As a fourth year who’s held a variety of roles in DST, from director to writer to actor, I think it’s fair to say I’ve come a long way from the wide-eyed fresher. I’ve attempted things I never thought I’d try, made a fool of myself in more ways than one, and made friends I couldn’t live without. But it would have been so much easier if I knew what I was getting into at the start. So here are my ten top tips to my younger self on how to (successfully) navigate the weird and wonderful world that is Durham Student Theatre.
GO AND AUDITION!
If you never try, you’ll never know. It doesn’t matter if no one you know is going or you haven’t found your confidence yet: show up to those auditions in the first week. And don’t be afraid to reach out to people if you miss the audition night because you decided to go to Jimmy’s instead (also, don’t go to Jimmy’s). Email people to see if there’s a possibility of arranging another time. Who knows? Your reading of a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ monologue as a spider could lead to your permanent involvement in a theatre company that take you to the Fringe for the best experience of your life. All because you sent that one email. You never know.
P.S. All that said… one audition will ask you to do an Australian accent. You can’t. Please don’t. Please.
BE CAREFUL with rule 1.
As with any good rule, there are exceptions. Don’t oversubscribe yourself to too many projects because you’re eager to get your fingers in as many pies as possible. You will have a better time and do a better job if you commit yourself to fewer things and really throw yourself into them.
Do your degree sometimes.
Again, please, balance is the key to everything. At some point, you will find it (probably… honestly, I’m still looking).
Try something new.
Durham is going to offer you a chance to do theatre you’ve never done before, from physical devised pieces to original written musicals. It’s fine to have a sense of what you enjoy, but don’t limit yourself. You may find new passions for things you never thought you could do. Keep an open mind, and challenge yourself.
Everyone is bricking it in auditions, not just you.
Everyone feels nervous walking into that audition room. Don’t feel bad about it! And while ‘fake it till you make it’ is the slogan of the thespian, I’ve found that a little nerves, when correctly harnessed, can give you the edge in an audition situation. It’s just energy; so practice making it work for you, not against you.
The audition panel are NOT mocking you the second you leave the room.
Having sat on both sides of the audition table, I’ve come to realise that audition panels are not a pantheon of unmovable, judgmental Greek gods, but students just like you and me. If you forget a line or crack on a note, they aren’t still thinking about it three weeks later, like you are. They have moved on. You should too.
Rejection is okay.
You are going to get rejected from things. A lot of things. This is okay. This means that you are now a small fish in a big pond. And that challenge will make you grow and adapt, not just as a performer, but as a person. If you are the best person in the room, you’re not learning anything, and you probably shouldn’t be in it. Also, having been on audition panels, 99% of the time the choice is between someone very good and someone phenomenally good. Durham has incredible amounts of talent, and while that may be scary, it’s also really exciting.
Hold your own.
Have confidence. Whether it’s in an audition room or putting forward an idea in rehearsal – back yourself! Soon others will too.
Be careful at afterparties.
The punch is ridiculously strong, and you haven’t slept in three days. Find good friends who will carry you home.
BREAK A LEG!
Theatre at Durham will be the hardest but also the best thing about your university experience. Enjoy it with everything you have.
By Aimee Dickinson
Image by DST.