Getting into a Top Drama School after 3 years of attempts : 7 lessons I have learned

Hey Auditionhackers ! I have recently been lucky enough to be offered a place on the BA Acting CDT at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and as my journey of drama school auditions has subsequently come to an end, I thought that I could use this opportunity to share what I have learned over my 3 years of attempts. I have tried to get into RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Drama Center, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and The Royal Welsh Conservatoire. I have got recalls at least once from all of them except the Royal Welsh Conservatoire and I have had final recalls and reserve list results for The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. But this article is not about me ; it is about how what I have learned over the 18 recalls I have done over three years can help you on how to get into drama school. So let’s get started : here are 7 lessons I have learned over the years !

I. Keep on working on your acting craft

For most of us, working solely on audition preparation will not be enough. Simply because you will usually have 4-5 monologues that you will work on at any given time, and very quickly you will probably feel like you are going in circles with those. That’s why it is very important that you keep on working on your acting skills, so keep on going to your favourite acting class/youth theatre company/drama club. What helped me a lot personally is my improvisation class. It taught me to be comfortable in any given acting situation. Redirection in drama school auditions became much easier because I was trained in reacting in the moment and just going with the flow really. Besides in drama school interviews, they often will ask you what you are up to at the moment ; if you tell them that you are currently training, you will look much more serious as a candidate.

II. Find monologues that display your uniqueness

Ok, if we’re being honest here, most top drama schools only give offers to the top 1%. That means that statistically, it is almost impossible for any of us to be given an offer. That in mind, you now know that you have to do work that the 99% are not doing, and one of the ways you can do that is by finding a monologue that suits you extremely well, and shows who you are. If you have foreign roots, you could try to find a monologue that explores that side of your heritage. If a really personal, emotional situation happened to you in the past, you could find a monologue talking about that issue. I personally have African origins and I used a monologue from Nines Lives and Come to Where I’m From by Zodwa Nyoni. Choosing that monologue helped me to bring to life the story of an African immigrant, a story not being usually told in those auditions. But it does not have to be about your origins ; let’s say that your parents divorced and it affected you, you could try and find a monologue talking about that. When you read the monologue, if you are thinking “yes, I could actually be saying this” or “yes, it sounds like something people like me are going through”, then use that monologue. It will be a precious gift to yourself and to the panel observing you in auditions.

III. Know those monologues inside and out

That sounds like a basic advice but it really isn’t ! You really, really have to know your monologues so well that you can basically do whatever you want to do with them. You need to know them so well that you can respond to any direction very quickly, without even thinking about it. In order to reach that level, I would advise to start rehearsing your monologues at least four to six months before your first audition, so that you can have plenty of time to really be extremely familiar with those monologues. In your rehearsals, I would advise you to try your monologues :

  • with lots of different paces, rhythms
  • with lots of different emotions, even those that don’t make sense (try to be funny with your dramatic monologue e.g.)
  • with different movement choices (standing still, sat down..)
  • with different intentions (defuse, provoke, amuse…)
  • with different imaginary audiences (a crowd, a family member, a friend…)

This Tip is one of the key tips on how to get into drama school because very quickly in the audition process, the panel will ask you to do your monologues many different ways, including some of the above. If you have already been training in those ways, you will have a significant edge on nailing your audition.

IV. Know yourself, Be yourself and Know the Drama School

Even if you do well all of the above, there will be a point when the panel will want to get to know you. They will try to find out if you know why you want to be an actor and if you are someone they see themselves spending three years with. That’s why you really need to know yourself well. Try to ask yourself the following questions :

  • Are you 200% sure that you want to become an actor ?
  • Why do you want to become an actor ?
  • Why do you want to train ?
  • What are flaws you have that could affect your training ?
  • What is different about the specific drama school you are auditioning for and why do you want to get into it ?

Those are questions that the panel could ask you during the audition process. Make sure that you know the answers to those questions, otherwise the panel might think that you are not ready yet. If you don’t know the answers to those questions, that is also fine. Maybe that means that you need to take a bit of time for yourself. Travelling, working, studying something else and trying again in a few years can be really beneficial to learn more about yourself, especially if you are fresh out of high school.

Being yourself is something that can’t be taught but it basically means not trying to please anyone in the audition room. Don’t try to give the panel “what they want”. Don’t try to impress. Don’t try to figure out what they are looking for, because sometimes they are not sure about it, and even if they are, you can’t read their minds unfortunately, so worrying about it will not be helpful. But what you CAN do is make choices with your own instincts. Do what feels right to YOU, not what you think will feel right to THEM. For example, if the panel asks you to be funny, give them your version of what funny is, instead of trying to figure out what they will find funny. This Tip is probably the trickiest of all the tips given here but might be the most important. ALL drama schools are looking for actors with great potential but moreover they are looking for genuine people with a genuine personality ! If you constantly try to please them, they will have a hard time figuring out who you really are. You do you !

V. Go see as many performances as you can and analyse them

Seeing Theatre Shows can be quite expensive but there are many ways that you can bring those costs down and one of the greatest ways to do this is to go and see the final year performances of the drama schools you are auditioning for. Try to observe the actors’… :

  • Tone of voice, rhythm, accent, diction
  • Movement, posture
  • Energy and pace

Just by doing that you will learn so much and pick and choose things that you want to put in your own acting skill set. You can also apply this to any movie or TV show that you are watching. You will learn so much from it !

I am quite a big fan of the most naturalistic performances and analysing actors such as Jon Hamm in Mad Men, Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter… have made wonders to my approach of the acting craft.

VI. Learn from others as much as you can

Don’t be afraid to use any connection that you might have to ask questions, discuss around a coffee and just make inspiring people talk. Maybe you have a friend of a friend that is doing well as an emerging actor, or you have a drama teacher that is super inspiring… Use those people and squeeze from them as much knowledge as you can. Talk to them about acting technique, approach, voice, movement… Their responses will inform your own approach to acting and potentially unlock some more potential.

VII. Once you have shown your hard work to the panel, it’s no longer in your hands

Don’t worry about what the panel thinks of your performance. Once you start performing, let it go ! It’s easier said than done I know, but it is absolutely crucial. When you offer your monologues to the panel, you need to be extremely focused on your work, not on how they are assessing your work. A method that has worked quite well for me is meditation practice. When you meditate, everything slows down. You learn to live in the present moment, meaning that you learn not to think about the past (the train you missed an hour ago) or the future (the dinner party you are about to go to). Meditating can be done in any position and even with your eyes open. If just before starting your monologue you can quickly meditate, you will bring yourself to the present moment and allow your performance to be as alive as you want it to be ! And once you are done, do not apologise, do not fear their judgement ! Thank the panel for their time and hope for the best. The rest is out of your control.

There you are Auditionhackers ! Here are the seven most important lessons I have learned after three years auditioning for some of the top uk drama schools. These were really crucial in helping me to get into The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and I wished someone had told those to me from day one ! It would have saved me a lot of time and trouble. So I hope that reading this saves you a lot of time and trouble.

3 thoughts on “Getting into a Top Drama School after 3 years of attempts : 7 lessons I have learned

  1. Thank you. Very helpful!
    And congratulations on Royal!
    Very well done!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much Amanda. I’m glad it helps!

      Like

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