By Samantha May.
My experience in arts education has been minimal in comparison to some. I am not someone who did an entire 3-year degree at a university. Instead, I spent a good 2-3 years doing weekly workshops before I decided to do a part-time foundation course 6 hours a week and from there I decided to train full time for a year at Associated Studios - I then did an extra term after I graduated. In such a short time I have managed to learn so much about the industry and how best to manage yourself through drama school and ultimately further through your career.
6 Top Tips for Getting Through Drama School
1. Be prepared
The most important foundation to build yourself on when it comes to being at any drama or arts school is to be organised. This includes meal preparations for the week, preparing coursework and assignments on time, having everything ready in your bag the night before. Give yourself the best opportunity to focus on your work and your craft without having to worry about the school admin side of things, or even the human needs like finding time to eat! (trust me, I have been there).
2. Love what you do, and love yourself!
It goes without saying, though it was a lesson I learned the hard way, enjoy your craft and your industry. You are a whole person with a range of interests and hobbies that might not always align with your performing career but if it’s something you enjoy - Read plays for fun, watch musicals online, watch dance recitals and go to classes FOR FUN. Of course it’ll help you in your career but first and foremost, whatever you do needs to be done because you love it. Get used to different material, different writers and also it is so important to diversify your learning. Seek out writers from all ethnicities, backgrounds and communities (To start with – here is a link to an Instagram post about black writers in Theatre, and there are so many more).
3. Be adaptable
This industry is unpredictable at the best of times and arts schools can sometimes reflect that. Classes may change, lesson plans may change, things may change. Always be prepared to adapt to your circumstances, and it goes with my above point – always be prepared. Always come with all your types of shoes/clothes, all your notebooks, your repertoire prepared and displayed neatly and most of all, your open mind.
4. Know your resources
Knowing the resources that will help to save you time and money are going to be your best friend! There are a few that I stand by and will hopefully help you too (if you have access to them):
- iPad/Tablet – somewhere that you can store thousands upon thousands of books/play scripts/sheet music etc. It just helps if you forget to print something off, you can easily use a public printer and you don’t have to worry about finding documents.
- ForScore (app) – this is primarily an app used for sheet music as it allows you to annotate, loop, edit sheet music etc, but I have also found it to be a really useful tool to use for plays and books as well as you can write notes on them as you go.
- Scribd (website) – this is £7.99 a month, but it gives you access to a plethora of different play scripts, books, audiobooks and even sheet music and entire vocal scores! One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to try and get the original sheet music for songs (as opposed to using websites like musicnotes where people re-write sheet music) so Scribd is a great place to start for that!
- Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus – whether you’re studying Acting, Musical Theatre OR Dance, Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus will be your best friend to help you with objectives and analysing of text.
5. Nourish your mind, body and soul
This is one of the most important lessons you could learn in life, let alone in drama school, but it’s something we often need to be reminded of.
- Mind – practice regular meditations, get enough sleep, set boundaries with social media and technology. Take the time to make sure your mental health is maintained and looked after, including reaching out to your faculty/friends or going to therapy or counselling if you need it. Acting is the foundation of any performing art and it will require you to be vulnerable at times, and it’s important to learn how to manage that on a day to day basis so that anything you explore in your work doesn’t affect your daily life.
- Body – look after your physical body, make sure you are eating food that is high in nutrients and sustainable energy. If possible, make the effort to stay active and fit outside of class to make sure you can maintain the physical energy you need for this career.
- Soul – Nourish your soul with things you enjoy and make the most of your downtime when you have it. In addition, use the places you have around you to experience different types of music or art and spend time with art that isn’t your specific craft. Galleries, live music, books, recitals as well as the multitude of other art forms we have available to us are all potential sources of inspiration.
6. Focus on yourself
My biggest advice I can ever give you is to focus on yourself. This industry is rife with competition and it will be the easiest thing in the world to compare yourself to others doing the same thing as you, but you are on your own journey, and what happens for some people at one point will happen to you at another. Learning to stay in your own energy and focus on your craft from the get-go will set you in the right mind-set for your further career in the industry.
As a caveat to all of this, I want to take the time to say that this industry does not define you as a person. The most beautiful thing about art is that it celebrates people and stories that are so complex and it’s important to remember that within yourself, you are a multi-faceted individual with hobbies, jobs, a life and other passions. Embrace the relationships you create within this time, and embrace the complete version of yourself inside and outside of any performing career.
In conclusion, this next chapter of your life will be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing but it has the potential to be one of the best times of your life. You will learn so much about yourself and come out an entirely stronger person with a carefully curated toolbox of skills to boot and a new found confidence in yourself. Enjoy it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha trained in Musical Theatre at Associated Studios and Graduated in 2019. Previous credits include Sister Act at The Vaults and Half A Sixpence at Epsom Playhouse.