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Thursday, 05 November 2020 11:42

Reflections on the First Term at DSL

Tessa Chalmers BlogWritten by Tessa Chalmers

Student entering her second year of the BA (Hons) in Professional Acting

First term, first impressions, highlights and a few words of wisdom.


What has DSL and its tutors taught me already?

I’m a particular person and probably vastly different to the particular person you are. You do you. Take nothing I say as gospel, but I hope some of this might provide an insight into the mad, incandescent, brilliant bubble I’ve had the joy to enter, and might just mean you resemble less of a headless chicken than I did when I began to panic about the fact my foot was suddenly in the door, and I had not really considered what the next step should be after trying to kick the door down with said foot for three years.

These are my reflections from the halfway point of second term, studying BA Acting on the three-year course at Drama Studio London.

First to unashamedly sing Drama Studio’s praises. Open yourself up to DSL and everything it has to offer. You will work harder than ever and at times it will be difficult to see if it is even paying off. I wish for you to meet people you love, to discover things about yourself you never knew, and to realise that there is no limit to how brave and how bold you can safely be here.

This is the time to try, to succeed, to fail miserably and to rise gloriously, able to laugh at yourself, learn from yourself, surprise yourself and move on. But already, in such a short space of time filled with novelty and hurdles and surprises and people, information by the bucketload, new skills and stamina, somehow DSL has made me feel that there will be a place for me somewhere out there. In numerous places out there. That I don’t have to limit or contort myself into a specific mould in order to work in the industry. It is unrivalled in its breadth, and potential, and ever-expanding nature. There will be places that aren’t looking for you simply because they haven’t seen you yet. They don’t know what they want, and you have everything that makes you stand out to offer them. You can work in any and all of it. You can set up your own tent in the giant Glastonbury that is the performance industry. There is no limit, and no ladder, it’s more like Doodle Jump (though that reference is going to massively date this). Bounce around, aim high, or hop almost no distance to some other platform, disappear off one side and end up back where you started, fall, start again, come across things that help rocket you forwards, jump on spikey enemies…okay the metaphor has gone a little far, but it’s no straight ladder, and isn’t that just a little bit more exciting?

While everyone is battling for the same goal during rat-race auditions for drama school, beyond that, the battle thins out and you start to enter yourself into the races you want to play, the rat you want to be, in a sense. It’s a saturated industry. What isn’t? But it’s inventing new elements every day and you gotta believe you could make one of those better by being there, otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to do this.

DSL does not force or impose any particular process or technique. They give you experience in it all and allow you the chance and knowledge to explore what works for you and what doesn’t. They then encourage you to enter the industry, having created your own method and way of approaching any work you do in the future, specially tailored to your strengths, understanding and effective processes.

Course you have days where you question it all. When you’re too tired. When people wind you up. When things outside school build up. When you wonder if you’ve made a mistake or dwell on one you made. Those happen without the added factor of training for an industry notorious for its harsh and brutal judgement and superficial focus. It’s basically impossible not to compare. To doubt. To wonder if you will ever feel at home in such a fluctuating and unpredictable world.

What are some of the best experiences I’ve had?

Being bold. Taking that risk of looking ‘silly’, or making that comment, or cracking that joke, or getting up first, or trying that idea, and then it paying off so much more often than not. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t even matter anymore. It flows straight on and it’s a moment of being brought down to earth that honestly rarely does you any harm, also stops you living with the regret of wondering what if...I wish I’d… You respect these people so much, so quickly, and their compliments will mean a lot. Use your nerves from day one and enjoy that fact you’re doing what you love. Appreciate the fact your timetable sometimes reads something along the lines of: Combat, Mic Tech, Approaches to Acting and Improvisation. Not many people can say that.

One of the best experiences I had was helping out with the auditions for the next year. I felt so incredibly grateful for the chance. I felt on a level with tutors, respected and valued, like I was heading in the right direction and had earned a level of trust to work alongside people I admire greatly. I could experience an audition room without fear and do my best to calm the auditionees from a real understanding, desperately trying not to patronise and reiterating that DSL rocks. I was so proud of my school, standing under the sign in my DSL hoody waiting for my course mate to arrive. We were so impressed by the calibre of auditions. Unlike the usual in-out, “thank you we’ve seen enough”, DSL gives each auditionee individual time and attention, re-direction and advice, producing transformed monologues and moments of invaluable, inadvertent teaching. We were able to reassure them afterwards that it is simply a reflection of the time and attention that is somehow found and given in abundance to us all throughout our training. My friend and I bounced home after we finished for the day, buzzing and with an enormous rocket up our behinds to do our best, to represent our place as best we can, to never take it for granted, and to work our socks off to prove we deserve the chance they gave us and will do them proud.

Everyone has tough days. But the motivation we will always return to is remembering how much we wanted this and the desire to honour it by matching the commitment and passion of those we are taught by.

A few words of wisdom from our tutors:

  • Follow your impulse and instinct.
  • Colour the words that excite you.
  • Don’t take anything you say for granted, breathe and find your inspiration.
  • Release! Stop clenching.
  • Be nice to the editor. He makes you look good.
  • Help with the rostra.
  • Let the universe deal with it.
  • Student life or not, don’t steal the toilet roll from school.
  • Paint a visual image in their minds, and whatever you need is probably in my Mary Poppins bag.
  • Uncross your arms.
  • Semi supine solves everything.
  • Don’t try to be interesting, trust you are.
  • Start wherever you are, especially on a Monday.
  • Don’t stop just because you’re tired.
  • We can always play again.
  • Eyes are the key to the soul and the camera is a BS detector.