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Musical theatre from an outsider's view looks like a bit of fun, and in many ways it is. However, once you decide to embark on making this a career, things get a lot more serious. Now I'm in no way trying to tell you not to go for it. If you have a passion and a talent, then why not at least try? Because at the end of the day you can stand with your head high and say you gave it your best shot. However, there's many things that I wish I knew before I started this process and wanted to share it with an aspiring actor.
1) Things won't go according to plan.
Many things on this journey will not go according to plan. If you are anything like me you'll have a set life plan and want to stick with it. Throw that out the window now. I'm currently on my third year of training with one more definitely in the future and hoping to get onto another three years after that.
Had you asked my 16-year-old self what her plan was when she started, it definitely wasn't that! Letting go is hard but once you do you'll be able to follow the right path for you. Just stay focused and passionate and the years will fly by.
2) You will not like everything.
Unfortunately there is a very high chance that you will not like every aspect of your training. Whether it be a ballet lesson or reading the same line of a monologue again, everyone has something they don't particularly enjoy. And that is okay! Allow yourself to acknowledge what you're not enjoying but also understand that it's a fundamental part of training.
Try taking things back to basics and don't just go through the motions. If you're doing a plie think about all the many things to make that plie technically perfect and if you're stuck on one line of a monologue think of your use of inflections and your enunciation. Is it as tight as can be? If not then there's room for you to improve in that.
This video is just a little bit of fun but it also tremendously highlights what playing with a line can do. Have a watching and a little giggle with some great actors.
3) Someone is always working harder than you.
It seems harsh but is true. This is one thing that got drummed into me at college. That is the nature of the business unfortunately but it serves as a great fire beneath your bum. The minute you start to mark something all you have to remember is the 'Joe Bloggs' working twice as hard and therefore improving twice as much to keep you going.
This industry is forever moving and so you have to be bettering yourself constantly and working as hard as you can. You don't want to wake up one day after not getting an offer and regret the classes you marked. Never give yourself any other reason than 'it wasn't right' for not succeeding at the audition.
4) It'll be one of the hardest things you do.
Fact. Or at least in my opinion. You are constantly going even if your body is sore or you're ill, you have to push past it. Keep working and training because at the end of the day it'll be worth it when you get to take that bow on stage.
An ESPN sports scientist tracked India Bolds from Broadway's The Lion King's heart rate and breathing amongst other things. The results are insane and proves just how much you'll possibly have to work.
The ESPN video...
5) It'll be so rewarding.
Months will go by when you see no progress in yourself at all. Then one day suddenly it'll all click and you'll smash that triple pirouette or hit that top C and everything will suddenly seem so worth it! All the countless times of repeating the exercises make sense and you finally see what the point of it all is. Hold those moments close to your heart to remind yourself why we do what we do.
6) You'll find inspiration everywhere.
With musical theatre and different elements of the arts becoming more popular in today's world you'll be able to find inspiration everywhere. You no longer have to travel up to London to see a show. Hamlet was recently broadcasted on the BBC with Andrew Scott playing the lead.
This production was one of the best portrayals of Hamlet in my opinion and it was so accessible. It was even put on the iPlayer for 30 days after its first broadcast so that more people could watch it. Having such an amazing cast be so accessible to so many people, really shows how the industry is changing with the way society works.
If I ever have a down day and am in need of some inspiration I always go and watch the same clip on youtube. It's the MTV recording of Legally Blonde the very last clip that there is. There is a very brief moment where you get a camera shot in the audience and then Elle runs out to bow. For some reason that gets me inspirited and motivated to get going again. I've inserted the clip below so have a look. The quality of the picture is awful but I would highly recommend watching the whole show whilst it's still up.
The shot I was talking about is at 6:15 but feel free to watch the whole thing. It's great
7) You can make any school work for you.
There is loads of talk about which schools are the best around and there always will be. But then you have to remember these are a subjective view and also can change at any moment. All it takes is a great teacher to go to one school and suddenly it's amazing. I am a very strong believer in it's not the school but what you take from the training. You could have one person go to the best college but not work hard and come out and never work again. Each training is different so take everything you can get out of it, be like a sponge and soak it all in. Then go out into the industry and show everyone what you've got!
8) Be happy, be kind, be employable.
In an industry like this you have to remember that everyone is talented and so that won't play as big a role in getting the jobs as you may expect. Everyone knows everyone and so your reputation follows you around. People talk so be nice to everyone you meet.
Not fake, but friendly, kind and helpful. If you are mean to the lady/gentleman singing you in, they will go and tell the casting director and that could cost you the job that you've just auditioned for. No one wants to work with grumpy or rude people as it will create a bad work environment especially once the show opens and you have to do 8 shows a week with them. Just remember to be your kind selves and then people will want to work with you.
You will continue to learn things about musical theatre through the rest of your training and throughout your time working in the industry. These were just a few things that I felt were important to know to give you a head start. Now go and take every opportunity and give it your best shot. After all, no one can blame you for trying.