Mia is 18 and from Cheshire. She has performed in numerous shows for acclaimed local youth theatre company “Tempo”, recently playing Sister Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls” and Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. She is a two time Grand Finalist for West End Calling (2017/18).
Mia recently auditioned for drama schools and was offered places at both Bird College and Urdang Academy. She accepted a place at Urdang and started in September 2020.
Which drama schools and courses did you audition for?
I applied for 5 drama schools: Urdang Academy, Guildford School of Acting, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Bird College and Arts Educational Schools. I applied for the BA Hons in (Professional Dance) and Musical Theatre at all schools, however they all consider you for other courses such as BA Acting, BA Actor-Musician and Foundation Courses in Musical Theatre, depending on what courses the schools offer.
How do I decide where and how many schools to apply for and when do I need to apply?
This is something that I think is a really personal thing, so I would suggest asking yourself these questions:
1) Where do I want to live? Do I want to live in the centre of a big city, like London or do I want to be further out for a bit of peace and quiet?
2) How much is it going to cost and if student loans aren’t available, will I still be able to afford it? Some drama schools are £15,000 a year on tuition fees alone!
3) Do I want a school that excels in singing, dancing or acting? For example, somewhere like Bird excels in dance, whereas Mountview excels in singing and acting.
But I would say that the deciding factor is: only audition for a school that you would genuinely want to go to as auditions, along with travel and accommodation are very expensive! That may mean that you only apply for 1 school or you apply for 10! Remember to keep your options open however as you may not always get into your top choice school!
As for when to apply, I would say the best time to audition is around January as in November, drama schools may be reluctant to give out places straight away, and in March/April, most places will already be gone so I would apply around November/December so you audition in January.
What songs and monologues did you have prepared for your auditions? How did you select these?
I would say to prepare as many different pieces as you can as sometimes audition panels will want to see something different and they will automatically be impressed if you have lots of options. I prepared two legit (pre-1965) ballads, two contemporary (post-1965) songs and one classical monologue (Shakespeare and his contemporaries) and one contemporary monologue (normally post-1990). However, although I never needed any more than this at my auditions I would aim to have at least two of each option so that you are prepared for anything.
For my songs, I listened to as many different musicals as I could until I found songs I liked and could relate to and that showed off not only my vocals but my ability to portray a character. There is no point in singing something where you find it hard to relate to the lyrics!
With monologues, I was lucky to have been given a list of suggested plays by Shakespeare to look at and a list of contemporary playwrights to look at. This is where it takes time! I would suggest reading the whole play before deciding whether a monologue is for you. Sometimes the most dramatic monologues aren’t the best ones to use in auditions. Try and show many different sides of your acting in both your songs and your monologues so if your song is serious, maybe go for a comedic monologue. But always remember to play to your strengths!
How else did you make sure you were ready for the audition process in the months / years leading up to the auditions?
I realized at the age of 13 that musical theatre was what I wanted to do so since then I have been having dance lessons (a basic foundation in ballet is really important!), private singing lessons (I have been having lessons with Ruth for the past 3 years) and in the months leading up to my auditions, I had private acting lessons to work on my monologues. I have also taken part in local and national singing competitions, which really helped me to gain experience and meant that I was definitely more confident going into auditions. Also, I have been a member of TEMPO Youth Theatre for the past 3 years and have performed in numerous shows and fundraisers, gradually getting more experience performing in pressured environments.
Research is also really important: watch productions online or in person, read plays, research the history of musical theatre, research composers, directors, script writers, choreographers, producers, and also do as much research into the drama schools you are applying for as possible. I would say the important things are to: gain as much experience as you can performing, get as much practice as you can and RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH!
What was a typical audition day like?
Most audition days are pretty much the same, perhaps just in a different order. You would normally arrive (ideally at least 30 minutes before the audition starts), sign in and then you will have a welcome chat from the principal or a member of staff. They will explain a little bit about the school and what the day will be like. Then, for example, you will have a dance class, where you may have a ballet section and then all schools will have a jazz section where you will do some corner exercises and then learn a routine and perform it for the panel in small groups.
Next, you might have singing where you will introduce yourself to the panel and perform your song(s). You may have to perform in front of the other auditionees, however try not to let that bother you as it is the panel’s opinions that matter! Then you might have acting where you will perform your monologues to a panel. In both your singing and acting rounds, be prepared for them to ask questions or workshop a few things with you. They just want to see whether you have researched your pieces well and whether you can respond well to feedback, so don’t necessarily see that as a negative.
At some places, you may then have an interview, where you will be asked a few questions such as why you want to study at that school. Always make sure you show that you have thoroughly researched the school as they don’t want to hear a generic response.
What do I need to wear / bring with me for auditions?
All different schools will have their own specifications of what to wear but the typical dress code for an audition is a leotard (preferably a bright colour) and black tights for jazz, a black classical leotard, pink tights and pink ballet shoes for ballet and for singing/acting, choose something you are completely comfortable in but make sure you look relatively smart. Bring lots of bottles of water, remember to buy lunch and snacks beforehand as you don’t want to be feeling weak and tired. Also, bring spare safety pins as these will normally be used to attach your number to your clothes and you don’t want to be losing your safety pins when getting changed!
Can you let us know what your preparation involved on the day of the auditions? Any tips to calm nerves?
Before every audition I warmed up my voice in the car on the way there and I would always make sure I had my dance clothes on underneath my singing/acting dress so that I was dressed and ready for whatever discipline I had first. Calming nerves I think is again very personal as things work for some people and don’t work for others. Deep breaths really do help and speaking to people and making friends always takes your mind off what you are about to do. Also, don’t think about the high stakes of the audition, take one step at a time because panicking won’t help you. I also like to shake my arms and legs and I picture ‘shaking the nerves out of my body’. I know this sounds silly but it really does work for me so maybe try that next time you are going to perform somewhere.
Any advice for during the audition itself?
Try and make friends as the panel want to see that you are able to work well in groups, and if you both end up going to that school at least you will know someone! I always found that by pretending to be confident and looking confident actually makes you feel more confident, so try to hold your head up high and take everything in your stride. If something goes wrong, deal with it. The audition panel want to see how you react to things going wrong as well as things going right. Finally, try and remain positive! If you don’t understand something, ask them. If you fall over because you were really going for it in the dance routine, just get up and carry on and then laugh about it at the end. If you hit a bum note, don’t apologise, pretend that you were meant to do that and then the audition panel might even start questioning themselves!
I know they are looking for triple threat performers (Actors / Singers / Dancers), what if I’m weaker in one of the areas?
In the months leading up to the audition try to improve your weaker discipline however here is my advice for each area if you aren’t as strong:
Acting: pick a monologue you can relate to and that you understand and can connect with the character. Make bold choices because then the panel can see that you have really thought about it. Think about how the character would move, how they would stand, how they would speak etc.
Singing: pick a song that isn’t overly difficult. Something that has a small vocal range but lots of opportunity for portraying a character. The panel want to see what you can do, not what you can’t do!
Dancing: this is the one I struggled with the most so I can completely relate! Try and practice picking up routines as much as possible in the lead up to your auditions, but it is all about the face! Perform, perform, perform! If the panel are so focused on your facial expressions then they won’t even notice if you aren’t doing the steps correctly. If there is a movement you haven’t ever done or struggle with, just have a go!
The drama school can teach technique but they can’t teach passion or love for performing so make sure you show that in your audition!
What was the toughest part of the process?
Unfortunately, although I succeeded in getting offers from places, I did also face rejections, which is something that really knocked my confidence. At some schools there are thousands of applicants auditioning for 30 places. However, the thing you have to remember is, it isn’t necessarily because you aren’t good enough. Maybe you just weren’t right for that school or they have already offered a place to someone like you. Also try to remember that just because you weren’t right for that school now, doesn’t mean you will never be right for that school.
What was the most enjoyable experience during your auditions?
I really enjoyed my whole audition process, but mostly I loved being taught by industry professionals and getting to meet so many new people, some of whom I still speak to now!
Did you have anything go wrong? How did you deal with it?
I was very fortunate that nothing drastic went wrong in my auditions, however there were many times where I would fall out of a pirouette or the pianist would play my music at the wrong tempo but these are things that you just have to deal with and work with in an audition. You can’t always ask to start again so just make the most of every moment.
What did you learn from the whole process?
I learnt lots of things throughout my audition process but the main thing I would say is to not pre-judge drama schools before you go. I had a dream school and when I went to the audition, hated the atmosphere. I would never have thought a year ago that I would end up at Urdang (as it’s seen as ‘the dance school’) but now I really believe I am at the best place possible for me!
If you had to give one piece of advice to others auditioning, what would it be?
Try to relax! I know its hard but try to enjoy the auditions and see it all as a learning process! And don’t listen to other people talking about other auditions that you haven’t yet been to, some people do it to put you off so try to ignore it. And if you don’t get in first year, try again! It can take a few years to get in! And remember, you are auditioning the school as much as they are auditioning you!
What are your ultimate performing goals?
Once I have finished my degree at Urdang, I would love to be cast in a musical, whether that be West End, UK Tour, International Tour or on a cruise. The ultimate dream is to play Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera in the West End, but of course its important to be realistic!
I hope that you have found my (very long – sorry) answers helpful and hope that they have answered a few questions that you may have about auditioning for drama school. If there is anything else you want to ask me then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!