So now that I’ve chewed your ear off about training, I’ll leave that for a bit so you can think it over. In the meantime, I’m sure you’d appreciate some ideas about what you can do to train yourself – whether you’re attending classes or not, there are always little things you can do to get ahead. So I’ll start with the simplest and possibly the BEST of them all: reading. Yes, this blog will be a very nerdy celebration of the written word.
I’m going to talk a bit later about some drama theory you might like to get into, but let’s start with something easier – plays and screenplays. Film or stage, if you are working within the Australian industry, it usually pays to spend some time reading and watching whatever’s coming out of your own industry. That means, if you’re not sure what you should be reading, focus on Australian films and plays. It will give you a clearer picture of the world you’re entering into. But don’t limit yourself! Go nuts! Read as much as you can – even AMERICAN playwrights (shock, horror)!
Practically, they’re also a great way to find unusual monologues for auditions, and you’ll be ahead of that other guy at your audition if you’ve read the other works of whoever wrote the play you’re auditioning for. Filmies take note: you’re probably already watching a broad range of films (if not, get on that now!), but reading screenplays and stage plays will broaden your insight into the industry, so throw some in for good measure.
Here’s a little secret tip of mine: while you’re reading, make sure that whenever you find a monologue you like, photocopy it and put it in a file. Then when you have auditions, you won’t have to run to the library at short notice! It’s quite common to be given an audition at a day’s notice, or suddenly need a monologue in a new style.
If you’re short on time, the best way to build a collection quickly is to spend the afternoon in one of the libraries mentioned below, select one play from every section (often they’re split into eras and/or country of origin), flick through each one until you see a big block of writing, then have a quick read of that section and see if it’s a monologue that might be appropriate for you. That’s also a great way to discover playwrights you’ve never heard of.
So how do you get your hands on the good stuff?
Here are some places you might want to check out. (I’ve also included some Perth-specific info at the bottom of this post for my WA readers.)
It’s worth checking out your local library, but if it’s anything like mine, it probably won’t have much available that’s specific to your needs. A possibility that you may not have thought of is to check whether your local university allows members of the public to borrow books, even if they’re not students. If the university near you offers arts courses, they should have some decent books that go into detail about performance theory.
It’s always worth subscribing to newsletters from theatre companies, film schools and performing arts venues near you, so you know what’s on. It’s also an opportunity to get linked to current articles about performers and performance theory.
Australian Script Centre, Online
This is a great website for new Aussie stuff – which you really need to keep abreast of, since theatre companies love new Aussie playwrights. You can get a ‘library pass’ for a small fee and read scripts online rather than having to buy them all, which is absolutely fantastic, and even without a library pass you can preview plays before you buy them. I’ll let you know when I find the equivalent for screenplays.
The Book Depository, Online
You may already know The Book Depository as a great way to find books cheaply. It’s amazing the obscure titles you can find on here for next to nothing. And you can use Paypal so you don’t need a credit card.
Worth the shipping costs if you’re getting a few really obscure titles that you haven’t managed to find anywhere else. Maybe save this option until you can’t find it anywhere else – unless you want to get it on Kindle.
My general opinion on reading is that you can never do too much. Even if you don’t like reading, it’s worth challenging yourself to at least read a couple every few months. Plays and screenplays are really easy to read, they usually only take 2 hours at the most. Reading keeps you ahead of the game. Reading ensures you know what you’re talking about and you understand the world you’re going into. In little cities like Perth where we don’t have access to a particularly broad range of theatrical styles, reading is one of the few ways you can begin to think big about your profession, rather than just copying what you see. Of course, with today’s social networking and googling possibilities, it is not the ONLY way to go about this. And that’s yet another topic for another time.
So much to talk about! We’ll get there eventually. 🙂
Extra Perth-based info for my Western Australian readers:
The State Library of WA (or the ‘Alexander Library’)
You can borrow plays from their collection using a library card from your local library, or you can sign up on site for free. They have reference books too but you’ll have to hang out the library to read them because they’re not for loan. It’s not a huge collection but it’ll do you fine to begin with.
ECU Mount Lawley Library (or the ‘WAAPA library’)
Probably the best library in WA for plays and screenplays. You can become a community member of this library (if you’re not studying at ECU) for a small fee. It’s well worth it as the collection of plays, screenplays and reference books – which are borrowable – is huge. Or if you have a spare afternoon, drop by and just read stuff.
Planet Books, Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley
Planet has a pretty good range of books and they tend to bring in plays that are being performed by the major theatre companies, as well as recently published screenplays. You can also order hard-to-find books through them. These are all for buying rather than borrowing though.
Crow Books, Albany Hwy, Victoria Park
This bookstore tends to bring in up to date plays and screenplays sometimes even quicker than Planet, so if you’re out in that direction, drop by and check out their collection available to buy.
The Lane Bookshop, Old Theatre Lane, Claremont
This used to have an amazing collection of performing arts books but in recent years it has dwindled slightly. Still tends to have some obscure but amazing books available so if you’re looking for inspiration, it’s worth popping by.