Training: where to train, and how it doesn’t stop at drama school

Stuart Piper (centre) with Daniel Boys, Lauren Samuels, Lizzi Gee at the opening night of Annie Get Your Gun
Stuart Piper (centre) with Daniel Boys, Lauren Samuels, Lizzi Gee at the opening night of Annie Get Your Gun
Stuart Piper is managing director of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management Ltd
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This week, I wrote an article in The Stage’s Musical Theatre Training supplement about how training doesn’t necessarily end at drama school.

True, the choice of where you train is important, as West End leading lady Lauren Samuels (who has just starred in Water Babies and next in Love Story) attests:

For me training was a right of passage into an industry that I had held on a pedestal my whole life. Choosing the right college was massively important. I did a lot of research on the tutors teaching at the colleges at the time, and how current they were in the industry. But above all how successful graduating students were. After all, my main aim was to get a job at the end of the 3 years!

However, while we often talk about luck, and envious actors may look at successful contemporaries and consider them more lucky than themselves, I believe you make your own luck. One of my oldest and closest friends is actor Michael Jibson who got an Olivier nomination for his first job Our House (as you do) and has since forged a successful career as an increasingly prolific screen actor with roles in feature films The Bank Job, Cemetery Junction and Les Miserables (as Factory Foreman opposite Anne Hathaway). I asked him what advice he might give graduates entering he profession and he gave these practical recommendations:

The work you do in this profession may be nerve wracking, exciting, stressful and tiring, but the real work takes place in the time in between jobs. Work as hard as you can on your audition material to put the odds in your favour. Learn your lines, learn the music, read the script, do your research, do everything you can, even if it impinges on your social life, and then once you've got the job, you can relax, enjoy yourself and go to work.

My own advice could apply to anyone needing career advice in any industry: you need to keep fit and well in order to keep functioning at your best. I recently took time out for the first time in a decade to recharge batteries and I’m a convert to yoga, shiatsu and general healthier eating and fitness. I’ve taken on a dietician, trainer and have signed up to a half marathon in October. Right now, I can't run up the stairs. I’m finding running is giving me positive endorphins that improve my energy levels all day.

It is also important not to forget that the voice is also a muscle that needs exercising. When clients really are struggling to afford singing lessons weekly, I do recommend Rosemary Ashe's CD, Rosie Ashe's Vocal Warm Up For Singers, which is only about 15 minutes long and a good daily routine.

Musical Director Michael England reminds us that maintenance is imperative:

In the way that top athletes need to keep their muscles flexible and in good condition, a singer also needs to maintain their voice and keep it flexible. Don't ignore either the top or bottom of the register. At the end of a contract after MD'ing a show for year one singer came up to me and said because they'd been doing our vocal warm-up everyday for the year they had added four notes to the top of their register - and they sounded good.

Choreographer of Annie Get Your Gun Lizzi Gee provides practical advice:

I'd recommend doing a class each week to keep on top of picking up choreography quick – helps keep you fit and you never know who maybe watching! Also I appreciate that when out of work not everyone can afford gym memberships etc but there are ways of keeping fit for free... take running for example.

There are few right or wrong answers in this industry, but certainly I as an agent look for those that are committed and hard working.

If you are, then a good agent will spot that. Break a leg to you all.

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