How to choose a drama school?
Choosing the right drama school is a daunting process and the fee for auditioning raises the stakes even higher. There’s no point in applying somewhere that you have no intention of going to. However, the audition process gives you valuable insight into how the establishment is run, and the general atmosphere of the teaching-staff/buildings. One thing you’ll hear a lot of current students say is that when they first arrived, they “knew instantly” it was an institution that they could “see themselves in.” But, apart from the magical ‘feeling of belonging’ you will experience, there are other tell-tale signs that should influence your choices (after all, you might have felt the magic for 3 institutions in succession).
How to tell which drama school is right for you boils down to a few things that will, hopefully, be explained here:
One of the most timeless pieces of advice involves eggs and baskets, and the same is true of training. Good training across multiple disciplines will make you a universally well-rounded performer and valuable to a company. However, different acting institutes will offer different approaches and it’s worth taking the time to research what will suit you. Some might offer different theatrical training based primarily on a range of skills; from physicality, to screen-work, to employability etc. Online reviews and research by like-minded individuals might prove beneficial to your search and influence whether you see yourself focussing on animal studies for 3-years. Important questions to ask are: How many classmates will I have? What is the establishment promoting in their approach? What do I want to achieve? What performer am I looking to become? How many teachers are there? What experience do those teachers have in the industry?
Sometimes, drama schools will be gracious enough to give you a guided tour of the premises that you’ll be living and working in for the next 3-years. This is important to take into consideration because you’re expected to be creative here 24/7. If it doesn’t excite you and fill you with the spirit of Shakespeare and Ibsen, then maybe it won’t work out in the long-run? You will hear quite often that applying to 5 institute of acting minimum in your first year of auditioning is crucial towards you building up a general picture of what to expect from the process.
The question you have to ask yourself about these institutions and their location is; “Will I be comfortable exposing my most vulnerable here?”. It’s a good idea to take a day to search the surrounding area before the audition, and soak in everything that you might be predisposed by. You will want to enjoy your time in that location on the whole, otherwise you won’t benefit from the teaching being bestowed upon you. Plus, with all that emotional turmoil you’re going to be experiencing, knowing that a bottle of wine is affordable from the local off-license gives you a nice incentive to persevere.
There’s a reason that certain stage schools are renowned in the business and as educational facilities. So, if you’ve heard about a particular one, then it must good. However, that is not to say that these schools will suit you, nor that those with a ‘lesser reputation’ are worse. The training might be more specialised in an area you want ply you trade in, for example. So, the courteous thing would be not to write one off because you’re aiming for the Oscars, and they’ve never produced an Oscar-winner before.
It’s not a crazy or vain idea to look at the alumni of a particular institution to see what performers they’ve produced. If you like an actors style or charisma on stage, then having a look to see where they studied will be an important aspect regarding your decision. A sound piece of advice would be to look at younger actors or actors you recently graduated to see what they bring to the table. There is little point in looking to where an actor, with 10 years’ experience studied. He’s grown as a performer by his work and ethics, not because of the studies he undertook 10 years prior. This will all add into the reputation of the establishment and be an important aspect of any decision-making process.
Don’t be impulsive
Drama schools are famously hard to get into, which will make you ever readier to accept an offer as soon as it comes through your front door. If the sting of rejection has rung through your whole body multiple times already during the process, you’ll feel the relief and excitement willing you on to accept. But, what you’ll forget instantly is how you felt about this drama school, what you learnt about how they work, the atmosphere of it’s location and that gut feeling that it wasn’t right. Take time and be patient in how you view this offer. The wait for the right establishment offering you a place might take a long time, but you shouldn’t rush headlong into a wrong decision. Be proactive with your time away from auditioning until next year, make yourself into a person that looks like they’re ready to train, someone teachers think they can mould and transform. A personal statement full-to-the-brim of stage experience and struggle will make you a highly sought-after candidate.