Free (and Almost Free) Ways to Stay on Your Game After Graduating
Looking for ways to maintain your craft without breaking the bank? We have you covered.
By Abiola Ogunbiyi
The final year of (metaphorical, I hope) blood, sweat, and diaphragm exercises better known as drama school is over, and the world and the rapturous applause of professional work awaits.
Of all the possibilities graduating brings, however, one certainty rings clear: saying hello to the outside world means saying goodbye to the rigorous structures that shaped you for it. You want to maintain your well-earned peak performance, but the weekly classes, workshops, and materials needed to do so outside college add up to a hefty cost.
However, with a spoonful of ingenuity, you can stay on your game without breaking your bank. Let this article be your helping hand into the old, new, and quirky “career boosting comps” to keep you on the sunny side of your overdraft, and the upper hand of your growth.
Disclaimer: Most of these activities carry the assumption that you either have access to the internet or a data contract, things I appreciate are not free. For free internet access, your local library will be your best bet. But I have done my best to add “internet-free” versions to the activities. I’ve got your back.
Let’s Get Physical
One of the best things to do for both your physical and mental health after graduating is to create a solid morning routine with at least 45 minutes of physical activity (replicating the sweat of those delightful Monday morning ballet/jazz sessions). Save on gym membership and go for a run around your neighbourhood, then return home for one of the thousands of “no equipment, no fee” yoga, pilates, or cardio routines available on YouTube. You can even create your own, based on your college exercises. I have developed an adoration for Yoga with Adriene; she releases a free video every week and even has a specific “Yoga for Actors” practice as well as other routines for focus, concentration, and self-love.
And exercise doesn’t have to be a lone-ranger activity. Why not create a weekly running club or bootcamp with any fellow graduates living nearby? As another (cheap as you make it) option, you could even get a large group together and split the cost of a studio space to recreate a dance or movement class. The Royal Opera House has a full ballet class available online - one of you could even pretend to be one of your old teachers as a role play exercise! (too far?).
I’m Bringing Paperback, Yeah!
As actors, we are surrounded by words. As such, a vital part of our craft is mastering our ability to read intentionally and analytically.
The American journalist Mary Schmich said “Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.” I say that ticket can forgo the new edition price tag. Head to your local council’s website to see where your nearest libraries are and set aside some time to get lost in a world of complimentary literature. Online, both Open Library and Project Gutenberg have free access to thousands of books.
Stage and screen texts? For those London-based, the National Theatre reading corner is a wonderful place to get cosy and pour over a breadth of playtexts and acting books. Otherwise, search for the biggest bookstore in your area with a film and theatre section. Even non-fiction reading will serve your growth well. Having a home day? Why not read through a work of the great bard’s, ALL available for free at http://shakespeare.mit.edu/. For screenplays, Script Reader Pro has a page on their website completely dedicated to movie scripts of a variety of genres.
Knowledge Pays the Best Interest
As a young child, I was obsessed with dance movies (I still am). In the 2004 cult classic “You Got Served”, a B-Boy breakdancer balances on his hands in a “freeze”. I became determined to master this and would pause the DVD every time it came on. After many tries - and bags of peas for my wrists - I was finally able to do it, and am still proudly using it today (available for weddings and special events).
Since my self-taught days, we’ve been blessed with skills upon skills to pick up via online tutorials. Save on accent coaching by using the accent tag challenge to pick up dialects until you’re ready to get fine tuning. Learn to juggle if you’re so moved. Watch press interviews with various actors and observe the way they engage with the interviewer. Write down any charismatic traits you would like to embody in your next meeting. Use YouTube instrumentals to practice your singing rep. The web can be your handy course guide in a day of total free-of-charge skill immersion.
What Friends Are For
After three years of training with people who are all focused and passionate about the same thing, it’s a big shift to lose the camaraderie and community of drama school. Something I highly recommend is setting up a mastermind with a group of your closest college friends. You can work with one person via Skype, or communicate with a group in a forum such as Slack.
Get together and set weekly career and business goals. Send each other your audition scripts for more self-tape practice and meet up to do rounds of taping and feedback. Celebrate each other’s auditions as well as each other’s jobs. This isn’t an easy business and the more you support your fellow artists early on, the more you will feel supported.
Final Two Cents
Actors are eternal graduates, always moving into new territory, and challenging our bodies and minds to adapt to these changes; hopefully the resources above have shown you that this continual development is possible at an extra-lean and pretty fun cost.
As you make these first step into the business, continue to remember the resilience that brought you to and through drama school, and trust truly that, as your career moves forward, no matter what the numbers on your bank statement read, you’ll always have everything you need to invest in yourself.
Abiola Ogunbiyi is an actress and screenwriter, whose performance credits include Mamma Mia!, The Book of Mormon, Alone In Berlin, Girls (Theatre); Jamestown, The Interview (Television), and A Boy Called Christmas (Film). Her short film Sexellence won Best International Film at the Portland Comedy Film Festival (2018), and Best Comedy Short at the Grand Budapest Film Festival (2019). In addition to writing and acting, Abiola runs the platform To Be A Better Artist, facilitating workshops to support wellbeing amongst creative professionals.
Headshot by Crista Leonard.