When I was applying for university in 2016 I was torn between Criminology and Drama. After much deliberation, I eventually applied to go to Leeds University to study Criminology for three years. I deferred my entry by a year because at the time I didn’t feel ready to go to University. So, to cut a long story short… I decided that Criminology wasn’t the degree for me and doing a gap year wasn’t the best decision either. I did my research on a couple of Universities to find a course that suited me for Drama. By this point I had left it so late that I ended up gaining a place through clearing and arranged my accommodation and student loan in about a week. Something that most students do over the space of a couple of months, so as you can imagine I was a little bit stressed. Anyway, I got it all arranged and started studying Drama and Performance at the University of Worcester in September 2016.
I felt that when I was applying to University I didn’t really have much guidance when considering Drama as a degree. So, I am dedicating this post to those students who feel or have felt the same way. I have spoken to different people to gain information about their experiences, applying for courses and any advice they would give potential students and much more.
Below is a survey of all the questions I wanted answers to when considering Drama as a degree or auditioning for stage school.
I hope it helps!
Name: Georgia Elizabeth
University: University of Worcester
Course: Drama and Performance
What helped you to decide you wanted to study Drama as a degree?
I have always been passionate about Drama and it has always been my favorite subject, so for me I didn't need help. I always knew it was something that I wanted to do.
What do you enjoy about studying Drama at University?
I enjoy the versatility and freedom we have to explore different ideas and practitioners. In first year, I was able to look at several different plays and learn many new techniques which gave me the freedom to create a new piece of work. This was different from school because after a while you learn everything and just wait for your exam, whereas, at Uni there's always more to do.
Why did you you choose the University of Worcester?
I chose Worcester because I liked the look of the modules and it seemed like we would get to learn different skills in every lecture. Also I appreciated the fact that we were allowed to make a lot of our own decisions yet still receive help from lecturers and tutors.
How has doing Drama helped you develop as a person?
It has helped me to be more resilient as a whole and build on team work. It is very similar to any other working environment as we often work in groups we are constantly relying on each other therefore we all have to be empathetic and resilient when dealing with each other, which is something I have been developing whilst studying Drama.
Name: Callum Jordan
University: University of Cumbria
Course: Performing Arts
Why did you chose to study Performing Arts at the University of Cumbria?
To me, the course just offered something which not many other did. As well as developing my performance skills in Acting, Dance and Musical Theatre. I also get the opportunity to collaborate with visiting directors to create unique productions within a professional working environment. In each production as well, I am also challenged with a technical role such as lighting design or marketing so it feels like we're really being trained to be employable in a variety of field withing the industry.
What type of modules do you study on your course?
My course includes Drama, Musical Theatre, Dance Theatre, Design and Stagecraft as well as Contextual Studies.
What was the audition process like for your course?
I took part in a group movement workshop in which we did a vocal and physical warm up; were taught a small piece of choreography and we had to apply some voice work to it, to later perform in small ensemble groups. We then had one-to-one auditions in which you had to prepare a contemporary musical theatre song to perform and an acting monologue. The lecturers were friendly and made me feel at ease with positive feedback and asked me questions about what I wanted from the course to assure me that i'd be making the right decision for myself as a performer.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being a Performing Arts student?
Probably the hours of commitment it takes to create a production! In our recent production, we were sometimes working from 9am till 8pm with out directors and then having to do jobs and plan for our technical roles in any spare that we had! But that's all part of the job at the end of the day, putting blood, sweat and tears towards a deadline with the goal of putting on a show! It all pays off when you have that amazing end product in front of an audience.
What category of Performing Arts do you enjoy the most and why?
That's a difficult one because I'm so passionate about every single things but I'd probably have to go with acting! It's the thing I've done the longest out of everything to do with performing but still the thing I'm learning the most about everyday with my university course! There's so many different methods and practitioners that I can still benefit and learn so much from when creating a character. I've learnt a lot about acting through through studying musical theatre and dance – every skill that you learn along the way is valuable for something!
Name: Grace Lilley
Drama School: RADA (starting September 2017)
What Drama Schools did you audition for?
I auditioned for 8 schools:
Central School of Speech and Drama,Rose Bruford, RADA, Guildhall, ArtsEd, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and two Universities in Manchester; Chichester and Manchester Met.
Why did you choose those schools?
I was really keen to audition for a lot for a lot of different schools with it being my first year, as I really wanted to get a sense of everything that was out there and make sure I had different experiences of what it could be like training at different schools. I chose them because of the reputation that I knew they had with actor training, as well as recommendations from friends that have studied at some of the schools.
What was the application process like for your chosen schools?
A lot of it was done through online applications, I think RADA was the only one that wasn't – for that I had to print application forms from the website and manually fill them out and post them. In terms of online applications it was a split between UCAS (the universities, GSA, Central and Rose Bruford) and completing forms on the websites of the schools (Guildhall, LAMDA, ArtsEd, AADA). Once my actual applications were sent the schools contacted me with preliminary audition dates and the requirements – some schools called for one Shakespeare monologue and one contemporary, with the definitions of that time scale varying. For example, some schools classify contemporary as anything written after 1960, whilst others might say 1980. Some schools called for more, maybe two of each, but in my experience they rarely ask to see all of them. The length of the auditions also varied between the schools – I remember my LAMDA audition lasted around fifteen minutes, as they saw two of my pieces and then conducted a short interview about why I wanted to train as an actor and what I was currently studying at college. However, my GSA audition featured a short workshop and Q&A session as well, and whilst they only asked for one of our prepared pieces the audition lasted close to three hours. Once the first rounds where over it was just a matter of waiting to hear back, and again the time frames varied a lot – whilst I received the result of my ArtsEd audition, I didn't hear from Rose Bruford for three weeks. Some schools might have two rounds to their application processes, but RADA's BA Acting course has the longest auditions that I know of with four rounds.
Did you receive any guidance from your college when applying for drama school or did you do a lot of it independently?
I definitely did a lot of it independently – my college were very helpful in setting up my UCAS-based applications and helping me with my personal statement and references, and my drama teachers were wonderful with helping me select monologues and offering me any constructive criticism as I was rehearsing my pieces, but in terms of the actual applications I did the majority of them without help.
Which schools did you get accepted by?
I was accepted by AADA and Chichester for their three year degree courses, and by Rose Bruford, GSA and RADA for their foundation courses.
What do you think makes a successful audition?
I'd say above everything else, preparation – know your lines and blocking, read your play (maybe even multiple times) and understand the context of it and your characters role and development throughout it, and even research the school alumni, and their respective work. Confidence is a really big factor as well, and a willingness to experiment and take risks with what you show the audition panel. I'd also say an awareness of how you might be coming off – the school want to see that you can collaborate well with both your teachers and other actors, so going in and being friendly, open and constructive with other people auditioning will say a lot about someone as a potential student.
Name: Melissa Boyle (Blogger @TheDramaStudentBlog)
University: University of Worcester
Course: Drama and Performance
Why is drama so important to you?
Since being very young I always wanted to perform. I would always put on shows for family member in the living room at Christmas. So, drama and performing has always been part of my life. Joining a youth theatre was the best move I made towards developing my skills, I grew not only as a performer but as a person. I gained so much confidence, made amazing friends and have some of the best memories. So, drama is so important to me because it has had such a huge impact on me throughout my life.
Why did you choose to study drama at university?
When looking at courses I kept thinking about what would have the most career prospects for me and after a while I realised it was the wrong way to do things. I needed to study a degree subject that I was passionate about and not force myself into doing something because there was more chance of a job at the end of it. Drama has always been a huge part of my life and now I know what I want to do and where I want to go after I finish my degree; I feel that I have made the right decision.
Why did you choose Worcester University?
I chose Worcester University’s drama course because I felt that it was more suited to the way I like to learn. The course Is very practical, in the sense that; you do a lot of lectures in the drama studio really experimenting with different practitioner’s methods and devising your own work. But, just because the course is practically based it doesn’t mean that it is easier than a course with more written work. The written side of the course also plays a huge part in your overall success on the course as well, from creating portfolios to writing essays. Doing your own independent research is key! So, yeah… the balance between the written work and the practical work works great for me. It is all about finding out the best thing for you!
What is life like as a Drama student at University?
At the beginning of a semester life is quite easy, you have a couple of essays some research to do… which isn’t a bad thing for me because I love to spend time in the library. But towards the end of a semester life as a Drama student can sometimes be quite stressful if I am honest. Especially when it comes to assessment week and you have three or four different performances to rehearse for. Trying to fit all your rehearsals in and find time to write your essays can sometimes seem impossible. But once that is over and you finally feel like everything is coming together you feel like a weight has been lifted of your shoulders and you can get back to a more relaxed state.
Name: Elijah Young
Auditioned for stage schools all over England.
Why did you choose to audition for stage school rather than apply to study Drama at University?
This is a question I get asked a lot actually haha! I knew for a long time during my education that Uni wasn't the right scene for me and I also knew that that if I ever decided to go it would be for the wrong reasons. Auditioning has been a struggle and there's been many times where I've wanted to give in and just go to Uni like people had told me to. But I just know for me as a an actor and for my potential career it's the necessary training for the industry. For me personally, drama school is exactly everything I've wanted to do in further education.
Which auditions did you enjoy the most and why?
As soon as I started making friends and actually speaking to people at auditions the more I began to enjoy them! My first ever audition I was that nervous I didn't speak to a soul and I had the most miserable time. Making friends at auditions is a bizarre concept because you're essentially becoming besties with your competition, but it doesn't feel like that. I think it's the best thing you can do. Meeting people and hearing their experiences chills you out; especially when it's a full day audition you need the company to support you and keep you going. You can learn so much from other people and in some cases even snag good monologues!
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of auditioning for stage school?
Don't limit yourself to just auditioning in London. There are brilliant schools in all parts of the UK, some that I would even say have better training than the ones in London. Don't judge a school by word-of-mouth before you've been there and experienced the audition. Be open to suprising yourself at how much you might enjoy a place you thought you wouldn't fit. I auditioned at a school said to be the current best and I hated every minute I was there yet I fell in love with a school I initially thought wasn't right for me. I always go by the rule that there's no such thing as a perfect drama school but there a drama school that's perfect for you.
Do you still want to pursue acting or have you discovered other aspects of performing/theatre that take your interest?
Acting will always be a passion and I never want there to come a time where the door is closed for me. However, I have recently acknowledged the fact that I don't want to limit myself to being just an actor but also an artist in control of my own craft. I'm as equally as passionate about writing and directing as I am about acting. For example, I just recently was the movement director of a production and I've also began to write my own play which have both been challenging and exciting. Artistic expression in other elements of Theatre is something all actors should explore, I believe it makes us all better actors.
Thank you for reading: @TheDramaStudentBlog
If there are any questions, please leave a comment.