So you want to get into drama school? Fantastic! This is a good place to start. These are the 7 simple steps required to help you on your journey toward getting into an elite and/or reputable drama school. For some, it can take years to get into a drama school, but our overwhelming advice is that going to drama school is the best move for any young, aspiring actor. Getting solid acting training under your belt is invaluable in moving your career forward. It will give you the leg up you’ve been looking for and open doors that would otherwise take years to open.
Updated 18th January, 2022.
7 Steps for Drama School Success
A question worth more consideration than you might think. It is important to work out whether going to drama school is something you really want to do. Here, at StageMilk, we recommend formal training to any actor who takes their craft seriously. However, we also acknowledge that it is a big commitment: it can be very costly, challenging as well as physically and emotionally draining. It will also require you to put the rest of your life on hold—especially if you are moving interstate or overseas to attend. Drama school has to take top priority for the years you are there. If it doesn’t, you’ll find yourself out of there before graduation.
There is also no guarantee that acting school will give you an acting career. Many aspiring actors get into a famous institution and think that their future will be laid out in front of them; the truth is that the competition is all the more fierce at that level. It arguably requires even more hard work and resilience to break through. That being said, drama school is not all doom-and-gloom. It can be the most rewarding, exciting experience of your life! You’ll train with incredible industry professionals, and find lifelong friends in the people you study with. And this is saying nothing of the benefits of structured, focused training across multiple fields of acting. Your acting will definitely improve as a result.
Some things to consider: location, cost, teaching staff, philosophy, prestige of the school, alumni, showcase prospects.
Note: if you get into a top drama school, take the bold step. I moved across the country to train, and it was the best decision of my life.
Going to a respected drama school is really important. Spending huge amounts of time and money on mediocre training is a waste of time, so do your research. Look at the teaching staff, facilities, chat with former students, ask questions at the auditions and really make sure it’s the right school for you. This will also help you steer clear of ‘prestigious’ institutions whose reputations of days past are propping up lacklustre staff and facilities today. Don’t be fooled by a list of famous alumni: check in and see how they’re serving students here and now. The above list of some things to consider all apply to this step as well.
Just because a school has a “good reputation’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. Make sure you do your research before committing to three years. Will you be happy there? Do you think it’s a place that will properly inspire and nurture you?
Note: It’s always worth auditioning. You can meet the teachers and current students and get an insight into the school. Auditioning for a school is the best way to get a feel for the culture and ethos of a particular institution.
You have to be thoroughly prepared when you walk into that audition room. Nerves will get the better of you if you are not well prepared.
As auditioning is an important part of an actor’s career—from getting into drama school to landing a major role on Netflix—we spend a lot of time on StageMilk talking about how best to improve your skills in this area. Here is a more in-depth article on how to audition for a drama school audition.
Four Quick Tips:
#1 Work with a teacher in the build up to your audition. That might be a weekly class, a (reputable) acting coach, a masterclass or a short-to-medium-term course. Be up front with them about what you’re prepping for: they will often have some drama-school-audition-centric tips they can give, or even know about the process of the particular school you’re auditioning for.
#2 Know the text. Understand the piece you are performing—especially if it comes from a set list provided by the institution. Far too many actors have burned out of an audition, even after giving a great performance, because they couldn’t answer a question about what the author was trying to say (and beware beware beware of this with Shakespeare). Prep yourself by doing some script analysis and knowing the monologue or scene inside out.
#3 Focus on voice and movement. These two elements are what will set you apart in the auditions. A good drama school will teach you how to use your voice, but they are still looking for actors who can use the instrument of their body to be heard and communicate. The same goes for movement: think about the physicality of your character, and try not to act from the neck up.
#4 Work out your process. It takes time to work out your own audition process, but keep working on it. If you can practice your monologue in front of different people, that’s a great way to shake off those audition nerves. If you work with a coach or take a class, you might even want to invite some criticism or directing notes from your teacher/peers. Have them throw some questions about the text to you, or ask you to perform the monologue again with a different objective in mind.
Being well prepared is essential, but there are also some important steps to performing a monologue well. Have a look at this article to get some ideas on nailing your monologue. Remember that you aren’t showing your entire catalogue of emotions: keep it simple and connected—especially to the text you’re performing. When working on a Shakespeare monologue, focus on clarity and don’t wash the piece with emotion.
As you don’t have a lot of time in an audition to showcase your talents, focus on the foundational basics: know what your want your character wants in the scene (your objective), and how they are planning on fighting for it (your action/s). Know where your character is, who you’re talking to and what you want from the other person. This is especially true of a monologue, as the person you’re speaking to can’t respond. And if you’re speaking to the audience, know why: are you breaking the fourth wall, or are they stand=ins for another character in the world of the text?
Picking a great monologue—one that is age appropriate and feels natural—is vital. You want to showcase your acting at its best and most comfortable. We have one of the biggest databases of monologues on the web, so get stuck in!
Look for something appropriate for you to perform. While there are more freedoms granted to gender-swapping characters these days (and rightly so), be aware of how the age, ethnicity or lived experience of a character might potentially clash and cause discord. No matter how good you are, nobody wants to see a nineteen-year-old attempt King Lear. Most importantly, pick something that you’re passionate about. Find a monologue that excites you to work on and perform: don’t just choose something you think the audition panel might want to hear.
If you are successful in getting into a drama school, it is important to not get too caught up in the drama school life. Well, not too much. One of our writers takes a look at how to enjoy drama school and navigate the work/life/social balance. It can be challenging at times, but never insurmountable. We’ve linked the article in the title above.
So you’ve survived the experience of drama school. Congratulations! However, your journey isn’t over … in fact, it’s only just begun. Use the momentum you’ve built at the end of your course to take on opportunities, hustle for work and find representation. It won’t be easy: that’s probably the only thing we CAN guarantee. But it’ll be rewarding. You’ll meet some amazing people and have some incredible experiences. Just keep an attitude of open-mindedness for whatever comes.
How to Get a Place in a Top Drama School [Video]
Some other useful resources worth checking out:
There is no set way to get into drama school. This is a subjective and elusive craft. Some people will audition at the same institution for years; others will not get past the first round at one school and then get offered a place at another using the same monologues.
Unfortunately, sometimes superficial reasons, or other reasons beyond your control are what thwarts your journey forward. Know this and understand this, but never take it personally. These kinds of issues extend far beyond yourself.
Interview with a former Head of Acting at a Leading Drama School (Chris Edmund)
I interviewed Chris Edmund, the former head of acting at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (boasting an alumni list that includes Hugh Jackman, Jai Courtney an Tim Minchin to name a few). Chris has auditioned hundreds of actors and had some great insights about getting into acting school. For more interviews, check out our acting podcast.
Remember you can always audition several times for drama schools. Most actually prefer this. It shows commitment and it allows you to gain some life experience before entering the madness of drama school. Make sure you are also up to date on what is happening around you. Acting teachers love to see that you are passionate about the industry, and have an understanding of current global and social events.
Hopefully, all these links and resources will be of use. If you have any specific questions on how to get into drama school, shoot us an email. We will endeavour to help you out as best we can. The best advice we can give is to find a few really good schools you want to try out for, prepare really well, read the plays, know your monologue back to front, and give it your all. Show them your passion.