Thursday, 28 May 2015

The year in review

So we've reached the end of another year! It's been a year of literal blood, sweat and tears, but after 5 drama school auditions, I'm pleased to confirm that I will be heading to the American Musical Theatre Academy to study musical theatre this September! To finish off my posts about the application process, I thought I would have a round up of awards for the different schools (inspired by a similar post from "that drama student" on tumblr ( Without further ado, drum roll:

BEST AUDITION                  AMTA
Probably not that surprising, given they were the only place that accepted me, but I still found them to be super nice and supportive. We even got given free bottles of water and a goody bag of snacks after the audition! It's the little things that you remember :)

There isn't really much I could say that was positive about my audition day at Mountview. It was boiling, crowded and just generally un-enjoyable (for me anyway!). Dance was alright, I suppose.

Beautiful beautiful building, still a little heartbroken about my rejection.

See above 

A real surprise for me, GSA and the University of Surrey campus are both beautiful- well worth a look around.

They couldn't do enough to help, absolutely lovely. Genuinely made me feel so at home!

I was a tad star struck at Phyllida Crowley Smith being on the panel for the GSA MA. As a huge Cats fan (both the animals and the show), it was simultaneously awesome and intimidating to perform for her, having grown up watching her in the Cats DVD recording.

They put some music on and asked us just to move and express ourselves. Yes seriously. One of the most awkward audition moments I have ever experienced.

I didn't expect to like either of these schools as much as I did. GSA is absolutely beautiful and the facilities are top notch. You benefit from being part of the University of Surrey and the MA course is amazing and churns out triple threats like nobodys business. AMTA also suprised me, and I had the most fun day auditioning there. 

I hope that this has been mildly entartaining to read, if not terribly helpful! Until next time!

the postgrad-app

Thursday, 21 May 2015

2015: Musical Theatre Audition #5: LSMT

The fifth, and final, of this years drama school auditions was for LSMT (London School of Musical Theatre )- if you hadn't worked that out from the title already! The first round is pretty unremarkable, but slightly different to other schools, in that you only sing. After singing your two songs, the panel will decide if they want to recall you and they (as far as I know) will tell you if they want to give you a recall that same day.

The recall stage was pretty similar to the first rounds at other schools. I sang my two songs first, and as I was losing my voice it was not fantastic. Not as bad as it could have been, but I was running at about 60% capacity, so it was nowhere near the performance I would like to have given. Still, it was much worse when I woke up that morning so I am relieved it went as well as it did.

After singing, I performed a (modern) monologue, and then some people were asked to sight read an extract from a novel (these were provided by LSMT on the day). We were then free to go until the dance component of the audition, which took place that afternoon. As usual, I tried my best in dance and pretended to be enthusiastic about the routine, despite getting about half of it wrong. It was a (very) quick routine to "Thoroughly Modern Millie", followed by a few corner exercises to check our technique. As usual there was a real mix of dancing levels, from the clearly trained to the even-worse-than-me, so don't let that intimidate you from auditioning, if that's the fear that's holding you back.

LSMT don't give too much info on their website, but I think the application deadline is in March, with the last first round auditions taking place in April. Currently, you have to apply by post, so make sure you allow plenty of time to apply before the deadlines.

LSMT let you know the result of the deadline via post, a couple of days after the audition. Unfortunately my letter was a no, but I wasn't too disappointed because of my AMTA offer (still can't believe this- squeeeee!!!).

I guess this concludes my posts on the actual events of the auditions for now, but I'm going to continue writing about my journey and advice that I have picked up on the way. Keep reading for more stagey-ness!

Thank you so much to all of you for tuning in!

the postgrad-app  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

2015: Musical Theatre Audition #4: AMTA

I know what you're thinking. Well roughly, it's one of these three thoughts, right?
1) What the hell is AMTA?
2) Why didn't you tell us you were applying to AMTA?
3) Why am I reading this?

Apologies to those of you who have randomly ended up here, but I hope you enjoy your visit and stick around! For the unacquainted, AMTA is the "American Musical Theatre Academy in London", a  fairly new performing arts institute. The first students from the full time programme graduated in 2011, so it's a baby compared to some of the more established schools. As such, I hadn't heard of it until this applications cycle, and it was only when my singing teacher mentioned it, that I looked into it more and ended up sending in an application, rather late in the application cycle. A notable difference between this course and others is that they fly you out to NYC, for a week, to train on Broadway which is obviously a massive selling point!

The application was pretty standard, the same as all my others, and I was quickly contacted to arrange an audition date. With it being such a new school, and there not being much information available on the internet about the audition experience, I really didn't know what to expect (this is a common theme hah!). My expectations were pretty low, especially since I had endured a day of double rejection from drama schools the previous week, but off I wondered to AMTA's studios in Old Street with my audition material in tow.

I was greeted by a friendly member of staff, and then given a water bottle. To be quite honest, I was already sold then- I'm a sucker for a freebie! I got changed (we had dance first) and chatted to the other auditionees, before we were led into a dance studio. This was a pretty standard dance audition; aerobic warmup, stretching/flexibility exercises, strength exercises, followed by finally learning and performing the routine. It was fast and tricky but not impossible, and I did my best to look as enthusiastic as possible whilst performing it.

After dance, we performed our monologues. We were called individually into a studio to perform it for one of the coaches; I performed mine once in full, then about half of it again with some directions. This is normally the part of the day that I get most worked up about, but the coach made me feel very at ease with everything, and we had a nice chat about my interests and what I'd seen recently.

Finally, we sang. Again, this was done individually in a studio, the only marked difference between previous auditions and this was that we did a 32 bar cut of two songs only. I enjoyed performing mine, though I would have preferred to sing mine in the opposite order. After this, we went back into the waiting room and listened to a chat from the head of singing who answered lots of our questions. We were informed that we would be told, either way, within a week and that we would all receive written feedback. Then, much to our surprise, we were given goody bags of treats to take on our way home!

I did a lot of soul searching both before and after this audition, as I had resigned myself the week before to the idea that I wouldn't be going to drama school this year, and that I was completely okay with that. I never expected to like AMTA as much as I did, and before my audition I wasn't bothered about whether I got in or not.  However, once I auditioned I knew I was desperate for them to offer me a place. Sometimes, you just click with somewhere, and I definitely did with AMTA.

A week later, sure enough, I got a call...

....they said YES!!!

I really couldn't believe it, it was such a relief for all my hard work this year to pay off, and it was a huge confidence boost for me, knowing that I can actually do this.

So, all being well, I have a (conditional on funding) place on the 2 year Musical Theatre programme at AMTA and I'll be starting in September. I can still hardly believe this, and want to thank all of you who've been reading this and following my journey. I'm hoping to keep blogging regularly, but things may get a tad more haphazard in the upcoming months. I will do my best to keep you informed on the goings on of a performers life, and of the tips, tricks and lessons I have learnt on the way!

All the best!

Yours faithfully,

the postgrad-app

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Presenting your sheet music, for dummies

Far too many times I have turned up to an audition to see other auditionees presenting the pianist with sloppy music. This is deeply uncool, both for the pianist and for you!

It makes it harder for the pianist to read, which may affect how well they can accompany you, and therefore how well they perform. Additionally, the pianist may be part of the audition panel so it's worth keeping them sweet by making sure your music is clear and well laid out. Here's what you ought to be doing when preparing your music for an audition.

Mark any cuts clearly in your music so the pianist knows exactly where to go from and too (and if you cut part of a song with a key/temp change, make sure to make a note of the new key or time signature). Also make sure that you have practiced this cut, rather than just singing along with the cast recording, or you'll be in for a nasty shock come audition time.  I would always advise practising a few times with a pianist anyway, just so you can get a feel for how it is performing with another person rather than a recording, and also to check that there are no wrong notes in your sheet music. It goes without saying that your music should be presented in the key you want it played in, and that you must take the time at the start of an audition to go through the tempo,dynamics and any cuts you would like with your accompanist.

When actually laying out music, I favour the concertina fold. You can achieve this by laying the pages of music (obviously page 1 next to 2 etc) flat next to each other so that the longest sides are just touching,  then taping the edges together on the back. This enables you to keep the pages either folded like a book, or to expand them concertina style.
Some of my finest work...
I've seen people try various other methods, but I'm not convinced by them- particularly being a pianist myself! I've seen people just bring loose pages...seriously don't do this. I saw a girl get told off in front of everyone at Mountview for doing this, it's such a pain for the pianist and so so easy to lose a page! Another popular method is a binder folder with the sheets in plastic wallets. I wouldn't recommend this either, for two reasons. 
1) You have to buy a tonne of plastic wallets
2) The shiny plastic wallets can reflect the lights, making it hard for the pianist to read the music
3) The plastic wallets are also far more awkward to turn than paper

However, you don't need to throw out your folder just yet! I have one, but it's where I keep all my audition music. Each song goes in an individual wallet, after I have concertina folded it, and I keep the music in an organised order so that I can find it quickly.

I hope these tips are helpful, auditions can feel like such a scary thing, but if you lay out your music well, you'll make the pianist's life that much easier, and hopefully get them on your side. Remember that they (and the rest of the panel) want you to do your best, so don't let a silly thing like poorly laid out sheet music get in the way!

Until next time!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Staying positive

It's no great secret that the life of an actor is full of disappointment. However painfully aware you are of this, it doesn't seem to make it any easier when a series of rejections knock you for seven. I know this all too well, after receiving rejections from both RAM and Mountview within an hour of each other. Perhaps it was that I had a rather unsavoury experience at Mountview which was then followed by finding out I'd been rejected from RAM by track. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset and disappointed with myself, but I resolved not to let this get me down (for too long at least)!

I allowed myself to cry for five minutes (sometimes it just happens) and then attempted to pick myself up. So here are my top tips for staying positive when everything seems to have gone to pot: 

1)Surround yourself with positive people
I'm very lucky in that I have a close friend from a similar background, also enduring the mad circus that is the drama school audition cycle. I know that I can send her a text ranting and raving about something and she will instantly understand and empathasise. I can't thank her enough for being there for me! 
Also my non-stagey friends and family have been brilliant too recently- I can't be easy to be around so I'm extremely grateful to them too. 

2)Eliminate negative influences 
Maybe I was just on a power trip but un friending a good 30+ people on Facebook really made me feel a whole lot better. It felt good to finally get rid of people who constantly posted negative rants/ clearly didn't care for me.

3)Listen to happy music
Whilst crying I went on YouTube and half jokingly searched for "motivational music" and "happy music". Surprisingly this was actually really helpful, and had me laughing through my tears. Top marks in this category go to "Hey Ya" by Outkast, that song never fails to make me feel great!

4)Cultivate non-stagey interests 
A lot of the time when we're trapped in this drama school entry cycle we become obsessive about acceptance being the be all and the end all. It's not, and we shouldn't forget that. It's so important to find something outside of this crazy world that you love doing, and I want you all to find it and embrace it. I like running (well more the idea of it at the moment) and it's great to have a release from my stagey woes.

5)Remember it's not the end of the world
Sorry, I know this is one of the most annoying things you can be told, but it's true. Rejection always has and always will be a part of life, especially for actors, but you will get through it. I try to remember how lucky I am to have my family, friends and health and try to pick myself up. My day job is in a hospital so I am often painfully aware of just how short and tragic life can be. Don't let the pursuit of drama school take over your life, make sure you're in control and seizing each day. As the line from my favourite show goes:

"No day but today!" 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

2015: MA Musical Theatre Audition #3: Mountview

Mountview, we meet again....

Unfortunately this audition was scheduled for the day after RAM- universe why so cruel???
However in spite of the previous days events and not knowing the result from RAM at this point, I travelled to Mountview in good spirits. I arrived 20 minutes before the audition time (You must know my mantra by now, always early!!!), got changed into dance clothes and was taken to a dance studio. Here's where my audition process dramatically differs from last years...

So last year, I auditioned only with other postgrad hopefuls which was nice as there were only about 13 of us and the day felt extremely personal. We even got individual feedback which  was something I wasn't anticipating. This year however, I went into that studio and joined about 150 other auditionees. You read that right, 150. I can only really describe the audition day as a cattle call, because that's what it was. Granted, most of the auditionees were not there for the postgrad course (Mountview were also auditioning for the BA and the foundation that day), but the sheer volume of people was a tad overwhelming. We listened to a speech, did a (very) brief vocal warm up and were then asked to stream ourselves in terms of dance ability.  Naturally, I opted for the less dance-inclined group!

We then were split into further small groups and I went off to act first. I performed my modern speech in full and half of my classical. This was probably the most personal bit of the day, given that the acting teacher actually asked us quite a bit about ourselves. I felt my speeches had gone okay (though I always find it so hard to tell!) and enjoyed watching everyone else's. Next we went to sing, which I had previously thought would be my strongest part of the day. My song went okay, it wasn't the best I had ever sung it (is it ever?) but I felt I had done myself justice. The studio we were in was absolutely boiling (it was a pretty warm day anyway but the studio was like a furnace!) which was not terribly great for singing.

Finally we progressed to my most feared part of the day: dance. I needn't have worried so much though, bizarrely it was my favourite part of the whole audition. The panel teaching and auditioning us were absolutely lovely and I really enjoyed getting to show off some of the improvements I had developed from ballet classes. It was a pretty standard audition process; some cardio, technique, stretching, corner work and then learning the routine. I used all my worldly acting powers to pretend I a)was enjoying the dancing more than I was and b)knew what was going on. When it came to performing the routine (a jazzy number from White Christmas) I knew I hadn't done it perfectly but I'd done my best and hopefully had captured the feel of the number. If nothing else, I was proud of myself for how far I'd come on dance-wise since last year.

All of the auditionees then came together in the dance studio to wait whilst Mountview decided who to recall. I wasn't timing how long they took, but it felt like forever- and yes this may very well have just been the heat/stress. Every time a door opened into the studio, the room would go silent and everyone would crane their necks to see who it was before realising it was just another auditionee coming back from the toilet. Unfortunately for me, another auditionee had a similar look to me and absolutely nailed their song, so I saw it was going to be a long shot to get a recall from Mountview. When they finally announced that I hadn't been recalled I wasn't surprised, but I was disappointed. In many ways, I felt like I'd let myself down since I was so close to being recalled last year ( but after having a day to dwell over it I've realised I mustn't think like that. I'll post more on staying happy and dealing with rejection in later posts, but to anyone out there going through a similar hard time, just stay strong and remember it gets better. This is just a hurdle in my life, and yours,  and we will get over it!

All the best to those of you out there auditioning, keep the faith!

Yours faithfully,
the postgrad-app 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

2015: MA Musical Theatre Audition #2: Royal Academy of Music

 When I was first thinking of applying to the Royal Academy of Music's Musical Theatre course I did what any other applicant would do and scoured the internet for any information about the application/audition process. To my surprise, I found absolutely nothing! Although this makes it harder for you to know what to expect from RAM I feel that in a way it's actually quite good and adds to the mystery of the audition process. I do appreciate that for the un So without further ado, here is my recap of my audition day:

I arrived at RAM to join a group of about 15 auditionees for that day. We listened to a brief talk from the course leader about what the day would entail and were given a form to fill in and a list of answers to (pretty much) any potential questions we had. 

After this, we took part in what was hilariously described as a "movement workshop" on the website- DO NOT BE TAKEN IN BY THIS GENTLE SOUNDING CLASS, IT'S A DANCE AUDITION WITH A FANCY NAME!!! *breathes* now that I've got that out, it's worth mentioning that it wasn't that awful a dance audition (I actually quite enjoyed it!) but it was quite technical in places. If you're a dancer already, great! If you're not, taking some dance classes to familiarise yourself with picking up a routine would certainly do you no harm with RAM. I'll write a separate post about dance auditions for non-dancers (from my extensive experience!) soon, so won't discuss too much more on this subject for now. 

Next we had acting, which was pretty unremarkable. We each went and performed a modern monologue to the panel. They didn't give much away, but I felt mine had gone reasonably well. I always get more nervous about performing a monologue than singing and so was pleased that I had managed to perform mine with few noticeable hitches (I fluffed a line but covered it well, and you wouldn't know unless you knew the show...).

Then we had a lunch break of about 20 minutes before going to sing. RAM ask you to bring 3 songs along, but as far as I know they didn't ask anyone for more than 2. I sang 2 of my 3- incidentally not the 2 I was expecting, but I guess the occasional surprise is good for you! I felt one had gone okay and one sounded the best I had ever sung it, so it was a complete mixed bag. The room we sang in had seriously brilliant acoustics,  I remember hearing myself sing and thinking "wow" and this sentiment was definitely echoed by the other auditionees.

Once the performing aspect was over, we each had individual interviews. This was something that I had been both dreading and looking forward to. On one hand, I know the rather forced interview setting doesn't show me in my best light, but at the same time I was excited to talk to the course leaders. At all the schools I have auditioned at so far (bar LAMDA), there is no interview at the preliminary audition stage and since I haven't been recalled yet (we live in hope still!!!) this cycle I hadn't actual had to endure an interview. The questions were pretty standard, nothing out of the ordinary; just a bit about myself and my experiences and my desire to do the course. I don't feel I came across brilliantly here so perhaps that's something to work on.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience of the audition day at RAM. They go out of their way to make you feel as comfortable as possible in what is obviously a tense situation and they did manage to put me (slightly) at ease. Unfortunately, a few days after my audition I was informed that my audition had been unsuccessful. I was gutted, as I really liked the Academy and could genuinely see myself there, but I'm going to use this experience to help me grow as a performer and strengthen myself. If I don't get into anywhere this cycle, I will definitely be applying next year so watch this space to see what happens!

Thank you to all of you reading this, I know I haven't been blogging particularly regularly but I want to get back into it- mostly not to let you all down! I try to write what I would like to read myself, so seeing that other people seem to enjoy the same thing is wonderful! To anyone in the same situation; keep your chin up and hold your head up high- we'll get there someday!

Yours faithfully,
the postgrad-app