West End Producer’s A to Z of drama schools
The Stage's beloved agony aunt presents a humorous guide to everything that drama schools have to offer
A is for acting. This is what you will learn, and hopefully what you will become – a professional actor, ready to take the theatrical world by storm.
B is for ball change. A good ball change technique is the difference between an amateur and professional. B also stands for beer. This delicious, hoppy fluid will become an important part of your training.
C is for classes. At drama school you are expected to attend various ones, specialising in skills such as improvisation, movement, stage combat, text analysis and reality TV technique. C also stands for circle-sitting – the most important thing you will learn.
D is for drama. You are at a drama school, so drama is going to be at the forefront of everything you do there. It is to be expected that you will study all different types of drama including Shakespeare, modern, Pinter (pause), and Coronation Street.
E is for energy. You will need energy when training to get you through the long hours. Drama school classes usually begin at 6am and finish at midnight. To keep your energy levels up you must eat well, exercise regularly and sleep with plenty of your peers.
F is for fun. Even though drama school is hard work you must also have fun. Theatre and the entertainment world is all about having fun. Unless you are doing Ibsen.
G is for gonorrhoea. This spreads like wildfire, particularly in your first week at drama school – known in the business as ‘freshers’ week’. I would suggest wearing protection at all times, particularly during improvisation classes.
H is for higher education. At drama schools, taking your education to a higher level involves wearing black, speaking with funny voices (accents), and pretending to be a tree.
I is for imagination. To succeed in drama school you have to let your imagination run wild. This allows you to play many different people. It also allows you to imagine that a panel is naked – useful during your audition.
J is for jumping up and down. The sacred art of jumping up and down is practised religiously at drama school. The dance teacher will tell you this is because it wakes up your body and keeps your muscles lean. But in reality it is just an excuse for them to stare at your wobbling naughty bits.
K is for kissing. You can expect to spend at least one year practising the art of the stage kiss. This misunderstood technique takes years of practice and drama school tutors love showing students the right way to do it.
L is for library. There will be a library in your school, which will contain lots of play scripts, music scores, copies of Spotlight and photo books of actors cross-dressing. The library might well become a place of quiet sanctuary when the rest of the school turns into a real-life version of Fame the Musical.
M is for music. At music classes you can practise your fingering and blowing skills on various instruments – the most important one being in the principal’s office.
N is for nudity. At some point in your drama training you will be expected to get naked. This doesn’t have to be full-body nudity – it can just be stripping off down to your smalls. This important piece of training is only done so that members of staff can sit and dribble.
O is for organic. Whenever directors or tutors don’t know what to say they will tell you to “keep it organic”.
P is for plays. You will be expected to read lots of them. Some will be easier to read than others. Pinter plays are the quickest to read due to all the pauses, and Stoppard’s are the longest – it’ll take your three years of training to understand what he’s on about.
Q is for question. Question everything: what the scene means, who the director is, and why on earth you’re spending two hours pretending to be a stick insect.
R is for rehearsals. Most of your time at drama school will be spent in rehearsals. The most popular rehearsal method is the ‘stand there, and say it like this’ technique.
S is for Stanislavski. This Russian bloke will be very important in your drama studies – and your tutors will talk about him all the time. S also stands for showcase – in which drama students are put on display at the end of their training and sold to the agent with the highest bid.
T is for theatre. The aim of your drama training is to let your artistry flow freely in some of the biggest and best theatres around the world. Your drama school will also have a theatre of its own, in which students perform final-year shows and learn the difference between on stage and off stage.
U is for underwear. Your second year of training will be devoted to the different types of underwear available for professional actors. Jockstraps, Y-fronts, knickers, thongs, pink briefs – the list goes on.
V is for voice. Learn how to use your voice properly, project and sustain its health throughout a long run. The main pieces of vocal advice you will learn are: steam, don’t shout, always warm up and avoid looking like a blow-up doll.
W is for wanking. On stage, this is a big mistake and is only acceptable in avant-garde productions. A ‘wanktor’ is one who upstages everyone else, and tries to make the show entirely about them.
X is for ‘X marks the spot’. This is where it is best to stand on stage – also known as centre-stage.
Y is for yes, the most useful word you can use at drama school. Say yes to everything – even the horrid-looking chilli from the school canteen.
Z is for zebra. You will undoubtedly dedicate a term to animal studies. The best thing to do during this is to get a black marker pen and cover yourself with stripes. Job done, dear.