Your Questions, Our Answers

We regularly hold Twitter question and answer sessions to answer your burning questions about working in the performing arts industry. 

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JOHN BYRNE

Whether your question is about nailing your next audition, or what role you are made for, we have the answers for you.

Click on the questions below to get the best advice from The Stage's resident careers advisor, John Byrne as well as guests including Fraser Ayres.

Questions Index

Questions with Answers

Q&A: Careers advice with John Byrne – October 2014
What advice would you give to recent Drama graduates? top

Subscribe to ‪ The Stage Newspaper‬ and join The Stage Castings of course :) but here are my other 3 top tips:

1. Some graduates work immediately, some wait months - you are aiming for lifelong career so don't quit.

2. Agent or none - do all YOU can to look professional and generate work.

3. Need help with career plan? do email ‪The Stage‬ career clinic via dearjohn@thestage.co.uk

I'm 16 years old - Should I go for a Performing Arts college or A levels education followed by a Performing Arts uni? top

If a career is the end goal people have landed one by taking either route. It is definitely worth taking a look at individual subjects and modules on each course.

BTECs in backstage & tech skills are good options too. Here's a useful overview: ‪http://tinyurl.com/l4h83s9

Education & Training section of ‪The Stage‬ website (and The Half in print paper) has lots of tips. Follow my colleague Susan Elkin on Twitter ‪(@SusanElkinJourn), she's‬ a font of wisdom and knowledge on all matters educational. The Stage's‬ ‘choose a drama course’ issue is out on October 30th.

Thinking about uni may influence your pre-uni choices. So, good luck...I hope to see you on the London stage some time soon!

My son is 16 on his last year of school & wants to go into musical theatre top

Good goal :) First thing is take him to see lots of shows-small fringe ones as well as west end.

Explore taster courses and workshops such as Masterclass, which are‬ always good to dip toe in the water.

Pick performers you like - not 'stars' as such but performers who are 4-5years ahead of where you want to be. Also, research those performers - find out where did they studied and check out those courses.

What’s the best advice for a career in Theatre Education in the UK? top

My first suggestion would be to make sure to engage with as many Theatre Education projects and departments as possible. Visit exhibits, join workshops and get a feel for what works/engages in large and small theatres.

Consider volunteering to get experience of the ‘non glam’ but essential aspects such as budgeting. The combination of passion and experience gained should make you a front runner when applying for jobs. Also, Check out the excellent information and great case studies on the Creative and Cultural Skills‬ website.

Q&A: Careers advice with Fraser Ayres – August 2014
Any advice on raising money for a production (for wages, space etc)? top

BIG question! You might want to get in touch with @TriForceEvents for this one! Here goes:

1. Personal funding. It can be a nightmare but is often the only route. Big productions NEVER put their own money near it. A pilot, or personal project is an option. 

2. Associations and partnerships. Seek those with similar vision. You can share resources, talent pools, and connections/outputs & outcomes. 

3. Seek a venue first. Often there will be some form of support or guidance. 

4. Speak to those whose work you respect, the advice of those that have tread the path before can help avoid pitfalls. Speak to @COGARTS and finally use Google! There are lots of funds, charities and organisations to search for. Find synergy and engage. 

End! Phew!

What's your top resource for finding contemporary male monologues, playing age 20-30? top

The best resource is seeing them performed at the theatre. There's nothing like seeing it first hand and going ‘yeah, but I’d do THIS with it’ :-)

@monologueslamuk@MethuenDrama and @OberonBooks do amazing books for actors. 

Google is your friend, a day sat in a local library would be invaluable!

Read LOTS of plays as standard practice, 99% will have monologues. This helps in innumerable other ways as well.

Why not also read Fraser Ayres' 5 Top Tips for nailing a monologue

Do you have tips on finding & working on monologues as a returning actor? top

A coach isn't needed, but an outside eye is essential once you have gone as far as you can.

Find a piece for where you ARE not where you WERE. 

Treat it as if you have never read a monologue before, as it brings new thoughts. Avoid pieces you did before, treat it as a new start! Also, avoid too much of a challenge.

Pick something enjoyable that will give you the ‘hunger’ again and build your confidence.

What is a good classical monologue for an 18 year old lad, that top schools would like? top

There are no good monologues! There is only good writing with the right performer. Try and stay away from 'old' characters. So, avoid 'usual suspects' like Romeo and Mercutio. Check out The Revenger's Tragedy, Faust, Marlowe and play YOUR type.

Pick something that stands out for you, play your type. Check out the Sonnets, they're a goldmine!

Q&A: Careers advice with John Byrne – July 2014
Would you work for free or for expenses only? If not how can it be right for actors to not be paid? top

Honest answer - Yes. I have worked for no pay or expenses at various times, but was always clear on the return I was getting i.e. showreel footage, exposure, experience. In general I would always look for fair pay.

What is the best way to find and apply for west end auditions? top

If you have an agent, make sure they put you forward - do take advice, but ultimately they work for you.

If you don't have an agent you can find auditions on The Stage Castings and other places - but make sure you read all the details and prepare well.

Even West End stars compete for parts, so rehearse, prepare and do all you can to show yourself in the best light.

Treat every audition as a learning experience and a step on the road to finally getting that part.

Also, treat EVERY show like a West End show -y ou never know who might see you and open that West End door for you.

I’m pursuing a career in stage management, what's the best work experience employers look for? top

Equity and Stage Management Association are the real experts here - both are well worth checking out.

Just to start you off here is good link from national careers site.

Check out The Stage Castings and also the ATG placement scheme which is nationwide.

Where is the best place to get advice on your casting type and market? top

It is certainly something tutors and agents should be able to advise on. Decent showcases like Monologue Slam UK can help as can various ‘Casting Director’ workshops. But 1 or 2 should be ample don’t be persuaded to constantly fork out for ‘exclusive events’.

Remember also that your type and market can change every few years.

I’ve just had a baby; will casting directors hold that against me? top

Depending on childcare, the parts you go for may be different.

Maybe no long tours, however your best chance of getting any part is to do your best possible audition.

How do you find auditions with no agent & can't afford casting sites? top

You can check The Stage and other sources for open auditions and submit yourself. Make sure you have good headshot and formatted CV, whether you have an agent or not.

Good casting sites like The Stage Castings are not always expensive. Review your personal budget for long-term gain. A good agent also helps. Prove yourself as employable - that's your best chance of getting one.

Q&A: Careers advice with John Byrne – June 2014
What preparation should a final year university student be making to get work after university? top

Preparation is key. But whether you are at university, school, a top drama course or have no training at all, an acting career challenge is the same for every one. There are some things you can’t totally control such as castings and getting agents, but there are some you can control such as self generating work in ways mentioned below.

Getting your head shots and CV ready as well as researching work outlets is a very good idea pre-graduation. Best of all try to talk to recent graduates about what it is really like out there.

I have no professional experience and no one considers my CV, how can I change this? top

To be honest, even professional CVs in themselves don’t guarantee work. To build up your CV look for open auditions and get involved in improvisation or stand up. Make sure that whatever you are doing, you promote yourself via social media and fliers etc. Also, invest in a good headshot as this can sometimes make all the difference regardless of your CV!

I've done theatre for 23 years but I want to go into film. Any career tips? top

Many successful movie actors have come from theatre, but they are two different mediums. Screen acting courses are a good idea, look for ones taught by CURRENT working professionals.

You need a good showreel too and sadly even the best theatrical performances on video won’t cut it. Visit indy film festivals/sites to network and see what is current. See you at the movies!

Is a Spotlight account essential, particularly when getting an agent? top

Spotlight is one of the first places casting directors and others look for performers- agents too. You don’t need an agent to be on Spotlight, like The Stage Castings, you can get castings sent direct to you. However, you need professional work and qualifications under belt to be on Spotlight and to interest agents.

So, doing all you can to self generate work is important, whichever directories you are listed in!

How can Further Education Performing Arts students make their UCAS application/CV stand out? top

A CV is essentially a list in a standard format, so it is hard to make it 'stand out'. However, the ‘personal statement’ type sections of your CV are the areas to work hard on for 'stand out' potential.

Study the college/course information closely. What values, themes are especially important to that college? Link your own stories, aims and passions to those themes. Best wishes with your applications!

What's the best way to get noticed & achieve professional representation? top

1. Many people think that the way to get noticed is to get an agent, but it works the other way round. Agents want to build on the work of actors already getting work and being seen.

Look for open castings, rehearsed readings, community shows and invite agents to see them when you perform. If agents do come and sign you, then that's great. If not then hey, you are working anyway. Wishing you every success!

Q&A: Careers advice with John Byrne – May 2014
Any advice for a young person wanting to break into the acting business? top

1. Well, obviously subscribe to @thestage and join @stagecastings :)

2. but also see as many plays and shows as you can-you can learn so much from seeing live actors

3. Remember that building career takes time - have a plan B. even as an actor u may need other work

What's the best way to get acting tuition and gain some experience? top

1. For great overview and action plan: Actors Yearbook by Simon Dunmore 

2. Decide in advance what you want to achieve after tuition. This will help choose the right tutor/school for you

3. Once you identify courses/tutors see if there are any open days/trial lessons before making a final decision

4. Is a private tutor too costly? Find acting class/group for networking, learning and practise

How do I reduce risk attached to seeking performance work abroad before I make the leap? top

1. do the math... Establishing yourself abroad can take months or years so budget carefully and for the long-term

2. Connect with people currently working in the place you're moving to. Get a good cross section of advice

PS try The Stage online forums as a good place to gather info

How does an actor you choose a role to play that will suit them? top

1. Develop an awareness of your ‘type’ so you can choose suitable audition pieces

2. Remember that a role you like and a role you can perform well aren’t always the same thing

3. Keep audition repertoire fresh-speech/role you did well 3 years ago may not suit who you are today

What can I do to have a successful singing career? top

1. Get lessons…even if you can sing already. For serious singer taking care of your voice is important

2. Learn to PERFORM and entertain live-best singers are not always the best performers.

3. Look for open mic nights & singers evenings in your local area. Gig as much as you can-enjoy!

Q&A: Careers advice with John Byrne – April 2014
How do I find my way back into the 'biz' after 10 years out? top

1. Always worth checking up on all old contacts and reminding them who you are.

2. Linked In is a more business like way than Facebook for reconnecting.

PS certainly keep up to date with industry news in The Stage as a lot has changed in 10 years...

PPS however skills & experience gained in 10 years out may suggest related avenues in our business.

I’ve just signed up to a casting agency, any tips on getting further? top

A good casting agency can help get work but you are still captain of the ship. So, keep exploring other work too, but make sure all agents know when you are and aren't available.

I can't afford an agent, how do I get on the ladder of an acting career? top

You shouldn't have to 'afford' an agent, they only get paid when you get work. Never pay upfront.

There are lots of castings you can apply for with or without agent. A good photo, CV and talent is enough.

You have more of a chance of getting a good agent if you show you can get work already.

How do you find the right agent and where? top

1. Identify what exactly you need from agent-different for each performer and each career stage.

2. Research agents who get actors LIKE you to where you want to be via Spotlight, Contacts etc.

3. approach agents showing you have done research-know what you can offer and what they offer.

Getting agent: hard getting right one: harder, approaching agent as the 'right client for them' is key.

How do I balance my admin tasks with creativity? top

I have two systems here for creative minds to try. Get Everything Done by Mark Forster  and Peter Bergman's website should be useful for you, enjoy! Certainly, Juggling your creative with your admin brain can be hard!

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