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RADA

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Drama School was the WORST/BEST year of my entire life – at the same damn time!

 Imported from old blog at tanyavital.blogspot

I keep getting asked about RADA and the training I did there, which is great! But I feel its still way too early to properly reflect and comment fairly on my time there. I’m still processing my experience. It was INTENSE! (We went through some things man & some stuff). It’s taken me a long time to gather just a fraction of my thoughts. Advising someone about your personal experience of drama school isn’t easy. As “luvvie” as it sounds – drama training is about spiritual, physical, mental and emotional development, both for the individual and the ensemble. This kind of ‘artsy fartsy mumbo jumbo’ is not easy to put into words – you kind of had to have been there. BUT, I think I am finally ready to answer some simple housekeeping questions that may help you decide if the course may be for you.

 

The course you apply for should be influenced by your previous experience or training. It stands to reason that there in no point applying for the RADA Masters Degree if you are just starting out in your acting career. If you are still quite young, you are lucky enough to have a few options. My advice would always be to go for the BA or Foundation course, whether it’s at RADA or somewhere else. If you are very late teens/early 20’s you’re at ripe drama schools age. They like to be able to mould you into an artist of their calibre and being too young or indeed too old can work against you.

I would apply everywhere! If RADA is the only place you want to attend (it was the only place I wanted to go), be prepared to be knocked back – sometimes more than once but, just keepgetting up, dusting yourself off and going back. Being turned away from a drama school is normal and the odds are especially more difficult for people of colour. You must understand that they only accept a few of our ‘type’ so you are competing against every other person of colour who has applied and that’s probably a lot! Drama schools like determination. If they say no this time, they may say yes next time, but you have to stay focused and not let disappointment get to your heart.

I went to the MA Theatre Lab open day (recommended) and did a little research about the course but, I have to admit I still had no idea what the course entailed until I actually got there – neither did RADA. My course was only the second year of the MA Theatre Lab generation. We were still guinea pigs and changes to the course were constantly being made depending on what the students needed, which international practitioners could be brought in and so on. The MA Lab course this year will probably be very different to ours last year, as ours was very different to the pilot year.

The MA Lab course was developed for people with similar backgrounds to mine – Actors who’ve started a professional career first with no formal training or for those who have been to University to do a drama/theatre course but want a more practical form of training. The course is suited to older/more experienced Actors. The ages in my class ranged from 20-45. RADA are extremely good at finding the right people who will work well together. The ensemble work so closely together that whoever you are put with – you will all become family.

I don’t think drama schools care particularly about previous academic qualifications. I think they are more interested in whether you have a good grasp of the English language, you’re healthy and you’re watchable (you know, the old je ne sais quoi).

 

The course was completely practical. There was always an end of term ‘paper’ to write (a few hundred words). Students must keep an on going log book about personal experiences, reflections and revelations. This is then referenced for the end of year dissertation (nowhere near the amount of words required for a University dissertation), everything else was assessed practically. The course does not just focus on acting, you will work on directing, writing, devising and movement.

Devising is a huge part of the course, you will study a particular practitioner and then devise pieces using his/her techniques (mixed with your own of course). For example you may work on a piece by Ibsen using a Meyerhold technique. Everything goes hand in hand. You learn the technique, you devise a piece, you perform said piece then you move onto the next.

I cannot stress enough that the course is VERY INTENSE because they are squashing 2-3 years of training into 1 year. It’s VERY physical. It’s VERY demanding, you will have NO social life but, having said that it is doable! If then desire to succeed is there.

It is a little like going back to school in the sense that you will always be working with people who have different likes/dislikes and so some will put in more effort to some modules than others. There will be frustrations, there will be arguments, there will be back blighting and bickering but on the whole the class will be mature enough to see the common goal and work together.

BE PREPARED FOR THE WORKSHOP/AUDITION! The delivery of your monologues is important but just as important as the physical boot camp they put you through. You’ve never known a work out like it! Insanity?! Pah! Insanity who!? You may bleed, faint, throw up and or cry. The audition activities are to prepare you for the actual course because that is what you will do EVERY day.

At the end of the year there is a showcase and I have to say ours was pretty good. Not the usual few monologues, bit of a song rubbish. You will devise a show from scratch!

 
 

I always say that Drama School was the worst and the best year of my entire life –  at the same time. Don’t expect this to be a walk in the park. I think a lot of people go the drama route because they see it as a holiday. This course is a holiday – if you holiday in hell.

 

You will be dragged so far out of your comfort zone you won’t know what hit you. You will do all of those clichéd things you hear about drama schools that make you cringe but, you will learn WHY you must do these cringe worthy exercises. Again – on this course you’ll cry, you’ll bleed (yes real blood), you’ll sweat, you’ll fight, you’ll spit, you will be defeated – only to rise up and have it all happen to you over and over again. The Theatre Lab course It is NOT for the faint hearted.

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c/o Sodahead

For this course you have to put what you know and what you think you know aside and just go for the ride. You will find that there are some things that just aren’t for you – there were tons of things that weren’t for me but you have to just try and get involved.

Would I go again? Hmmm – it’s still too early to tell. I am not yet fully recovered from my time there. Do I regret going? Not at all! But I did go into the course very naively. I needed and wanted technical training and that I got. Looking back there are a few things that I would have done differently, but it is what it is.

  • Has it made a difference to my career? Slightly
  • Did it have the huge life changing impact on my career that I thought it would? No.
  • Did it have a huge impact on me as a person? Absolutely.
  • Am I a better Actor for it?

Abso-bloody-lutely!!! 

 
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What type of Actor are you?

Imported from old blog at tanyavital.blogspot

I’m not particularly a lover of either animal but, in drama training you are taught to identify what type of actor you are, your traits, whether you are a cat personality or a dog personality.

According to the those in the know, for auditions it’s much better to be a cat person. But there is a fine line between ‘Cat’ and ‘Tw@t’

 

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1st RULE: You do not talk about RADA CLUB. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about RADA CLUB

 Imported from old blog at tanyavital.blogspot

Morning campers (evening/afternoon – whatev’s) its been a while since I blogged and I know I promised to keep you all informed about my new adventure. . .

Now here’s the thing –

As this title above suggests, I am kind of prohibited from speaking about my new adventure at RADA. I can blog as I normally do about my trials and tribulations as an Actor and I can chat generally about myself, new discoveries and that kind of thing, but I cannot give any specifics about my course/classes or the school. Anything I do want to say about the school must be OK’d by the school’s Enterprise team before published either on my blog here or the MA Theatre Lab RADA blog page.

At first glance this all seems very secret society and a bit draconian BUT as it goes, I actually think I agree with the school and here’s why:

The school have imposed this rule for a number of reasons. Since the revolution of social media our every waking thought is now out there in the virtual world for all eternity. What you had for lunch, when you went to the loo, what happened in your failed relationship, who you hate, who you love and ERRRRYTHANG!
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RADA is one of – if not THE best drama school in the world. Look at the history: Sir Richard AttenboroughKenneth BranaghJoan CollinsAnthony HopkinsVivien LeighAlan Rickman for crying out loud! That’s a BIG responsibility for new RADA students to live up to. We are the future and we carry with us the amazing legacy of the past. Then there comes Tanya Vital tired, stressed out, dramatic and drunk on twitter “Oh I f*ck%ng hate such and such a person in such and such a class” – can you even imagine?! *face palm*I have been guilty of putting stupid stuff out there into the big wide virtual world. Stuff I meant 1000% at the time – but after a glass of red or a good sleep I would be embarrassed to repeat. Or WORSE stuff I have put out there AFTER a glass or two of red! Words, pictures and comments that frankly do not become me. We all have, social networks have become our online diary that is accessible to the world.

The prestigious name of this world renowned school brought to it’s knees by little old Tanya Vital in 2.5 seconds on Twitter. That AINT a good look.

Along with that, there is also the safety of my fellow students. Drama school, as some of you will know is a place for experimentation. In the outside world we would call it ‘messing about’. Because to the outside world its just a bunch of grown-ups playing around and acting like kids, but now even I understand it’s much more than that.

As students we are exposed to so many different kinds of training, physical, mental, emotional and these classes have many different formats. What you or I may think is a load of old twaddle has actually been developed intensely over years/generations/centuries to help the artist give truth in their performance. (NOTE: When I talk of Artist/Actor I DO NOT mean celebrity)

Think of it like this – regardless what your opinion of drama is or regardless of your opinion about drama school. Think of your favourite film/book/poem/song/play. Think of the last film that touched your heart, made you cry or resonated with you. That magical stuff doesn’t just happen overnight. Despite what you heard – overnight success does NOT exist. The reason that particular piece of art touched you was down to generations of hard work by artists passing down information and experience to others.

The way RADA sees it is that the school should be a safe place for us to train, to experiment and to try out weird and wonderful things. See what works and what doesn’t WITHOUT the added ridicule of the outside world or fellow classmates making the strange experiences even harder. I for one am down with this! I do NOT want pictures/videos of me sweating my ass off in a downward dog Yoga pose, seething words of Shakespeare coming to haunt me when I collect my Oscar – I just do NOT want that, so I have to also respect others who feel the same.

 

Anyway with that, I hope you understand and don’t get too frustrated with me if I can’t give the full in’s and outs. I will endeavour to blog as much as normal and thank you for your patience.

As a treat I leave you with this – the reason we go to Drama School

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So I only got into RADA didn’t I?!

Imported from old blog at tanyavital.blogspot

The most amazing, crazy, terrifying, fabulous thing is happening! As of mid September I am embarking on probably the most important, yet nerve wracking adventure of my career. I have been accepted to study a 1 year Masters Degree course at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Aside from still being in complete shock I am of course ecstatic!

As some of you know I never went to Drama School because I was lucky enough to start professional work straight out of college. I’ve covered this in previous blog posts and I’ve explained that not having a 3 year Bachelors degree from an accredited Drama School has definitely affected the way my career has developed. I cannot say it has had a detrimental effect to my career because over the past decade I’ve had some really great jobs, but I will say that it has possibly affected the type of work I have been offered or am being offered at this point.

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c/o rowenleaf.blogspot.co.uk

 I have attended various short courses over the years both in the UK and America. I have spent a lot of time, money and effort on trying to develop my skills as much as possible so that I could could ‘catch up’ as it were, to Drama Graduates. I have done – I feel – as much as I can on my own to develop my career. I have taken myself as far as I can go holding my own hand, but now I have definitely hit that pesky glass ceiling. For whatever reason the challenges just aren’t coming in anymore. The type of work I feel I should be getting at this stage of my career, just isn’t swinging my way. I’m stuck in step 3 when I really should be moving onto step 4,5 and 6.

Now forgive me – but I didn’tcome this far to give up at step 3. I have made myself (and my poor mum) penniless by this career (so if you’re feeling generous and want to help with my fees feel free to sponsor my blog by pressing the button top right of the page).  I’ve been eaten alive by bedbugs literally from head to toe from having to stay in vile, grotty places whilst working. I’ve been spat at with real spit (ask Jimmy Akingbola).

I’ve performed with a smile on my face, suffering torn muscles and an injured spine. I’ve lost both friends and relationships to this career path. I’ve been discriminated against, bullied (they tried) and treat like scum. I have given this calling everything I have, blood, sweat and tears! I’ve been to hell and back a million times, knocked down and I STILL keep getting back up for more – because when you have the fire of the storyteller inside your belly you simply have no choice but to pursue it – and ‘I’m bout that life’, so damn straight! I intend to do whatever I can – to get me where I feel I need to be after this much effort.


c/o cartoonstock.com

I’ve always said that you do NOT need to have attended Drama School to work and I’ve proven that so far. BUT! I am now resigned to that fact that I need an extra bit of oompf! behind me to take me further – you know a bit more ammo! I’m 2 foot tall so unfortunately I can’t rely on my good looks and charm alone. There are much more aesthetically pleasing women out there who have taken all of the ‘looks’ train tickets. I can’t rely on my talent alone because although I know I already have something and perhaps to a certain extent I am good enough without the MA – what does it matter how good you are if you cannot be seen or if nobody is willing to give you a chance? So this is why I have decided to do the MA, to see if training is the clincher.

I’m not gonna lie of course I chose RADA for its grandeur and association with being one of the best Drama Schools in the World. Having it on my CV won’t look too shabby, but I also chose it because I have always wanted to train there. They have a great reputation and have turned out some really great Actors such as Anthony Hopkins,  Sean BeanAshley MadekweMarianne Jean-Baptiste, who have all done some truly great work – work that I want to do! I already know and have worked with some of the teachers from RADA on other projects and they are fabulous, their teaching skills are second to none (which you’d expect from such an establishment). I have always respected the school’s work ethic and history and to sound cheesy and cliched – this was my destiny.

Now what to expect? (Besides COST! – £10,000)

We’ve all heard the horror stories of Drama Schools breaking you down to nothing and building you back up again – whatever that means?! How they change you and perhaps mold you into some kind of thespian zombie and release you back into the world ready to mash up some Chekov, but lacking the previous social skills and personality you once possessed. So yeah – I am worried as to what they are actually going to ‘do’ to me when I get there. I’m a tough northern soul and I’m not ashamed to say I’m stubborn and can be very set in my ways. It’s taken a while, but I’m at the stage where I quite like me and I don’t actually want to change… but they told me in no uncertain terms in their posh yet terrifying RADA voice “You must be willing to change” – gulp! How much “changing” can one do in a year?! Guess I’m going to find out.


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c/o ideastap.com

I’m scared! But this is definitely going to be an investment and the challenge I was after. I will be in the arms of experts and I am looking forward to the breathing space of education once again. I will be getting top class education and it’s going to be tough but I’m ready for it! I’m ready for my floppy Morrissey hair cut. I’m ready for them to dissect every deep dark secret of my life and have me cry in front of complete strangers. I’m ready to roll around on the floor and make animal sounds – my old bones might not be but I am! I’m ready to be told that actually – I’m not as ‘ready’ as I thought I was! I am ready to be part of the “RADA darling RADA” clique.


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c/o guardian.co.uk

BRING IT ON!

 


 
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“Why Are Cinema’s Leading Ladies All So Posh?”

 Imported from old blog at tanyavital.blogspot

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menmedia.co.uk

Just another reason to Love Maxine Peake:

The Manchester Evening news did an article on Maxine Peake back in February 2011 and the piece struck to the very heart of some of the things I’ve been feeling are happening in this industry and what I began saying in my blog.

Maxine is a brilliant Actor/tress and one of my favourites. Not because she’s Northern (although that does go in her favour), but because she’s extremely versatile. I’ve seen Maxine play a few different roles but she is probably best known for her role as Veronica in ‘Shameless’. Her broad Lancashire accent (and her RADA training of course) probably helped her bag the part of Veronica, because that is most likely what casting see as her “type”. She’s working class, northern and probably not a natural blonde. She (in the eyes of casting) is Veronica. The fact that she trained at one of the top Drama Schools in the country is a bonus.

In the article she talks about accent and class snobbery still being rife in the UK arts industry. She goes on to say “If you look at actors, loads are working class. But look at women and there’s only Samantha Morton, really. All the others – Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Emily Blunt, Rebecca Hall – they’re all brilliant, but there’s no female working class.”

So here she’s highlighting the fact that leading ladies, in this country in particular, all seem to be from a privileged background. Apparently she was even told at Drama School that was told at drama school that ‘she was not leading lady material’.

Now if Maxine went to a top Drama School, received the best training money can buy, has a top Agent and has played a variety of roles and STILL cant bag a top end leading role, I ask what hope is there for the rest of us lowly working class/lower middle class women? We shall find out.

Maxine goes on to say “I remember feeling at drama school that if you were male and working class you were a bit of a poet, a working class hero, but if you were female you were just a bit gobby and a bit brassy and common.”

This comment in particular strikes a chord with me because, I’m at the stage in my career where I feel I have hit a glass ceiling. I’ve been working for over a decade, had some great Agents and some not so great. Done the rounds, met a lot of the Casting Directors in the UK, went to NYT and know a ton of people in the industry, BUT I still, on the whole, get cast/audition as the cheap, gobby, common, Northern, barmaid. Is this because this is my “type”? Are the odds worse for me than Maxine because I never trained at Drama School?

Even the media that reports on Maxine’s ventures have a snobbish tone. She goes on to explain that when she played the posh wife of a lawyer in TV drama Criminal Justice. “One paper said, ‘In the opening scene you see her getting into a 4X4 and at first you assume she must be stealing it.’ They’re so classist in this country.” This comment made me question whether these notions are so ingrained into our society that they filter into Art or could she have been ‘type cast’ by her Veronica role?

When is comes to her accent again (if you read by previous blogs ‘Change Your Accent 1 & 2, you’ll know this is really a pet peeve of mine) she says, “For Silk I had to soften my accent. They go, ‘OK, so this character is from the north but she went to university, Maxine, and has lived in London for 10 years.’ So I went, ‘OK, well I went to RADA and lived in London for 13 years,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, but she’s lost her accent a bit more than you have.’”

Does this mean that a Northern accent still suggests uneducated? Common? Classless? Or was it simply that her accent was still so close to that of Veronica and the production team wanted to steer as far away from that as possible? Was it right for the part or in their ignorance did they think she sounded like a Council Estater?

The only time I ever get cast against my “type” is if the production is Independent. Why is that? Is it because they are more willing to take chances and go against the norm? Is it because they are only worried about the Art and don’t have to worry about ‘bums on seats’?

So straight from horses mouth, the odds are stacked against many of us. But I’m not into self pity at all, I’m into trying to bring about change however small. So what can we female Actors with no training, possibly of colour, probably a bit dumpy or small and from the working classes do to improve our chances?

Well first up we can try and get some damn training. At my stage in life it’s probably a little too late to go back and do a 3 year degree course, but there are 1 year M.A’s, Summer Schools and short courses. Yes they’re expensive. Yes it is possible to get work without it, but would it improve my chances? Yeah I reckon so. Even though Maxine is saying its very difficult to be taken seriously, I bet her RADA training didn’t hurt her CV or technique.

Again we can ‘fake it until we make it’, by playing our “type”, however annoying and disheartening it may be and play it well. So well that eventually, we raise our profile slightly enough for casting to consider taking a chance on us. My example is Suranne Jones. When she was playing Karen McDonald in Corrie she was great. But could I imagine her playing anything else other than a common, brassy barmaid? No. At the time that’s all she was. But she played that part until she sweat blood and tears and has managed to not be type cast and has done some really great things since Corrie. Was it luck? Probably partly, but I reckon it was a lot of good organisation on her part. She was able to get her foot in the door and she knew where she wanted to go with it. Luck can only take you so far.

Will the classist, elitist attitude ever go away? Probably not. C’mon this is England. We’re the snobbiest nation in the World. That type of attitude will always be around. I’m not stupid enough to think I can change the World, but I’m damn sure clever enough to adapt and find the loop holes. There are things to try before I give up.

If we look at America, again I’m not daft enough to think that we can all go to America and we will be cast that very day in the latest blockbuster as the leads, but I do know that everyone gets a fair crack of the whip there, black, white, Asian, man, woman, child. Their industry and casting system is a little different to ours and I’m sure this is true of a few other countries, so we should explore a little further than our own back yard.

Yes inevitably we are going to come up against discrimination and prejudice. Is it fair? No it sucks – but that’s life. It doesn’t make it right and we don’t have to accept it, but we must understand what we are up against if we are to know where we are going. What I’m saying is there are many more ways to skin a cat. If we are truly devoted to this career, we need to be savvy enough to try all angles and understanding the nature of the beast will put us in good stead. A very good Actor friend of mine says “in this country acting is an expensive hobby, in America it’s a business”. We must take a look at our career and decide whether we’re in it for the “Craic” or to work.