What do drama schools look for?
So, you’ve decided to give in to those artistic urges and become an actor. You want some training to hone your craft in a way that is professional and purposeful. You’ve signed up for all those auditions and made plans to get there. You’ve even started looking at flats located nearby to the establishment, anticipating that email offering you a place on that prestigious course. Now, an important question to ask yourself is: “What are the drama schools looking for?”
It’s easy to suggest that they’re after talented people, not forgetting the lines to the two monologues specified. I won’t lie to you, remembering your lines does put you in a higher contention than those that have a complete catastrophe. But, as well as that all-important word, ‘talent,’ those institutions need to understand what you bring to the training and whether or not they feel they can work with you. I’m going to run through some of the key components a drama school audition panel might be looking for.
It’s a highly compact environment. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with a certain group of people, all pushing themselves to whatever limits they have. It’s like a lightning rod, sparks have to fly, but you hope it will be creative and not destructive. The panel will look to judge you on how well you get along with others in a highly intense and personal space, like the auditions, as a judgement of character. Playing nicely is an integral role of acting – it’s not a place for personal disagreements or issues.
Straightforward people will get the work done and push people to be the best they can be. It also allows for discussions on how to best go about something. The panel are looking for people that aren’t afraid to ask questions and give constructive feedback. Half of the course is what you do away from class-time and the dialogue between you and your peers should raise your level. The unusual balance of being a straightforward person with the social skills to match, is something many people find overtly challenging. Knowing when to be serious and when to relieve the tension in a company is a useful skill to an actor and highly trainable.
‘Genuine’ being the keyword. We’re all actors at heart, using our skills in every day situations. That confidence that you feign when you go on a first-date is transparent to the panel. After all, they do this every day, hundreds of times, in their work away from auditioning prospective students and when they do just that. Being confident on stage makes the panel feel confidant that they can work with you in an atmosphere for learning. So, practising those monologues in front of people you’re not comfortable with, talk to people on the street about the weather, this will help you find an inner strength which is instantly noticeable.
Awareness of Self
How well do you know your capabilities? Do you know what you bring to this world? It’s important for an actor to understand that, at the moment, he wouldn’t be able to play certain people or … juggle on stage, for instance. Awareness of self on stage is more localised though, it’s about being swept up in the moment of drama and still being able to utilise the skills you’ve formulated during rehearsals. In a performance, your adrenaline picks up and walking on to stage is exciting, delivering lines that everyone is listening to feels powerful. Then it’s over. It’s gone. It’s a moment-by-moment profession that can pass you by without you realising you’ve forgotten something. If you know your limitations and can control that energy pumping around your body on stage, you’re a performer. An acting school needs performers.
This should be obvious but if you’re lying about being yourself upon entering, they’ll see. It’s you who the acting academies are auditioning. Give an account of yourself, otherwise you might as well have sent a stranger. It’s the same during the performance, accents and props are not needed to convince anyone that you can act. The panel want to see a character that has lived a life, just ‘being’ and having a ‘desire’ during the performance. The panel doesn’t want to see 2 monologues, they want to see ‘real.’ You are the easiest person to be in your life; so, just pick yourself up, and put yourself in the scenario that the script dictates.
As previously stated, this is a hard course and requires the utmost commitment to keep you on track. The ability to show the panel that you can and will put in the work, even on those hard days when nothing seems to be going right, that will be vital. Knowing your lines, being fluent on the play you’re performing and understanding every inch of your characters mentality are all indicators that you truly want to be an actor.
It’s hard work; but do you truly want to be an actor?