Drama after OUDS
Thinking about applying to drama school after Uni? Interested in pursuing a career in acting? We caught up with some of our alumni to hear about their experiences at drama school and the application process.
RADA – BA (Hons) in Acting (2018-2021)
English and French, Wadham (Graduated in 2017)
What was your experience in Oxford Drama? I did quite a few plays at Oxford but not as much as many other "Oxford drama" people. Some of my favourite shows I did were "The Crucible" which we performed at the Sheldonian in my second year, "Twelfth Night" in the Wadham College Gardens and "Edward II" at the Oxford Playhouse. I also did the OUDS Japan tour in 2015 which was lots of fun. I sometimes worried about not being in enough "big" shows but any and all experience is valuable, so don't compare yourself to others.
Why did you apply to drama school? I've loved acting since I was little but was never totally sure if I wanted to pursue it as a career. During my third year, which I spent abroad in Paris, I had some time to think about life post-Oxford and decided I would take the plunge and apply to drama school because I thought I would always regret it if I didn't at least try. If the thought of never being on stage again after university terrifies you as much as it did me, then go for it!
How did you choose which drama schools to apply to? I knew I wanted to be in London, so I researched the big drama schools there and looked at their courses and what funding they offered. If you apply for an MA course (at Guildhall, LAMDA, Central & Drama Centre) then you can get some government funding through a postgraduate loan. I ended up applying for those four and RADA because I liked the sound of them and they're all well-known, well-respected institutions. That was what I was looking for but it's really a personal choice. Also the schools I applied to are more focused on "straight acting" whilst if you're more into musical theatre then places like Mountview or Arts Ed, for example, may be better.
How did you choose your monologues? I basically spent hours browsing the play sections of bookshops (mainly Blackwells in Oxford and Foyles in London), picking up ones that looked interesting and reading cast lists at the front to see if there were any characters that I could fit. The general (and, in my opinion, good) advice is play within your age range. Personally I find the best monologues are ones which are addressed to another person, and where you're trying to get a clear thing or things from that person (e.g. for them to stay, to leave, to love you, to believe you, to be impressed by you etc). If you have to do two monologues, then a contrast between them is usually helpful.
Did you get audition coaching? I didn't get any formal coaching and my gut feeling is it's a bit of a waste of money. I don't think drama schools are looking for polished, technically perfect performances. In fact some schools advise against getting anyone to "direct" your pieces. The whole point is you're showing your potential and your own interpretations, so just be true and do that. I did do one or two workshops with an organisation called MonoBox, where you work in small groups with a director on speeches, which is quite good for getting a fresh pair of eyes on your work. They also have a massive collection of plays which you can browse for monologues.
Drama school is notorious for being expensive. How did you manage your finances? I applied after university and was working as an usher in the West End to finance my auditions. It is ridiculously expensive, but if you're from a low-income background most schools offer audition fee waivers. There are also great organisations like Open Door which help people financially to apply to drama schools. As for fees and funding, most schools have scholarship programs in place, and are aware that people who already hold degrees aren't eligible for further Student Finance loans. I knew that if I got in anywhere I would have to be honest about my background and finances, and be clear that I wouldn't be able to pursue my training without support. Most schools say they make their decisions purely based on talent. So if they choose you, and you can't pay, they should help. I can't speak for other schools but I know they're definitely true to this at RADA. But if money is what's worrying you (and it was without a doubt my biggest worry), don't let it stop you doing what you love. There are schemes, charities and people out there who will help you.
Experience of drama school? I'm really enjoying it. It's tiring and challenging, takes up all your time, demands a lot from you emotionally and physically, but it's so much fun, and if you want to act there's no better feeling than being so focused on and committed to doing something you love.
Top tips for auditioning? Get a good night's sleep beforehand & try and take it easy when you're there. Much easier said than done, obviously. It's different for different people, but whatever helps you relax - breathing, music, warming up etc - do that before your audition so you go in as calm as possible. You'll still be nervous as hell but that's unavoidable really, and nerves can help you too.
Final Words? If you love it, go for it. And if you go for it, give it your all. Don't agonise over speeches but try and find ones which mean something to you. Put the time and energy into practise. And it's a total cliche but believe in yourself. You are a superstar. I wish you all the luck in the world.