Deciding to audition for drama school is a great show of someone’s determination and passion to begin the path of following your dream but (and this is a big but) getting in to drama school is not the only path you could take to follow desire to become a successful actor.
When I started auditioning for drama schools I remember how anxious I became, so I wanted to write an article on my advice, along with an interview with my former tutor and Head Of Acting at Arts Ed, Gareth Farr, to add his thoughts on the auditions for potential intake.
Do your homework and look in to all the schools that you think would best suit your personality. Like anyone, you will most likely want to automatically audition for the schools that your favourite actor/actress attended but take it from me, that is not always necessarily the best fit for you. All drama schools offer the relatively similar basic training but they all teach differently; so do your homework on each one, reach out to ex students, attend open days – it’s (hopefully) for the next three years, so you want to ensure you’re at a place you feel is most beneficial and comfortable for you. Also, remember to take money into account. An audition fee alone at schools can range from £25 – £65, on top of that travel needs to be thought of, so just make sure you’re being realistic!
Most schools will expect you to learn a classical Shakespearean monologue and a contemporary piece. It is very easy to simply pick up a ‘Monologue For Actors’ book, select the first one and start to learn it, but I cannot emphasise enough the importance of really taking the time to get to know what you are like as an actor and what your strengths are. If you know you’re great at comedy, do a comedy piece. If you know you would feel at home performing an intensely dark monologue, do that. You need to perform something that:
a) Makes you feel connected to it and,
b) Makes you feel something for the character. I always know if I truly feel in touch with a piece by how quickly and how much I understand the text. If you cannot comprehend the piece, how do you expect the panel to? You want to engage the audience, not shock or confuse them. When deciding on a classical piece – do not fear! Shakespeare can be a little daunting at first but you’ll come to understand that it really is no different to a modern day piece. If you really have no idea where to start, first, look up a character in Shakespeare’s classics that is nearest to your casting age range. Next, read their monologues and translate them. Shakespeare was a ridiculously talented man whose intelligence was far beyond his time period, and his writing still applies to us today.
After choosing your monologues, READ THE ENTIRE PLAY. The panel may well ask you questions, and not knowing the answers just comes across as lazy.
Choose material that you like and not just something that you know. Yes, Juliet’s ‘O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?’ is a beautiful monologue, but if you have simply chosen it because you could not be bothered, or were even scared to explore Shakespeare’s other greats, it will show. You need to not be afraid to delve in and explore; I guarantee you will find several monologues from his plays that you feel extremely passionate about.
Rehearsal and feedback
Whilst I auditioned for drama school, I had a great mentor, Ian Mann (who I met through taking my LAMDA Acting Grade Examinations.) Working with someone I completely trusted to give me honest comments about my work, and hearing their opinion on how I could improve really helped me structure my mind toward being open and respectful to people’s opinions. If you have someone, i.e. a drama teacher, close friend, family member – anyone you know who will be sincere with you and not afraid to tell you the truth, showcase your performances to them and request their honest feedback. Ask if they understood each word, your pitch and volume, pace, and if it made them feel something.
Auditioning for drama school is not a test. No school expects you to behave a certain way in order to attend their school; they simply just want to see you – the person in front of them for those few imperative minutes you have. They want to get to know you and what your passions and hobbies are. Of course you love to act, they already know that (otherwise you would not be standing in front of them), but they also want to see a three-dimensional person with other aspects that make them tick. In the conversational part of the audition, the panel are not testing you; they simply want to get to know you, alike to how you should want to get to know them. You too, are interviewing them, and seeing if you could work with them. It is not one-sided; it’s an opportunity for you to meet new people and have fun!
Domenique Fragale is an actress who trained at Arts Educational Schools and splits her time between London and L.A.. Next week: Gareth Farr, award-winning playwright, on being on the other side of audition panels.