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News & Advice

Want to make theatre with a local company? Here’s how to get started.

Whether you’re looking for that vital last credit for your Spotlight membership application or just love theatre (and don’t quite know how to get the Old Vic’s attention!), approaching small theatre companies can be a great way to gain a foot in the door in London’s vibrant theatre scene. We spoke recently to Ross McGregor, the Arrows & Traps Theatre Company’s director, who had these tips to share  when approaching a small theatre company like theirs. Their latest production, Crime and Punishment, is on at the Brockley Jack until February 25th – take a look!

Show us your enthusiasm – we want to work with positive people

“We do it for the adoration of theatre, so if I can tell from a casting (which might be 20 minutes) that you adore acting, or adore the process from the first reading to the first preview show, then that’s attractive. You want to work with people who are just as keen as you.”

Share your ideas about the specific role – don’t just cut and paste applications

“The castings do have lots of applicants, so the first thing I look at is whether it’s a sort of cut and pasted application – when people leave the name in caps ready to be changed, and it doesn’t say anything about us or the show. That for me is a no. I want them to address something about the play – all the shows we do are well known, you should have seen the script somewhere before, or at least read a breakdown online. So that is the first thing: I need to know why you want it, what attracts you to the role.”

It won’t necessarily be about your experience to date – we are open minded about the right performers for the part

“It’s a great deal to do with what [the actor or actress] brings on the day – we don’t look for particular experience.”

“Some people wouldn’t cast from actors who haven’t done Shakespeare before – I don’t hold that view. How can you get Shakespeare experience if you don’t have Shakespeare experience?”

Show team spirit – be ready to get stuck in

“You need to be keen and energised – you need to be willing to help out and be involved. We don’t have a huge crew, so it is a team effort. Everyone rolls up sleeves and gets on board.”

Be patient – there’s always room for new faces to join a core group of actors

“Once you’re in Arrows & Traps, if the role is right for you, we would have a chat. If it’s something big – so Iago, for instance, you may have to read, but I offer to both the Arrows and new people, to keep things fresh. We have had a few where I thought certain roles would be great for certain members of our core, but I would never just keep all our cast identical. We always thread through new faces.”

Try to keep calm – you’re allowed to make mistakes!

“I try to make the audition as non-stressful as possible but I can completely understand it is a stressful process. The biggest thing you see is when people do go wrong and have to start again – their confidence levels are thrown. The truth is that I don’t care. You can have three or four goes, the important thing is to stay calm! If you get too in your head and you start to overthink things you lose the energy and flow of it. And it then becomes stressful for both of us – it becomes awkward for all of us in the room.”

Show up in person – show that you are interested in what we do

“We really like it when young actors have seen that we are casting, worked out when the shows are, come along, seen it, found me or one of the other actors and introduced themselves – that just works better. Then they’re more than just an email address and a headshot – they’ve expressed interest as well. In fact, everyone in Crime and Punishment did that; they all came and approached us. We get a lot of emails in a week and we run workshops and things, which are good ways to get introduced. They aren’t too expensive – usually £10 or so.”

Crime and Punishment is the Arrows & Traps Theatre Company’s latest production, on at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 7th to the 25th February 2017. Book now!

Image Credits: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative