“Never Apologise for Existing on Stage”, and other Lessons from Theatre School

“We’ve had emotional days, and intense days.  There’s no room for ‘I wouldn’t say that’, or ‘I wouldn’t do that’.  A drama degree is naturally going to be stressful.”

On the brink of graduation, preparing for the “next stage”, three University of Sunderland BA Drama students share advice for emerging actors.

On advice for other emerging actors:

“Don’t apologise for existing on stage.  Going into my drama degree, I was so quiet and so shy.  I was told ‘there is no room for that kind of person in the theatre industry’.  You have to stand out.  It sounds brutal, but it’s so true that there’s no point in getting up on stage and apologising with your body, with your voice, for being on stage.  If you want to act, act.  Own every second you get.”Alice Bickerdike, Actor, University of Sunderland BA Drama student

Actors Reece Sohdi, Alice Bickerdike & Steve Walker - talking SunFest2017 with Jay Sykes on ArtyParti

Actors Reece Sohdi, Alice Bickerdike & Steve Walker – talking SunFest2017 with Jay Sykes on ArtyParti

“It took me a good two years to feel confident in myself on stage.  And I’ve played all sorts of characters; characters who’ve made me sit in the corner and cry, and say ‘I don’t want to do this’.  You look back on your acting experiences and think ‘I have come so far!’  The last three years has taught me to own it.” Alice Bickerdike

“Be selfish.  That’s one of the things my lecturers told me.  He said ‘your best things are yet to come, but be selfish with your director.’  You can ask for more time to focus on your practice, hone your performance skills, ask for their time to help prepare you for the real world of theatre.” Reece Sohdi, Actor, University of Sunderland BA Drama student

On entering the world of professional theatre:

Alice Bickerdike - Actor, University of Sunderland Drama student

Alice Bickerdike – Actor, University of Sunderland Drama student

“When you go into a professional rehearsal room, no-one is going to spoon-feed you anymore.  If you can take as much from your degree as possible, you’ll be able to walk in and say ‘I know what I’m doing’.  You should have already mastered all the fundamentals.” Alice Bickerdike

“It’s like going into construction and not knowing how to saw wood.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to get hired.” – Steve Walker, Actor, University of Sunderland BA Drama student

On creating devised theatre:

“You’ve got to come up with techniques to get things moving; to create movement that links to text, movement that ties to your overall theme.  You can’t be precious with anything.” – Steve Walker

“You have to decide which direction to move towards, retain that direction, and not get lost.  You could literally do anything that you want to do; you have to be strict with yourself, and cut things out that don’t fit.  Pop it in the folder for later, but don’t scrap any of your work.” Alice Bickerdike

Patterns of Purple Flowers, featuring actors Alice Bickerdike and Steve Walker - 6th May 2017

Patterns of Purple Flowers, featuring actors Alice Bickerdike and Steve Walker – 6th May 2017


On finding your characters:

“When you’re taking on characters that are nothing like you at all, I think that’s when you stop being a drama student, and you become that professional actor who knows it’s completely separate from you as a person.  It’s your character.  There’s no room for ‘I wouldn’t say that’.  ‘I wouldn’t do that’.  You have no choice; it’s the material you’ve been given, so deliver it.  We’re working with a really sensitive subject [in Patterns of Purple Flowers], and some people find this more comfortable than others, and for some this can be too much.  We’ve had emotional and intense days, but it makes for a better piece because we all care about the piece.” Alice Bickerdike

Reece Sohdi - Actor University of Sunderland BA Drama student

Reece Sohdi – Actor University of Sunderland BA Drama student

“It comes from research, from watching things on TV and in film, even in radio when listening to people.  You have to find out how to pick up mannerisms for the character.  What tick do they have, how do they talk?  How they carry themselves, how they walk; are they stressed, are their shoulders always back?

“An actor needs to push themselves.  And it develops over time, and you’re always finding new things about your character.  You rehearse one scene as your character, and find new things that work, and it builds.” Reece Sohdi

On the BA Drama degree at the University of Sunderland:

Steve Walker - Actor, Drama Student at the University of Sunderland

Steve Walker – Actor, Drama Student at the University of Sunderland

“A drama degree is naturally going to be stressful.  All the best things are; you can’t get through life with good things just handed to you.  You’ve got to work hard.  But also, it’s a great experience – you’re working with a lot of different people, all from different disciplines.” – Steve Walker

“Steve and I are studying at Sunderland for one year, when most students are in their third year.  It’s been really interesting to see how everyone else has worked together for the past three years, and how we’ve fit into that.  We’ve been able to bring what we know about the devising process, and the final productions, and share our ideas with people.  We’ve previously done a lot of physical work, in comparison to the University of Sunderland’s students who have done more text based work, and it’s been a really interesting mix of people.” Alice Bickerdike

Actor Steve Walker in a piece of devised theatre, at the University of Sunderland

Actor Steve Walker in a piece of devised theatre, at the University of Sunderland

“University is your experimental period.  You can’t just decide to go out into the world and go ‘I want to audition for something I’ve never done before.’

“The likelihood is you’re not going to get it; because you don’t know what you’re doing.  Whereas at university, it’s your time to do it.  Make time for yourself to experiment with acting roles, and commit yourself to it when you get it.  Throw yourself into your performance, enjoy it, and you’ll see if you can be a lead in the real world.  Because you’re up against [thousands of] serious actors.” – Steve Walker

“We’ve had the opportunity to attend workshops with lovely and insightful people who’ve been part of the theatre industry.  You get to find out who’s working in the North East, who the big players are up here.”

Actor Alice Bickerdike in "Canterbury Tales"

Actor Alice Bickerdike in “Canterbury Tales”


On collaborating with other emerging actors:

“Listening to others is so important.  It’s about understanding what other people can do.  In drama, you have to be able to look at things from a different perspective.  If you put an idea forward, consider how it can fit in the piece and what other people can add to it.  Sometimes you need to lead, other times you need to take a step back and see the bigger picture; it’s vital.” Reece Sohdi

Actor Reece Sohdi in "Small Talk"

Actor Reece Sohdi in “Small Talk”

“One of the trickiest things about university is that people have other commitments aside from university.  You have to manage fifteen people’s schedules all at once; it’s a great challenge to fit everyone in all time.” Alice Bickerdike

“It’s about having confidence to say something that will make a piece better.  It’s about having confidence in challenging yourself to play different characters, or doing something that’s more hard-core.  It’s having the confidence to put yourself out there as an actor, and expose yourself on the stage.” Reece Sohdi

Got opinions on today’s post?  Leave a comment, tweet us @99Podcast, or join the 99% Podcast networking group on Facebook & share your views with our network of artists and creatives of all pursuits.

nyf-gold-award-jay-sykes-circle-crop1And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!

Jay Sykes
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration

 

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