I have now been out of drama school for exactly one year. And so I have decided to conclude this series with what is perhaps the most important lesson I can think of:
Realising Your Dream
When I tell people I’m an actor they tend to assume at least one of three things about me
- I want to perform on the West End
- I want to perform Shakespeare at the RSC
- I want to be in films
Now, I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t turn any of those jobs down. In fact, I would love to do all of those things at some point. But that doesn’t mean that they are my dreams.
Yet, in my training, I kind of felt like everyone expected those to be my dreams. I felt like I was always being pushed in one of those three directions. Mostly in the Shakespeare direction, to be honest. I felt like when we were studying Shakespeare, there was this assumption among the tutors that we all had the RSC in our sights.
And when people automatically treat you as if you have a certain dream, you kind of start to believe it yourself.
In fact, during my training, if asked what I would like to do in the future, I often prefaced my answer with ‘well obviously there’s Shakespeare’ before moving on to what was actually a more truthful answer to the question.
I could write a whole other article on the alarming indoctrination of actors into the ‘Shakespeare is the be all and end all’ frenzy. In fact, I think I will. But not right now. Right now, my point is, it’s very easy at drama school to get tricked into dreaming another person’s dream. For me, being constantly surrounded by rhetoric like ‘that’s what places like the RSC are looking for’ and ‘that wouldn’t fly on the West End’ lured me into believing that they were my ultimate goals.
It was only when I left that I began to realise that they weren’t.
Before drama school, I had done a lot of work with children, and had written and performed some children’s plays. I absolutely loved it. When I came out of my training I was instantly drawn to the TIE jobs and the roles in theatre for young audiences, more so than most of my contemporaries. I realised how much I had missed that kind of work. The kind of work that never even gets mentioned at drama school (a part of a wider problem: snobbery towards theatre for young audiences and a belief that it is not ‘proper acting’)
I started to remember how watching really good children’s theatre makes me feel something really powerful. Being a part of it, even more so.
And that’s when it clicked: this is my dream. I want to create really high quality theatre for children. I want to write it, I want to perform it, and I want to find a way to make a living from it – that’s my dream.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t other things I would love to do. I want to write a novel, and I want to make a name for myself as a performance poet. And yes, if the opportunity came along, I would love to do a really great contemporary play in a big theatre, and I would love to be in a film too.
But if we’re talking ‘this is the thing I must do before I die’ kinda dream – then yeah. It’s the making children’s theatre thing.
And, if I never do another Shakespeare play in my life, I am honestly fine with that.
And so, I’ve started up a company with an equally enthusiastic friend, I’ve written a show, and we are taking steps towards producing it. I’m doing things that definitely do NOT come included in actor training (note – if you want to produce your own work, get someone to show you how to budget!) because it turns out my dream does not fit with the worlds view of what an actor is.
I find it sad that I could potentially achieve my dream and most people in my own field would assume that I wasn’t a success. But that just shows that our idea of what a successful actor is needs to expand – a lot.
So, what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to distance yourself from the typical actors dream. You can still be an actor and have no interest in the RSC, or the West End, or Hollywood. Of course, if those are your dreams, that’s great too.
But take the time to think about it. Ask yourself: ‘do I want this because I truly want this, or do I want this because I’m told that this is what actors want?’
It’s important. It’s really important. Why? Because there is nothing more satisfying in the world than realising your dream, and then chasing it down.