This is an open letter to all recent drama school graduates who are trying to enter the profession, from a very experienced, not always successful, long time fighter in the field.
Dear almost made it,
Firstly, congratulations on completing the introduction to what will be a lifetime of learning, practicing, hoping, developing and waiting. Drama school (I include all of them) is the very beginning of your journey and, if you are anything like I was when I finished my diploma and degree at UCT, you have only just started to understand this world. Yes, it is a great start, but that is what it is – an introduction.
What next? Some of you will wait to get work, hope to get an an agent, go to castings, become bar tenders while you wait. Some of you will tech for other shows, stay part of a theatrical community, do courses, get drunk with your friends, or give up entirely and make a different choice for your life. One or two of you will land that job, make a name for yourself, fill your calendars, win awards and glow and succeed.
Some of you will be bold and take the initiative to create your own work. You will be both praised for this and warned; it is so tough on every level. It is tough to work with no money, and to get others to work for no money, it is tough to publicise a show with no resources, no name to go on, no past history to rely on. It is heart breaking to perform for tiny audiences. All of this is true. So, if you do decide to put on your own work, even with all these things conspiring to make it the hardest thing to achieve, you need to make sure you do the work.
Learn your lines. Rehearse. Rehearse more than you ever did at school. Make sure that you respect the space, the playwright, the director and most importantly, the audience, because there will be people like me, who have been there and done that, who will be sitting in the audience and who will know. We will know that you just haven’t done the work and you are trying to get away with it. Your raw talent, and recent knowledge of voice warm-ups will give you false confidence, but it isn’t enough to pull the wool over our eyes, and you do yourselves a terrible disservice.
Honour the theatrical space by giving it the respect it deserves. Honour your education by knowing that all those things you learned need to be put into practice. Make a commitment to putting on great work, and failing, rather than trying to get away with shit work, or no work.
Whatever you do, do not present shit work, half-baked work, work that shows you up as a chancer, as someone who doesn’t really take their craft seriously. I recognise talent, but I can tell you right now, I have only once ever casted someone because they were talented, even though I was concerned about their reliability and commitment, and I made the biggest mistake.
We see you, those of us in the tiny audience who know how it works, and we know exactly what you are doing. And your friends and family might not tell you the truth, so I am going to. Do not do the barest minimum of work and try to get away with it. It will not serve you.
I hope you know that I have your best interests at heart. I want you to succeed, make beautiful theatre and be brilliant. That is what I want to watch.