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For many, the drama school audition process can feel intimidating, impersonal and inaccessible, thanks to high audition fees, compulsory self-tape submissions and limited opportunities to experience a school’s approach to training first-hand. However, one drama school has chosen to step away from the crowd and look at the experience from the applicants’ perspective to ensure their audition day provision is increasingly accessible and inclusive. Here, Steve Green, Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company’s CEO & Artistic Director, shares why the school have rejected the self-tape process and are committed to delivering a free, full-day audition provision, whatever the format.
Auditioning for drama school can seem the reserve of a privileged few and, despite recent nods to changing this, as far as I can see nothing has changed since I auditioned for drama school myself during the nineties. I was ‘privileged’ in so far as my ever-supportive Father was able and willing to take time off work to take me to auditions across the country. However, due to my otherwise modest background and means as boy from remote North Devon, these were limited to the handful of schools for which I could afford the audition fees. I auditioned for five schools and this ran into the hundreds of pounds, not to mention the indirect cost of my Dad’s time off work or the direct cost of fuel to make these opportunities possible.
Auditioning for five schools today (2021) will set applicants back in excess of £200 and upwards, and currently this to do so via a two-minute self-tape only – something I find astounding. To me, this represents a lack of connection with the applicants, as well as a lack of imagination on the part of the schools who are relying on this self-tape audition process as a means of filling their annual intake. Yes, there has certainly been a need to adapt our processes in light of the ongoing pandemic, however there must be a more inclusive way of doing this that does not see those young people who are brave and driven enough to enter the arts at a time of such uncertainty paying to submit a self-tape audition, working hard to create this, only to find it may then go unwatched or unacknowledged without having a chance to see the school or meet an audition panel.
We, as drama schools, must think – how does this impact on those who already feel excluded or unwelcome within this industry and how can we do better, both immediately in light of the pandemic and in the long-term?
As a school, Fourth Monkey are committed to making our training provision as inclusive and accessible as possible. This commitment is core to our training philosophy and previously saw us scrap all audition fees in September 2019. This year, it seemed only logical to take this one step further when adapting our audition process in response to the pandemic and design a full-day audition that could be delivered virtually, so that all applicants, no matter what their circumstances or location, were able to participate, get a true sense for our training philosophy and enjoy an aspect of being part of a collective, collaborative experience with fellow actors-in-training in the midst of an isolating global pandemic. With this in mind, we devised the Live Virtual Audition Day – free of charge, applicable across all training courses, and allowing applicants to treat their space as their studio for the day, no matter what or how big this might be. Within this virtual delivery, applicants will participate in collaborative workshops, as well as an individual audition plus interview with the panel – in short, everything necessary to come away clear of who and what Fourth Monkey, feeling they have truly been able to ‘see’ the school and that they in turn have been ‘seen’ by us.
We have by no means got everything “right”, however the fact that we are seemingly the only UK drama school increasingly thinking about the audition experience from an applicant’s, rather than the school’s, perspective is surely a step in the right direction and a move away from an audition process that is increasingly exclusive and prohibitive. As someone who wants to hear a greater variety of voices represented in the arts and on stage, I strongly believe “we” as training institutions should be looking to an audition system that works for the majority, not the few, and I am proud that, in this respect, Fourth Monkey appear to be evolving and adapting ahead of the curve to make this possible.
Auditions for Fourth Monkey’s 2021 intake across all training courses are now open, with all applications made directly via the Fourth Monkey website.