At some point I had the fixed idea to go to an acting school. I surfed the internet and picked one out. In any case, they were all expensive. I called and got a performance date. The semester already ran, but there were still places left and they were still looking for students.
So I found myself at the director’s office on a Friday afternoon. She was an older, very slim lady with synthetic hair wig and a fondness for wide belts.
She kindly explained the advantages of her school and that on Monday was the last entrance exam. Until then, I would have time to memorize at least three monologues from three different stage plays and of course prepare with props. She wrote me what plays I should get me and then I was allowed to go.
This Friday it was already too late to get the lyrics. The shops were already closed. So I raced to the next bookstore on Saturday at the crack of dawn and bought all the plays in form of Reclam booklet that I needed. Fortunately, they had everything there and did not have to order first, otherwise I would have been lost.
I’m heading back home and spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday poking the lyrics in my brain. I do not usually have a memorization problem but these classic lyrics pushed me to the limit. I am not a friend of “nice talking”, as Shakespeare, Goethe and Co. KG liked to practice.
Monday came and I was nervous to under both arms. I absolutely did not feel prepared and when I was finally called in, my head was completely empty.
I faced the Director and the Dramaturgy Lecturer, who had assembled behind a long table of paperwork. Otherwise the big room was completely empty. I introduced myself and the plays that I wanted to recite and tried desperately to remember the first line. I just had it. Now it was gone!
But the director had other ideas about how the exam should begin. First she wanted to know what the room I was in looked like. I just thought:
“Huh ?! Look at it yourself! “
Only then did I realize that she wanted me to “feel in the room” in which I should immediately move as Antigone.
“Crap! Earlier in Theater AG we always had great sets. Since you could save yourself the “feeling in” and start immediately with the recitation of the memorized text, because yes, thanks to the stage designer, everyone could see in which room you were!
Poh! Theater people! I knew that I still had a lot to learn.
So that I would not stand there like a complete fool, I acted as if I knew what she wanted from me and described the room for several minutes, spontaneously shaking all the details from my sleeve, without having worried before. Then suddenly a picture hung on the wall, which I covered in a sudden fit of megalomania with expensive silk. I virtually distributed valuable furniture in the room, making sure that afterwards I did not stumble over my imagined “air inventory” in the game.
Finally the room was furnished and I was allowed to start playing.
In the meantime I could remember my text again and I happily quoted all that I remembered. In between, I had a “dropout” again and I had to improvise. I tried not to let the blackout show and brought the monologue to an end.
Then I was done and was not satisfied with me at all. The two examiners put their heads together and compared their notes. Then the director asked me if I could sing something else. I fell from all clouds. To sing!? But that was not the topic of the preliminary talk! Where should I conjure up a perfectly prepared song out of the air?! In my misery, I thought of nothing better than to recite a Disney song from “Pocahontas”.
After I finished, there was a little whispering and then I was sent out of the room to wait for the decision in the anteroom.
There I sat. Alone with my thoughts:
“You were totally bad. Your emphasis was under all sow. You were so nervous that you could not empathize with the three different characters you were supposed to portray. Nobody has taken that from you.
-But the singing was good!
-Maybe, but you are here to play, not to sing! And your game was trash! You totally forgot the text!
-But I improvised! I saved myself over the blackout without faltering! And besides, the acoustics were totally bad!
-Do not fool yourself! You were shit and you failed!
-But this is a school! If I were perfect right away, I would not have to learn anything anymore!
-Nevertheless you were shit and they think you are resistant to learning!”
So I went to court with me, until finally the director came to tell me whether I would be accepted now or not. Of course, she did not make it short and sweet, but let me fidget endlessly and wanted to know from me, how I would appreciate.
Groan! Since you can only answer wrong! I mumbled something about being nervous and not feeling that great and hoping to learn a lot here. The usual text just. Finally she had a look with me and welcomed me as a new student at her school. I was really happy and I sang loudly in the car all the way home.
I was scheduled for the evening class from 17:00 to 22:00 and the next day I met my fellow students. I was nervous again, because I came now into a group, which had already had three months to get to know each other and I came back to it new and unknowing. Surely they were all great actors and a lot more talented than me, and they would all laugh at me as soon as it was my turn to play. But far from it. There were nice people all the way through the bank and some of them were even more scared of me than me of them. The vulture knows why…
In the first week I had in the main subject “Basics” still “closed season” and watched the other while playing. And so I enjoyed being able to get an idea of the others. First I found them all great. But gradually I got bored. And the more I observed the same people with the same movements, the same way of speaking, and an absolutely unchanged body language in their interpretation of different roles, I slowly began to wonder how on earth, they had come through the entrance exam. Probably for the same reason as me:
Money! We were all cows that were milked. Whether we learned something did not matter! The main thing, we paid punctually our time still 600 marks a month! There was one or the other lecturer, who really tried to us and from whom one could actually learn something. But the really good guys did not stay long. It’s clear, because if you have the calendar full of engagements, why should you still do the shame to teach? And so it came that more and more lessons were canceled. Sometimes the management did not even notice that we waited in vain for our lecturers and were left to ourselves for hours. It’s not like at school that the class president goes to the staff room and says that there is a class without a teacher. No no! It was late in the evening when we had lessons and nobody was in the office anymore.
Then the next semester began and a horde of young, dynamic people filled the school with noise and laughter. The director, who also taught herself, had a tremendous amount of fun with the hyperactive, ludicrous crowd and increasingly neglected our little bunch that was more introverted. Hours fell out, were not replaced, good lecturers turned their backs on the school and when I was even robbed one day, because we were not allowed to take our bags in the room, I drew the consequences. I terminated my toggle contract.
I’ve learned how to keep people busy for hours with fun games, exercises, and mischief, spending it as paid lessons. The only thing I could take for me there were the basic strikes in fencing and the use of my chest voice in speaking, of whose existence I had no knowledge until now. This was introduced to me by the only lecturer who really had something on it and who left us early as a result of very different people tearing her around.
Actually I should have left much earlier. For example, when the Aikido Lecturer started slapping his students into the face for the reason that he wanted us to toughen up. Or when I realized with regret that the vocal teacher never sang something to us and did not even know how to set up a choir!
So, to everyone who thinks they have to study drama:
First, take a look at the biographies of all the successful actors that exist in the world. Of those, only a fraction was at a drama school. Either you have it or you do not have it. If your self-esteem is not as close as mine was then, for goodness sake, inform yourself better than I did and do not take the best school that beckons with a training contract! Be smart, read reviews and interview one or the other student who is already attending the school you are interested in.
Otherwise there is an important rule of thumb:
When you wake up in the morning and you cannot think of anything but playing, then you’re an actor!
You do not need a school! They only ruin you! Be what you are and play as you are. Most roles will be occupied anyway types. At some point there is something for you too. Always stay on the ball. “Hals- und Beinbruch!” (that means “Good Luck” in german between actors)
Text: Nadja von der Hocht