. I promise that is no word of a lie; I was


intotheprofession

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This feeling of excitement carried on as we began to learn the choreography. The calibre of the company was amazing; there were legs being shouldered before 11am (one of those was a 40 year old guy), “fame jumps” that could only have come from invisible tram-pets and such high levels of energy and commitment. You often think that with three years dance training you are set, ready for it all, but you never stop learning. These people were still going to class to keep their fitness and technique at their optimal best and it made me realise I would have to do the same. You have to retain that keenness, passion and commitment or you won’t keep up with those who do and they will be the ones getting the jobs, and rightly so.

he profession

You have to retain that keenness, passion and commitment or you won’t keep up with those who do. five

paralysed by fear, just occasionally nodding and smiling. The only words I spoke were to my mother on the phone at lunch. It went something like this; Mum: “How’s it going Dan?” Me: “Awful (near tears) everyone has gone off to lunch together”. Mum: “Why didn’t you go with them?” Me: “I don’t know where they went”. It is amazing how you can kill an hour lunch break wandering around Superdrug – now there’s a skill!

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On day two, I realised I needed to buck up and grow up. I was 21 and in a job. You constantly read about the high unemployment statistics in the acting world and many would have killed to be in my position so I was jolly lucky and should just embrace the experience whole-heartedly. So I managed to speak a few sentences that day; albeit to tell two cast members how daunted and scared I was, but it was definitely progress.

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The Associate Musical Director came in to supervise a singing call. He knew every nuance of the libretto and taught it with military speed and precision, and expected it to be learnt that way too. It is truly inspiring to work with someone at the top of their game. I sat on the edge of my seat with my Dictaphone, not daring to slouch and not wanting to miss anything he said and that was when my fear began to evolve into excitement. I think sometimes at drama school it is all too easy to take your teachers’ knowledge and experience for granted because you are so focused on your own journey and improvement. But it is so exciting to be challenged by someone. Whether it is a teacher, director or even fellow actor, if their passion is infectious then your work and progress as an actor can only be enhanced.

After days of intense singing calls we did a company sing through and my excitement turned to awe and disbelief. In awe of the truly talented cast members, with CV credits as long as my arm, creating this phenomenal sound and disbelief that somehow I was part of that company and contributing to this sound. How was I here? I had to accept that it wasn’t an administrative mix-up and I was rightly in the Mamma Mia! cast making a valid contribution. Believe me, there is no better feeling than realising you’re allowed to do what you love and have always dreamed of and someone is actually going to pay you for it! My first week of rehearsals was such an eye opening journey and the rest of the contract carried on in the same way. At drama school, you learn all of the disciplines and techniques required of you as an actor but in a wonderfully safe environment where you are allowed to fail. I’m not saying that you’re not allowed to fail in the profession, of course you are, but you are on your own and that’s why I believe so many of the basic elements and experiences in both places are the same. Meeting people, forging working relationships, pushing yourself to be your best – it all starts in drama school and continues through every job that you are lucky enough to do. You never have done “the hard part”. There are always both recurring and new challenges, but as your courage and confidence grows you learn how better to deal with them and that’s why our profession is so exhilarating and exciting. The hard part is never over. ●

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takecontrol

take control Becoming an actor is like going on a journey - it’s a process that requires dedication, daring, some dreaming and, yes, you’ve guessed it - loads of talent! Graduation into the industry needs to be carefully planned and executed. Okay, so you have auditioned for and accepted a place at the drama school of your dreams. What next? You are going to spend three very intensive years working hard to amass all the necessary skills you need to ensure your place as a professional actor. Actors these days need to be chameleons, able to adapt to a range of media, so take advantage of all you can whilst at drama school. From day one, students studying at ALRA (the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts) are instructed in Acting Technique, TV Presenting, Film, Radio, Movement, Fight, Dance, Voice and Singing, as well as many additional extra curricula workshops and activities arranged by the school. By taking advantage of all of these sorts of activities you are ensuring that when you graduate into the big wide world you have the best possible chance of getting that first job, and then the second and third. And, that’s just it – graduating from drama school doesn’t guarantee you work for life; you have to keep working hard, keep accruing skills and keep going. Whilst studying at drama school you will be involved in a number of projects and performances and, if studying at an academy such as ALRA, will come into contact with many practising professionals – learn all you can from them and even stay in touch – in this industry, establishing and maintaining contacts is really important to assisting you on your journey. Indeed, in order to ensure ALRA’s students have the best possible start to their career, all the tutors employed to teach and direct the 3rd year student’s projects are ‘work givers’. In your final year at drama school you will embark on the biggest and most important professional performance of your entire life as an actor – the Showcase. The Showcase is set up by your drama school and will generally take place in one of London’s West End Theatres –

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all of the established agents and casting directors are invited. This is your chance to make an impression. Everything is carefully planned to encourage the agents and casting directors to attend and they are most definitely on the look out for new talent. Indeed this is evidenced by statistics taken from ALRA showing that of those students graduating in 2008, 82% secured agents from the Showcase performance alone. After the Showcase, agents and casting directors will contact anyone they feel is either suitable for a particular role or else can be used in a variety of situations for a range of media. It is therefore vitally important that you have accumulated the range of skills as mentioned earlier. If you are lucky enough to have a number of agents contact you, make sure you take the time to decide which agency is most suitable for your personality and aspirations. As an actor, you must remember that securing an agent is not the be all and end all. Casting Directors often have a list of agents that they deal with and therefore you may be with an agent who isn’t getting a look in with a particular soap, for example. There is nothing to stop you writing to a casting director yourself as long as your specific suggestion is sensible. You should also consider the fact that agents generally deal with theatre, TV and film and yet there is plenty of other work out there that requires an actor’s skills, such as Theatre in Education (TIE), fringe, roleplay, corporate videos and presenting – whilst none of this is playing Hamlet, it can aid your survival as an actor. Much of this work will need to be generated by you as a professional actor. Certain papers and websites are good for finding work, such as The Stage, PCR, as well as Casting Call Pro, and you should also keep an eye on theatre websites

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Dudley

and don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for suitable roles. At ALRA, professional development and self-marketing workshops are given throughout the 2nd and 3rd year of the course and indeed a member of full-time staff is dedicated to helping the 3rd year students with all aspects to do with self marketing. Networking is also an excellent way of finding work - go to the theatre, and attend parties and keep in contact with other actors, directors and casting directors. A must for any actor is to make sure you are in ‘Spotlight’. This is the industry’s leading casting resource and is used by most TV, Film, Radio and Theatrical companies in the UK, and many worldwide – you will not get work without it. It is also a good idea to get a copy of ‘Contacts’ as this contains over 5000 listings for companies, services and individuals across all branches of television, stage, film and radio. Whether you take on representation or not, it is important that you present yourself well, even though money may be tight. A good set of photos and a well put together CV (think about what the Casting Director and/or Director needs) printed on good quality paper is important and, if you can put them together, a showreel and a voice demo is also a good idea. You should also ensure you have a good set of interview clothes which can encompass all the ranges of characters you are likely to play. If you do manage to secure an agent it is worth remembering that agents are not managers – they will not shape your career. You must therefore keep working hard and pushing your representation for suitable auditions - this is all part of the journey to becoming a working, professional actor. ●

In these corner inches of this bright new journal I hope to pass on a little and point out a lot. By the time you get to Uncle status in our business you know more than you can remember and it’s a terrible waste not to pass it on. But like any true actor I have never stopped learning, so I am also very up on the now and new, no matter what form or media it comes in. This is an extraordinary business, no matter how lowly or how blockbuster. If you long for security, regularity, and a reasonable level of normality, forget it. If you got that in this business it wouldn’t be extraordinary. This is a business of adventure, of heightened experiences, many lows, but some rare but incandescent highs that change and charge you forever. In 1970 I arrived in London, my first time, aged 18, with a letter of introduction to an agent. I had worked as a young actor in Canada for CBC and the Centennial Arts Centre and an actress, call her Aunty Lisa, had given me this precious introduction to Smithy. Smithy was four flights up on the Charring Cross Road and a job at the end of them. He read over the letter, chatted for a moment and between drags on his fortieth of the day said “we’d better hurry, Equity are about to impose a closed shop!” Within two hours I had an agent, a red Equity Card and a job. ASM on tour with Linda Thorson and a DSM called Charles Dance. I had no idea what was in store, I just new it was an adventure and that theatre was where I wanted to be. I made no decision, had no goal I just went with the flow. And here we are at bullet point one. FOCUS, or rather my total lack of it. Of all the successful people I have met in my life, both in this and other business’, they all had one thing in common, FOCUS! They had an unerring ability to focus on one thing and do it well, or at least work at doing it well. The sooner you can find what you want to do, the sooner you can stick with it and do it well. It’s not easy. Making up your mind about what you want to do is hard work itself but this is a very complex business, there are huge variety of jobs and many paths so deciding and sticking with one, is incredibly important. Early FOCUS early success. And FOCUS is not the same as a goal. Goals are where you’re headed, but FOCUS, focus is how you get there. Cutting out all distraction. Always remembering what you decided. I was talking to a young actor the other day about his struggle to find work and or an agent. I said that I might be able to help with an introduction to a Casting Director friend, who might find him interesting. I suggested that they meet in the next few weeks. Oh, I’m at a wedding next week, and then I’m going travelling in India, but after that, before I go skiing? I smiled and told him to call me when he was ready. It was sad, he’s a good actor, he ‘s very earnest about what he wants but he is totally distracted by life. Why not, life’s wonderful. Yes, but he said he wanted to be an actor, his focus was everywhere and the actor nowhere. Never forget, and I told him this, there is always someone waiting for the chance you never took, hungrier, leaner, and FOCUSED! I have to admit that I wasted my first years as an actor being both distracted and if I dare admit it wanting to be famous. Oh I enjoyed, that tour enormously, distractions and train travel were everywhere. I learnt more about me than the business, this was good but directionless. My FOCUS was nonexistent, it was only years later when I decided to be an actor and FOCUS on only that, that my career proper began. I did have an Aunty Lisa, but where was my Uncle Dudley when I needed him? ●

Emma Gray, Marketing and Development Officer at ALRA, the academy of live and recorded arts. Visit www.alra.co.uk

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takecontrol

webmarketing Online casting services have really come into their own over the last five years, with a number of companies such as Casting Call Pro, Castweb, Cast Call and Spotlight enabling thousands of actors to be pro-active in furthering their career.

CCP Advice

Online services really fall into two camps – casting breakdowns which are sent to subscribers via email (e.g. Castweb and Castcall) and sites which offer members an online profile, listed in a directory accessed by casting directors and industry professionals (e.g. Spotlight and Casting Call Pro). Each service has different criteria for eligibility and its own subscription model. The benefit to the actor, particularly recent graduates without agents, is that they can be alerted to casting breakdowns that match their skillset and experience, and submit themselves for consideration rather than waiting for an agent to put them up for auditions. Casting Call Pro was established in 2004 by co-directors Simon Dale and Chris Timms (pictured below), to help actors take control of their careers. Chris’s sister, Hannah Timms, was fresh out of Mountview Academy and like so many students, was suddenly thrust into the wider world without the support network that had helped her throughout her training. This inspired Chris and Simon to create Casting Call Pro. They recognised that there was space for a new website aimed at really helping actors by providing them with an entire online toolkit and resources to help them manage and promote themselves. Since 2004, the site has grown to become the leading networking and online resource for professional UK actors, with 15,000 plus members and thousands of employers regularly using the service to find actors. Castings going through the site include film, television, radio, commercials, Theatre in Education (TIE), stage, musicals, corporates, role play, short films and student films. Employers can either post a casting breakdown or, knowing their requirement, use the inbuilt search tools to find and contact suitable candidates. In the last year, over 6,000 roles have been advertised on the casting call board and, additionally, hundreds of thousands of searches run. Profiles follow a clearly laid out format which makes it easy for casting directors to gauge an actor’s experience and skills. Professional 10x8 black and white headshots are obligatory, showreel and voicereel clips are available but not compulsory. While the casting breakdowns are obviously very important to actors, Casting Call Pro also offers a wealth of resources to guide and support performers. One of the ways in which the site has really taken off is by helping actors to network with friends, colleagues and employers. Able to search by credits, drama school and theatre company, CCP is used by actors to track down and stay in touch with long lost colleagues or friends. This feature has become so popular that some schools are now using the site to keep up with their alumni. Other features of the site include a directory of photographers which comprises virtually all the headshot photographers in the country, displaying all members of CCP who have had their photos taken by that particular photographer – so those thinking of getting new headshots can see at a glance the style, quality and pricing of a photographer’s headshot session, and even ask members how they found the shoot. Similarly, CCP has launched a directory of agents, displaying current clients who are members of CCP and, hugely successful, a list of those agencies with open books. Again, those actors thinking of switching agents or applying to an agency can, in confidence, ask their clients for their opinion of the agency. If you can’t find the resources you are after, you can also get involved in the active forum, where you’ll be able to tap the minds of over 15,000 UK actors. ●

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• Talk to other members. With over 15,000 actors now using the site, if you have a question about the industry, the best way to approach an agent or employer – use the site to ask. Many of the actors on the site have been in your position and are more than happy to share their wealth of experience. • As you graduate you are likely to encounter ever increasing numbers of sites, services, agents and companies who claim to be able to help you get the next big job. Take some time to get independent advice before signing with anyone. Talk with current members, clients or read the testimonials. Importantly, run a search and see who else is using the service, if the other candidates don’t have your training, experience and skills you may well be looking in the wrong place. • Take time when applying online - just because a system is quick to use doesn’t mean you should be quick to use it. Take the time to consider what you are applying for and how best to word your cover letter. Highlight why you are interested in the production or company and take the time to point out any additional skills or experience which you could bring to the role. • Stay in touch. No matter what happens when you graduate, you are bound to move in different circles, but the network of friends you’ve build up at college can be really useful when building your career. www.uk.castingcallpro.com



studentsupport

make-up actors toolbox Make-up can be an exciting part of the production process. Rosemarie Swinford illustrates its importance in an actor’s toolbox of skills. I wonder if you know that in the past all actors called their make-up ‘Slap’ presumably from slapping on the heavy greasepaint that they used. Greasepaint was the first professional stage make-up and was – well, ‘greasy’, and often applied with a dried rabbit’s foot rather as we would use a sponge today, which became a good luck talisman for performers. Greasepaint reigned supreme until a shrewd Russian immigrant to America reformulated it into a fine cream for the movies and in the process created a famous company and made his fortune – his name was Max Factor. Factor developed many of the products that we still use today. History lesson over. I suppose the question for you as a drama student is - should I use make-up today? Yes, I know that you will meet pros who don’t. In my opinion, that is a mistake and often lets the audience down. After all, why should they have to imagine, for example, that you are ill as stated in the text, when clearly you look in rude health? More than that, well done and subtle make-up can be an enormous help to you especially when you are at drama school and cast as many different characters. Let me give you three good reasons to think about make-up. Firstly there is the ‘lighting’. If you think this is helping you, think again. Sure it will be helping Madonna and others like her. They are often concerned as to the way they look and employ a personal lighting director to get it right. However for you mere mortals the lighting in a production is there for the set and to create atmosphere. As long as you are under your key light when it is important that is generally all that matters. But do you realise that unless you are dark skinned, lighting drains the colour from your face? Do you know that the lighting picks out areas of your face in a way that is not always flattering? A little make-up knowledge helps you take control of how you look to the audience. In its simplest form, this means using a foundation to make you look healthy. You warm up as you act and this means shine, the lighting loves that and shows it. This can de-structure the way you look and worse still, make you appear nervous. Powder sorts that out but you need to know which one and how to use it properly. Secondly there is ‘character’. Make-up is incredibly helpful here and I must emphasise that I don’t mean a lot of it. Heavy make-up went out way, way before you were born, about mid 1950s. Today, unless the production or character is stylised, it is the case of a light touch. When

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Here are a few pictures of some of the make-up done in LAMDA shows that I have designed recently. All the students found the make-up, which I always think of as the last piece of the jigsaw, very useful. The first photo shows an Edwardian actor ‘aged up’ for a production of Charlie’s Aunt where the director wanted authentic period make-up. Contrast it with a modern age make-up (far right). Bald caps come up a lot at drama schools, often disastrously. Knowing how to do one properly will really boost your confidence! You can see that it needs two people. This finished cap was for John of Gaunt, Henry V, the brief was ancient and stone like. This make-up combined a cap, ageing and special effects – a lot to deal with.

make-up in practice directors say they don’t want any make-up, what they actually mean is they are afraid that you will go over the top and affect the integrity of their production. Be subtle and they probably won’t even notice. The third reason to think about make-up is ‘period’. People didn’t always look the same in the past, facial hair styles vary from century to century, female (and sometimes male) make-up fashions change and this should be reflected in the way your character looks. The look of fashionable people changes entirely every decade of the 20th century. Neglecting to think about this leaves your character incomplete. Getting the look puts you right there and moreover, the audience loves it. So I hope that this will encourage you to explore make-up as it is part of your basket of skills as an actor and it can be such fun as well. ● Rosemarie Swinfield teaches make-up at LAMDA, Mountview and Guildhall. She is the author of ‘Stage Make-up: Step by Step’ and ‘Period Make-up for the Stage’. www.rosiesmake-up.co.uk


actorstoolbox

SonicPond Studio

Voicereels

What do David Jason, David Tennant and David Walliams have in common apart from all being actors called David? They all use professional names that are different from their real ones. There are numerous other well-known examples of performers who have done the same thing, for example Michael Cain, Glenda Jackson and Elton John. Choosing your stage name is an important part of becoming a professional and needs careful thought. A unique name is your personal “brand” and you never want to be confused with other artists either for work or payments, including royalties and residuals. Many thousands of performers use their real name but others choose a different one for various reasons. When someone joins Equity, it may be the first time they have had to focus on the question of their name as, to avoid confusion, the union does not allow more than one Member or Student Member to have the same name even if they work in different areas of the industry. Equity receives applications on a daily basis so cannot guarantee the availability of names over the phone or email but if you think your name is likely to have been taken, you should think about a different one with which you will be comfortable throughout your career into old age. You should also consider the global market and avoid duplicating names with overseas performers who may not be members of Equity e.g. Rachael McAdams. When joining Equity as a Student Member, you reserve your name so it is important to complete these details clearly as you can provide a choice of up to three. On receipt of your application, Equity runs a series of checks and then issues the Student Member Equity card in whichever of the three choices is available. This is your professional name and should be used across the board on your CV, covering letters, cards, photos, emails, web pages, in directories and any other professional communications as it is how casting directors, agents, directors, producers etc will know you. Equity and Spotlight (www.spotlight.com) have a similar policy on professional names. You should always check for different spellings and abbreviations of a name since neither organisation can accept similar names even if they are not identical. For example Sophie Smith or Sophy Smith would not be accepted if there is already a Sophia Smith. The following are also discouraged as they are not sufficient to distinguish one artist from another: adding initials e.g. Ewan K McGregor; adding middle names e.g. Rachel Jane Weisz; adding extra surnames e.g. Ralf Little-Roberts. You should also avoid using the name of a deceased artist. Choosing Oliver Reed for example would not only cause confusion but also undermine your credibility within the industry. Remember your professional name is your identity in a complex and ever-changing industry and you may use it for 70 years – choose wisely! ●

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graduateprofile

graduate profile The name ‘Francis Ortega’ was being talked about everywhere after he was awarded Best Male Actor at The Spotlight Prize awards 2008. Phil Matthews meets a young actor who is decisive about his future. How did you decide to become an actor? I had a teacher who was very inspirational who showed us playwrights such as Edward Bond, Berkoff and Greek Tragedies. I got very into those plays. Come the end of my A Levels I decided to apply to drama schools. The first time I was unsuccessful and I was a bit deterred by the whole experience. I was 17 and it felt very awkward.

Did you take a year out? I took a couple of years out. I lived in Cornwall for a year and worked with a theatre company called Cornish Theatre Collective. Then in the second year, the Artistic Director of that company, Dominic Knutton, who went to Rose Bruford about twenty years ago, really supported me and said ‘you’ve got to go to drama school’. I got accepted into Rose Bruford.

What skills did get from your training?

putting everything you’ve learned into practice. By then I felt like I’d really developed my own process. The biggest thing that I strived for was consistency. I don’t want to be a hit or miss actor, I think if you put the work in that will show.

Tell

year.

us about the

Spotlight

competition you won last

Two actors from every accredited drama school, one male and one female, get picked by their college to enter. You’ve got three minutes to do a song or monologue, with an audience filled with casting directors, agents, and then a panel with Hugh Bonneville and Anne McNulty, the casting director at the Donmar. Winning was the biggest compliment I’ve ever had I think.

Any tips for those auditioning for drama school?

Voice training is paramount. Whether it’s Rhetorical Speaking or speaking verse, or just being able to breathe and stay centred. You pick up the things that help you to be a better actor. Some will work for you and some won’t. I am a very physical actor and finding the physicality has always been a key thing for me to get into character. I realised how important finding a voice for the character is.

First and foremost is realising before anything else the choice that you’d be making by going into this profession. Being aware of what it asks of you. Actor training is full time. It’s intense and demanding, but if you go with it then you come out the other end so much more rounded a person and actor, I really do feel that. Know before anything that you really want to do it. Don’t just do it because you like the sound of it. It’s about passion.

How supportive were your parents?

What are you doing at the moment?

When I was a bit younger my Dad was very unsure of my career path, just because it’s such a precarious profession. But he said to me “Look, if you’re going to do it, get a proper training”. I got into drama school and think he realised then I might be okay at acting – they need reassurance as well. My Dad said to me “You can do anything, but do the best that you can, I’d support you” and I don’t feel like I let him down in that. I owe everything to my parents.

I’ve just finished a show at the Bridewell Theatre, an afternoon play with a company called C Company. The director is a lady I worked with in the first year. I did a film in collaboration with the BBC and BBC Blast. I’m writing letters, going to auditions, trying to get a showreel of films and TV stuff that I’ve done to be as proactive as I can.

The third year prepares you for the launch into the industry. Was it particularly stressful for you? In the second year you’ve got so much to do. We’d have ‘Showing’ weeks, three different scenes to show from various plays, a poem share, a song share, a movement share, you’ve literally got so much on your plate, all independently facilitating the different aspects. When it came to the third year, you could just concentrate fully on doing a show, and

So you would recommend getting a showreel? Anything that you can have to promote yourself is good. I do think there’s a fine line between being proactive and being a pest, and I’m very conscious of that. I don’t want keep writing to people and really piss them off! And what I’d say with that is, don’t just write to everybody and anybody, because you really want to work, as we all do. Write to people who you’re genuinely passionate about, because you’ve got to be yourself and honest, otherwise you’re just fooling yourself. So yeah, be yourself is my biggest advice! ●

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studentsupport

student support Although most drama schools are now part of (or associated with) universities, there are a number of differences in the application processes that it’s important to be aware of, writes Simon Dunmore. Primarily, it’s what you can show them in audition that really matters and not your exam results — although some do require minimal A-level grades. Around a third of courses require application through UCAS; the others ask you to apply directly — application deadlines vary so check with each one that interests you. There is a core of established drama schools which belong to an organisation called the Conference of Drama Schools (CDS — www. drama.ac.uk). Most of these run courses that are ‘accredited’ by the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT — www.ncdt.co.uk). At present, all courses that have ‘accreditation’ are provided by schools who are members of the CDS. However, there are also courses within these schools which don’t have ‘accreditation’, and there are a few well-respected courses that are neither ‘accredited’ nor part of CDS schools. The reasons for these variations are too complex to explain here. However, if you get a place on a three-year accredited course, you will get funding in the same way as those accepted on to conventional university courses — with the exception of those (currently, five) schools which use the Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs) system. These were introduced in the late 1990s and provide funding for about two-thirds of successful applicants at these schools. For more details check each relevant school’s prospectus and website. It is important to check the current funding arrangements for each course you intend applying for. Don’t simply rely on what arrangements were in place last year, as things have a habit of changing. Many threeyear accredited courses have ‘degree’ status — in spite of the fact that there is little or no written component to the courses, let alone formal, written exams. (Historically, the schools took the ‘degree’ route to help students get funding on the same basis as those following conventional academic courses.) Degree status actually means very little in the acting profession, and courses with degree status are not necessarily better than those without it. Some schools have been quite vociferous about not wishing to become embroiled in the whole philosophy and bureaucracy that is fundamental to degree education — believing that joining with a university would compromise the vocational character of their courses. One such adds: ‘Universities are academic institutions, and the intelligence required of an academic is different from that required of an actor. While some are blessed with both kinds, many talented and intelligent actors are of indifferent academic ability. We would not wish to exclude them.’ Degree status will enable you to go on to a higher degree and enhance your employment prospects outside the profession — but not within it. Funding for some accredited one- and two-year courses is available,

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but not with the same frequency as for three-year courses. However, there is advice on finding funds from private sources on both the NCDT and the CDS websites, and some schools have scholarships and/or are good at helping students with this task. It is worth spending time checking through all the courses (listed on both the CDS & NCDT websites) — also, read through the CDS’s Guide to Professional Training in Drama and Technical Theatre which is available from their website. (Additionally, if possible seek the opinion of those with recent knowledge of drama schools). Then get prospectuses for any school that you feel could be viable for you — and read each one thoroughly. Important considerations include whether you could be eligible for funding for your fees (and a maintenance loan), and potential living costs — central London is significantly more expensive to live in than Manchester, for example. (Bear in mind, too, whether a degree qualification at the end of the course is important to you). Above all, it’s important to try to assess which courses you feel would suit you best, and to apply to as many as you can afford the audition fees and travel costs for. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of overnight accommodation, if necessary. The plain truth is that competition for places is so intense (especially for women) that you need to audition for as many places as possible. Every time you do another audition you will learn more about the techniques of auditioning than any book or class can teach you — particularly if it’s your first time. It is important to take on board the fact that many people take two or three years of auditioning, and sometimes more, before they get places. If you are determined to become a professional actor, you have to take rejection in your stride — learn from it and keep on trying until you succeed. Finally, you’ll find it useful to read An Applicant’s Guide to Auditioning and Interviewing at Dance and Drama Schools, which is available from the NCDT’s website. Andrew Piper’s website www.andrew-piper. com contains useful advice on auditioning and fundraising for drama school, as well as an account of his own first year. My website www. simon.dunmore.btinternet.co.uk also contains auditioning advice, suggests playwrights suitable for audition material and lists over-used Shakespeare characters. ● Simon Dunmore gained his degree in physics & maths. Subsequently he has been directing plays for nearly 40 years. He teaches acting and is the author of “An Actor’s Guide to Getting Work”, compiler of the “Alternative Shakespeare Auditions” series of books & Consultant Editor for the “Actors’ Yearbook”. He’s also been very involved with Equity & the NCDT. www.simon.dunmore.btinternet.co.uk


GUILDFORD SCHOOL OF ACTING

Courses offered: Photo: Mark Dean

• BA (Hons) Theatre, Acting (3 Years) • BA (Hons) Theatre, Musical Theatre (3 Years)

Sum me Satu r schoo ls a rd also ay scho nd o ava ilab ls le

• MA Theatre (4 terms) Acting or Musical Theatre pathway • MA Practice of Voice & Singing (4 terms) subject to validation • Professional Production Skills Diploma (2 Year) • Professional Production Skills Diploma (1 Year) • BA (Hons) Professional Production Skills (Extension to 1 and 2 year courses)

For an application form/further details contact:Guildford School of Acting, Millmead Terrace, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4YT

t: 01483 734806 | f: 01483 535431 | admissions@gsauk.org


Image Courtesy of Birmingham School of Acting

A Visiting Director for GSA, Resident Director on West Ends shows Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sunset Boulevard, Russell Labey has spent many hours in audition rooms. As a director for the National Youth Music Theatre he discovered and trained thousands of young actors among them Jude Law, Sheridan Smith, Ben Barnes and Jamie Bell. Here he gives his DOs and DON’Ts. Best Advice.

someone often works as a catalyst, empowering others to let go and open up.

Come prepared, be yourself are the two best bits of advice for an audition.

Try not to cry.

How do you be yourself? Well, if you are not usually prone to asking questions you already know the answer to, don’t start doing it in an audition. It won’t get you noticed in a positive way. Too obvious. In fact, trying to be noticed is a mistake. If you’re doing that you won’t be being yourself. Most tutors won’t want to spend the next three years trying to train a socially unskilled attentionseeker.

This is your audition remember. Asking for explanations if confused is perfectly OK. You’ve paid for this chance, you’re entitled to be treated with respect. Putting yourself forward if volunteers are asked for shows confidence, this is good. Filling that awkward silence that often follows the question, “Who wants to go first?” with a no fuss, “I will” might come as a welcome relief to your examiner on his fifth session of the day.

Improvisation and Group exercises. Those who listen to and support their partner or other members of the group in improvisation exercises often stand out far more than those who dominate. But stepping in and taking the lead if the thing is sagging is also smart and helpful. There’s nothing wrong with taking the front row but maybe not every time. So already a whole host of what appear to be contradictions and I’m only just getting started. You have to make these judgements, be brave and stay true to yourself and you’ll probably get it right. The word ‘true’ is one I’ll come back to.

I’m crazy, me! Here’s another contradiction, I would say try not to make a prat of yourself, but in certain circumstances being prepared to play the fool can show that you’re secure and generous. A moment of insanity from

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I hope this never happens to you in an audition but if you are asked to share with the group the most painful experience in your life, avoid breaking down, you could appear unstable. Try not to cry in any exercise even if you are finding the day awkward and tough, it’s only a day and it’s not going to last forever. Be philosophical, nobody is going to die. You want to train be an actor, to put on costumes and pretend to be other people, not a brain surgeon.

Oh my God! If the above has scared you here’s some comfort. Many people actually end up enjoying the day. The school should be making it enjoyable for you and if they are – it’s a good sign of a good school. Remember that when you get the offer of a place.

You could still be Nancy! The audition will not be like the X Factor or How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria. If it is, the college is getting it wrong and I wouldn’t advise going there. The panel want you to be good. They’re all really nice people willing you to succeed. If ever they are firm or strict they might just be testing to see how you respond to tough training – meet them head on!

I’ve got nothing to wear! Don’t dress to impress your peers, those you are auditioning with, they are not the ones who can pass or fail you. Low rise trousers might be all the rage but an examiner does not want to spend three minutes avoiding staring at you pubic bone or half your bum for the duration of, ‘Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds’ or “Now, gods, stand up for bastards!” Wear what you are comfortable in. Have it clean and ready for the day all part of being prepared. If you favour a hairstyle that covers half your face, change it. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing someone repeatedly flicking an overlong fringe, it also says something about you


studentsupport – that you are hiding, actors don’t hide.

Choosing a speech. Others more eminent than I can give advice in the pages of this excellent new publication about choices of speeches and songs and it deserves more space than I have here. Ultimately though, provided you nail it, there really shouldn’t be any rules. But here are my tips, avoid clichés like the plague, the panel enjoy being presented with something they’ve not heard that day. Choosing a speech from say, one of the less performed Shakespeare plays can also demonstrate a breadth of knowledge and research. Don’t use props, ever. If you must use a chair, you don’t have to ask permission, go and pick it up. It’s your performance, you’re in charge. Read the play from which the speech comes so that you can put it in context. Same goes for songs. I prefer not to be eyeballed for the duration of a speech; occasional eye-contact is ok if you feel it is called for.

I’d like to sing…. Advice tends to be against anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber (snobbery) or Les Miserable (hackneyed). As with speeches try to look outside the box, do some research. You can often find little gems in the biggest flops. Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle ran for nine performances and contains at least two of his best songs. Perfect audition material and will save the panel from their sixty-ninth rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ that day.

Gotta Dance! Don’t do a routine. It will be rubbish. You are not qualified yet to emulate Bob Fosse that is what you are going to drama school for. Approach the song like a speech. Start by reciting it without music and not in rhythm. A more difficult exercise than you think but one which helps to get to the truth of what is being said, did you notice that word again? What I am looking for in speech or song is truthful interpretation not technical fireworks. Strive for truth through understanding every word. Perform your material to friends and family (after them an audition panel is a piece of cake) and ask them, your drama teachers and singing coaches and most of all yourself these questions; Is it truthful? Do I understand every word and convey it truthfully?

Lighten up. Everything does not have to be earnest or worthy; I’m currently directing Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball. There are many facets to the skill of this comedy duo’s craft but chief amongst them is that you believe everything Bobby says. When his eyes are fixed on you, you see straight through to his soul. When he tells you it hurts because his invisible horse has thrown him, you feel his pain. It’s incredible and yet simple. Honesty, sincerity, truth, that’s what you need to go for.

See stuff. If you want to be a drama student, start studying drama now. Go to everything at your local theatre, especially the stuff that doesn’t appeal to you. Write your own reviews of the piece. Try to analyse what worked and what didn’t. This will help you in the interview stage of your audition. The wrong answer to, ‘Tell us what you’ve seen recently in the theatre and what you thought of it?’ is, ‘Chicago. Amazing!’ Even if it was. The interviewer is trying to establish if you are mature enough for the course. So demonstrate an ability to analyse why something is successful or not. Explain why you liked something or why you didn’t. Make those choices and judgements so that you are not seen to be taking everything at face value. It’s called growing up. Bingo!

Read stuff. Get informed too about more than just the latest cast change of Wicked. Read about playwrights, actors, directors, theatre companies. If nothing else read the ‘Culture’ section of the Sunday Times each week so you know who Complicite, Propeller, Northern Broadsides, Kneehigh are.

justask@thedramastudent.co.uk Two years ago I was half way through a three-year BA acting course and I had to abandon my training due to ill health. I was devastated, having worked so hard to get there in the first place. My college were very supportive and agreed they would take me back when I recovered but I have decided the type of training I want has now differed from what they offer, and I plan to apply to other drama schools instead. I am somewhat concerned the new schools will not accept my application as I’ve been enrolled on a course already and worse still, I didn’t complete it. Do you think this will reflect badly on me? Louisa Malone, Ipswich Hi Louisa. Good to hear that you want to resume your training. Will the fact that you didn’t complete your first course due to illness reflect badly on you? I doubt it very much. Apply to the drama colleges that offer the type of course you want and then go and shine at your audition. Your success will be down to what you deliver on the day in front of the panel. Obviously you may be asked about why you didn’t complete your first course and be honest but don’t make a big deal about it. I just want you to be 100% sure that you are now completely well and have the stamina, energy and dedication to undertake vocational drama training. Good Luck!

Everyone has their opinion on the way monologues are delivered during an audition when addressing the audience. Some say it’s best to look straight at the panel and some say that is a definite ‘no no’. Can you give me some accurate advice on this one please? Emily Hay, Scotland This is a great question Emily because there isn’t a definitive answer! I don’t get involved in auditions so I spoke to my colleague Philip Weaver, who is Head of BA Acting here at Mountview, and who started his career as an actor. Philip gave the most terrific advice - he recommends that when you go in to the room, before you say which piece you are doing, you ask the panel would they prefer that you to deliver it to them or over their shoulder. Then they can decide what they prefer - because, as you have already found out, everyone has very different views. Hope that puts your mind at rest.

Yvonne I’Anson has worked as Head of Marketing and Development at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts for ten years. She started her career as Publicist at York Theatre Royal in 1972, and has worked at Watford Palace Theatre as Assistant and Acting General Manager, Swan Theatre Worcester as Publicity Officer, the Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage as Marketing Manager and the New End Theatre in Hampstead as Marketing Manager. She worked as a Junior Agent for seven years and as a freelance Publicist and Marketing Consultant for six years, working with leading actors such as Barbara Windsor, David Soul, Brian Blessed, Toyah Willcox, Gwen Taylor and Shirley Anne Field.

Finally. Much of the above is academic if you don’t perform your speeches and songs well. The single greatest reason for not passing an audition is lack of preparation. I would say 80% fall at this hurdle and it’s stupid because it is within your power to solve. You should know your speeches backwards but don’t perform them this way, unless asked. Luck doesn’t have a lot to do with it, but ‘Good Luck’ anyway. ●

If you have a question, no matter what stage in your journey, email justask@thedramastudent.co.uk *Please note that Yvonne is unable to respond to your questions personally.

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Guildford GSA What do Tom Chambers (Strictly Come Dancing and Holby City), Rob Kazinsky (Sean Slater in Eastenders), Michael Ball (Edna Turnblad in Hairspray) and Daniel Boys finalist in Any Dream Will Do, BBC1 and now in Avenue Q have in common? They all trained at the prestigious Guildford School of Acting. GSA training has an international reputation and its graduates can be seen performing in virtually every show in the West End, Wicked, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, and Oliver to name a few, on numerous TV programmes and on international and UK tours, not forgetting the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe.

If you serious about a successful and professional career as an actor, musical theatre performer, stage manager or technician, then GSA has a course that will give you the best possible training. Despite the apparent creation of ‘overnight stars’ we see on television reality shows, you cannot and will not have the stamina to perform eight shows a week no matter how much raw talent you have unless you learn how to use and develop your performing skills. GSA takes the job of training professional performance artists very seriously. In an industry where being ‘out of work’ is legendary, most of their graduates are following successful careers in the world of theatre, television, film and media. GSA offers Diploma and Degree courses in Acting, Musical Theatre, and Stage Management Production. MA courses are available for postgraduate and more mature students. All courses are taught by skilled professionals who have worked in the industry and successful candidates will enjoy teaching and facilities of the highest quality. From January 2010 students will enjoy the benefits of a brand new purpose built GSA headquarters which, as a result of a groundbreaking merger, is currently being built at the University of Surrey. Students starting their training in autumn 2009 will benefit from guaranteed accommodation in halls of residence for their first year and the many on-site facilities offered by the university. Auditions for three year Acting and Musical Theatre BA courses are held from November onwards each year for entry the following September. To guarantee an audition you must apply by January 31st. Competition for places is very high and you will need to be determined to succeed.

What happens at audition?

Photo: Mark Dean

The audition gives you the opportunity to see whether GSA is the right school and training for you and gives you the chance to show you have the aptitude and physical ability to become a professional actor able to sustain a career in the performing arts industry. The audition process also allows the panel to make informed choices about candidates and their ability to undertake the rigorous training GSA offers.

What does the audition panel expect from me? •

A vibrant and energised body and mind •

A healthy body and a healthy voice

Knowledge of theatre, television and film •

An ability to freely use your imagination • An ability to transform the written text in either song or speech into believable and theatrically truthful words and thought


Photo: Steve Porter

training When auditioning for the acting course, you will be expected to prepare four contrasting monologues of not more than two minutes each. Two of those classical and two modern (post 1950). One modern speech should be in your own accent. Choose a contemporary speech in you own age range and remember to keep it simple. Your classical speech should be from Shakespeare and in verse. The audition panel will select which of your speeches they wish to hear. They may want to hear it again in a different style or accent so be prepared! Musical Theatre candidates will be expected to prepare two contrasting modern speeches of not more than two minutes each, one in your own accent. You will also be asked to prepare two contrasting songs from the Musical Theatre repertoire of not more than three minutes each. The panel will select which one they want you to perform and you will be accompanied by the musical director on the audition panel. So don’t forget to take your sheet music! Personal pianists or backing tracks are not permitted. If you are successful at this first audition you will be invited back to a recall weekend. Whatever course you hope to join, during the recall you will attend classes in acting, singing, voice and dance/movement. There may also be physical and vocal tests before you find out if you have been accepted. You may not be accepted the first time you apply for drama school, that doesn’t mean you should give up. You may need to spend a year honing your skills in one or more disciplines, singing, dancing or acting. You may need to acquire life experience and maturity before trying again.

Photo: Mark Dean

What if I am not sure drama school is for me? To give you a taste of what is involved in full time training, GSA offers an extensive range of Summer Schools. You can brush up on Audition Techniques prior to applying for drama school or concentrate specifically on areas you need to improve with Intensive Dance, Singing or Acting. Spend two weeks finding out what Musical Theatre is all about or find out how film and TV acting differs from acting on stage with the Acting for Camera course. Summer School is truly international attracting students from around the world. Courses are offered at a reasonable cost and there is no audition procedure. Everyone is welcome! Summer Schools are for 17 years upwards, but as it is never too young to start preparing for a career in the performing arts, GSA also offers a Summer Youth Theatre course for 12 – 16 years. GSA Saturday School is another option if you want to train in performing arts between the ages of 8 and 18 whilst attending school or college during the week. Entry is by interview/audition and is open to young people who are looking for a focussed and caring environment in which to learn whilst having fun and students 16 years+ who want to gain an insight into the demands of full-time training regardless of previous experience.

How do I train to work backstage?

Photo: Mark Dean

GSA offers a two year Diploma course with an optional third year to convert to a degree. Their graduates are working throughout the industry in theatres, studios, colleges and concert halls. GSA production students work hard, very hard. They clock up 40 hrs plus per week, they seldom see daylight when working on productions. Production students care about theatre, care about the finished product and care about each other. They do all this because they love theatre, love shows and above all they know they will be working in theatre, film or TV from the moment they leave till the moment they choose to stop. If you can work under this kind of pressure, if you can get the job done and on time, if you can use your head to discover creative solutions to insurmountable problems, then you should look into a career in technical theatre. Entry for production courses at GSA is by interview, so why not go talk to them? All the information you need about GSA can be found on their website. GSA also includes a DVD with their prospectus so you can watch and read all about life at Guildford School of Acting and make an informed decision about the drama school you want to apply to. ● Telephone: 01483 560 701 Email: enquiries@gsauk.org Web: www.gsauk.org

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training

Area focusGuildford

Living in Guildford is pretty much like living in London, hosting a thriving nightlife in some quirky and unique bars. It boasts one of the top 10 shopping destinations in the country and has a great eclectic mix of people residing here. Guildford has a thriving student community which allows and supports individuality not seen in many UK towns. There’s a wealth of live music and more importantly a great theatre scene (Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud) right on your doorstep, so it’s easy to see why many students stay here after they graduate. So what’s going to sell Guildford to you? The living costs are lower than London? The beautiful town with stunning countryside only minutes away? The superb transport links (Waterloo 30 minutes, Heathrow 30 minutes). You can get to and from London’s West End for an evening show in around half an hour (often quicker than to some London suburbs). Just make sure you grab the last train home or know a friend or two with a comfortable sofa! One thing that Guildford can boast above all is its ‘city’ feel. Guildford remains the largest cathedral town in the UK. The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is run by ex-students and provides a real working training with its many links to GSA courses and being the venue for many of the 3rd year shows. In fact, so proud is Guildford of its theatrical links that many locals attend GSA performances throughout the year. Feel like a bit of health and fitness? Run along the North Downs, grab a rowing boat down river or visit Guildford Spectrum, one of the training camps for the 2012 Olymics with its stunning pools and ice-rink. Also there are four or five great gyms to keep you in tip-top condition. So Guildford - Big enough to be an important provider of British acting talent, but small enough to feel like a ‘home from home’ so you don’t miss your mum. If only it could make you a shepherd’s pie and wash your socks. Nick White You can get more information at www.guildford.gov.uk

opening doors

Mountview

For a young actor, drama training is essential. Training provides the discipline required in a competitive business; it allows the actor to develop as a performer and as a person; it builds confidence, skills and prepares the young actor for a difficult but rewarding career. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that most drama schools attract thousands of applicants each year, there are proportionally fewer from ethnic minority communities and even fewer from students with disabilities. So what do we have to do to attract a more diverse group of applicants? Founded in 1945, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts is and always has been totally committed to equality. However, there is still a shortfall in applications from Black and Asian and disabled communities. Fortunately, through funding from the Learning and Skills Council in 2005, Mountview was able to employ two part-time outreach workers: Hannah McBride to work with People with Disabilities; and Mercy Ojelade working with British Minority Ethnic Communities. Both are working actors who understand the importance of drama training and are passionate about widening participation. Both officers made great inroads during their first year, and have continued in their posts since. The Outreach Department works closely with leading theatre companies such as Graeae, CandoCo and Mind the Gap and other national organisations to promote awareness of the training opportunities for currently under-represented groups. The Learning and Skills Council recently awarded a substantial amount of its Widening Participation funding to Mountview to continue to develop this vital area. Mountview is determined to break down barriers and create opportunities for under-represented groups. Although the Academy’s staff are used to working with students from diverse backgrounds and with varying disabilities such as dyslexia (there are many acting students who have to cope with this), they have had the opportunity to under-take stimulating training and practical projects so they can explore and identify issues which may arise when working with students from under-represented groups. New Principal Sue Robertson said, “I am very impressed by what Mountview has achieved in a relatively short period of time and I am proud that the Academy is recognised as a leading light in promoting, understanding and tackling the importance of diversity and equality. There is still much work to be done but all the staff are very pro-active in promoting and encouraging widening participation and I am working closely with Board and Programme Directors to develop new ideas and courses for the future.” Yvonne I’Anson, Head of Marketing and Development of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. www.mountview.org.uk

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Drama Student:Layout 1

19/01/2009

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TRAIN AT ONE OF THE LEADING SCHOOLS FOR MUSICAL THEATRE AND PERFORMING ARTS Former students include: Julie Andrews, Adam Cooper, Cherie Lunghi, Samantha Barks, Sarah Brightman, Will Young, Darcey Bussell, Bonnie Langford, Summer Strallen and many many more...

PROFESSIONAL FULL TIME COURSES IN ACTING AND MUSICAL THEATRE SECONDARY VOCATIONAL DAY SCHOOL PART TIME COURSES MASTERCLASSES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: WWW.ARTSED.CO.UK T ELEPHONE : 020 8987 6666 E MAIL : enquiries@artsed.co.uk

President Lord Lloyd Webber

ARTS EDUCATIONAL SCHOOLS LONDON 14 Bath Road, Chiswick, London W4 1LY

g in in in a tr l a n io s s fe o g pr Offering outstandin d theatre T V, film an - Foundation Acting - BA (Hons) Acting* - MA Professional Acting* - Acting for Deaf BSL Users - Short Courses - Stage Management and Technical Theatre Foundation Degree†

.uk For more information please visit www.alra.co Call 020 8870 6475 | Email info@alra.co.uk *Validated by the University of Greenwich and Trinity College London. NCDT accredited | †Validated by the University of Greenwich Member of the Conference of Drama Schools


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Photos: Š Birmingham School of Acting


training Birmingham School of Acting is a small, specialist institution offering full-time higher education courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level. BSA are part of Birmingham City University which gives them an array of facilities not usually associated with a drama school. The acting courses are accredited by the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT) and their MA in Professional Voice has been developed jointly with the Royal Shakespeare Company, who are based close to Birmingham in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The school is located in the centre of Birmingham; a vibrant, modern, culturally diverse European city; the second-largest city in the UK and recognised international centre for the arts, entertainment and business. Birmingham is a great place in which to be a student, famous for its night-life and shopping, and renowned for its music, theatre, and a wide variety of cultural activities, Birmingham constantly appears as one of students’ top five cities in which to study. Founded in 1936, Birmingham School of Acting moved to it’s newly built home in September 2006, and is now part of the Millennium Point complex in the city’s East-Side. The facility was built to the School’s specifications and incorporated custom made studio spaces, all with specialist lighting, acoustic walls and ceilings and sprung floors. The Patricia Yardley studio, named for the school’s first Fellow and exprinciple, has lighting and sound rigs, and is an exceptionally versatile space used for both rehearsals and teaching. Also located in the Millennium Point complex is the IMAX cinema and the Think Tank Science Museum. Birmingham School of Acting believes that acting is a creative process, not simply a craft which can be taught. Of course, there are skills and techniques which graduates will need throughout their professional lives, but of prime importance to them is the development of a student’s creative capability. They will not push you through an A - Z of different performance styles, neither do they seek to limit you through adherence to a single style of acting or teach you acting tricks. Through exposure to a variety of material selected to be relevant to the needs of each cohort of

students, the school aims to help students to develop their own artistic vision. Allied to the core competencies of acting, voice and movement, this process will give graduates a launch pad for their individual creative expression. Therefore, students will be placed in an artistic environment where, working with creative professionals, and given the freedom to explore their talent. BSA believes this flexibility is what the profession is seeking in the trained actor. BSA is a leading vocational drama school offering full-time higher education courses funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Since merging with the BCU, the school has been able to develop its portfolio of courses, offering BA (Hons) in Acting, Stage Management, Community & Applied Theatre, Community & Applied Dance Theatre, and PG Dip/ MA in Acting, Physical Theatre and Professional Voice Practice.

How to apply All applicants to Birmingham School of Acting must demonstrate their suitability for entry. All applicants who wish to be considered for a place on a Birmingham School of Acting full-time course must submit an application form. All courses require an audition or an interview. For each course we have produced a guide for applicants to help prepare you and make the most of your opportunity in audition/interview. Whilst there is not an age limit, we do expect applicants to meet the necessary level of academic study needed to meet the entry requirements. Birmingham School of Acting holds regular Open Days throughout the academic year – please visit the website for further information. ● Telephone: 0121 331 7220 Email: info@bsa.bcu.ac.uk Web: www.bsa.bcu.ac.uk

student profile Since graduating from Birmingham School of Acting in May of this year Birmingham born Daniel Finn has landed his first acting job with Adidas. The commercial was shown on MTV and is in Footlocker stores nationwide now. The advert shows the young cheeky Daniel running from a group of lads to impress a beautiful woman. The commercial was filmed in Kiev, Ukraine where Daniel flew out and spent most of his five days running. He said: “There was a hell of a lot of running! I wish that I had been paid by the metre run rather than hours worked. But it was really good fun. The cast and crew were from such a diverse collection of nationalities, and yet it really had a sense of ‘team work’ feel about it, which was great!” Since completing the advert Daniel has been busy building his career by playing Mark in Blowing Whistles, shown at the recently opened Leicester Square Theatre in London’s West End. And that’s not all from Daniel. He has been back on stage again over the Christmas period playing Prince Charming in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Blackfriars Theatre in Boston, Lincolnshire. Past students of BSA work in all areas of the profession, and have been seen recently in Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, The Bill, and many major TV drama series. They work with the National Theatre, the R.S.C, and in West End Musicals, Regional Repertory Theatres, Theatre in Education Companies and Hollywood movies.

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stand East 15 &deliver As state of the art technology allows both stage and screen directors to inject ever more realistic scenes into their productions, so the physical demands on actors continue to be challenged. Nowhere is that more evident in the growing call for performers skilled in Stage Combat, writes Kevin Wyatt-Lown.

and directed fight scenes for ballet, opera, stage and screen and is Chair of the British Academy of Dramatic Combat, as well being a committee member of Equity’s Register of Fight Directors. Chris Main holds a PhD in Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre and is Vice –President of the British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat. As Nick Hall explains; “The programme gives students a raft of professional skills to ensure they work both creatively and safely. They are training to become specialists in their field. So, as well as the physical aspects of their work they also learn research skills that enable them to contextualise both historical and contemporary roles.

I realised I wanted to be actor after graduating from Exeter with a BA Honours in Drama. It provided me with a great foundation – but it wasn’t enough. So I decided to continue my studies by entering into a second degree – an actor-training programme. With no government funding available to degree-holders I was informed that I would have to fund my training unaided. This did not put me off but confirmed that this was without doubt what I wanted to do regardless of the struggle that lay ahead. It was the course that drew me to East 15. As far as I’m aware it is the only drama school in the country that offers an acting degree that focuses on stage combat. It offers the actor a physical vocabulary and a confidence that I don’t think I could have found anywhere else. For me actor training is essential. It allowed me the time to discover what I wanted and where my strengths lay. I don’t think I would have had the knowledge, skill or confidence to even attempt to approach a career in acting without my training. It has given me a level of discipline and focus, which is proving invaluable. Devising my own work is something that I am really keen on exploring when I graduate. There are several Stage Combat graduates who I am also eager to work with within the same field; devising and creating physical ensemble based theatre. The choices I have made over the last two and a half years have brought me to where I am. I have worked as hard as I possibly could to achieve the best result. I don’t think I could have worked any harder.

Student Profile

East 15 Acting School has an enviable reputation throughout the industry for producing students who are known for their daring in challenging conventions and pushing back the barriers when it comes to their commitment to any role, but perhaps there is no better example of daring than that demonstrated by the students on the BA Acting and Stage Combat course. The course was devised some four years ago by two leading experts in their field, Nicholas Hall and Dr. Chris Main, and there is still no comparable programme available anywhere else in the world. Both tutors are hugely respected within the industry. Nick Hall has devised

LAURA SIBBICK, 3rd Year Student at East 15 Acting School on the BA Acting and Stage Combat course.

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training Their actor training includes study of vocal skills, accents and articulation, Commedia del’Arte, Elizabethan and Jacobean performance, puppetry, mask, animal study and text analysis as well as acting for the camera. Students work on scripted productions as well devising their own performances. East 15 has always had a knack of attracting some very exciting and talented visiting directors which ensures the work is continually fresh and challenging. There is also a strong work ethic throughout East 15 and this is vital when you are working in such a demanding discipline as Stage Combat.” The Combat skills the students learn include unarmed combat, as well as weapon training covering every epoch of history from quarterstaff and broadsword to sword and shield, Elizabethan rapier & dagger, smallsword, military sabre and commando dagger. The students supplement their combat training with martial arts practice which currently includes Aikido, working through the grading syllabus towards a black belt. Most students have achieved a green belt by the end of their second year. They also study fencing and work toward a British Academy of Fencing coaching award in foil, progressing onto an epée award in their second year. In addition, they train at gymnastic skills and parkour or free-running and develop their rope skills in both abseiling and climbing. In their second year they also develop horse riding skills and have to apply these to work on camera. Safe practices are always important in any performance environment and nowhere are they more vital than in the area of Stage Combat. Throughout all of their training, especially in environments such as working at heights, students are continually schooled in health and safety procedures and in becoming familiar with the relevant safety equipment and its appropriate use. The extent of the equipment available is a matter of particular pride for Chris Main. As he explains; “Since the course began we have continued to build our collection into what is probably now the best equipped Armoury in any actor training establishment in the country. In addition to the vast array of hand-to-hand combat weaponry, the Armoury also contains other training equipment including longbows and hand guns.” He’s also careful to point out that all the weaponry is suitably safe for Stage Combat use. In addition to the performances the students create within any one of East 15’s many performance spaces, Stage Combat students also experience a professional placement with the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London where, in 2008, they played to audiences of some 13,000 visitors. As you might imagine, the course is very demanding of both the student’s physical and mental skills. As Nick Hall comments; “They need to use their brains as well as their bodies”. Only sixteen students are admitted to the course each year and they will often already have grounding in martial arts, gymnastics or a similar field and can demonstrate a potential for being able to use those skills in a creative context as an actor/performer. ● Telephone: 020 8508 5983 Email: E15drama@essex.ac.uk Web: www.east15.ac.uk

ONE YEAR FULL-TIME COURSE

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training

LIPA

in the capital of culture

The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts was created to provide the best teaching and learning for people who want to pursue a lasting career in the popular performing arts economy – whether as performers or those who make performance possible. TDS heads to the Capital of Culture 2008.

Photo: Jodie Svagr

Sir Paul McCartney, an old boy of the Liverpool Institute School for Boys, had long been dismayed by the sad state of his old school building, which was falling into decay after its closure in 1985. Mark Featherstone-Witty (LIPA’s Founding Principal and CEO), had developed a particular approach to performing arts teaching and learning that was developed through a charity he created in the mid 80’s. The first creation was The BRIT School in London. During that process, he was introduced to Paul. Liverpool City Council, which was embarking on an

inner city regeneration programme with finance from a national initiative devised by Michael Heseltine. Both Paul and Liverpool City Council, independently as it happened, approached Mark to find out what kind of provision might best fit into existing and planned performing arts training in the city. The result was to become The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which opened in 1996, with Paul McCartney as its lead patron. Today, it offers nine degree programmes incorporating acting, dance, music, management, sound, design and technology, as well as full and part time postgraduate programmes. Each year it receives in the region of 4,800 applications, which equates to 21 applications for every degree place. The Guardian University Guide 2009 rated LIPA the top UK University for Dance and Drama. All of LIPA’s degree provision takes account of the following concepts: market awareness, technological competence, entrepreneurial skills, multiskilling, collaboration and theoretical underpinning. All are designed to help the graduates to build a lasting career in the very competitive world of arts and entertainment. LIPA is housed in a majestic 19th century building which has been meticulously restored and transformed into a purpose-built performing arts institute. The facilities and equipment are considered world class. However, it is perhaps the fact that LIPA is a specialist performing arts institution offering a unique combination of training programmes that is one of its most attractive and distinctive features. This allows for several collaborative production opportunities, which simulate professional practice. So, an acting student, for example, can gain the experience of working alongside student designers, managers, technicians, dancers and musicians many times over whilst studying at the school. Over a third of LIPA students come from overseas, which is one of the highest ratios for any performing arts institution in the UK. This is something that many students value not only because they get to meet interesting, creative people from all over the world, but also because they may help to employ each other overseas in the future. Another aspect which is central to LIPA’s ethos is to employ teaching staff who have extensive professional experience and continue to work in the performing arts industry as well as having the ability to teach. LIPA’s focus on employment can be judged by its graduate employment record. Over the past four years, LIPA has tracked down roughly 80% of a graduate year group, three years after leaving and each time finds that 75% to 80% are still working in the arts and entertainment economies. ● Telephone: 0151 330 3000 Email: admissions@lipa.ac.uk Web: www.lipa.ac.uk


training

student profile What inspired you to train at LIPA? LIPA has a great reputation where I come from in my home town of Peterborough. I wanted to come here since I was fifteen, and it had such a good reputation I never thought I’d be accepted! When I came for my audition I was so impressed with everything from the building and facilities to the people who auditioned me. A lot of people who I’ve talked to about coming to LIPA have said when they got here at an open day or audition ‘they just knew’ that they wanted to come here, which is the same feeling I had. How did you find the school’s audition process? The first thing I noticed was that there were so many people auditioning in one day! So I did feel a little overwhelmed but the panel helped us to feel at ease and not intimidated by the whole thing. The workshops were great. It helped ‘show me’ and not just my performance skills which I think helped me get a place here. What advice would you give to someone who is going through the drama school audition process at the moment? Contrary to what people think about drama schools, they are not looking for perfection. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t need to come to drama school! But I think you should always remember the five P’s. Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Also, remember manners cost you nothing. You could be the most gifted actor/singer/dancer in the world, but it means nothing if nobody wants to work with you. What skills are you currently gaining from the course? As well as performing skills we also learn business skills which is equally important. We are always encouraged to do things independently and whilst I have been training I have been a part of three student shows with promises to do more before I leave. I have also co-founded a Theatre Company, Sell A Door, and taken a play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Describe the facilities at the school. Facilities here are fantastic. They always try to accommodate students on all courses. There are good performance spaces you can book to put on anything from open-mic nights, to plays. The café is always used for cabaret and musical reviews! Our technical support is great and you can also apply for funding for any projects you want to do through the Independent Student board, who will help you all the way. How important is working with outside professional directors and practitioners, whilst still in training? So important! It allows you to practice everything you’ve learnt in training and at the same time leaves you open-minded to new ways of working. It keeps the course fresh and exciting and most of the time outside directors and practitioners will be out working in the industry or will have worked in the industry for many years. It’s such a good opportunity to prepare you for employment and work beyond training which is what LIPA is all about!

GUARANTEED PROFESSIONAL JOB ON COMPLETING A ONE YEAR COURSE WITH THE REP COLLEGE ● Purely practical course performing 14 shows in different profesional venues during the year ● Students can begin their course in any month ● Unique Box Office Takings Share Scheme ● 60% of all graduated students are currently working full time in professional theatre and television G ● Graduated students receive follow up help and advice whenever they need it, as long as they need it ● The Rep College is the world’s first and only fully practical course for training in all aspects of theatre

Photo: Ray Farley

Ally Thornton, 3rd Year BA (Hons) Acting (Performing Arts)

Check the Rep College out on www.repcollege.co.uk or email us on tudor@repcollege.co.uk or ring 0118 942 1144

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training

The Art of Technical

Theatre

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is renowned for churning out top talented actors. Not only that, their technical division has quite a bit to shout about. Head of the department, Neil Fraser, explains. What is the Art of Technical Theatre? Well, it is that which dabbles in the magic of staging a production; of painting pictures with light; of creating a world made out of sound, or building robots, puppets and ghosts. It creates the illusion of making beautiful furniture worthy of Chippendale, of painting pictures like Michelangelo, or of designing clothing like Versace. It runs to the building castles, or blowing up of them; of making a car fly or a forest move. It can help stun an audience to silence, move them to tears of laughter, rage or sadness, and leave them with an experience they will never forget. At any one time RADA is training between 60-70 people in a large variety of technical areas, and, whilst competition for these places is keen, as an organisation RADA believes in accessibility at all levels and for all people so we are always on the search for more applicants. Previously an independently funded organisation, in 2001 RADA entered the national Higher Education structure, and is pleased that in doing so it has maintained its ability to choose those students it feels will best benefit from the courses offered, regardless of background or previous academic achievement. The training remains entirely focused on the vocational; aiming to give the student the skill base needed to undertake a long and successful career in the industry. Just as the work is so varied, so are the people that we take on to the courses. They include school leavers who have probably taken the lead in the technical areas for drama activities. Graduates, in many fields, who having successfully achieved their academic aims and now want to pursue their real love. People looking for a career change, who also want to follow their dream of employment in the often exciting world of stage and screen. RADA’s technical courses are all under the umbrella of the Theatre Technical Arts Department. It runs a two-year core course in general Theatre Production, which provides a broad based education, offering experience in all the trades listed above, but also allowing the student in their second year to aim specifically towards the kind of career they are thinking of undertaking. This usually sees a rough division between those following a Stage Management career and those going into one

38

or other of the specialised areas, such as lighting and sound, or design. The training is enormously hands-on and practical in nature, affording the student as close to a real professional experience as possible, but always with the back up and guidance of the RADA tutors. There are usually around 25 students in each of the two years of this course. RADA also runs a number of so-call ‘specialist’ shorter courses in six key areas: Theatre Design, Lighting, Wardrobe, Prop Making, Scenic Construction, and Scenic Art. As their name suggests these are for students who have already decided where their main interest lies and who feel that they do not require an extensive training. To some extent these courses are aimed at people with a broader experience already in theatre work, and who need a push up to higher levels of employment. However, great success has also been achieved by school leavers who have already displayed an amazing capacity for their chosen subject. The reason such a diverse pool of people can still apply to these courses is because each course has a maximum limit of three students, and due to this they can, to some extent, be tailored to the students’ requirements. The great thing about training people in this area is that the work is out there – we have a 90% plus employment record, year in and year out, for all our technical graduates. In 2000 RADA opened its fully refurbished building and we’ve kept on building our technical facilities ever since, with a refurbished props department to open this January. To describe the multi-million pound complex behind the listed façade of RADA’s front doors as ‘state of the art’ only just begins to do them justice. The facilities that we offer within our workshops and our three theatres are there to serve one purpose only: To train the best actors and the best technicians for a career in one of the most exciting industries in the world.

Telephone: 020 7636 7076 Email: equiries@rada.ac.uk Web: www.rada.ac.uk


training

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39


training

Learning by

The Rep College

Experience

The Rep College provides the world’s first fully practical course for the training of actors and technicians for the theatre. TDS finds out about this very unique training. Most of our readers will not remember the days of traditional Rep, where companies around the country would offer young actors the opportunity to serve their apprenticeship in the theatre. Joining as an Assistant Stage Manager, they would work with an array of experienced professionals, observing skilled actors churning out play week in and week out. The next step up from ASM would see the young actor take on small parts within the company’s productions, gradually building up to more challenging roles. Elizabeth Lane from The Rep College remembers it was a wonderful way to learn your craft having been a Rep actress herself. “You pick up the script, learn it, block it, rehearse it, and perform it,” she explains. “You find you can learn all sorts of parts, very quickly.” Although there are a few remaining Rep companies still going, namely Nottingham, Birmingham and Dundee, the days of conventional Rep seem to be long and truly gone. Elizabeth believes economics has played a major part in its demise, understanding that commercial theatre with famous names on the poster has taken the lead. “It’s very sad,” says Elizabeth. “I think that it is something that is missed considerably and I know a lot of actors in the profession who say the same thing. They loved working in Repertory; they thought it was a wonderful training ground.” It was that sentiment, together with an article that Tom Conti wrote in The Stage about eleven years ago, that urged Elizabeth to form The Rep College with its Artistic Director David Tudor, a notable West End director and producer. “Tom said what a shame it is that there isn’t a drama college based on purely practical learning,” explains Elizabeth. “In other words, putting on plays very much the same as you used to do in Repertory, and learning your trade as you went through rehearsals.” Elizabeth was quick to contact Conti to see if he was happy to have his idea ‘nicked’ as it were. “He was absolutely thrilled skinny,” remembers Elizabeth. “He said ‘Yes! Go ahead, with my blessing’.” The Rep College is based at The Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading and presents fourteen shows in a one year course, to a paying audience at several theatres in Berkshire and the surrounding areas. As particular skills are required they are taught as part of the rehearsal process and are directly related to rehearsal and performance challenges. As in a Repertory situation students can commence the course at the beginning

40

of any of the fourteen productions for a period of eighteen weeks, or the full year. Their plays are rehearsed and performed on average every three and a half weeks. Elizabeth explains that they look for enthusiasm from their potential students first and foremost. “They have got to want to do it. It’s no good using it like a finishing school, or deciding that because they can’t do anything else at the moment they want to come to drama college, that doesn’t work for anybody. We’re looking for good all round people who can be excellent company members but who also have talent.” It certainly sounds like an intensive training, with the students performing one show in the evening while rehearsing the next during the day. Yet Elizabeth believes the rewards can be tremendous. “Once they get into the atmosphere of the Rep College, and start to blossom, that is amazing to watch,” she says. ”The confidence they gain makes them really move on fast, which is quite extraordinary sometimes.” But have they proved this rare form of training actually works? At the last count, The Rep College found that 61 per cent of graduates are still working in the industry. “The reason, I think, mainly for that, is that David does what he calls audition technique classes after rehearsals,” Elizabeth explains. “He gives them the knowledge he has acquired, how you present yourself, how you sell yourself, because you are the product and you have to go out there and sell it to people who are going to be interested in buying you. He actually teaches people how to do this, how to do a business plan, how to set out how they’re going to get a job, and I’m delighted to say that it has worked for those people that put it into practice.” The Rep College also have an agreement with L & G Productions, a TMA Theatrical Company who guarantee graduates on the one-year course their first professional job with an Equity contract, which obviously breaks the ice somewhat. “We need to spread the word and let people know that The Rep College is a chance to work as close as they can get in the Repertory theatre system,” Elizabeth states firmly. “You get such a camaraderie and there’s such team work, it’s quite incredible.” Telephone: 01189 42 11 44 Email: contact@repcollege.co.uk Web: www.repcollege.co.uk


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w e i v t n u o M

tre emy of Thea d a c A w ie v t n year for Mou emorable moments. y s u b a s a w 2008 me of their m o s s re u t a fe Arts. TDS

d r a o b picture

r) Guest eptembe (S y n ht) o e Cerem ents. (Rig e Degre ting stud m c a n o u a fr d rm d ra o g 8 graduate left) Perf with 200 es, who n o (Top row arbara Windsor J e n ray. ur B st Lean of Hono in Hairsp cial gue starring with spe w o ts n n e lay is d Stu 6 and hrey Barc w in 200 er Hump c te u n a d s ro Mountvie A P arbuor sor, TV the Gye ith ara Wind w d e rb n a rd o B a s ) rt w ft e row le being a e Rob (Middle n Hood cipal Su ly) Mike ew Prin nt Laure e N ment (Ju d ) re tu e ti s tr re n d e ts an (C n e . m g . n le r Acti n Caird Paul C Prize fo and Joh (Right) lements Holden. C l a u a d n P ) a l a Am rincip ony (July etiring P e Cerem re g to e t Leigh, R D a e his s l Theatre vacated ok Technica Clements h cat) to w left) l rc u ro u a h P C m l o a s r’ ip c to n c (Bott ri A P Cat’. nes (the Retiring was ‘Top ation, Jo – When t that he congreg b u e o th d s in s addre ne was ge. No o centre sta

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casestudy

Auditions Anonymous

The First Step...

Audition Breakdown?

Like many of you, I am preparing for the year ahead filled with drama school auditions. I’m 18 and I’ve been performing since the age of three. I have been obsessed with Musical Theatre from a young age and I have recently made the firm decision of applying to drama school which will hopefully lead to a successful career. It wasn’t until last August that I took the leap of faith and decided that I do have the talent and drive to be at drama school, although I still have a lot of work to do. Most people agree that if you don’t have the support of your family then it can be difficult whilst trying to pursue your dream. My family has always been supportive, although from those that I’ve spoken to, they have every right to be apprehensive about my future career. Many who apply to drama school at higher education, partake in youth theatre or amateur dramatics, which is by far the best way to network with other young people and also to improve talents further. I’ve been with my amateur dramatics for seven years climbing the ranks from ensemble member to principal. In April last year I auditioned successfully for the lead role of Annie Oakley in the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun. I made a breakthrough with my family and proved that Musical Theatre is what I really want to do with my life. Through UCAS I have applied to The Central School of Speech and Drama, Rose Bruford, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Bath Spa University and The Arden School of Theatre. Outside of UCAS I have chosen to apply to The Guildford School of Acting and Mountview Academy. I have been researching all of the above choices by ordering prospectuses and have known people who have graduated or who are currently at them. I even went to an open day which really helped me with my decision. In order to prepare for auditions, I have joined a theatre company outside of college entitled ‘Apt Creative,’ who are giving me fantastic support with my audition repertoire. Last summer I shortlisted songs and monologues which I felt would suit me. With Apt Creative, I am also working towards a Trinity College of Music qualification in Musical Theatre. I’ve never had any formal singing training so my music theory is quite weak. Luckily a musical director friend of mine is helping me with reading music and my diction. After achieving good grades after A Level, I chose to stay on at college and undertake a BTEC National Award in Musical Theatre as I wanted to do something useful with my gap year. Outside of college I have taken up ballet, which has always been an ambition but always unfulfilled and may also be taking up tap again. I am about to audition for another amateur dramatics group who are putting on The Boyfriend. All this on top of drama school auditions? It’s going to be a hectic year! I am sure that I am not alone in having fear of not getting into drama school. I know this is a strong possibility with all the competition and it would be so heartbreaking. But I hope that with all the shows I am doing and preparation, I will be confident enough for the auditions. I am very excited to be a part of The Drama Student as there has not been a publication out there relevant for drama students. I will be recording my auditioning journey here over the up and coming year. I’ll update you with my progress in the spring! Wish me luck! ●

Call the

AA.

07960 239 321

Auditions Anonymous was set up by professionals for professionals. Actors and Directors hearing and tutoring others in the business before an audition. It was so successful… Now we’re helping wanna-be students too! All our tutors work in the professional theatre, many also teach at the leading drama schools.

So for audition preparation from those who can and do, call the AA.

07960 239 321

But don’t tell anyone else!

Marika Visser

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10 ways to keep your energy up

Stamina wellness

Whether you’re preparing yourself for the lengthy audition circuit, or you’ve already undertaken a course that requires lots of stamina, it is imperative you look after your body. In these cold winter months it can be difficult maintaining your energy levels. TDS looks at 10 ways to ensure your body performs at its best.

one

Stay hydrated – If you don’t hydrate your body by drinking fluids, your body will begin to feel sluggish. Water is necessary for your body to produce energy, including digesting, absorbing and transporting nutrients. If you find plain water a little bit boring, there are a number of flavoured still waters on the market these days.

two

Avoid caffeine – It’s a common myth that drinking lots of caffeine, such as coffee and energy drinks, will give you bags of energy. Caffeine actually tires you out in the long run so limit your intake to the equivalent of one cup of coffee a day.

three

Avoid the ‘Sugar Rush’ – Sugar is the fastest way of giving you a charge of short term energy. But what goes up, unfortunately must come down. Next time you binge on chocolate, look out for the loss of energy within the hour.

four

Protein – Adding a little protein to every meal is essential in keeping your organs functioning and your energy levels up. Lean protein such as Lean Beef or Chicken contains tyrosine, an amino acid that helps your brain produce the chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which improves your mental function. Eggs, shellfish, sardines, turkey and pork also contain tyrosine.

five

Carbohydrates – Complex carbohydrates like those in black beans help to keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day, providing a steady, slow-burning source of energy to make you feel much more awake. Black beans are also a rich source of iron, an integral part of haemoglobin which transports oxygen in the body. It’s also important not to overindulge on Carbs however, as too many will zap your energy.

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six

Eat well – Maintaining a healthy diet with fresh, minimally processed foods will give you drastically more energy than a diet of mostly processed foods. Do a search on the internet for straightforward meal ideas using fresh produce.

seven

Vitamin C – A daily intake of vitamin C ensures that your body is energised. Kiwi fruit contains more Vitamin C than an orange and packs a powerful punch. Other foods rich in vitamin C include raw red or green pepper, broccoli, strawberries and Brussel sprouts.

eight

Daily exercise – A daily exercise routine will give you more energy and make your everyday tasks easier. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a major gym work out. Start out with a brisk walk around the park in the fresh air, building up to a comfortable jog. You will soon feel confident running flat out for 10 seconds and back to a steady jog. Repeat this four or five times which will get your energy levels up without wearing you down.

nine

Limber up – No matter what your fitness level, stretching is an important part of staying energised. It improves circulation and posture, because it helps increase your range of motion, strength, co-ordination and flexibility. Always stretch comfortably within your own limits and never to the point of pain.

ten

Manage your emotions – Stress, anxiety and negative emotion is a fast way of draining energy. Equally, getting too excited can have a negative effect on energy levels. Find time in your daily routine to relax and calm your mind. Adopt breathing exercises allowing you to control your emotions. ●


PAUL GREGORY

ACTOR / DDMA COACH

EX RSC & RNT ACTOR. RECENTLY – DEMOCCCY & EMBERS. Recent Film Sir Jack Crawford in SISTERHOOD (Comedy Feature). Also HENRY V & FFNKENSTEIN with Kenneth Branagh. Acted with & Directed by Sir Laurence Olivier, Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Leonard Rossiter, Sir John Mills, Sir Anthony Sher, Jeremy Irons etc. My students include: Louie Batley – HOLLYOAKS 2 Years Stephanie Blacker – I WANT CANDY, Feature Film with Carmen Electra Avtar Kaul – SHOOT ON SIGHT, Feature with Brian Cox Kieran Leonard – HUSTLE, BBC TV with Robert Vaughn Lauren Owen – LEND ME A TENOR, CBS New York Peter Peralta – SUMMER, Short Feature, Berlin Film Festival & UK Adrian Sharp – THE CLUB, Feature Morgan rii – Bristol Old Vic Rep. Co., 1 Year Scoo Ryan Vickers – EMMERDALE Sargon Yelda – MIDNIGHT MAN, ITV with James Nesbii & SADDAM’S TRIBE, Channel 4 Private Coaching for Professionals and Students. Successful applicants including Scholarships to ALL MAJOR DDMA SCHOOLS Many of my students also now represented by Top Agents.

Call me on 020 8789 5726 or mob. 07878 757814

Putney Bridge Underground


curtaincall

Thriller

theatre Shades

Live

Jackson fever has hit theatreland with the much hyped Thiller – Live, the spectacular, high-octane show specially created to celebrate the career of the world’s greatest entertainer and undisputed King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Former 5 Star lead vocalist, songwriter and Brit Award-winner Denise Pearson makes her West End debut and is joined by award-winning Ricko Baird, who co-choreographed Michael Jackson’s Number 1 hit “You Rock My World” and doubled for him in the video. Thriller – Live moonwalks into the Lyric Theatre after three acclaimed UK tours and standing ovations across Germany. Michael Jackson has to date sold more than 750 million records, had 13 number one singles - more than any other male artist - and is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997 and later as a solo artist in 2001. Runs until 12 April 2009.

LYRIC THEATRE Shaftesbury Avenue London, W1D 7ES Box office 0844 412 4661 www.nimaxtheatres.com/thriller

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Young Writers Festival The Royal Court, arguably one of the most innovative theatres in the world, stages Shades by Alia Bano as part of their prestigious Young Writers Festival.

“How religious are you? - I never know how to answer that question. I mean how do you measure religiousness?” London worships many gods, but it often seems that Cupid isn’t one of them. Sabrina, a single girl-about-town, is seeking Mr Right in a world where traditional and liberal brothers sit side-by-side, but rarely see eye-toeye. Shades explores tolerance within and without the Muslim community. Runs until 21 February 2009.

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS Box Office 020 7565 5000 www.royalcourttheatre.com


© Stefano Unterthiner / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

culturefocus

exhibitions

Wildlife

A Long Exposure

Photographer of the Year 2008

The Lowry in Manchester hosts a fascinating photography exhibition celebrating 100 years of Guardian photography. The newspaper appointed its first staff photographer, Walter Doughty, in 1908. Since then it has developed a unique and often innovative pictorial style. Featured images from top to bottom: A couple with a collection of 98 Grandfather clocks in Derbyshire 1959 (Copyright Tom Stuttard). Actors relaxing during rehearsals for the Mystery Plays in York, July 1960 (Copyright Graham Finlayson). A miner wears a toy helmet and sizes up to police officers, near Sheffield 1982 (Copyright Don McPhee). Runs until 1 March 2009.

Make sure you see this exhibition currently running at the National History Museum. The museum’s competition, run in partnership with BBC Wildlife Magazine, features some stunning images of wildlife from around the world. The Animal Portraits category, one of the most popular in the competition, invites portraits that capture the character or spirit of an animal in an original and memorable way. The winner, Stefano Unterthiner, followed the group of black-crested macaques for weeks in Tangkoko National Park, north Sulawesi, before capturing this young adult, nicknamed ‘Trouble-maker’. “He would leap at me and kick off my back like a trampoline,” says Stefano. Trouble-maker’s expression captures, Stefano says, “the spirit of these wonderful monkeys,” and the setting makes it an unforgettable portrait. Runs until 26 April 2009.

The Lowry Pier 8, Salford Quays Manchester, M50 3AZ Tel. 0870 787 5780 www.thelowry.com

National History Museum Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD Tel. 020 7942 5000 www.nhm.ac.uk

100 Years of Guardian Photography

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readingroom

the prep

£8.99 Published by Methuen Drama Tel: 01256 302 699 www.methuendrama.com

Ask any professional, whether working in theatre or any other business, and they will tell you the key to a successful career is preparation. A business-person attending an important meeting or interview, will always prepare themselves appropriately. Those that do the research place themselves in a much better position than those that go in ‘blind’. Competition for a place at drama school is fierce, and what often lets applicants down is lack of preparation. A new book, 100 Exercises To Get You Into Drama School, represents a plan of attack. Presented in a step-by-step guide, almost like a self-coaching programme, the book aims to get you into better audition shape. Organised into six main chapters, its focus centres on building aspects of the actor’s repertoire, structured around practical exercises that you can do at home, on your own or with a friend. The book begins with looking at your posture, and takes you through a number of exercises that help you strengthen, balance and relax your body. There are chapters concentrating on movement and voice, key elements of actor training. Although an audition panel will not expect you to be fully competent in these areas (after all that’s why you want to train), they will be looking for a trainable voice and body. These pages are filled with exercises aimed to get the most out of what you have. To make things more accessible, each chapter has suitable images clearly guiding you through each stage. The final chapter concentrates on the audition and is excellent. It looks at the ways to best prepare by giving advice on choosing suitable speeches and covering elements of what the panel are looking for. It considers all aspects of the audition day itself, from how you should prepare in the hours before, to how you look and what to expect in the interview process. Most chapters in this book are taught and developed throughout your time at drama school once you have a place. Self-coaching, even on a basic level before your auditions, will give you a much better understanding of drama school training, broadening your vocabulary and knowledge. What makes it so appealing, is it allows you to scratch the surface or delve as far as you wish. It all depends on how serious you are. If you really want to get the most out of the audition you have paid for, read this book.

the resource Have you ever heard a director refer to actors as ‘lazy’? If you haven’t, you will. What they commonly mean is that actors, when approaching text in rehearsal, often play the ‘mood’ of the scene, rather than pinpointing their exact intention. Actions – The Actor’s Thesaurus aims to clarify a widely used rehearsal and performance technique, known by different names, but in this book ‘Actioning’. Actioning provides the situation for the actor to directly play each line of the text and develop alternative ways of bringing their character to life. The technique encourages performances with accurate and dramatic communication between characters. It heightens the actor’s spontaneity, discouraging him or her from monotonously replicating a tone. ‘Actioning’ should keep the actors ‘in the moment’ and deter what Peter Brook calls ‘deadly’ acting, where nothing is going on, just words being spoken. It enforces a specificity which can liberate the actor’s performance. Whether you like this idea or not, you are sure to work with a director at some point who insists on their actors Actioning the text. Most actors freeze up at the very thought of doing this, often because it forces them to work hard to really get underneath the text. This book will quickly set you on the right path in understanding how Actioning can work for you as an actor, with a superb list of active verbs which is sure to give you a head start when you enter the rehearsal room.

£8.99 Published by Nick Hern Books Tel: 020 8749 4953 www.nickhernbooks.co.uk

the knowledge Knowing where to begin on your journey to be an actor is often a tough one. You have so many questions you want answered. You do your research on the internet, you pick the brains of anyone remotely related to the industry and you read all the theatre related publications. Whatever stage of your journey, So you want to tread the boards… is packed with solid advice and valuable information. It covers all the myths and truths about drama school training, graduation into the profession, the practicalities of getting seen for auditions, monologues, taxes, personal promotion, dance and movement, you name it – it’s covered. A user-friendly bible of the boards for all ages. £16.99 Published by JR Books Tel. 020 7284 7163 www.performingarts-auditionguide.com

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EDITOR Phil Matthews

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IT/ WEB SUPPORT Dominic Fallows DISTRIBUTION Paul McGuire CONTRIBUTORS Sam Peter Jackson, Daniella Gibb, Emma Gray, Simon Dale, Uncle Dudley, Rosemarie Swinford, Simon Dunmore, Russell Labey, Yvonne I’Anson, Madeleine Gibb, Kevin Wyatt-Lown, Neil Fraser, Marika Visser, Nick White COVER IMAGE Nicholas Hoult by Christian Coulson www.arsonistphotography.com Published by MarcoMatt Media LLP Top Floor, 66 Wansey Street London SE17 1JP Tel: 020 7701 4536 Fax: 070 9284 6523 www.thedramastudent.co.uk editor@thedramastudent.co.uk SUBSCRIPTION 12 months subscription 4 issues - £10.00 Introductory offer. Ends 31.03.09

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BA (Hons) Acting Accredited by the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT), this three-year degree course is for students who wish to pursue careers as professional actors. The balance of teaching progresses from technical skills to performance until the final year when the emphasis is on public live performance, radio and screen production and career management.

BA (Hons) Stage Management This course is for students who wish to work within company production and stage management and will offer thorough vocational training in the backstage technical world of stage management.

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Contact T: 0121 331 7220

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W: www.bsa.bcu.ac.uk