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The "Right" School is Better than the "Best" School

Updated: Mar 1

There’s not “just one” drama school that’s right for you. Many programs may be a good fit for you. You should be doing your research and applying to the schools that would make you happy. That's what this post will help you do.

Look within

Choosing which schools to apply to requires some internal conversation first. If you can ask yourself some powerful questions and get clarity about what’s most important to YOU in the next chapter of your training, you’ll be on the right track to put the right schools on your list.

Do you care about a super intense schedule, or do you want some space in the curriculum?

Do you think it's important to be surrounded by just top-level artists, or do you think it's important to have a diverse group of students (athletes, architecture majors, lawyers etc) around you?

What do you care most about? Don't pass up that question.

Who inspires you the most?

Articulating specifically what inspires you the most artistically is a great way to assess what you want in a program.

What do you love about your favorite performances? Think about the actors who constantly do it for you...what about their craft do you respect the most? Identify those qualities you currently consider “amazing acting”.

For me, I remember being 17 and Kevin Kline was one of my favorite actors, for so many reasons. He was relaxed in his body yet kept the stakes high and found specificity in character. He had perfect speech but kept it natural so it never got in the way. And his hair was dark and curly like mine. Ha, this guy was the man!

I was able to speak to that in the interview when Juilliard asked me, “What aspects of your work do you want to improve upon in your training?”

I knew myself and I knew my artistic taste (from watching Kevin Kline and others examples), and I said “I need to develop better voice and speech so I can reach the back row in an intimate moment without pushing.”

There’s no right thing to say of course (so please don't think there was some magic to that response, other than my honesty). Your response should be completely uniquely yours, and it will be if you know what inspires you the most.

Who are the faculty?

The faculty at any given drama school is a huge deal. A top school can lose it’s reputation due to faculty...and it has! But we won’t mention names.

See if you can find out what has each faculty member been doing for the last 20 years...

Are they diverse?

Do they work professionally?

Also, if a faculty member has been a teacher at that schools for 20+ years (assuming it’s a good school), that’s a fantastic sign. It says that a reputable program sees that teacher as a major asset. Teachers don’t last 20+ years at top drama schools if students aren’t responding to them.

My acting teacher at Juilliard, Richard Feldman, was in acting classes shadowing his predecessor for decades before taking over as acting teacher. He even said to us, “I don’t say anything original. I’m just passing on what I have in my notes and experience from watching John.” And he was amazing.

Diversity is important in a faculty as well. Young teachers in combination with older teachers was huge for me personally. One teacher may say the same thing but in a different way that just resonates with you more. It’s good to have teachers of different ages, races, genders, and perspectives but who are all in alignment with the philosophy of the school and ultimately supporting you to be the best actor you possibly can be.

Faculty who work in the profession are usually viewed as a good thing. I agree with this because it means they’re dealing with the craft and it’s in their body TODAY. However, don’t hold your breath for them to be as AMAZING of an actor as they are teacher. If faculty are NOT working, I also think that’s fine as long as teaching is what they’re amazing at. Teaching is a skill in itself. A good actor does not necessarily make a good teacher and vice versa.

The school's teaching philosophy

Is there a general consensus on how the faculty teaches? For example, is it more hands-off or hands-on? Is it more lecture/academic-based, or more demonstration/practice-based? How available do faculty make themselves if students want to work on something specific after class?

Acting can be such a sensitive, elusive thing. Each actor is unique and learns differently at different moments. It’s got to be exhausting to be an acting teacher because students can be overly sensitive while others are not sensitive enough. It’s a delicate balance to find the right things to say to specific actors at the right moment to help them breakthrough to the next level. Their teaching philosophy should resonate with your learning philosophy - whether it be experimental, sensitive, cross-collaborative, etc.

One last note...

Take these notes as information and move forward with what's helpful, leave behind what isn't. Ultimately, you're going to get out what you put in no matter where you go. It’s YOU who’s performing and growing, and you need to always own that. Training programs hold a spot in each actor's journey but they are a means to an end, never the end goal. USE the school and own the growth as your own. You're the one who’s ultimately on stage and screen. Always remember that you’re in school to consciously develop your craft, not blindly do what they say.

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