Updated: Jul 11
Auditioning for drama school can seem like a pretty daunting process, especially if you might not know anyone who’s been before, or have been told anything about what to expect, but in this blog, we’ve prepared 10 top tips to see you through the process from beginning to end. Break a leg!
1. Do Your Research
In the same way that you are encouraged to visit and research different universities, it’s really important that you do as much research as you can when choosing your drama school. The best place to start is to think about the type of training you would like to experience; perhaps there’s a practitioner that one school focuses on more than another, or there might be a course that has an exam or dissertation element to it as opposed to a 100% vocational course. All of this information can be found very readily online via the websites of every drama school, who should have a copy of their prospectus listed.
Another great way to work out if a school is right for you is to try and speak to genuine students at the school! It might be that you have friends already at the school, or friends of friends that you can ask, but if not, is there someone at your school that you can speak to? Ask your Drama teacher if they have any contacts that you can reach out to – the more informed you can be the better.
Once you have an idea which schools you might be interested in, try and get yourself booked in to some open days if this is accessible to you. This is a great opportunity to see the building itself, speak to current students and staff and ask any questions you might have about the course, the audition process and anything else that might not be covered in the prospectus. It might even be that you turn up and don’t like the school, which is completely fine, and if anything saves you finding out later on in the audition process!
2. Check your Dates
Not every drama school has the same application deadline dates, as, although the majority of schools are applied for via UCAS, there are still some places that need to be applied for directly through the school (such as RADA). This means that you will need to submit separate applications, pay different application fees and, in some cases, write different personal statements (always check the requirements beforehand!), so make sure you have a rough idea of when this will all need to be submitted early on in the process so you have something to work towards. Generally, after your application is submitted, you should be given an audition date fairly swiftly, so make sure you’re prepared before you apply! Which brings me on to…
3. Check the Requirements
Generally, every school will ask for a Classical and Contemporary audition speech of around 2 minutes in length. However, within this specification, some aspects may differ from school to school, such as the dates for when the ‘contemporary’ period begins - e.g. some might ask for a speech from 1963 onwards, but some might suggest 1953 or 1973 as a starting date. Some schools might ask for a song to be prepared for the first round (although this is more common for recalls, it is always worth checking!), others might have a list of set Classical speeches that you have to work from.
By knowing these specifications, it will make it far easier to narrow down your selection of speech choices in a way that makes it easiest for you. You want to make sure that you are making it as stress-free as possible in the beginning so that you can focus all of your energy in to the preparation!
4. Get Reading
Now we’re getting to the exciting bit, the bit that you’re probably most looking forward to in the process – the choosing of your speeches! You might be entering into the process with a very clear idea about which speeches you would like to audition with; perhaps you did a play during your A Levels that you really loved, or saw something at the theatre that you really connected with, in which case, go for it! If, however, like the majority of people at this stage, you’re feeling a little stuck or overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice, the best thing to do is to get reading.
Read everything. Get online and find as many plays to read on there as possible (some writers or education institutions have very generously posted plays as pdfs online), and ask if, if you’re still at college, your school has access to any play databases. If you’re drawing a blank, there are lots of really brilliant resources elsewhere. The National Theatre bookshop has a huge amount of plays to browse, the majority of which are contemporary, and The Royal Court bookshop now houses the Samuel French bookshop, both of which hold huge collections of contemporary plays and new writing.
It's also worth remembering that speaking to teachers, peers, and asking for advice on social media are all incredibly useful tools, especially as you can ask people who actually know you the type of thing you might be suited to!
5. Make Good Choices!
Choosing which speech is right for you is perhaps one of the trickiest parts of the process, because surely if you’re acting, you should be able to transform into any part, right? Well, not exactly. At this early stage, the most important thing is to choose a speech that is the best reflection of you. This is most applicable to the contemporary speech, but it does cover classical speeches too (this will be spoken about shortly). The thing that is crucial to remember from start to finish of the process is that the panel want to see who you are – the truest, most authentic version of you, so doing a speech written about a 60 year old darts professional isn’t exactly going to be the best choice (unless you are a 60 year old darts professional, in which case, go for it!).
A good question to ask about your speech when you’re going through different material is, “could I play this on stage tomorrow?”, meaning, would this be believable casting. Is the character a similar age to you? Perhaps they’re from the same place as you, or has a similar background, or you'd be speaking about a passion that you share with the character, but whatever it is, it’s really key that there is something that brings you towards the character. Now, of course, there will be acting involved, so you shouldn’t worry about finding something fully autobiographical, but the point is that the contemporary speech is going to show the panel the type of actor that you are. You also want to look for a speech that has the dramatic arc of a mini play, with a beginning, middle and an end, so that it is self-contained enough to work outside the context of the play.
When it comes to your classical speech, this is going to be slightly trickier as the circumstances are, more often than not, not very relatable to someone living in 2023, however there are certainly things that can help in choosing. Is there a theme of the speech that you find relatable, for example, do you connect to Viola’s unrequited love in Twelfth Night, or Hotspur’s passion in Henry IV? Again, try and find an ‘in’ with these characters then make them your own!
6. Preparation is Key
You’ve chosen your speeches, so what next? Firstly, make sure you read the whole play that your speech came from! It’s more than likely that the audition panel will ask you about your character and why you chose the speech, as well as context for the speech, so make sure you have all the answers at your fingertips. Reading the whole play also gives you an understanding of the journey that your character goes on, which would then influence why they say what they say in the monologue you have chosen. When reading the play, it’s also useful to note down what other characters say about your character, and the things your character says about themselves. This can help to inform your decisions you make within your speech about the tone, how you’re pitching it, as well as certain vocal or physical qualities you may bring to it.
Once you have this written down somewhere, think about what your character wants. Do they want to be in love, to have a friend, to be by themselves, the list goes on... but knowing what your character wants is incredibly important! The want or the objective of your character is going to be the thing that drives the speech from beginning to end and again, will inform every decision you make in your performance. For example, if your character wants to have someone to love, think about whether this might mean you use flirtatious tactics, or maybe they’ve become so cynical that they become dismissive of who they’re talking to; either way, make sure it’s grounded in the truth of the writing.
7. Practise Makes Perfect!
Yes, it’s cliched, but only because it’s true! Once you’ve made choices about your speeches, it’s time to rehearse it as much as you can. The aim is to be as comfortable with the material as possible, so that you are able to take on redirection from the panel without it catching you off guard, and this can be done in a number of ways. If you’ve landed on a way of performing your speeches that you feel happy with, why not try whispering your speech, or doing it whilst washing up or washing your hair? If you’re happy to, perhaps try singing your speech!
By varying it in these different ways, you are opening yourself up to making new discoveries. For example, maybe there was something about whispering Hamlet that unlocked something new for you, or by reciting your speech on your walk home, you realised that actually it’s about something completely different! At this point it’s also worth mentioning that this should be FUN! This is something that you want to be doing, so try and enjoy every part of the process.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Sometimes we need an outside eye to look at our work and help us with things we might not have noticed, and that is completely fine! In fact, performing in front of someone else is great preparation for when you perform in front of the audition panel, and means you’ve already done the scariest bit of showing someone else your work. Whether you have a teacher you can ask, or you want a few sessions with a tutor or audition coach, getting feedback from someone you trust is the perfect way to develop your speeches, as well as developing your confidence!
9. To Thine Own Self Be True
Forgive me for quoting Polonius, but if you only remember one of these points, let it be this one. It is so important to show the panel who you really are, both for their sake and for yours! Let them see your brilliant self and be proud of it – don’t be afraid to give them everything you’ve got. The audition panel will see hundreds, if not thousands of auditionees, and they really can tell when someone is being inauthentic or holding back, so please hold on to the fact that being yourself is the best thing you can do.
On the Day of the Audition…
10. Take a Breath
It might sound obvious, but before you go into your audition, find a quiet spot away from the rest of the group and take some deep breaths. Maybe there’s a guided meditation you want to listen to, or a song that always boosts your confidence, but take a moment to ground, connect with yourself and the work, and, although it might not be easy, try and relax. If you’re able to, you might want to do a quick vocal and physical warm up to get you feeling ready, or spend a few moments just going through your speeches. Sometimes that time alone can really help to get you in the zone.
We hope you found this helpful, and remember that there are so many resources at your disposal, and lots of people who are willing to help! If you think that you could benefit from a tutor to work through the process with you, then please contact the team here to ask for more information. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the blogs for more interesting reads!
Blog Post Crafted by Cicely
Cicely works on our Admin Team, and also tutors extensively.
In 2020, Cicely discovered her love of teaching, and has been tutoring English Literature and Drama ever since, as well as running a drama school audition help service with her friend and fellow actor to help prospective drama school students with their audition speeches.
Cicely has had her poetry published in anthologies and online, and in her free time is an avid reader. She loves living by the sea, a good podcast, and taking long walks in the countryside.