Drama School or a major in Musical Theatre - a dream for many young performers, for obvious reasons. Being able to make a living from acting, singing and dancing seems like a dream for every musical theatre nerd. And drama school really is a wonderful time, but what many people tend to forget is that after all the college auditions and preparations the real work is just about to begin. So here it is, the Drama School Survival Guide. In every edition we will have a look at a different area, that can improve your experience. This week we will focus on the right starting point - a successful and healthy mindset.
After all the initial buzz of stating at a new place, meeting your new classmates and teachers, it is time to polish your technique in all three disciplines. This will at first seem incredibly exposing, not only will you have to sing in front of other incredible strangers who might be harsh, arrogant or simply mean, but also will you notice your own habits and patterns of doing things.
You will probably enter your course quite optimistic and convinced of your talent - I mean you got in, right? And it is true you in fact were maybe the best actor, dancer and singer in your high school or even home town, but suddenly you're around many other talented students and not only that: you will start developing a better understanding of your speaking and singing voice, the anatomy behind dancing, and learn about naturalistic acting. Teachers will remind you of your habits and your default ways of doing things, in order to - later on - provide you with a number of choices. Something that will give you versatility and employability, however, you will notice that a lot of these things you won't be able to change overnight: constantly locked knees, jaw tension, your accent or nasality of your speech (and many more things) that you have developed over years and years, and it will be a very ongoing process to overcome these.
Still, something in you will change, suddenly you will go from being unconsciously incompetent to being consciously incompetent, so you're now aware how far away from perfect you are, but still not able to improve immediately.
This can feel very disheartening, and you might start to doubt yourself. But be reassured, you're not the only one to feel that way, in fact, everyone who will later on improve will feel that way, because it is the first massive step towards growth. It all starts with your awareness.
And to give you something to look forward to, it won't be too long until you achieve a state of conscious competence, so a state in which you will notice you're improvements and see how much you are able to get rid of your own habits. And eventually you will enter a state of unconscious competence, where you will no longer have to think about it, and it just all comes naturally to you. Just as you're no longer daily aware of how magical it was to read for the first time, it just happens.
If you're stuck and you almost feel like you haven't made much progress recently, it can help to leave your college bubble. Go out into the "real world" attend your old dance classes or some normal, casual classes outside school, and you will suddenly realise you are a lot better then the majority of people and a lot better then before, even if you're not the best at your course at the moment. Everything might seem so big and overwhelming being around the most talented people of the country, but you getting in already means you've made it to the top and are better than the average human being. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge every tiny thing you've learnt.
Other than that, you will most likely have other emotional costs, you might have to move away from your safe surrounding. You might not be able to maintain your relationship or get a new one, you might not see any sun anymore, especially when the sun goes down earlier in winter. But just think of your final goal, and keep fighting, in the end, everything will be worth it.
So what can you do to keep you going:
1. Firstly, work as hard as you can but don't overdo it. Make sure you're not pushing yourself too hard and jeopardizing your health, give yourself time.
2. Eat, Drink and Sleep enough. A healthy lifestyle will enable you to work at your own highest potential and simply function.
3. Try different methods to keep you balanced and grounded. For some, this might be meditation, yoga, certain music or your favourite TV-Show on Netflix. Or how about a trip to Broadway/London? ;)
4. Educate yourself about Mental Health. These days, you will find books virtually everywhere, you can find awesome websites, apps or YouTube channels. Or you might choose to see a counsellor or therapist to keep on top of everything that could hold you back psychologically. Maintaining a good physical and mental health is key and the more you understand your feelings, the easier it is to deal with them. As a nice side effect, it will also help you with all your acting.
With that, I wish you a lot of fun in your current or potential future training. Keep healthy, happy and smash it - I believe in you. Feel free to share this with anyone who might want to see it and comment on your own tips and tricks before. I can't wait to discuss your thoughts with you.
In the next part of this series, we will be looking at a beneficial attitude towards training.