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Confessions of a CDS Virgin: Hamlet2B is all wrapped up

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Hamlet2B

hamlet2b wrapped up

This week I have portrayed a sex-starved parade of men, a historic civil rights campaigner and an authoritarian father figure from a bygone era. But enough of my personal life

(N.B. these were all assessments!)

It’s official – I have finished all my classes and am slap-bang in the middle of my first year performance, and to say that I’ve been cast against type would be an understatement. For those of you struggling to imagine the transformation, imagine Julian Clary as Stanley in Streetcar and you won’t be too far off the mark. On the one hand, I’m excited by the opportunity – it’s so easy to stay where one is comfortable and to focus on what one already does well (indeed, let’s be honest, this is pretty much going to define my career – we may all be trained to play ‘anything’ but it’s unlikely we’ll get the chance). On the other, it’s a certain kind of pressure – I want to be believable as someone who is so far removed from me and pretty much anyone I know that we are as strangers.

Here’s where the ‘falling in love’ begins. My eternally quotable director – he of the incitement of mass ‘WTF’ thought bubbles – is a fierce advocate of this and I actually – shock, horror – really understand it. Exploring the play has made the challenge seem more surmountable – there’s always something in a character that makes one say “okay, I get you”, and from there, hopefully, one is able to layer on everything else – body language, movement, voice – and build outwards. I guess that, in terms of creating characters, people have more in common than they realise – reactions, thought processes, a sense of morality – which provide an inroad. Simply put, people are people at heart and the rest is window dressing. So all I have to do is find the right outfit for the mannequin. That’s the plan, anyway.

In other news, there’s a real sense of wrapping up at school – the third years are preparing to leave and there’s a pervading sense of expectation in the air as they embark on their showcases and, hopefully, their careers. Strangely enough – despite having had a career of sorts already – the idea of being in this position in two years terrifies me. It’s incredible how safe one feels whilst at school – wrapped in a blanket that offers intriguing glimpses of the industry, but shields one from full exposure. I guess it’s the dread scenario in which I do my showcase and… that’s it, everything goes away – the link to the business, the network, the guidance… it all comes down to that moment.

I’m sensible enough to know that’s not true, of course, and that one should think of the three years purely as a training ground, a pre-battlefield in which to strategise, but the sense of desperation pervades. HELP ME.

Meh. I’ll worry about it next year…

Hamlet2B

Image: All Wrapped Up

Hamlet2B

Hamlet2B is a working actor currently retraining at drama school. He enjoys lentils, the novels of Jane Austen and the colour green.

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Inside out: How do you get seen by the right people?

Posted on 19 July 2012 by Camilla Gurtler

I believe every actor’s mum has told him at least once that she will be his manager when he reaches Hollywood. I’ve got at least five people who have promised to manage me if I ever find myself next to Johnny Depp. As a child, the idea of your mum doing all the boring paper work for you till you are forty doesn’t sound too bad. However, getting to know the business you realise your mum’s contacts down the local bakery won’t get you rolling with the RSC.

Getting an agent is vital if you want to work in the industry and get paid more than expenses and a watery coffee from Starbucks. It is extremely frustrating realising that a new production has a character that fits your typecast perfectly – the actor even looks exactly like you – but it’s too late ’cause no one notified you. And why is that? Because you don’t have an agent.

Your agent is the one to push you forth in a business where you will find thousands of other actors who look exactly like you. There are plenty of fish in the sea so you need a specialist to point out to all the buyers why you are better than the salmon next to you. And how are you supposed to be caught by the right people if no one tells them you are there?

That said, it’s not like you can click you fingers and find yourself managed by Ken Mcreddie (a major London agency). If you have a genie, now is the time to rub the lamp and wish, otherwise plenty of hard work and “no”s await you. Because getting an agent is a paradox: you can’t get proper jobs without one, but you can’t get an agent without a proper job to showcase your talent. So what do you do? People say “go to drama school” (in heightened RP and then nod their heads) – but what if drama school is not for you? Is the business then closed to you?

It is like Peter Pan without his shadow – he cannot live without it, but he has to, at least until it is sewed back on. Your agent is your shadow, the one who watches over you and pushes you in the right direction. They are there to make money, and so are you which makes it very beneficial: two people pushing for you to succeed is better than one.

So if you are missing your shadow at the moment it might be intimidating, but don’t give up and let others bring you down. Get as many jobs on your own as possible, show off what you can do, contact as many agencies as you can. Worst case scenario is a “no thank you”, which you should be used to by now. Mother Fortune will wave her wand a little at some point and if not, well, then it’s bad Starbucks coffee and expenses only while mum is doing her manager-magic.

Image credit: Xiaojun Deng.

Camilla Gurtler

Camilla Gurtler

Camilla is currently training as a director on the Young Directors’ Programme with StoneCrabs Theatre Company. Camilla has worked as a director, actress and writer in Denmark and London, and loves Shakespeare, greek tragedies and children’s theatre. She’s obsessed with coffee, dislikes ranting on stage and hates the colour yellow. Especially mustard-yellow.

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Never Properly Born: Do artists have to follow the industry model?

Posted on 17 May 2012 by Never Properly Born

“Is this really what I want to be doing?” As an actor not six months out of drama school, that is the question I was asking myself at the start of this year, although perhaps not for the reasons you might be expecting. I was well prepared for the rigours of the industry. Drama school had force-fed me the image of a Withnail-esqe existence and I was ready for the challenge (lighter fluid and all). I wasn’t thinking about giving up. I was considering the path before me and asking “is this the only route an actor can take?”

Five months ago I was where the majority of young actors find themselves: the road of drama schools, agents, castings, the day job, doing some work and of course eventually superstardom and lots of Dom Perignon. I was tiptoeing along that course and building up the old CV in the hope of impressing some people who apparently could offer me something. I was on a quest for creative fulfilment, but quite frankly I found the industry wanting.

This was around the time that Simon Stephens and others were scrutinising the industry for being too “conservative” and “taking fewer risks” (an argument recently revived by Dan Rebellato). I looked at what I was doing and I couldn’t help but agree. It all seemed so pointless. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing. I was merely doing work for the sake of doing it and WHY? To appear ‘busy’ to those gatekeepers who supposedly hold all the opportunities.

Instead of squandering my youth trying to please people who need not be pleased I made the decision to go my own way and make things happen. In what feels like no time at all I started my own new writing company – Never Properly Born Theatre Ltd. I stopped going to auditions, dragged some trusted colleagues together and poured all my spare time/resources into the company. We then clarified our ideas and defined an aim:

To manifest the lives of our audience, and ask questions about the world we live in now and where we’re going in the future.

Before we could even walk I approached the Tristan Bates Theatre about staging a new (unwritten) play at their venue. To our collective wonder they said “yes.” As a company, we’re now creating a new piece of writing that explores themes of greed, belonging and security, as well as asking what it means to be young and part of our world in the twenty-first century.

In the future (as early as September) we want to accept unsolicited scripts from young people who have something truthful to say about our place in the world right now. We then intend to develop one script later this year and give it a full professional production.

Essentially this is my plea for young artists to consider the industry we’re in and not to unthinkingly accept the path that’s set out before them, because, let’s be honest, is it really the most artistically rewarding approach? Are we being made reliant on people we shouldn’t be? Do great things really await us if we just stick to the ‘yellow brick road’? Or, as Dorothy and her friends found in Wizard of Oz, is there an inconvenient truth waiting behind the curtain?

It seems relevant to end this blog with a recent quote from Dennis Kelly. In his opening speech at Stückemarkt he said:

“I believe young theatre makers need a very healthy dose of ‘go fuck yourself’. I think it’s useful for a young theatre maker to look at the things they’re being told, to think about them, assess them and then – if necessary – say ‘go fuck yourself.”

In many ways, I took a long look at what the industry model had to offer and after much consideration I decided to say ‘go fuck yourself.’

This is an open invite for you to do the same.

Written by artistic director Ash Rowbin. Shelter, the company’s first production, will be staged at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe from 6-11 August.

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Behind the Scenes: Applying to Drama School

Posted on 09 November 2011 by Marése O'Sullivan

Have you ever felt, when you’re performing onstage, acting out a scene, or hearing applause for your interpretation of a character, that you could do that for life? Turning drama from your passion, love and strength into a soaring acting career – potentially rubbing shoulders with the stars of Hollywood – is a difficult step. There are many routes into the industry and going to drama school is only one of them. There is no right or wrong path, only the one that suits you best. Courses at drama schools are practical and vocational, designed to prepare you for a life working as an actor. If you are considering applying to drama school to gain a practical acting qualification, A Younger Theatre’s seven top tips and advice to help you try to secure one of those elusive places might just help you score the dream profession you’ve always wanted.

Read on to find out how to enter our exclusive competition with Nick Hern Books to win a copy of Helen Freeman’s So You Want To Go To Drama School? **COMPETITION NOW CLOSED**

1) Commit to the craft

Undergraduate acting courses typically last for three years. There will undoubtedly be a huge amount of competition for very few places. You are judged not only on your dramatic abilities and theatrical talent, but also on your determination to thrive in your chosen field. You will be expected, for the majority of drama courses, to attend at least one audition and an interview to gain entry to your course. Know what you’re letting yourself in for and make sure it’s what you really want.

It is incredibly tough to get onto a drama course. The National Council of Drama Training states that “between only 2% and 10% of all the students who apply for a place at drama school actually succeed in getting onto accredited courses”. It can help to take second-level education as far as you can first. Many schools do not just base their acceptances on pure talent – they seek a certain level of academic achievement too. For example, Central School of Speech and Drama seeks “minimum entry requirements [of] two Cs at A Level and three Cs at GCSE. Offers may be higher than this depending upon expected grades and performance at audition.”

Securing employment as an actor can be challenging, even with a degree behind you, but a drama qualification can serve to enhance your understanding of your craft and will also give you an opportunity to get advice from experienced academics working in the industry.

2) Sell yourself

If you make films, write scripts, have had a role in a school play, entered acting competitions or won prizes for creative work, talk about it. Any bit of previous experience is a bonus and will enhance your application.

Many drama schools offer short specialised courses – or even one-day introduction workshops – with industry experts for a quick immersion in acting, directing or technical production skills during the summer or academic year. Use these courses to get a flavour of what it would be like to study drama at the institution – and don’t forget to mention your participation at these programmes during your interview.

Applying through UCAS will require you to write a personal statement. Be sure to demonstrate your passion and give strong reasons for applying. Talk about yourself both as a person and as a performer.

3) Don’t be shy

Why have you got a passion for drama? The Admissions team wants to know that they are making the right choice by allocating one of the rare places to you. Know what you want to say. No one but you will convince them that drama is your calling and your vocation. Read the prospectus, check out their Facebook and Twitter so you can tell the interviewers what appeals to you about their particular course. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – as long as they’re not answered on the first page of the prospectus.

Interviews can range from a casual chat about your dramatic interests to an intense discussion of the last play you saw. Write down a list of points beforehand that you’d like to try to discuss, or even have a mock interview with a friend. This can help settle your nerves but remember, the conversation should flow naturally. Show the staff how committed you are to acting, but also demonstrate your ability to work as part of an ensemble or team.

Doing several auditions will increase your confidence, and they’re usually held worldwide. For example, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art holds auditions for their courses in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, Dublin and New Delhi, as well as all over the UK. Apply to a few institutions. If you don’t get selected for one, you will still have other options open to you. It’s your choice, in the end, and it’s better to have a wide selection of drama schools from which to take your pick.

4) All the world’s a stage

When choosing a monologue to perform at your audition, have at least two up your sleeve. Read the instructions that the establishment send you carefully, as they will often list the regulations for the audition. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, for example, request applicants prepare “two contrasting monologues each under three minutes in length (one modern and one Shakespeare/Jacobean) and have an optional Shakespeare/Jacobean piece ready to present if requested by the panel.”

Bring a copy of each monologue with you to glance over before your audition, and make sure to have read the entire play and know it well. Having perused it multiple times will benefit you; you will know at what point the scene is occurring and you will have more of an insight into how the character is feeling. Pick a monologue that appeals to you. This will come across to the staff. Be able to explain why you chose that particular character in that specific play.

5)  Be money-wise

It may be necessary to invest in financial support to fund your drama degree. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be eligible for a grant or bursary, or you could consider taking out a loan.

Many institutions offer dance and drama scholarships to very talented students. Student Finance England states that these awards “are offered to the students who demonstrate the most potential to succeed in the profession [and] will pay for the majority of your tuition fees, but you’ll also be expected to make a contribution.  You could also get extra money to help with your living costs.”

Check out individual websites to see what financial aid various institutions can provide. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, for example, awards scholarships that “may be made to cover either the full cost of tuition fees or a fraction of them, and may include an element for maintenance”. Guildhall also gives “in excess of £1 million per annum” to students seeking funding assistance.

6) Persevere

There are always options available at postgraduate level, should you not study drama as an undergraduate. You can apply for a masters or doctorate in drama, even if you’ve specialised in another area for your degree. Drama schools consider students from any background, whether English, medicine or business, as long as they have an undeniable passion and talent for performance.

You can always gain some more drama experience before you apply for a course. Try to get some work experience in the industry and make contacts. Anything from helping out on a student film, being cast in a fringe theatre production or getting a small role as a film extra will help you to make yourself known in the acting world. Take some film or acting classes. Go to your local library and take out some books on your craft; familiarise yourself with the industry’s terminology.

Life experience, too, is always valued in an application. You could discuss your world travels, a gap year where you volunteered abroad, or even why you’ve decided you need a change of career. You could even share your passion with others. Teaching drama can be a great way of encouraging students to develop their love of acting, as well as being a very fulfilling job for many drama enthusiasts.

7) Have a great support network

Studying drama and forging a career in performance will be tiring physically and mentally, and many demands will be placed on you – from heavy rehearsal schedules to technique assignments – especially in final year (doing a showcase in front of industry professionals, agents and casting directors is a common feature of the last year of drama study).

The Conference of Drama Schools notes that “a full-time student can expect to be in classes for at least thirty hours per week, plus research and preparation time. Students need to be physically and mentally fit.” Having the backing of family, friends and peers is crucial and can really help you to concentrate on achieving your goals, particularly during the audition process.

In short…

Drama school will give you incredible creative stimulation, collaborating with professionals and fellow students alike. Having a wide range of skills at your fingertips – writing, playing an instrument, singing, dancing – to combine with your acting talent will give you a strong foundation for a flourishing career.

Make a showreel of the work you were involved in during your university years to show prospective agents. The National Council of Drama Training states that the majority of actors work professionally for “an average of 11.3 weeks of the year”, so it’s vital to get as much voluntary experience as you can under your belt. The actors’ union Equity recommends that actors know “how to prepare for and perform at auditions and casting sessions… they must be uninhibited, in order to temporarily assume other identities.”

Pursuing a degree in performance will not only sharpen your acting skills and cement your love of theatre, but will place you in a firmly established drama community where you will be able to take your first steps towards a career as a professional actor.

For more in-depth information on the application process to drama school and making the right choices for you, Helen Freeman’s So You Want To Go To Drama School?, published by Nick Hern Books (RRP £9.99), is packed full of practical advice on choosing the right drama school, applying for funding and preparing for your audition. This title is available to purchase here.

“Buy this book” The Stage

**NOW CLOSED** A Younger Theatre is giving away two copies of So You Want To Go To Drama School? courtesy of Nick Hern Books. For your chance to win a copy, simply tweet @ayoungertheatre telling us what your audition monologue of choice would be and why by Monday 14 November. Make sure you’re following us on Twitter to be eligible to win!

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