Performer Sophie Wright gives graduating arts students some tips on surviving the first year out of drama school.
The buzz of showcase is upon us! Countless arts training institutions around the country are letting loose their newest graduates this month, with many ‘showcasing’ the new and raw talent of Australian actors and music theatre students with special performances in Melbourne and Sydney – our arts ‘hubs’ in Australia. Students are always excited at the prospect of finishing their degree with a bang, but now that showcase season is nearly over, it’s time to ask some very real questions…. What do you do after showcase and after drama school?
You’ve worked countless hours for showcase, toying with so many ideas of the ‘perfect’ song or monologue or script. You’ve imagined scoring the best agent, living in the most amazing apartment and landing the dream first job and you are totally ready/pooping your pants to finally get out of that drama school and take on the world.
If you have gone straight from high school to drama school you might be finding it hard to comprehend the sheer madness of not having to go to voice class by 9am, hand in an assignment you’ve done the night before, or to not aimlessly walk around a rehearsal room for an hour shouting ‘when in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes’ in a billion different sounds, volumes, intentions, actions.
Well I have thought about this over the years at what I have learnt and pinpointed 5 musts that I have found absolutely essential when graduating from an institution.
1. Find a non-performing hobby
Try to find something completely different to anything performing, acting, singing or dancing based. (For me, it was a country boy from WA…)
Finding something that is a grounding force in your life is so beneficial for life after drama school. Think about it, if you were from interstate and went to WAAPA for example, (which I did), your 3 years of experiences were mainly involved with people around this industry as probably not many of you knew anyone in Western Australia. Plus you are at uni every waking hour and the times you are not at uni, you’re either catching up on sleep, in the rehearsal room working on an assessment or obsessively watching Orange is the New Black. Your reality at that time was centred on highly creative, dramatic and loud people… and Porn party.
However when you get out of drama school, it’s inevitable that you are still going to be surrounded by the same people in this industry. When you start auditioning you see the same people you know, if you are living with actors or performers you are constantly hearing about rejection stories, audition stories good or bad or a lack of work in general. So it is so important to go do something that is so fun and take yourself out of that industry bubble and to create a healthy balance in your life.
So go meet some new people, pump some ‘iron’ at the gym, join a sports team, take up knitting, go vegan, start a protest, whatever tickles your fancy but make sure you get a kick out of it.
2. Find out who YOU are
Just because in every production you were in at drama school you happened to be cast as the old, decrepit, insane woman every single time, or the politically incorrect ‘black’ villain doesn’t mean you will always be cast as this. Unless you are in fact these people in which case… well done.
This is the perfect time to find out who you are and what you can do. Having a certain experience in drama school, not being cast in particular things that you would have liked to be cast in and not having any ‘lead’ roles does not have to be your experience in the real world.
It’s time for you to figure out who you really are, what exactly you can bring to the table and how much you can challenge yourself vocally and physically. Try some new songs, belt higher everyday, sing classically, put yourself through challenging experiences, dance more, try film and TV classes, anything to expand yourself. Because trust me, there is more in us then what we think we’ve got.
3. Create a great support network
Your friends, family and support networks are SO important when you graduate. Sometimes being forced out of this ‘family’ that you have spent every waking hour with for 3 years can be so daunting, so it’s so essential to create a family and a great tight network to bounce ideas with, be loved and just have fun with.
Who else is going to tell you to pipe down when you are doing a tap routine in the kitchen or practising your monologue insanely in the bathroom?
4. Introduce positive thoughts, everyday
When things get shitty and auditions don’t go a certain way, when you feel like you might NEVER be employed or the “interpretive Shakespearean dance piece” that you thought would be a huge hit just crumbled and burned, know that by having a positive mindset and a good habit of introducing positive thoughts will make you see that things are not quite as “shitty” as they seem.
Positivity creates resilience, ease and flow in everyday life and especially in this industry. It does not eliminate negativity or negative situations altogether but it creates a better mindset to help you deal with these situations. It gives purpose and fulfilment in your life and creates a healthy balance between what is really important and what is actually really great in your life right now. Positive thoughts such as I am grateful for this moment, I trust in what is to come, There is something out there I am right for, Everything always works out for me for the better, I am awesome, I am enough are great affirmations that you can say to yourself in the morning when you wake up, before auditions, or even through a difficult moment.
5. Everyone is different, so stop comparing yourself
At the end of the day everyone’s ‘journey’ (dare I say it) is DIFFERENT. I was talking to some of the girls in the dressing room today at Wicked and we all agreed that you couldn’t class yourself into the same category as any other person in this industry. Yes we might be similar and right for similar roles/types but at the end of the day everyone is individual! So stop comparing yourself to someone else!
Some people get employed straight away, some people don’t. It’s easy for us to play the victim and say to ourselves ‘why isn’t it happening for me’ but we are not alone. Everyone has been in this boat one way or another and it is up to us to be patient and to trust that whatever is meant to happen is meant to happen. Opportunities come up with persistence and patience. But if you have been waiting for things to happen and they aren’t yet, maybe it’s time to make things happen. Make work for yourself, get involved in courses, read inspiring books, write show/scripts/cabarets.
I guess to sum it all up: have perspective on your life and what you are grateful for in the moment. Think of your amazing talent, your family and friends and think about how awesome it is to have such a passion and zest for a career that can bring people to tears, laughter and such joy.