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The Green Room: How has your training at drama school helped you?

Students in an acting class at drama school. Photo: Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…

Sally Smith is 27, studied on an MA course at a London drama school and is originally from Australia

 

Julie Lucas is 28, studied on an MA course with Sally Smith and is also from Australia

Beany Altman is 28. She studied on an MA course at a London drama school and is originally from the US

Luke Barry is 23, is from London and studied on a three-year BA course at drama school

Perry Demarco is in his mid-20s. Originally from Essex, he graduated from a three-year acting course five years ago

Michael Butler, 30, is from Ireland where he studied on a three-year BA university course before completing an MA at a London drama school

PerryI’m really grateful for my training. I wouldn’t be working without it. The classes and productions gave me a good grounding, but it was also the links to the industry that really helped me.

Luke I started out in a youth theatre, and because of that got on to a BA course at one of the leading drama schools. I’d say both the drama school and the youth theatre were vital to me. I needed both those experiences.

Sally I moved back to Australia. That wasn’t the intention – I’d hoped I would be able to find work in the UK by going to a London drama school, but that didn’t happen. I loved the course, we worked on fantastic productions, and I made lifelong friends, but it didn’t give me that bridge into the UK industry I’d hoped for.

Michael I don’t think it helped me with contacts as much as I’d hoped. We had agent showcases and that kind of thing, but with hindsight (and I’ve been out of drama school a few years now) I found that what I’ve learnt – such as improvisation – has really helped my career in ways I hadn’t imagined. I’ve been able to apply it to things I hadn’t dreamed of, from children’s theatre to presenting to playwriting.

Sally But then, moving back to Oz I found my training at a UK drama school really did help. London is so respected worldwide for its theatre, and being able to say you trained at a top London drama school made a huge difference.

Perry The directors I worked with in my third year were really important. One of them went on to work as an associate director on a West End show and he got me in to understudy. That started me off, it was my first job. So in a very real way, by bringing that director in to work with us in our third year meant I got my first job.

Luke I cannot fault the training I had. It was rigorous, and changed who I am (for the better). On top of that we were seen by agents and casting directors, and I landed a film while still in my third year. I know I’m really lucky and that doesn’t happen for everyone, but it did happen because I was at a drama school where I got a good grounding, and then they made sure we were seen by all the big agents and casting directors.

Perry It was such a big learning curve going in to a West End show and being part of that experience: watching the leads and how they worked, having to rehearse and do the understudy run. Then I got to go on for a few shows towards the end of the run. It was like training all over again.

Julie I was so frustrated after graduating. You go through a very intense year of long hours and constant creative work, and then – nothing. My drama school hadn’t been very good at getting agents in to see us. A few of us got agents but most of us didn’t. But what we did have was a group of us who loved working together and who had built a common language over the year. Eventually we formed our own little company and started making our own work.

Michael I think my school could have helped more by making it clearer what opportunities are out there if you don’t get signed to an agent. They could have been more honest about the realities of the industry. It wasn’t that they lied, they just didn’t really talk about some of the practicalities of making your own work, or finding your own work, which would have been good.

Julie I think my drama school could have helped us more by having a module on setting up a theatre company. I think more people (at my school, anyway) now make their own work rather than getting agents, so why put so much emphasis on the agents and casting directors?

Beany I was really lucky. I was one of the only people on my course to get signed to an agent at our showcase. I was on a musical theatre MA, and I’m more of an actor/singer, rather than a dancer. Shortly after graduating, I was seen for a tour of a big musical – one of the classics – and I got it. It just happened that one of those shows you are right for came along at exactly the right time. I’m very aware it didn’t work like that for lots of my classmates.

Sally Things worked out okay in the end, and my training paid off. Just not in the ways I’d imagined at the time.

Beany I worked really hard to get where I am now, and I keep working hard. Even before drama school I studied and trained, with singing lessons and acting classes. It all helps, of course. But I am also very aware that I was very lucky. The right agent and the right show came along at just the right time.

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