Auditions: Cambridge vs the World
Megan and Rebecca give us their experience of auditioning for drama school coming from Cambridge.
Absolute shock horror. Cambridge isn’t always the be all and end all of further education.
At least not in the performing arts industry.
But Cambridge hasn’t been a completely alien world. With a wide variety of student theatre it has provided endless opportunities for shows, auditions, and rejections.
But we’re no performing arts college.
But many students, applying to drama school post- Cambridge have felt more prepared coming from here. Our running around in gowns pretending we’re Harry Potter got must have done something, right?
Is it common to audition for drama school post-university?
Rebecca: If you apply for an MA course, everybody has a degree, but not many people apply whilst they’re still at university- finals and drama school auditions don’t go well together! But the BA courses I applied for had very few people with degrees
Megan:For the BA courses I’ve applied for, the people who have been to university are very much in the minority. I guess it’s hard to finance another 3 years!
Do you feel less prepared than auditionees from a performance based college/course?
Rebecca: I think I actually feel more prepared. At Cambridge I’ve learnt so much, working with professional directors and unbelievably talented students….
Megan: No. If anything, I feel more prepared. I’m used to working really hard, in a way that a lot of school leavers aren’t. Also, the competitive nature of the Cambridge theatre scene means I am (sadly) used to rejection. Being at Cambridge has given me the confidence to pick myself up when things don’t work out.
How, if at all, has Cambridge supported you in this process?
Rebecca: I’ve had some very enthusiastic supervisors, who understand that to me theatre is more than just a distraction from essays. The Tragedy and Shakespeare and Performance papers positively encourage first-hand experience of the stage, so that’s been good. Others have been less wonderful.
I think drama school auditions are treated in the same way as student theatre in general: ‘that’s lovely dear, good if it helps your degree in some way, DON’T YOU DARE LET IT IMPACT YOUR STUDIES NEGATIVELY’.
Megan: In terms of help from the establishment, Cambridge hasn’t really helped at all, but then I never asked them to help me! But in terms of the other students, Cambridge has been such a supportive environment – I’ve had so much encouragement from friends and from other people going through the same process.
Have you enjoyed studying at Cambridge?
Rebecca: I have loved studying at Cambridge. I’m one of those annoying people who love their degree, love being horribly busy, love being in Cambridge. Sure, there have been times I’ve burst into tears in the street, or scared my friends with how little I’ve been sleeping, but those moments have been nothing compared to the hundreds of times I’ve sat back and thought how incredibly blessed I am to be here.
Megan: On the whole, yes. It’s been tough but ultimately I’m glad that I’m graduating knowing I’ve studied at the best place I could have possibly gone to. It’s a good feeling. And the theatre scene has been hugely rewarding, if a steep learning curve.
Do you think people will consider your Cambridge degree a waste, especially considering how competitive the places are?
Rebecca: I hope not. I know for a fact mine isn’t a waste. I have most experience in, and love for, classical acting, especially Shakespeare, and an English degree from Cambridge has meant I’ve learnt a lot about verse and language that I can take directly into a rehearsal room. I’ve taken a sensible, albeit very privileged, route into being an actor, and that without Cambridge I don’t think I’d be going to drama school this September.
Megan: I definitely don’t think it’s a waste, I’ve learnt so much here. In terms of drama school, I’ve found the panel’s reaction to me being at Cambridge has been very mixed… some places seem a little put off by it, there’s certainly a strong sense of the idea that you get very particular ‘types’ of people from Cambridge, but then others have been impressed and recognise that Cambridge brings it with a huge amount of acting opportunities…
Would you do it all again the same way?
Rebecca: Not to sound unbearably smug, but yep, I think I’d do it all again in the same way. Going through drama school application forms, auditions and recalls has been tough while doing finals, but it’s meant I’ve had some very talented and lovely people to ask advice from and to prepare with.
Megan: Yes. Although ask me that again once I’ve got my exam results…!
Could, and perhaps more importantly, should, the university do more to support others planning to go into the performing arts after university?
Rebecca: I think the most important thing the university could do is allow time. I think a specifically performing arts problem is simply people’s reaction: if I asked for an extension because I had to go to London for an interview with the civil service, I imagine that would be much better received than the same trip for a drama school audition…So I think really it’s a case of the fellows getting rid of their prejudices – ‘applying for drama school’ is not synonymous with ‘throwing away my degree by paying to roll around on the floor pretending to be the colour blue’
Megan: I don’t know. I think that the strongest support comes from the student body rather than the university itself.
Any other comments?
Rebecca: Other Cambridge actors help! They’re a really supportive group of people, who know a lot more about professional theatre than the careers service or university. Talking to each other and getting directors and actors to watch your monologues and give you honest feedback is excellent preparation.
At audition it really can feel like Cambridge against the world. I’ve been in auditions that have ranged from frankly hostile -why did you bother with Cambridge? Is acting just a hobby for you then – aren’t you committed enough?’- to genuine enthusiasm and sympathy. Apart from the odd hostility, Cambridge is generally seen as impressive, and a useful conversation starter, but it’s never going to influence a panel compared with how you audition.
Megan: Only that I don’t think drama school is the only route to go down. I may well end up pursuing acting without training. Most people don’t get into drama school first time round. Creating your own work and making the most of the connections that you’ve made whilst at Cambridge can give you loads of great opportunities.