Shaine Marie Davis
I have been studying at a London drama school for almost a year now, and despite everyone telling you how easy it must be to do what you love all day, it isn't. So here's what I've learned so far.
1) The audition is brutal.
The audition is often brutal. You can be given the most bizarre feedback such as, to perform your dark, emotional piece like a fairy, or sing your song whilst imaging you have an elephant chasing you, and you have to be able to put a different spin on your piece immediately. You get put on the spot to answer questions and some audition panels will even ask you for a different audition piece if they didn't like yours. Just remember, the panel are on your side, they want you to be good! Putting yourself in the mindset of focussing on only how you will perform your piece and remembering exactly what your rehearsed will hinder you before the audition even begins.
2) There is no 'easing in' stage.
You will be thrown into some of the scariest and sometimes hardest things you've ever done in your life and you will be expected to do them. In my first week, I had to share a room full of people I had just met, the most emotionally overwhelming thing I've ever experienced and only receive feedback on the 'performance' element of my story. The best thing to remember is that every exercise is done to benefit you and often the things you find the hardest will help you the most.
3) You will be convinced you're going crazy.
Yes, having to hit someone as hard as you can with a pillow whilst speaking your monologue, pretending to be an animal or baby for an entire 3 hours and observing someone's every move for weeks on end is completely normal for Drama school training, even if you think yourself as crazy whilst you're doing them. There are days where I honestly wonder how on Earth these exercises could possibly benefit my performance, and that's ok.
4) Not everyone will love you.
Some teachers make it very clear how they feel toward certain people, and it just so happens that not every teacher will be a fan of yours. Teachers will often overwork or sometimes oversee the students that they think the least of or will give them a song or monolog choices that they hate. Think of this as a more varied learning experience, you will come out better off than those favourites who are never given a challenge.
6) Your classmates are usually not your friends.
In an ideal world everyone would respect each other and get along, but in reality, drama school students can be a disaster to be around. Despite training at the same school, other students will often perceive themselves as more talented than you, more experienced than you, more likely to get an agent than you etc. These people can hinder your time at Drama school and knock your confidence if you allow them to. Developing a thick skin and ignoring all negativity will only make you stronger for the brutality of the industry, so without realising it, they are helping you.
6) Your training never stops.
You may be training for up to 12 hours per day, but home time is not rest time. Teachers will tell you to look after your physical and mental health, but will expect you to stand in correct alignment at all times, repeatedly practise your RP accent, watch a show every night, practise your articulation, stretch, observe everyone and everything, write everything you feel down, and prepare next week's work, all in the few hours per day that you are not at Drama school. You will feel tired, you will feel physical pain, you will feel emotional pain and you will feel stress, but it is important to remember that you can't do everything. You must take time for yourself and allow yourself time to rest, even if it feels like you need to work. Drama school can be extremely overwhelming and it is important to allow yourself to step away from that for a moment.
7) The more you put in, the more you get out.
Warming up is boring, practising the things that you've learnt is repetitive and writing down your thoughts and feelings is tiring, but put in the extra work and I assure you it'll pay off.
Overall my Drama school experience so far has been a physical and emotional rollercoaster and although Drama school is not at all how I expected it to be, it has been the most enjoyable and rewarding learning experience of my life.
Shaine is a Musical Theatre performer/Actor who is currently studying at The Court Theatre Training Company drama school in London.
Photo: Saint Mary's University of Minnesota