Saturday 13 November 2010

Is drama school worth the drama?

Ever since I didn't get called back for the workshop weekend at Toi Whakaari I keep hearing all these negative things about drama school. It's as if the universe wants to reassure me that not making it into drama school this year is ok.

I really wish the universe would shut about it though because it is starting to discourage me from trying again next year. Then again maybe that's the point the universe wants to make. Don't bother, drama school sucks.

One thing I heard was that many students cannot wait to leave school and that the only reason they stick with it, is the pressure of not wanting to be 'the drop-out'. That's really kinda sad. When I went to law school, I wished nothing more than being able to just drop out. But I didn't want to be there in the first place and I am guessing that most drama students actually want to go to drama school. Shouldn't your education fuel your passion and desire to learn and grow, not make you want to run for the hills screaming?

You might say that these students simply cannot handle being an actor or that they cannot handle the pressures of drama school. As an actor you have to open yourself up and be vulnerable pretty much all the time when you're working - and no one, not in school and not in the real world - is going to wrap you in cotton and bubble wrap so you can handle that.

But beyond teaching their students to be honest and open and vulnerable, there are many little side-stories I have heard, that might be just the indication for why so many drama students seem very keen for their school days to be over.

One of these stories was for instance that in at least one of the classes (not one on acting technique) the tutors felt that it was necessary for every student in the class to cry - cracking the whip on them for 'catharsis'. Another story was that the teachers constantly tell their students, and especially the women, that they need to lose weight - even when these students are healthy and not overweight and maybe even when students were already underweight.

Seriously, how is any of this necessary? Does it make you a better actor if you have been 'broken'? Does being broken really make you want to bare yourself and be truthful? Drama schools generally have a therapist available for their students to see but should learning to be vulnerable and in touch with your emotions really make you need to see a therapist?

And yes, the industry standard, especially for actresses but increasingly also for actors seems to be the skinnier the better. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they are trying to sell us the 'All we want is healthy bodies' crap but if you look at reality that is not true at all. Should drama school really be a place to reinforce these standards? Shouldn't drama school be the place to teach its students to be confident in their healthy, fit and normal bodies and teach them how to market themselves best as human beings who happen to be great actors instead of teaching them that they need to be at their skinniest superhuman self to book?  Shouldn't drama school be the place to start breaking the skinny rule?

There are many similar stories and what they have in common is that most likely they are the reason that young people who started out being enthusiastic about and loving their craft, after not long at all start hating the place that is suppose to help them mold themselves into the best actors they can be.

I just don't want believe that drama school should be the place to weed the weak from the strong. Should drama school be judgemental about who is going to make it in the real world? Shouldn't drama school instead be the place that does its damnedest to help every student who spends their time, sweat and tears, and not inconsiderable amount of money, to be strong and to go out into the industry and stick with their dream no matter how hard it gets?

What do you think? Should drama school eliminate the weak or build up all students to be strong and fearless and to believe in themselves?

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