Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Lists, lists, lists

At this time of the year, Read students are pretty much focussed on one of the most important elements of their year with us:  Auditions.  A couple of hours, or in some cases even a couple of minutes, is how long they have to show the big dance and drama colleges that they are worthy and, ultimately, employable students.

This is a difficult task in itself, and there are many do's and don'ts that students have to watch out for to maximise their chances.  But now, and increasingly,  on top of all of this there are... The Lists.  Variant, secretive, seemingly unending and totally unnecessary (in my opinion) lists.  Lists of songs to sing,  and lists of songs not to sing.  Lists of speeches you should not choose.  Lists of writers who's work they do not want to hear.  Lists of speeches from which you may choose.  Lists of writers from whom to select your speech.  Even, in one notable case, a list showing other colleges' lists and refusing to see any of them.  And to top it all off, the majority of these lists will not be given to anyone until after they have applied for an audition, so you're flying blind until your audition date comes through.

The whole idea of an audition is, surely, to judge whether a potential student is talented, hard working, has a knowledge of their chosen industry and a decent chance of working in it.  I don't think it is sensible to audition anyone based on their administrative skills and their ability to navigate rules that neither help nor encourage them through the process.  Or maybe that is the idea of the lists.  Are we now in an industry so over-populated that we have to start ruling applicants out based on repertoire rather than talent or determination?

The major focus of the September to December term at Read is helping students to successfully prepare for their auditions.  That means that we currently have some students working to so many lists for their chosen colleges that they are learning and rehearsing up to 5 Shakespeare speeches and 5 contemporary speeches at the same time, as well as preparing their 4 items of singing repertoire and all of their dance technique/knowledge - a feat that would make an old-school rep actor shudder.

It seems to me that the Theatre Training industry should show rather more cohesion and open-mindedness instead of this bias and confusion, or else we are in danger of losing some very talented young people from this industry on a point of technicality.  None of us want to see the same old audition pieces over and over again, but equally I don't want to see any more theatrical off-side rules invented that act as stumbling blocks for talented young people.

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