Audition Advice for Those Thinking about a Career in Acting

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 12:00 AM

Young actress, Emily Jane Kerr, talks about her experience of getting into drama school and auditions

Thanks to our friends at for allowing us to use Emily's blog.

My name is Emily Jane Kerr, and I graduated from Central School of Speech and Drama in July 2010.

Whilst doing my A levels, I decided I was going to try for drama school. I was doing Music, Drama and Theatre Studies, and English Lit. The idea was to apply for as many as possible, and, as my ever diplomatic mother said, 'when I didn't get in anywhere, next year I'd know where I liked', and, where to spend the money auditioning.

I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about the different drama schools, so I went on the NCDT website and looked at what was available. I knew I wanted to audition at LAMDA, RADA, Central School of Acting, Guildhall but that was about it. I looked at a lot of websites, and a lot of prospectuses. After all that, I honestly think it's only once you visit a place that you know where you'll fit in, and where you like. Central said at the audition day that it's not just them auditioning you; it's YOU auditioning THEM. I think that's very true. I knew where I liked, and where I didn't like, as soon as I stepped through the door. Different people like different places, so although I would say it's important to ask what people's experiences have been, only you can say whether you feel like you could do a three year course in that institution.

So I sent off all my applications, and received back audition dates. I applied to: Central, RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall, Mountview, East 15, LIPA, Royal Welsh, Bristol Old Vic, and ALRA. Most places ask for one modern and one classical/Shakespearean speech. Some give a list. MAKE SURE YOU FIND OUT IF THERE IS A LIST. Towards the end of my time at Central I was asked to help with the audition process. The amount of people that just didn't get a recall because they didn't have a speech from the list was astounding. Read and re-read the instructions from each drama school as they're bound to be different.

Each audition is different. My first was at Central, and I fell in love with it as soon as I walked up the front steps. I liked the fact that everyone was different, and there was no Central 'type'. They were very honest in my recall, and gave me advice for future auditions. Central is also the only place that give you written feedback if you don't get a place.

Central School of Acting was a good audition. There were the bad ones though. I was forced to tears in one, and not good tears. Some panels don't watch you, only watch their watch. Some don't even talk to you, either before or after. Some are kind if you forget words, some are not. You have to be strong to get through even the first round auditions. The students that go to the schools can vary as well. Some are incredibly helpful, and others just want to watch you fail, and it varies within the schools as well, not just school to school.

I eventually got in to Central, LIPA, and East 15. I chose Central for the reasons previously stated, but mainly because it was in London. And it has an incredible name within the industry, with great alumni. I had a conditional offer, so still had to work at my A levels in order to take my place, which was a little scary.

Auditioning is just the beginning of how hard it is at drama school. I don't know about other schools but Central is hardcore. At the least busy time I was doing 40 hrs a week, and at worst over 50 hrs. It's a hard slog, but varied. I was never bored, well nearly never! Each term of 10 weeks we had a different 'theme' that all of our projects and assessments fitted into.

First term, first year: discovery of self. Second term, first year: Russians. Third term, first year: Shakespeare comedy.

First term, second year: Americans. Second term, second year: Restoration. Then third term, second year, things start to get mixed up a bit. During first and second year we had movement, voice and acting assessments. Method and performance based. The idea is to build up your skills and tools to help your acting process and then use them in the acting assessments. These are tough, with it being just pass or fail. You get one chance to retrieve or you're out. A daunting prospect.

If you manage to get through first and second year, you're thrust partially into the professional world with three public productions, a short film and the dreaded showcase. Public productions are pretty self explanatory, and these were probably the most enjoyable part of my training.

That's when the training comes together, the directors Central brought in were excellent, and the technical support (costumes, design, sound, lighting etc) was also amazing. The short film was slightly trickier. Our film training was not as much as I expected, but they've increased this now.

I was lucky enough to be picked as part of a film weekend with the NCDT in Edinburgh. This was an incredibly opportunity to work with a top casting director and screen director, and a professional crew. Amazing.

In March I was picked to perform at Shakespeare's Globe, in the Sam Wanamaker Festival. 2 students from each drama school are picked to perform a Jacobean piece, in a celebration of Jacobean theatre. One of the best experiences of my life so far.

Showcase is scary. End of. You're semi-prepared to deal with agents and casting directors and directors by this point but nothing compares to it. We had written to directors, theatre companies, casting directors and agents for our first two productions, and set to work on showcase.

I had no interest, agent or otherwise, so was not necessarily expecting anything from showcase. I duly wrote to my industry list, including people who'd seen me at the Globe. I chose my two 4 minute duologues and prepared as much as possible for our performances at the Fortune Theatre... But nothing can prepare you for the industry audience. The lights were on, and you could see every single person in the auditorium. And barely anyone laughs. The schmoozing afterwards is not fun either; standing in the corner of a bar waiting for people to come to talk to you.

Luckily I got a good response from my showcase, and had 4 agencies get in contact with me, and also a co-op agency. I had my four meetings with Bloomfields, Amanda Howard Assoc, the Narrow Road Company and Jane Lehrer. I was offered representation by Jane Lehrer and James Ireson at the Narrow Road Company. After a long decision process I decided to go with James at Narrow Road. I felt I got on with him better, and to me that was the most important thing; he was also very honest and that was good.

I have had auditions since, but I haven't been successful as of yet. I had one show left at Central and that went brilliantly, and I ended up graduating with a high 2:1, and I am very pleased with that. I didn't go to drama school to gain a degree, but it's a nice bonus!

Auditions are scary, and I struggle with building them up too much in my head, which makes me nervous. I've recently been helping a director with auditions for a production at the Soho Theatre, which was an incredibly useful experience. It made me evaluate my audition technique which can only be a good thing! One thing I've realised is, most of the people I have auditioned for remember me from previous things they saw me in at Central, which bodes well. Even if I'm not right for stuff, they still remember me in a positive light. I've got a hard slog ahead of me, and sometimes it'll be hard, really hard. But I know that I'm (as dramatic as it sounds) following my dream, and there's nothing else I want to do.

Here is Emily's website.

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