The Green Room: What did you learn at drama school?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Rosie Montague is in her 20s. Since graduating in 2013, she has played lead roles in a number of classical productions
Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked professionally as an actor on fringe projects and work for young people and more recently as a writer
Pierce Caffrey, 23, graduated from drama school and has performed on TV and in theatre
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both national and internationally
Rosie I think a traditional drama school doesn’t give you the chance to learn about long runs, about keeping something fresh night after night.
Beryl Some drama schools used to tour quite a bit, which gave you that chance. But that isn’t something that happens much these days.
Pierce This is going to sound strange, but I learned nobody is going to teach you how to conduct your business as an actual business.
Albert That’s interesting, Pierce.
They teach you a lot about ‘how’ to act, but almost nothing about how to be an actor
Pierce Well, you would think that they have a duty to train people how to be actors. They teach you a lot about ‘how’ to act, but almost nothing about how to be an actor.
Albert You can’t train people to act. It’s a talent. You give people skills and techniques, but the ability has to be there. If schools train people how to act, then, come the final-year showcase, some people should ask for their money back.
Eoghan I think people can improve as actors though, surely? With the right nurturing and if they work on it, they can develop in areas, try to notice their flaws and tendencies, and so on.
Albert Sure, they can improve, but I would guarantee that they probably do that once they start to work. The best drama schools are a bridge into the profession.
Eoghan Oddly enough, I was going to say my experience was that we had a strong emphasis (on my course, anyway) on being ‘industry-ready’, not just in terms of honing skills, but also the business side of it.
Pierce See, I think: talent x effort = skill.
Eoghan To an extent, of course. We didn’t have a couple of months of accounting lectures, but we did have an accountant come and take us through how to do a tax return.
Pierce And (skill x profile) + persistence = success.
Albert I think that, during the final year, the graduates nod their head to all those industry chats, but in their heart they think: “It won’t affect me because I’m going to work all the time.” It is only in their first year out in the world that they realise they need a lot of business skills.
Pierce Yes, absolutely.
Thomas Other than meeting an accountant, what makes you industry-ready?
Pierce I think there are as many, if not more, topics that make you industry-ready as there are acting methodologies.
Eoghan Talking to agents that took us through their job, mock agent interviews, mock castings with casting directors, being encouraged to compile our own lists of contacts, a wardrobe day where we helped each other pick out the clothes that are best suited for a general audition. Alongside technical training – vocal training is the most obvious one, I think. For me, anyway.
Pierce Social media, website or blogging skills, making and promoting your own work, how to use casting websites effectively, auditions and recall skills, how and why to go to casting workshops, networking in person.
Albert Voice skills to improve and strengthen the instrument, text analysis.
Pierce How to discern your castability, how to use that information to inform your headshot choices, your audition material, your showreel scenes.
Eoghan The ability to control your voice and body as a whole is vital. That is something that is invaluable and can’t just be ‘picked up’. For many people it isn’t innate, and you’ve had 20+ years of not ‘speaking properly’.
Pierce I think far too much emphasis is placed on diversifying an actor’s craft. Stanislavski or Meisner cannot get you in the room for an audition – it takes as much work to get you in the room, but all of that seems to play second fiddle to more voice work and text analysis.
Albert Please don’t mention Meisner.
Eoghan I also particularly found the work we did on approaching a text and becoming more in tune with our instincts very useful. For the very best, perhaps, they just have it. For me, I had to become more confident in myself and learn to get out of my own way. That was important.
Pierce If you don’t focus your attention on the business of showbusiness, then your craft will be confined to your bedroom, and text analysis won’t get you out of there.
Thomas From the things people were taught, what was the most valuable?
Albert The ability to make decisions for yourself.
Eoghan I would be loath to pick a ‘most valuable’.
Albert A lot of young actors still expect directors and casting directors to make a decision for them on how to play the role. You have to know how you would play the role and show. But in these days where students are increasingly customers of the drama schools, surely they should be aware of what they have paid for in the past three years?
Pierce I suppose that there are certain dos and don’ts, but, generally, there is no wrong way to do anything. It’s all about taking your interpretation and your experiences and infusing that into your decisions.
Eoghan But perhaps a state of mind, being curious to see what happens, rather than being too fixed on an end product, stands out. Both as an acting approach and a career/life approach.