It’s that time of year again where some of our lovely older Duckeggs start the arduous, thankless and expensive task of applying for Degree programs at Drama Schools across the country.
For those I take for one-to-one LAMDA, I ensure I drum younger applicants with the beat of ‘do not expect to get in first, or even second time’. Though some Drama Schools deny it, they really don’t offer many places to 18 year olds, very often due to nerves impacting on performance or coming across ‘green’. Though you’ve heard this time and time again it is still hard to take when those rejection letters from RADA, LAMDA, Central and the like drop through the letterbox. You’ve worked hard, travelled far, spent a fortune, and barely get a whiff of feedback.
This, however, is the reality of it. Out of eight Duckegg students who I have completed Drama School references for this year so far, one has secured a recall. One. Fingers crossed she’ll get a place. It’s often a lottery. When you look at the ratio of auditionees to places I deem this a great success. One year we had three people gain places and I was genuinely aghast! These training providers are more competitive than Oxford or Cambridge University combined and becoming more so year on year. The ‘bigger name’ London Drama Schools generally accept somewhere around 1 in every 100 applicants.
There are all sorts of things at play in the audition room; raw talent, funding, age, diversity on the course, experience, who you know, how much of yourself is coming through and nerves to name a few. Though I’m not trying to put you off, you really need to consider whether this is the only route for you at this point.
Our main ethos at Duckegg is developing performers with initiative. We make no apologies for not holding your hand. It’s a tough industry and, though we will support you, we’ll also let you feel the consequences of not being on the ball. I’m not going to lie, and all our teachers will testify, It makes things difficult at junior level and some parents don’t seem to understand, but you really see the results in the children who progress from juniors to seniors. It’s our house style and it works.
The reason we work so hard to develop initiative in you is so that, theoretically, you can finish college then start auditioning for professional work, sometimes with some Equity paid work from us sat proudly on your CV, should you choose to move into industry. You can work professionally alongside trying to gain a place at Drama School. There is no one qualification that gets you into a career in performance and experience and good contacts eclipse your training eventually. If you are a confident, committed and organised actor who is willing to travel and who can contribute well in a rehearsal room then you won’t struggle to find work. I’ve auditioned enough flakey actors, for both Duckegg and larger organisations, to say this categorically.
Yes, a degree from a well known and respected Drama school helps a lot – there is no denying this. However, push yourself in front of enough people, impress them and you won’t need to hide behind any institution. You have to self promote and you have to believe in your ability. Coincidentally it’s this kind of actor, understated, experienced and hard working, that drama schools tend to be looking for.
So if you’ve had your rejection letters, and you’ve had a word with yourself regarding if this level of rejection is something that you can cope with for the rest of your acting career (actors attend an awful lot of auditions at their own personal expense and only win a handful of parts, if they are good) you can then consider the following options:
* Go to University. A drama degree at a University is not the easy route. Some courses offer a very rigorous training. Or you could study a different subject to broaden your range and take advantage of the MANY fantastic University Drama Societies. It doesn’t hurt to think about what you’d do in your downtime when you are not in acting work. The more flexible the better. I would have had to quit my directing and writing work if I couldn’t have worked as a supply teacher in the early days. If you still want to train in a drama school environment after your degree then consider a Masters course at a a Drama School, which are often more in depth and better vale for money.
* Dedicate the year to developing your professional portfolio, applying for professional work (set yourself up on Casting Call Pro and Spotlight), getting yourself known in theatre companies you like, networking in general, making your own professional level work, inviting industry people you admire to watch you perform, research high quality agencies and invite to any performances, build yourself as a ‘product’ and take Continuing Professional Development courses with reputable companies – basically all the stuff YOU STILL HAVE TO DO AFTER YOU FINISH DRAMA SCHOOL. I know a lot of professional actors who have done this then got steady work and never looked back.
* Foundation degree. If you have the money and are desperate to go somewhere then it could be an option for you. Just to reiterate - YOU DON’T NEED QUALIFICATIONS TO WORK PROFESSIONALLY. So if you think the content of the course is really going to be helpful to you then go for it, but don’t just do it because you think it’s more likely that they’ll let you progress into the degree. The progression figures don’t lie.
So I think it’s important to remember that there are many ways into a career in performance and the wider arts industry – Drama School is part of a plethora of things you can do to improve your chances of gaining work. Even with a first class degree from a top Drama School, It is not a guarantee of work. Though I work for a major Drama School and believe in rigorous, high quality training, some of the more influential and successful people I have met have had no professional training, just bags of drive, talent and a willingness to muck in. These are aspects I also recognise in many Duckegg members.
If you are meant to do this, you’ll find a way in. Have faith and stay proactive and positive.
Haley Muralee – Artistic Director