What Drama School is Really Like

It’s hell.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

I get asked about what I study a lot. “Drama” is so vague and “university” doesn’t even make it in the description. Seriously, this is not university.

So here, I’ll make it a bit clearer as to how a normal day goes at Drama Centre London. I always feel like I’m boring people or sound a bit pretentious when I try to explain. So if you do wanna know, read on. I’ll provide a glimpse.

So what we do is a conservatoire training. Basically, we school it like the professionals in the industry for about a bajillion hours. And then some. It’s not the same as going to university and majoring in drama. We don’t get that kind of freedom.

A regular day starts at 9am and ends at 6:30pm (last year it was 9:30-8:30… bless). This is Monday through Friday, all day with an hour for lunch. No to mention the many Saturdays in for rehearsals. So 6 days a week. On top of this there are countless days I’ve spent in the studio until 10pm before going home and doing more work

It. Never. Ends.

So what do we do? Everything. Voice, music, movement, acting, directing, ballet… and the most obscure exercises and assignments you could never think of. Like packing your entire bedroom and recreating it in a studio. Or rolling around on the floor, yelling, while everyone else watches you. (It sounds a bit mad now that I think about it…) We also have lessons that require a tremendous amount of reading (aka all of them). But I mean research, as you would for any university course. Except the research is applied to something physical, which only doubles the work load.

How do you stay sane?

You don’t.

There are always meltdowns. You’ve got to snap at some point.

Okay, I do have to clarify I’m talking about Drama Centre specifically (and I am a director). But generally, it’s fucking intense. Fucking mad-crazy-mind-busting-explosion intense.

There are only about 20 of us in a year, so you get close to everyone, whether you choose to or not. Getting up and revealing the darkest moments of your life is pretty exposing. And after you’ve done that, undressed in your imaginary rehearsal studio-bedroom, and spent literally every breathing second with the same group of people for months on end, you sort of get to know them. A little.

Unlike university (in the U.S. at least), your lessons are set. And everyone else has the same set schedule.

I don’t know if it would be fair to say I ever got used to it. I suppose used to the stress, but it doesn’t make it any less stressful. I still have to remind myself to eat and attempt to sleep at a reasonable time. And not have massive breakdowns in the corridor, but that just happens. And you have a new family that understands now.

Oh, and the instructors are just nuts. In their own, unique way, they are a bit crazy. I was warned about this on my first day. And I was not let down.

Some of them explain things without really explaining anything. Some talk about how they’re from a different planet. I’ve been told to be a rectangle and not a triangle. You can’t make this stuff up.

And it kind of actually makes sense.

Almost all the time.

It’s really not like university at all. You don’t just audition for an upcoming school play. You can’t. Because there are none, and the public won’t be seeing your delicious skills until your final year.

I’m sure I could add so much more to this.

The reason I felt like sharing this is because people always ask what I study, and when I say, “I go to drama school” they say “oh, that’s cool.” Not practical, I know. Most times my family will ask is it worth it or tell me you can go to school in the US for cheaper. And then I end up using the school’s credentials to back up my choices. “Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender went there!”

Then I sound like an arrogant prick, but without it, I’m just prancing around, wearing costumes and reciting Shakespeare. (Not really, but I feel like that’s what is often perceived).

So I bring out the big cards and own up to how the Mother of Dragons is a Drama Centre alum.

(Whoops, did it again…)

Whenever I’m asked how my first year went, I always say it was fucking stressful as fuck. Which is so true, I won’t take that back. But that’s not to say it wasn’t worth it, because I have learned so much. It’s incredible how much you don’t know.

Acting is a tough cookie.

A school like this really tests you. Your stamina. Physically. Psychologically. But eye opening and completely worth it. There’s no way to prepare yourself other than diving in and getting the full experience head on.

I was thinking a lot about drama school and if it was really something I needed to pursue, then I imagined not being there. Away from the projects, separated from the people. And I think I’d be a little miserable. Not that I want to spend the rest of my days here (it would shorten my life span tremendously), but I want to do the whole shebang.





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