Thursday, 5 June 2014

Small and Perfectly Formed

Lots of things have been happening here at Read since I last posted, including the first auditions for our new 6th form course which opens in Septmber, and some interesting chats with our auditionees about their experiences spending an audition day with us prompted me to write this post...

The most often-stated (and also my favourite!) comment that we get from candidates during their interview with us goes along the lines of: "It's so nice auditioning here because you get treated like a person and I feel like you've got to know me". And that, in a nut shell, sums up the entire experience at Read College for auditionees and students alike. We are a small college on purpose, and that is how we will stay! There is no sense in growing and growing endlessly, when there are already plenty of other foundation courses in the market which have larger classes and are involved with their own three year courses, but this is in fact our greatest strength.

Without exception, the whole team from the Directors to the freelance staff have the opportunity to get to know each and every student in the school, and support them in their personal journey through exams, auditions, successes and rejections. Not only that, but our focused student numbers also mean that we can shape elements of the course to suit the individuals studying on it, so that there is no 'one size fits all' policy. That's why our success rates are so good, and also why our graduates are now at such a diverse range of colleges from Urdang and London Studio Centre, to Rose Bruford and Central School of Speech and Drama.

Our focus and commitment to the individual has also helped our enviable exam results too. This year for example, not only did we succeed in gaining our regular 100% pass rate which we have always enjoyed, but our already above-average Distinction rate soared to almost 69%.

For students and parents choosing a foundation course it is easy to see how a huge student body and premises shared by three-year courses as well can be exciting. But remember, bigger doesn't always equal better! For our select few they will be part of an experience at Read College that will challenge and train them, but also support and nurture them as young artists too.

If you fancy booking in for a private open day (again we don't do big, we do personal), you can contact us by clicking here...

Friday, 22 November 2013

The end... But only of the beginning

So, here I am. Sat in a gutted out office with an almost empty college building behind me, save for a few boxes and bits left in each room. Today was our final day at the Myra McCulloch Building, which has been our home for the last few years and which has seen the opening of our Foundation Course in Acting, our 3rd successive year of 100% success rates on the Foundation Course in Musical Theatre, our accreditation for the 6th Form, and the continued growth and development of Read College as we know know it.  But this is no end of an era, and no time for looking backwards.

We are embarking on one of the most exciting projects that we have ever undertaken, and it all starts now. In our quest to find a viable, permanent home for Read College, we have met dozens of artists and arts organisations in Reading who also find themselves without decent spaces from which to operate. From dance schools to charities, and from painters to performers, there is no facility in the town at the present time to accommodate the amazing activites of the creative community.

That's why we have decided that our new building, when it opens, won't be just a home for Read; it will be a home for the Arts. Our vision is of a collaborative space, where one group can interact and engage with another and where we can all share our passion and expertise with one another, and that's why we are currently in consultation with several community, local, and professional arts organisations who are likely to become our Artist in Residence groups.

A fantastic site has been identified for the project right in the heart of Reading town centre, and we are currently in talks with the land agents to secure a deal on the building. There is a lot of buzz around the project, and we are so excited that Read College has a chance to stand up and be counted on behalf of the arts community in the town.

We now have a 15 month fundraising project to help raise the money needed to transform the building, which is currently empty and unused, into Arts Space Reading. This is no small task but, if any group of people is going to make it happen then it's the extraordinarily supportive and hard-working staff, trustees and supporters of Read College!

Whilst all of this goes on, we are so grateful to our Head of Jazz, Michelle Legg, who has kindly taken the college in to her beautiful TPAI Studios in Reading (in a stunning location with the main studio overlooking lakes!). Our wonderful students have been helping the staff with the move, which is being done entirely on our own using volunteers so that we can save every penny to be invested in our Student Hardship Fund.

Without the kindness of the staff and students this would be a tricky time. As it is - thanks entirely to the supportive and endlessly creative people around us who make up Read Dance and Theatre College - it is one of the most exciting and inspiring times in the college's history.

I look forward to keeping you up to date with our news...

For the final time from the Myra McCulloch Building,


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Completing the circle

Our website says that "We will produce professional, well trained students, with knowledge of all aspects of their industry..." and that is something that we've been striving to do ever since we opened our doors. So, it has been particularly nice this year to be welcoming back some graduate students as colleagues who have brought some great industry knowledge with them.

So far this academic year, we have had Natalie Issitt (Urdang) and Sophia Nomvete (Arts Ed) to teach classes for the current batch of Readies, and next month we will have Talitha Rye (PPA) singing as one of the professional guest artists at our November fundraiser concert. It is a huge pleasure to see how well everyone is doing and it is an even bigger pleasure to see how much the current students get out of learning from their experiences.

Learning is always a circular process - I have learnt so much from being a teacher that I didn't realise or understand as a student. It is really nice to have seen this circle complete this term as students, who have gone on to become professionals, complete the loop and start to teach; thereby learning more about themselves and starting the process again.

There's never a time to stop learning, because you can never have enough knowledge. Things change, people change, times change... I think that the most important part of any teacher's job, for that very reason, is never to think you have all the answers. Know as much as you can, love your subject and be good at what you know, but then make sure you open your ears and your mind up as regularly as you open up your mouth!

I hope that both the Graduate students and the current students continue to enjoy learning from one another as much as I continuously enjoy teaching and learning from them, and long may the loop continue...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Inbetween

It's a funny time of the year in drama school land just now.  One group of students so recently graduated that they still feel present, one group frantically sending in paperwork and enrollment forms so that they also feel present, and a whole faculty of teachers who are the focus of our day-to-day work co-ordinating their various freelance schedules so that we can begin to shape next year's timetable.  And yet, there is nobody actually AT the college.

It's the same way for a lot of potential students out there I think.  Now that so many dance colleges and drama schools have become part of UCAS and there are degrees, universities and funding requirements to satisfy, people are very much in a state of 'in-between'.  Some of our recent graduates are still waiting to find out about their DaDA funding or student loans, and meanwhile we've got potential students coming and going as they are offered reserve places at 3-year courses or lose funding that they thought they had, etc. It's a bit unsettling isn't it?

It was only when considering this constant state of flux this morning that I realised the glaring comparison to the industry in which these students all aspire to work.  I remember the feeling when you enter the final weeks of a contract and remember that soon so you will be back on the audition circuit plying your trade and that you'd really better crack on with the new CV and headshots you've been promising yourself...

So in some respects, even the wait for a place at drama school or dance college is a part of your training. And the key thing to learn?  Patience and focus.  If you flap under either set of circumstances, you can very easily talk yourself up to being stressed out and panicked, which achieves nothing except, well, stress and panic.  It's easy to say I know, but keeping your head and staying focused on the 'why' instead of the 'what' makes life much more bearable.  If you worry about the 'what' (I need funding for drama school... I can't go without it... What shall I do???!!!) it's not going to make it any more likely to happen.  Concentrate on the 'why' (Because I love theatre... because of the way I feel onstage... because of that one performance I once saw that changed my life...) and life seems much more under your own control instead of being in the lap of the Gods.

For me at this time of the year, the 'what' includes policy writing, CDET paperwork, EdExcel paperwork, staffing agreements, contracts, curriculum planning, module writing, buildings maintenance, meetings... blurgh. But the 'why'? Because of the way it feels when you see the students graduate at the end of the year. You can't beat it.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

In Brackets

OK, so here's the tip of the day...  Whether you are auditioning at drama school or for a show, knowing your casting bracket and exploiting it for all you're worth is absolutely key.

For example, if we audition someone here at Read and they have a really strong contemporary MT voice with a big belt, great acting skills with a strong monologue and their dance is their third discipline - not bad but not great - we're going to start thinking about where we would be able to send them on to.  Immediately in my head, I'm thinking Mountview or LSMT, or maybe GSA if they've got the right look.

But then what if we interview them and ask them where they see themselves going, and they say Laine or Bird?  The big problem for us at that stage is figuring out if that person is going to be able to cope with the news that we have in store for them... It Ain't Gonna Happen.  Do they already know that in their heart of hearts?  Are they unrealistic about their skills or looks?  Are they just badly informed?

Whatever your casting bracket is, you're pretty much stuck with most of it.  If you are bigger built you can choose to slim down, or indeed if you're a slight build you can bulk up, but it's a safe assumption that you're not going to change your height, and the essence of 'you' is always going to be the same.  The fact is, you might be 99% right for a certain role but there are so many people working in this industry that the casting people are not going to have to look too far to find an actor who is 100% right.  It doesn't matter if you can sing the hell out of it, the slipper doesn't fit.  So what to do? Embrace it, don't fight it.

I could have spent a long time bemoaning the fact that I was 2 inches too tall to play Eddie in Blood Brothers or that, frankly, I wasn't good looking or dashing enough to play Enjolras in Les Mis (both were true).  But why waste time? Instead learn to accept and find out about who you ARE going to play.  Are you short?  Are you tall?  Are you skinny? Are you big?  Who cares, as long as you work it!

The same is absolutely true for students auditioning.  If you come to an audition with no idea of where you fit into the industry then you're a very hard proposition for someone to train.  A lot (and I mean a LOT) of girls come to audition at Read wanting to go on to study at Arts Ed and then be in Wicked. Great, if that happens for you.  But mostly this is not actually what they want based on an informed career decision, it is simply all that they know about. Research, research, research.  If this industry is going to be your career, then find out everything you can about it because it interests you and excites you!  Don't go for the obvious, especially since casting is so specific.

Most of all, treat your casting bracket like a spouse.  It will be with you your whole life, so make sure the relationship is based on honesty and faithfulness, and don't kid yourself.  If you're a tall, muscular man with a great tenor voice, or a petite high belting girl with astonishing cheekbones, good for you.  You shall go to the ball.

If though, like me, you are a character actor with a regular-person physique and regular-person looks, then even better for you.  You will also go to the ball, but you will play the roles that make people laugh or be part of a fantastic ensemble without which a show does not run, and there's a lot of work out there for you.  Find the parts that you could play, find out who's playing them, and THEN find out where they trained.  That's where you want to be, and who knows? Maybe Read College could be a part of the journey ;)

Friday, 26 April 2013

2 Weeks To Go!

Hello all you cyber friends...

We wanted to remind you that there are only two weeks left for students to apply for one of our Stage Scholarships for 2013, which are being awarded by The Stage newspaper following our 100% success rate over the last 2 years.  There is one scholarship available for Musical Theatre and one for Acting, and the recipients will be interviewed in The Stage, widely publicised locally and awarded their scholarships at the official ceremony in London later in the year, so this is your chance to get in the spotlight!

Abbigail Lewin (2010 Graduate)

Over recent years we’ve received support and funding from Dame Judi Dench, and our patrons now include Craig Revel Horwood (award winning choreographer and director) and Bobby Cronin (award winning US composer/lyricist) and our students have gone on to Laines, Urdang, Millennium, Bird, Performers, TTC, Guildford, Mountview, ALRA, Rose Bruford, East 15, etc etc…

If you have any students aged 16-23 who might benefit from The Stage Scholarships then they have to apply before May 10th (although we remain open for regular applications until the end of June).  Applications can be found by clicking on ‘Apply Now’ at or by calling us on 0118 9666774.

Go forth, share this blog, and help to create a star!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Audition Fatigue

This time of the year is a tricky one for students - not just here at Read College, but for any students who are in the thick of college auditions.

It's easy to criticise auditions and to feel as though the people on the panel didn't pay you enough attention or weren't on your side, but the bottom line is that auditions will be a part of your life for the rest of your career as an actor, dancer or singer.  For that reason alone, you've got to make the most of each and every audition and learn to love 'em!  It can be a tiring, demoralising, slog.  But remember what it's all for...

Read graduate Abigail Lewin, now about to graduate from Urdang
Auditions are the only realistic way for colleges and prospective employers to see what you have to offer as a performer.  It may be short and it may not be on your terms, but staying positive about the process and accepting it for what it is will be your only way to survive them

If you're in the middle of auditioning at the moment, you might want to bear a few of these thoughts in mind:

1.  Make sure you're performing the right stuff.  Your rep needs to show you off but it also needs to fit your casting bracket (in other words, be a role that you could reasonably play).  Playing someone way out of your age range, or of a different ethnic background, or even of the opposite sex, doesn't just frustrate the audition panel - it makes it apparent to them that you don't really understand the theatre industry.  Albeit there are occasional productions where roles are deliberately cast against type, most of the time you will be working within your casting bracket and whether you like it or not there's not all that much you can do about it.  If you're too tall to play your favourite Musical Theatre lead or too short to play a Shakespearean king, then that's the end of that.  Move on and find out what you ARE going to play, and get good at it.

2.  Almost every audition panel you will meet WANT you to get in.  They don't want to spend their days meeting people who are no good to them, and they want great people on their courses representing their college.  Don't go in feeling like they're out to judge you harshly and that they don't want you, because it's not true.  With that in mind, go in positive, enjoy the experience and know that you're in a room with people who want you to be good!

3.  The most important thing.  Separate 'you' the product from 'you' the person.  This is something I say to my students all the time, and it is the single most important thing that a professional performer needs to do.  If you are rejected by a college, they are not rejecting 'you' the person and there is no emotional intention behind the rejection.  They are rejecting 'you' the product because that product doesn't fit the brand that they represent.  I know it sounds very corporate, and I also know it is a very hard thing to do, but without making the distinction you will finish up feeling like people don't like you, rather than realising - much more importantly - that you're just barking up the wrong tree.

If you feel like you could do with some more advice on you audition process, then why not come and attend one of our 3 day Audition Preparation courses at Read?