Drama School

What Highschool Theatre Taught Me

Amelia Brooker

Preparing to graduate high school, I am looking back on the moments that shaped me through the last few years. The most vivid memories, the times that have stuck with me, are those spent with my high school theatre company.

High school theatre taught me to sing, dance, and act, but also taught me so much about myself and my relationship with the world around me. Some of the best lessons do not have to do with theatre specifically, but how to succeed in general. The following are five of the best lessons I learned in high school theatre, which are ideal for both students entering this sphere, as well as anyone entering a new area of life.



1. Do not hold anything back

Looking back on my theatre experience, my biggest regret is not pushing myself further. Whether it comes from self-consciousness or lack of experience, it is easy to hold back in some areas. Giving anything less than one hundred percent will inhibit you as you move forward. You might not have any dance experience but seek help and practice. You might be bad at improv but give it a try and hope for the best. Nothing but good will come of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.


2. Avoid the drama

What do you get when you put a few dozen of the most dramatic kids in school together in one room, for five, ten, fifteen hours a week? And then have them compete for roles? Even the closest and kindest groups of theatre kids will get on each other’s nerves once in a while. The best advice I can give is to stay out of it completely. Do not spread rumors, criticize other performers, or give in to any drama. You’ll be happier if you stay out of it all.


3. Be a team player

Theatre is a team sport. Even a small-scale production requires dozens of people to fulfill all the necessary requirements. You will need to work with all kinds of people who have different ideas, points of view, and levels of experience. Listen to others’ ideas with an open mind, speak with kindness, and treat everyone equally. Trusting the people you work with is of the utmost importance in theatre, whether it be actors, directors, stage managers, or crew. Because in such an unpredictable environment, strong and trusting relationships will take your far.


4. Adaptability is your best asset

To build off the last point, working with others sometimes requires compromise. You might disagree with how a director wants to do something or have a discrepancy with another actor or crew member. The choreography might change the week before the show, or a new rehearsal be added last minute. Live theatre is fast-paced and unpredictable, so going with the flow is always the best option. Being able to adapt to a new situation or rise to the occasion will serve much better than fighting it.


5. Be present and enjoy yourself

It is no secret that doing theatre on top of the regular stresses of high school can be difficult. Like any other class or activity, it requires you to put your best foot forward in order to succeed. However, the memories you make and the relationships you build will make it all worthwhile. Through the early morning and late-night rehearsals, quick trips for food before rehearsals. and bonding over show runs, theatre can be some of the best times of your high school life. Enjoy every burst of laughter, every piece of fun choreography, every song you get to belt out with your friends. Create an atmosphere of positivity and creativity and be your authentic self. Do everything you can so that in the future, you can look back and smile.

 

How to Succeed in Performing Without Really Trying

Elizabeth Bergmann

Three years ago, at the 2016 Tony Awards, James Corden sang about how seeing a show makes us say "That could be me!" When I was a freshman in high school, I was cut from the volleyball team and needed a new activity to fill my fall semester, so my band squad leader suggested the fall play. In the summer of 2018, I talked my whole family (Mom, Dad, and younger brother) into doing The Music Man with my community theatre family. We all have different ways that we find ourselves wanting to enter the world of theatre. Maybe a local group is doing one of your favorite shows, or a friend keeps insisting you should do a show together (I am this friend).

 

Whatever the reason, providence seems determined to get you in a show. If you’re brand-new, from a non-theatre family, and generally haven’t done anything except those school plays about bullying and the seasons, you have no clue what you’re getting into. The idea of auditioning for a big show can be terrifying. People throw out words like “blocking” and “dramaturge” and you have no clue what they’re talking about. With no single source of all this information available up to this point, I’ve decided to become that single source myself. I plan to focus on auditions for musical theatre, mostly because those tend to be the most complicated, but aspects of it will apply to auditioning for plays, as well. So, if you have no clue where to start, why not start here?

 

Where do I find a group to do a show with?

There are lots of Facebook groups for different theatrical groups and communities. I’m lucky enough to currently be in two groups that cater to my area, but local news sources and postings can let you know what is in your area. There may even be smaller groups that you rarely hear about looking for fresh talent! I found my community theatre family pretty much by accident: they rehearse in the same community center where I was taking dance classes. If you know people who perform, ask them where. If you’re a student, look for your school’s program. Find out which shows these groups are doing, and check when they rehearse. What’s the cast size? Can you be at rehearsals? If it looks like you’d be able to be in this show, audition!

 


What do I do to get ready for auditions?

The first thing I like to do when considering auditioning for a show is research. Who wrote the show? What is the basic story? What style of music is it? Are there any characters you’d like to play? I tend to accidentally memorize shows, but general familiarity will be your best friend. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into (a girl quit a Guys and Dolls production I was in because she suddenly discovered it could be a little sexist), and this will also give you a baseline for your audition. The audition description will tell you if you need to prepare a monologue, a song, or anything else. Monologues should fit the tone and time period of the show you’re auditioning for. Pick a song that you know you can sing well no matter what condition your voice is in. I personally don’t recommend a song you don’t know too well, but also try to avoid cliché audition songs (that’s a whole other article, ask theatre friends and/or Google if you aren’t sure). The song should ideally be in the style of the show, so do a pop song for a pop show, a classical song for a classical show, etc. Be sure to have sheet music, or a karaoke track, or whatever else they might say you need to supply. Plan out an audition outfit (again, a whole other article), and make sure it’s not too specific and you can move in it.

 

What do I do once I get to auditions?

Show up a little early so you can fill out any forms, turn in sheet music, whatever you need to do before you get up and sing. As you fill out the form, be honest about any conflicts so they can make a rehearsal schedule. If they ask if you want a specific role, put it down. Since you’re just starting out, I highly suggest putting that you’d be willing to play any role and that you’ll take an ensemble role. Ensemble is a great place to start, and directors often like to see that you’re not just here for the one role you specifically auditioned for. After you turn in the form, you’ll usually be singing. You might sing in front of just those casting, you might be in a small group, or you might be singing in front of everybody. If you have an accompanist (pianist), let them know what sections you’re singing and the tempo you’d like to sing it at. You might be asked to introduce yourself, usually by giving your name and the song you’re singing. As you sing, try to act while you perform your song. If it’s a happy song, show that you’re happy, if it’s sad, be sad-- you get the idea. Once everyone has sung, you may be asked to dance a little, or to do “cold reads” from the script (perform a scene with little to no practice time). Take whatever they throw at you and give it 100% effort. You might get called back, you might not, but make sure they’ve seen that you can do a lot with whatever you’re given.

 

What happens after auditions?

The cast can be announced in a number of ways. You might receive a phone call or an email, there could be a website, a Facebook page might be set up, etc. A lot of groups may ask that you respond to accept or decline a role (I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be prompt in responding).You’ll likely receive a date for a read-through and a rehearsal schedule, which you’ll want to put in your calendar as soon as possible. You’ll receive either a separate script and score or a full libretto. You’ll want to check and ask if you can use highlighters or if it’s pencils only for marking it. GUARD YOUR SCRIPT. Bare minimum, write your name in the front cover so people know it’s yours. Script thieves are everywhere, and your name in it means you can get it back.

 

What should I do in rehearsals?

Up until tech week, rehearsals will be just about learning and perfecting the material. You may or may not be rehearsing in the space you’re performing in. You’ll take this time to learn music, dances, and any lines or blocking you’ll need to know. Show up to rehearsal on-time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your fellow actors, your director, and especially your stage manager are all there to help and support you. Write notes for blocking (movement while acting), choreography, and music so you don’t forget them. If someone asks a question about costumes, shoes, hair, or makeup, listen for the answer (and I’ll tell you more later).

 

What’s this “tech week” people talk about all the time?

“Tech week” is the last week of rehearsals before the show opens. It’s dedicated to incorporating the technical elements into the show, hence “tech week.” You’ll be in the performance space, and these will be the longest rehearsals you’ll ever experience. You’ll likely be called earlier and kept later. In addition to technical elements (lights, sound effects, microphones, etcetera), your show’s band/orchestra will appear (if there is one) and you’ll be in costume with hair and makeup done. These rehearsals are meant to perfect runs of the show so it’s ready by opening. You’ll likely get notes each night, and you’ll want to write these down and implement them. Everybody will be stressed and tired, so make sure to take care of yourself and have patience. Maybe give something nice to your stage manager so they don’t go insane.

 

You keep talking about costumes, hair, and makeup. What do I need to do for that?

Each theatre group is different. You might be supplying your own costume, or they might have them for you. You should learn what you need to supply from the production team, but don’t be afraid to ask. As a good base, it might be wise to invest in character shoes if you play lady roles, black dress shoes if you play man roles, and jazz shoes either way. Each production has different visions, but these shoes usually work no matter what time period you’re in. As for hair, you might be doing your own or someone might be doing it for you. This depends on the group. If you are doing it yourself, ask for what it should look like for the show. Wigs might be involved depending on the show.

 

Now, makeup. I know some groups will have other people doing your makeup, but I’ve always done it for myself. If you are doing it yourself, everybody has their own preferences for how they do it. Some shows will require bright colors or wrinkles or something drastic, but a lot of shows are fairly simple. My advice: Your face, but bigger. I recommend foundation to even out your skin, concealer for under your eyes, blush to give you some color, and eyeliner & mascara to bring your eyes out. If you’re an eyeshadow and lipstick person, use nude browns on the eyes and pick a lipstick that looks natural (unless this is a time period where red was the color of choice). Apply a little more of everything than you would for every day. The whole purpose of stage makeup is to ensure your face looks good from the back row of the theatre. Ask your castmates for help if you’re not sure how much is too much.

 

What should I expect from performances?

Things will go right, and things will go wrong. The whole atmosphere of a show is different when there is an audience there with you. The important thing is to not add things once the show opens. You’ll be tempted to push for laughs or try something new, but don’t do it. Make sure you’re paying attention to the show so you don’t miss your cues. Enjoy the applause and feed off the audience to keep your energy up. There is nothing more thrilling than performing for a great audience. You’ll likely get to greet the audience after curtain call, so take that opportunity to thank everyone who came to see you.

 

What happens when the show ends?

A lot of groups need help striking the show after, so be sure to stay and help with that. There will likely be a cast party that you should definitely attend. You’ll probably be sad, and your time will feel a lot emptier without rehearsals in there. But that just means you can look forward to the next show! Not many people can stop after just one.

 

I hope you’ll find your home in the theatre. It has been the best family I could ever ask for, and it really will fill you with a joy that nothing else can create. Welcome home! We're glad to have you!

Drama School Survival Guide

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. 

1280px-American_Musical_and_Dramatic_Academy.jpg



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.

 

Performer Misconceptions

Show business is tough. No one’s denying that. But people tend to say things about performing and Broadway sometimes which just strike me as a bit off. So, without further ado, I’m going to be addressing the issues I have with four common Broadway misconceptions.


Getting on Broadway is about being the most talented.

It is. But there’s so much more than that. It’s about checking the boxes.

Broadway isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ deal. The casting director will have specific – sometimes very specific – preconceptions about what they want and who they want for it. You could put a fresh new spin on old material, and yes, even if you can belt a high A like nobody’s business, sometimes that’s just not what they’re looking for. Maybe they specifically want someone of a certain race (a practice I despise, but that’s beside the point) for the role, or maybe they want the entire ensemble to have a particular ‘look’. Maybe they’re trying to find a replacement for an outgoing actor and they don’t want to pay to re-fit the costume (I’ve actually spoken to a Broadway actor who said that they got turned down at final callbacks for one show, then got cast for the very next show they auditioned for, both for that very reason). If you don’t fit what they already have, both metaphorically and literally, even if you’re a just as (or more) talented actor, singer, or dancer as those waiting in the audition room behind you, you might not get the part. It’s just showbiz.

Changing the key is taboo.

Yes, I know no one ever wants to tell their director that they want to change the key for fear of derision and scorn. But sometimes, it really is necessary – and not only that, it can help so, so much. I will admit that songs are often written with a specific key in mind – different keys do sometimes convey different emotions simply by way of the ‘sound’ they produce, something I’m sure those with perfect pitch often sense either consciously or unconsciously. But I say changing the key doesn’t ruin a song - it just lets a performer put their all into their performance in a way the original key wouldn’t have allowed them to. In Legally Blonde, the key for the ending of So Much Better has been lowered three full times since the first demo recording – originally written in A major, the song was first shifted down to the original Broadway key of G major then all the way down to F-major for all subsequent professional productions (as licensed by MTI). And yet, the sheer power of the song hasn’t been changed at all – most people, quite frankly, haven’t noticed, and I for one am continually impressed by the blonde belters who pull off the number with pizazz. During his tenure in Newsies, Dan Deluca had the key of Something to Believe In shifted down a step from G major down to F major, a key change allowed him to pull off one of the most romantic performances of the song I’ve ever seen.

The lead performer is always the best in the cast.

This one goes along the same lines as the first one about being the most talented. The lead might not have the best voice or acting chops in the cast, but they might have the best work ethic or, dare I say it, the star power and appeal to draw audiences to a show (yes, I’m talking about stunt casting), all things essential to a show’s financial success as a business. In other words, they just happened to tick the right boxes. But that in no way diminishes the talent of the rest of the cast. The supporting character might not have the high G in their repertoire that the lead does and which might be necessary for a certain role, but given the chance maybe they too could make a full audience cry on cue. The understudy might be an up-and-coming talent who simply doesn’t have yet the resume of the established lead actor (Jeremy Jordan, known for his Bonnie & Clyde and his Newsies exploits but lesser well known as a former understudy for the role of Tony in West Side Story on Broadway, comes to mind). Suffice it to say that someone having top billing in a show’s Playbill doesn’t equate to them being the best in the cast



The best performers are those that never fail.

For this last one, I think the following saying conveys my thoughts better than anything else: “Don’t judge a blooper reel by a highlight reel’s standards.” You might have seen a star deliver moving performance after moving performance to an enthralled crowd of thousands leaping to a standing ovation. But you probably haven’t seen them cry after being turned down for the part again or rip up their sheet music in frustration after the tenth vocal crack of the day on that one high note (Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde comes to mind – not vocal cracks specifically, but you can tell from recordings she struggled at times with the ending note in “So Much Better”, even if the rest of the performance was good enough that you were too distracted to notice when she took a breath in the MTV recording of the show). You probably haven’t seen them shudder with nerves in front of an opening night crowd or fall in rehearsal three times in a row. And I know for a fact that some of the best performers in the world have done these very things. Why? Because the best performers aren’t those who never fail. Those don’t exist. The best performers are those who work through and work with their failures, using them to make themselves better and more consistent as performers and stronger as people.

Getting Ready for College Auditions: Part 1

Henri Tomic


It's almost Halloween and Holiday Season, and what does that mean for high school age theatre kids?

Right: College Auditions, Unifieds, Preparations, getting your book sorted, and oh wait, that's not even everything yet, for many there is this small detail called graduating from High School. It is very easy to get caught up in this jungle of new things, decisions and constantly having to prove yourself. But trust me, in the end, everything will be worth it, and you will look back on everything you learned in this intense time.

But to make it even a tiny bit easier for you, I will answer a few burning frequently asked questions (aka what I wish I had known back then)


When is the right time to (apply/) audition?
In general, there is no right and wrong, and if you're incredibly talented, you might just as well get accepted if you attend the very last audition. However, bear in mind that each school has a certain number of places to fill, and if you therefor the first audition, you might benefit, as they still have all their places available, and they can't really know who else will come up for the other auditions. Meanwhile, you might experience that at certain schools for later auditions either all applicants compete for just one or two remaining places, or even that they are already full before you even enter the audition room. In the end, it's all a matter of luck and who comes in at the right moment (e.g. after a terrible applicant) so go with your gut feeling, but as a general rule of thumb the earlier, the better. (Also you might have less stress with your exams then.)


How to find the right school/college etc. for me?
This is a tough one. First of all, it is important to acknowledge that there is no school that is right for everyone. Some people need a high standard, big groups, and a lot of competitions to thrive; others need a more personal experience with teachers tracking their individual progress. Some want to be close to a theatre to get inspiration in all the hard training; others want to save on accommodation. So really and truly there is no right and wrong, and if you have it in you, you can make it on Broadway or West End, regardless of your school and background. This doesn't mean your choice is irrelevant, though. In fact, it is crucial that you get to the very place you can be. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, by glamorous reputations or big names, acting, singing and dance are about connections, on stage or camera. This means you need to be able to fully connect to your tutors and open up to them, if for some reason a world-renowned college felt wrong for you, and you didn't feel a connection at your audition or research, forget about it, and you might find that your heart leads you to a very different lesser-known school. And fast forward ten years you will be their first big name on their homepage.



What to expect at auditions?
All schools have their very own method of finding their students. Nevertheless, everyone (for MT) will want to hear you sing, they will see you act mostly by using a monologue, and they will see you dance/move.

When it comes to singing they will more often than not ask for two contrasting songs, i.e. a classical one and one that is more contemporary, of which one is more upbeat and uptempo than the other one. Here it is important to make the right choices and choose songs that highlight your talents, but at the same time come very natural to your voice even under pressure and allow you more for storytelling than just forcing these high notes. Keep in mind that you might not have had a sufficient warm up before an audition that might be either very early or very late and you will be very nervous especially in the beginning. The panel is looking for you telling a story and performing in front of an audience rather than you showing off (and potentially failing).

Consult a vocal teacher and experiment with a number of different songs that work for you. Try to surprise the panel and find something that they haven't heard a million times already or reminds them of their last breakup etc.

When it comes to acting, nine times out of ten, they will ask you for at least one monologue. Obviously, I could give you hours worth of advice about posture, diction, intentions, objectives, Stanislavski, pauses and so on, but that's not the point here. Something that helped me a lot to boost my performance and to improve in all of these areas was to drop the idea of it being a monologue. When we think of monologues, we think of somebody delivering over-dramatised lines, standing in front of a panel. But guess what, they weren't written in that way, in fact, did you ever see a (good) show and even noticing a monologue (although they were guaranteed many)? No one writes a monologue (at least no playwright), they are merely part of a play, and we must think of it as a mini-performance (think off-off-off-off-off- Broadway). This idea helps a lot, but there is something about the idea of being on stage, in a play, that automatically makes us slow down, move, and not weirdly wandering of into acting land. In your audition you're performing a one-man play in front of a tiny audience, and you need to behave that way. Think back to some of the great plays (or movies ) you have seen where the character bursts into a very dramatic and emotional or inspiring speech. For once, now, that's you, and you want to make an impression.

Other than the monologues you probably will have to do some kind of improvisation, physical theatre or any other interacting acting exercises. Here they want to see how you can pass energy back and forth. The key here is simply to go with it (as crazy as it might seem) and not be afraid to make yourself a fool. Because if you're doing awesome everyone will admire your performance, if not, you won't see any of them again anyway, so why even care about them. Make sure to be kind and friendly to everyone and collaborate well, communication is key here.

When it comes to dance and movement, there isn't much you can prepare, other than to attend as many jazz dance and ballet classes as you can, preferably by several different teachers, so that you get used to different lesson- and choreography styles.

Make sure, to be honest in the audition room and ask whenever is unclear, if you consider yourself more of a mover, don't try to hide this but work as hard as you can. Dance teachers love it if you're trying to go the extra mile working extra hard to get it right, practice even everyone else is taking a break and ask them for advice if just don't seem to get it right. If they know you are a fighter, they can get you anywhere in three or four years.


How to deal with nervousness/anxiety?
Everyone is nervous at auditions and that is completely fine, the key is to channel your nervousness to give you energy and focus, rather than to hinder your performance.

There are a couple of things to think about that might help with that:

Number one, everyone behind the table is on your side. I know this isn't easy to process, but what I mean by that is, each of them is hoping to get the best students for them, and they are sitting all day there waiting for that to happen. In fact, they might even have higher hopes in you than you in yourself, because if you were this perfectly talented student, they wouldn't need to keep searching and staying there every week/month looking at more and more applicants. This means if you mess up you're beginning or don't hit this important note, don't let it determine the rest of your performance, they want you to be good, and they want to get to know you. Because after all the one thing they are looking for is if they seriously want to continue working with your for all these years, so if you're enthusiastic, open to their feedback and kind they will see that and overlook where you still need training. They are looking for potential and passion and not perfection because it would be incredibly boring to teach a perfect student.

Another image that helped me a lot was to see the whole thing as a performance opportunity:

You want to be on a stage in the middle of hundreds of spotlight, performing in front of thousands of people, many of you will have done some kind of performances before, and I'm almost certain you had more than 2-4 audience members ;) This might just be the most relaxed performance you will ever have, an incredibly tiny audience who are all on your side and haven't paid thousands of dollars to see you perform, they have no expectations and want you to be good, you will never experience such a forgiving audience in a Broadway theatre.

So dive right into you're work from now on, every minute can be used productively, you got this! Fingers crossed and break a leg, and see you on Broadway!!!




Showmance: A Study

Jyothi Cross

Rumours run around in every show you do. Secret kisses backstage. Wanting eyes onstage. At least, that’s what everyone says. But is the legendary ‘showmance’ truly real? Welcome to my lecture.


My school did Beauty and the Beast as its show last year, and it was, as the kids say, fun times – lots of bouncy musical numbers, some crazy costumes, and a good old-fashioned romance. This is the setting for my first case study: “Belle and the Beast”. Now I have two friends, let’s called them Oscar and Gertrude (disclaimer: these are not their real names). Oscar and Gertrude had to kiss onstage. It was an exciting moment, Oscar’s first kiss with a girl two years older than him who played the main character in the show – at my school, this makes you a literal celebrity – and we were all very excited. Wooh, first kiss! Oscar was even more excited. In fact, for the next few weeks (aka a good couple of months) Oscar had an impressively large crush on Gertrude, and thus a ‘showmance’ was born.

And then shot down about two minutes later when Gertrude revealed she only had platonic feelings for poor old Oscar.

What does this first case study show? Well, by taking your typical setup for a ‘showmance’, we can see how it doesn’t truly work out as many people claim. Perhaps the rumours we hear are one sided, or just made up to liven up the Green Room halfway through a harrowing Tech Week. According to case study one, ‘showmances’ do not exist because life onstage can be separated from life offstage, at least for some people…

And for the other people, I present case study two: same musical, different setup. We all know what it’s like, preparing for a show. The sweat, the tears, the many, many hours stuck with the same five people. Because you have nothing better to do, you start to form a bond, a family almost. Enter Asterix and Penelope (disclaimer: once again, not real names…). They didn’t play lovers, or anything of the sort, in fact Penelope was one of those incredibly popular, date-every-guy kind of gals. Asterix was (and still is) a complete dork. And yet, though simply trapped in the ensemble together, these two started to become more and more… familiar. Maybe it was the close proximity, or the fact that Asterix had finally finished puberty, but they started to get along in a manner most unexpected. And thus, a ‘showmance’ was born.

And it continued, to this very day, almost a year on and they are so incredibly in love it’s so crazy how people can fall so quickly.

So, what does case study two show? Well, perhaps a ‘showmance’ isn’t exactly what we expect it to be, it doesn’t manifest itself in a traditional way. Whilst it can most definitely happen, it’s maybe the idea of this off- and onstage difference that stops two people who play a romantic pair from actually falling for each other. Instead, a ‘showmance’ happens in unforced conditions, where two people spend so much time in close proximity that they do just fall.

At least, that’s what I can gather from my very limited sample group of the 20 people who always do my school play…

Ever had a ‘showmance’? Prove me wrong in the comments below!

 

ATB Drama School Packing List

Drama School Survival Guide - Part 1: Getting ready to rumble - BFA / MT Shopping List

Anyone who ever chose to go for a course in Acting, Drama, Musical Theatre etc. knows this weird feeling you have the weeks before your course start: these buzzing sensations of excitement and happiness on the daily, and yet you’re somewhat scared. I mean, leaving your hometown, family and school is pretty scary enough, but there is also that sudden realization that you might no longer be the strongest dancer, singer, and actor in town.

You might be asked to compete with 2nd and 3rd years and mostly you don’t know anyone. As the weeks pass, suddenly you are facing all sorts of burning questions: “What do I take with me?", "Am I good enough?" and “Do I have what it takes?".

Consider this series to be written by ATB Members for ATB Members, and we will try to address all your questions and worries. We will make sure you take the most of your course whether it is at a small school, or a highly recognized university; whether it’s in the US, the UK or anywhere else in this world.

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

 

This week we’ll start with the basics, what to do to prepare, what to pack and some general advice to calm your nerves.

We collaborated with nearly a hundred ATB Members, and here it is:

THE ULTIMATE ATB PACKING LIST


For your Course

This is certainly only a guideline to help you with the process, most schools will give you some kind of an (often times) incomplete checklist, but obviously if in doubt, always go with what your school says and ask someone there. The Obvious:

-          Loose and fitted plain black clothing (i.e. jogging pants, leggings, t-shirts etc)

-          Jazz shoes/trainers make sure to try a couple of different ones on, some people prefer harder soled, some softer, some splitter and so on

-          Ballet shoes

-          Ballet tights/Leotards Make sure you have enough, you will be dancing a lot if you do MT and that might get really sweaty, start stocking up!!!

-          Tap shoes

-          running trainers  (indoor and outdoor) most schools won’t have special colour regulations here, but if you want to be on the safe side go for pure black

-          Girls- Character/practice skirt, character shoes (black or tan, with a heel of at least 2-3” (think LaDucas), Sports bra

-          Boys- black character shoes (smart brogues), Jockstrap/dance belt (look for something in either nude or black, but make sure you feel comfortable in it, it doesn’t help anyone if it’s perfectly tight, if you’re not going to wear it)

-          Bone prop (Especially UK Schools will ask you for that, it is a device to train your acting voice ) and Hand Mirror for your voice lessons

MUST-HAVEs

-          a pretty/cool/handy water bottle (keeping yourself hydrated is crucial)

-          A Bag where you can carry a lot with you (dancing stuff, sheet music and scripts do need a lot of space)

-          I found it useful to get packing cubes (google it), one for each style of dancing etc., that allows you to find the stuff you need much quicker and make sure no drinks or ink spills on your expensive shoes.

-          headache pills, vitamins, skin care, heating pads and cool packs for muscle pains, cough drops and any other things you can think of to secure your health

THINGS YOU MIGHT USEFUL

-    good speakers and headphones this might sound very random, but it actually might be one of the things of this list you will need the most. First of all, being able to just relax and calm down with an hour of Netflix, will energize you for all that is ahead of you, but more importantly you will be introduced to a lot of fantastic music, and you want to do the music justice and listen to it in a proper manner. It will also come in handy for warm-ups and practicing your routines with your classmate.

-    microphone/camera to record yourself while singing and acting to improve yourself, and later for potential self-tapes, when your phone isn’t doing a good enough job.

-    yoga strap - stretching is important and won’t kill you :)

-    some acting and theory books to read - we will be giving you a more specific list on that throughout the year

-    a piano or an app that allows you to fine tune your pitch

-    basic costume items sometimes, especially if you work on your own pieces, it might help you to have things like a hat, a scarf etc. at home to get into character.

-    songbooks and sheet music usually you will have some sort of a library in school, but having the score of Hamilton at home won’t only seem professional and prepared but also makes a pretty item on your shelves.

-    pointe shoes many schools don’t require pointe work, but if you’ve been trained on pointe shoes before, why not continue your training outside of class.

-    barre this might sound crazy, but getting yourself a small barre for your room allows you to train on your own, and they start at around $50 (think about getting a used one), it also makes a lovely decoration item for your room and shows everyone what your passion is.

Gender Neutral Makeup Essentials (as recommend by the make-up-artist of WICKED UK

This is like a cheap and easy starter set for people with less make-up experience (aka most guys). It works perfectly both for stage or camera work and I created that list for myself with the help of a make-up artist working at the London Production of Wicked. I keep everything in a small transparent bag (the ones that are actually made for taking on an airplane: they are handy, waterproof, and really cheap). I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with make-up, because more often than not you will have to apply your own make-up, and you better get some practice while you’re still in the learning phase.

-          facial moisturizer - this is crucial, all the sweating and any products will dry your skin. Keep it hydrated and there is less work for your make-up artists. There are tons of products for both guys and girls

-         mattifying powder - get one in your skin town or transparent, you will need it for the stage as well as camera work

-         oil blotting powder - these are awesome, they take away your sweat and work similar to the powder, but you just wipe over your face and you can go back on, you will find them on any movie set especially for male actors

-         concealer/cover stick - we all have our tiny imperfections, and especially if you have no makeup experience, a cover stick is much easier to use than any kind of foundation

-         large brush to apply powders

-         cosmetic sponge - always useful

-         hand cream - not really makeup, still very useful

-         sunscreen transparent spray (for filming/outdoor productions) - this is something I’ve discovered on set, these are sprays which you can just apply, they are completely invisible and no rubbing in required; Great between takes.

-         lip balm

-         toothpicks - there always might be some food stuck in between your teeth, and it can be really distracting to the audience

-         fixing spray - the very first thing to apply to your face, and everything stays where it should

-         fixing powder - if you want to be sure, add some fixing powder at the very end

-         Good deodorant - Did I mention how sweaty your course is gonna be?

More advanced (for girls or experienced guys):

Won’t explain anything here, you girls know your make-up best, but just to put it out there:

-         base / foundation makeup

-         blush

-         eyeliner

-         lipstick

-         eyeshadow

-         mascara

Stationaries - because come on who doesn’t love them?

-          extra pencil - trust me, you’re gonna need them.

-          a highlighter because you’re basically gonna live from scripts and sheet music

-          black binders, auditions might come up sooner than you think. I recommend getting two, one for sheet music, and one for scripts etc.

-          a couple of pretty notebooks (one for each class plus one for random ideas)

-          sticky notes make you look so professional ;)

For Your (New) Home

Dull but useful

-          Storage containers (or IKEA blue bags) Towels, one big and one small

-          Hangers

-          Stool or chair*

-          Laundry bag to hide those dirty socks and leotards

-          Bedside lamp*

-          Bin*

-          Dustpan and brush

-          Alarm for when your phone dies - trust me it happened to most of us

-          Plates, bowls and mugs

-          Spatula

-          Cutlery (and a sharp knife)

-          Can opener – tinned tomatoes are your new BFF

-          Corkscrew/bottle opener yeah, drinking is still important

-          Pans including frying pan

-          Food containers (for the fridge and cupboard)

-          Duvet, a double is a good idea

-          Duvet cover and sheets (x 2 sets)

-          Plants you can’t kill, and that won’t kill you. Guys leave your Audrey at home!!!

-          Rug to cover up that hideous carpet you might get in certain dorms or flats

-          Everyday Clothes - might be obvious but bring enough clothes for potential filming, nights at the theatre etc.

-          Toiletries - whatever you’re used to

* Might be already provided

To make your life more enjoyable

-          Cuddly toy to see you through the sad times, get out you’re Olafs and Pooh Bears

-          photos and posters for once homesickness kicks in

-          Fairy lights and candles (if allowed) for instant atmosphere

-          Humidifier and a steamer - must-haves for every singer

-          Washi tape (doesn’t mark the walls)

-          a mini fridge this is something almost everyone who lived in halls/dorm recommends

-          Lots of cushions, you’ll live in your bed whenever you’re not at the studios

-          Throw/blanket

-          you might want to get a big mirror to allow you to go through your dance routines once again

-          spare cables and chargers - these tend to always break when you really need them; having a couple of them in store will make your life so much easier.

-          talking about charging, listening to music and watching your routines on your phone will really drain its energy, a good power bank, will safe you when you don’t have a plug nearby.

 

This is everything we could think of, but obviously, not everyone is the same, we had really opposing viewpoints from literally “take everything, trust me you will need it” to “Bringing too much unnecessary not only makes it more likely to forget something, but it wastes time and energy to transport. Only bring as much as you need. “

So, the truth lays somewhere in between, go ahead and customize your personal list, it might be you have more or less space, more or less money, and so on…. But this list should serve as a starting point and provide some inspiration. 

Here is a selection of quotes from what I have collected, to make it a bit more personal:

"I had a bag of clothes just for theatre. The bag included my obvious dance clothes and shoes but other things like I had my own corset for period shows, long consecutive skirts, big flowy ones, cute flirts ones and of course all the super fun Halloween tights and shorts for dancing rehearsal. I also was great at making things as I needed them. We did Beauty and the Beast, and the plates were having spacing issues during dance rehearsal, so I used hula hoops and strapped them to their backs to get an idea of how much space they needed once they had their costumes. College was where I learned to live a minimalistic lifestyle. I learned quickly that everyone you meet at college brags about all the roles they had and the shows they were part of, but most of them have never been on crew, or built sets, made costumes or been in the pit. Having been on every aspect (required on my high school and at desales) made surviving easier. I didn't bring anything from home with me, except my music note bedspread my grandmother made. “- Deanna Young

“Bring a mini fridge that you can stock with food/drinks that remind you of home or foods you love! But also put some fruits and veggies in there, love yourself. A pitcher with a water filter will save you soooooooo much money on plastic water bottles. I suggest getting Amazon Prime, especially with the student discount, it makes life easier!” - Ashley Offmann

“Pack a bunch of nice clothes/things you look really good in. You're going to be performing a lot and (at least for me) I'm one level less anxious when I have my outfit together.” - RJ Christian

“For packing you definitely need jazz shoes and ballet shoes and pointe shoes. Being a theatre student, your best friend is to always have tea and water and cough drops! I don't have a roommate, so I brought all my posters and playbills but really, bring pictures of friends and family because theatre can be a hard major and you need to remember all the love and support you have!” - Marcus Thomas

“For starters...make sure you're allowed to have some of these things. A Keurig sounds nice if you're a coffee drinker (caffeine yuck) but it might actually be a banned item. 

"In the movies, dorms are these awesome spaces. Room for everything. In real life it's nothing like that. If you're going to get a humidifier get the smallest one you can get. The rooms are small and outlet space is at a premium. 

"Speaking of - curved surge protectors are the way to go. Something like Flexigon on Amazon. 

"Invest in a good mattress topper. Even getting one of those foam egg crate things. Dorm mattresses are evil and do not do a body good.

"Get sticky poster tac. My first dorm room had block walls. Couldn't use push pins for my posters.

"Unless you're renting from the school don't go halvsies on anything with your roommate. That way you know what belongs to whom if one of you leaves mid-year or decide not to room together the next year. Instead talk beforehand and decide who is bringing what. This goes for traditionally shared stuff like fridges, microwaves, and TVs.

"Get a smartkleen ball. They ionize the water in the washer to clean your clothes. They last over 300 washes. 

"Oh, and don't get one of those expensive shower caddies from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. A plastic basket with a handle from the dollar store suited me just fine.” - Kristin Márie Veronica

“Must haves (health-related): steamer, all manner of sports guards (e.g. knee, elbow, ankle), all manner of heating and ice packs for those sore muscles, all manner of heat ointments, sports tape, compression gear (I slept in them a lot of the time to improve blood circulation and the promote faster healing), all manner of medical ointments (hot and cold), a gym roller and hockey ball for deep tissue massage

"I made a (vile-tasting but incredibly effective) concoction of apple cider vinegar, raw ginger, fresh lemon and chopped garlic which I drank every day to keep the bugs away. Add a teaspoon of it to juice every day!

"Must haves (performing related): video editing software, audio editing software, a selfie-stick with a tripod (for self-tapes), a keyboard app on your phone

"Must haves (sanity related): a really good set of earphones to block out all the noise and drama” - EuJin Hwang

Last Words

 Last but not least, everyone at ATB really believes in you, and we know you’re gonna have an awesome time wherever you are headed, that’s why we collected some words of encouragement and advice for you:

“I think it helped me tremendously having a sense of purpose for my art. I am very fortunate that my program was designed in such a way that we had to think about what we wanted our art to stand for, and to explore any manner of expression.

"I also think it is EXTREMELY important to become aware of how you need to take care of ALL aspects of yourself – physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I saw so many people who were talented, but who did not have a healthy way of dealing with the pressures of a career in the performing arts. This is why I have embarked on a journey to help actors develop a “Healthy Inner Life Practice”. In this way, you build a career that you own, that grows and that stands a much better chance of being sustainable. And if you have a healthy inner life, there’s a high chance that the work you create as a performer will also be more authentic, more connected and touch more people.

"Talent will only get you that far. The rest of sheer and deliberate hard work. You can’t meet the Universe half-way. You have to meet the Universe 99% of the way. You have to look under every rock, explore every possible nook and cranny to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. And the final 1% that you can’t control, you let it go.

"Find your OWN WAY to stand out. Compete with yourself. I went to school with 2 identical twins and if you want to talk about identical casting, they would be it. But even they found a way to shine as individuals. So, the rest of us who don’t have our identical twins on our program have absolutely no excuse. The thing is – what is probably the most unique thing about you. There is NO ONE else like you on the planet even though the industry is going to want to pigeon-hole you immediately. That’s OK. There is enough time for that once you are working. For now, find the unique story only YOU can tell.

"Finally, your time in drama school is limited. Don’t waste ANY opportunity. Show up. Every single day. Take care of your shit and don’t bring it into the room. Stay present and when magic happens, you’ll be there to see and learn and experience it.”  - EuJin Hwang

“Don’t give up! You’ll be rejected over and over again but it’s so worth it when you get an opportunity to do what you love!” - Gemma Forsyth, Australian/American Actress ( Mako Mermaids, Akoni, Scrap)

 It’s okay to be nervous. My first musical theatre class was terrifying and I thought I was going to pee my pants. I told myself that if this was what I wanted to do I would just have to deal with it. It ended up being my favorite class! We’re only allowed to take it twice but the teacher is letting me take it a third time because it’s just so much fun! It’s ok to be scared, but you shouldn’t be afraid to try things that are new and different! Just be yourself and have fun, make it your own.” - Rachel Blugrind

 “A piece of advice would be to keep on top of the work, if you need help, ASK! There are so many times where I was stuck and didn’t ask for help which lowered my grade. As well as this, positivity is key. A negative attitude is no fun and to be a performer you need to be willing to push through the tough times and try and think of positive things through each situation that you may come across!” - Sammy Terry

 “You have to want whatever your goals are because they are truly spilling out of you. You have to know what you want and go after it fiercely. My dreams weren’t always theatre based, but I had this unignorable need to create art. Find what you love, hold it close, and surround yourself with people who lift you up!” -Chris Medlin - Mean Girls on Broadway

 With that, I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this article happen, it wasn’t possible to feature every single one in this edition, but there is so much more advice that will help many people, so I decided to make a series out of this. If you have any advice to share, or you have questions or worries yourself and recommendations for future topics, feel free to comment below or get in touch with me. If you know of any freshmen, go ahead and share this source with them, because I believe it sometimes really helps to remind yourself that you’re not alone in your situation and to get some advice from the experienced.