Introduction to Actor Training: A student’s perspective

I’m John, an actor-in-training, from Thurso! I took the Introduction to Actor Training course (ITAT) whilst I was in my second year at college and I was incredibly fortunate to start my actor training on RCS’s BA Acting programme the following year. I’m now in my third and final year.

A little bit about Introduction to Actor Training…

Sunday Check-Ins

Since starting my training, one thing I will say is that Sundays are the only days I can count on for rest. Well, three years ago, ITAT provided a refreshing way to end my week for part of the year! Tutor Andy McGregor took us for the first half of the course and introduced the group to ‘checking in’ at the start of a session. This was an informal way of sharing with the group how you genuinely felt in that moment, on that day. In this safe space, we could share as little or as much of our personal struggles as we wished. It was a great way of getting to know people quickly in spite of only seeing each other weekly. It put everyone in a productive ensemble spirit. Checking in is something I now do regularly at school when working on scenes.

Andy also encouraged us to talk about theatre shows we’d seen recently seen and discuss whether we enjoyed them or not. I started out being pretty terrible at this, describing shows I’d seen only as “Bangin’!”, much to the dismay of McGregor. Andy advised us to discuss why we have positive or negative reaction to certain shows. At first, I struggled and tried to find specific moments in performances to talk about on Sundays. But through many interesting discussions, I came to enjoy talking about what rocks my socks in the theatre.

Here Comes the Actioning

Actioning can be a long, gruelling process to grasp. That’s just the way it is for some people. That’s just the way it was for me.

I struggled to translate the meaning of a piece of dialogue into a physical action. My actor brain was trying to come up with more impressive verbs so that I would feel like a better actor. The ITAT short course helped me to just ‘go with the flow’ a bit more, and actioning would give partnered scenes a more dynamic arc. It’s a great exercise to use to learn a text inside-out, take it to its extremes, and then strip it down to its best parts. I was thankful for my actioning experience when I encountered it again in my first year of BA Acting. I was not alone in finding it difficult!

Prepping for the ‘Scary Day’

Coming to the midpoint of my ITAT experience, both tutors Andy and Katy Hale provided incredible audition-focused lessons which helped us prepare for our upcoming drama school auditions. Andy delivered us the experience of interviewing a panel at an audition. Katy helped us prepare scenes for our end-of-year showcase.

Learning to embrace redirection in an audition was something that was really reinforced in me during ITAT. Leaving the current idea behind to try a new one is a difficult but very important skill to learn.

The main things I learned about audition interviews are:

  • Don’t talk for ages. But don’t cut yourself short!
  • “I like this, because” is more interesting than “I like this, and this and this”
  • If they ask you about you, try to say one thing that has nothing to do with acting. Something else you just love.
  • If they ask you to talk about your speeches, try to find something you genuinely care about, mundane as it may be. You like how it flows, the imagery that drew you to the speech, you like the story, etc.
  • The panel is usually a group of lovely people who want you to do your best.
  • Breathe, and be you.

(Introduction to) Acting Graduates!

Katy helped us pool scenes together for our showcase, while working with us on Shakespeare monologues we selected. The ensemble at ITAT were a great bunch and I learned a lot working with them.

With the incredibly talented Caroline, I did a scene in which I had to tell my ex-girlfriend she might have HIV. Katy helped me develop my movement onstage with this scene, something I’ve always struggled with. Through push/pull exercises, we found effective, unforced tension in the scene. Katy’s work on dialogue helped me to take my persistent vocal habit of ‘performing lines’, to a more naturalistic quality that was more suited to the scene.

Katy used the group to really work my St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. Having a full crowd to address during my speech helped me really visualise the space. When it came to the showcase, I was able to take this visualisation of space into the audience. I really preferred this to just delivering the speech to an invisible army.

What resulted was a showcase full of great scenes. Katy did well to give us scenes with contemporary qualities that really suited us as actors. Everyone was in a role in which they really held their own and shone as an individual.

I think often of my time on ITAT, and how it taught me not just to be an actor in their work, but an individual and an artist with interests. Someone who can enjoy a piece of art and indulge in a discussion about it. Having a mock audition environment was a wonderful way to knock off a tiny portion of the nerves for the big day(s). And as always, it was wonderful spending time in a rehearsal room with a bunch of like-minded, warm people… Even if it was on a Sunday.

Applications are now open for Introduction to Actor Training to begin in January 2021. You can find out more on the Short Courses website here

Introduction to Actor Training
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