YMT's Ryan Heenan talks to us about what it’s like to audition for drama schools as well as his experience at YMT.
After taking part in several YMT shows – including this year’s Variété as well as the lead in the 2012 version of Terry Pratchett’s Mort The Musical – Ryan Heenan has just started at Central School of Speech and Drama, where he is doing the BA (Hons) Acting course, with the Musical Theatre pathway. He was also successful in his applications for Mountview, Arts Ed, and Guildford School of Acting! We spoke to Ryan about what it’s like to audition for drama schools as well as his experience at YMT.
Which drama schools did you apply for?
I applied for: the Central School of Speech and Drama, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Arts Ed, Guildford School of Acting (GSA), Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and the one-year course at the Royal Academy of Music. I’d always wanted to do drama; I’d never really thought about applying to university.
When did you apply?
I was quite strategic about it. You don’t want to seem too eager and rush your application, but you don’t want to leave it until the last minute either. Some of my friends applied in September or October and got through to the final rounds, but they weren’t offered places because the drama schools didn’t know who would audition in the future. I applied in my last week of school in December. That way I could relax over the Christmas holidays and then had my auditions in January and recalls in February.
How do you apply?
It’s different for every school. I applied to GSA and Central through UCAS, which is a bit weird for drama schools because you get emails from UCAS saying when to audition, rather than directly from the institution. Arts Ed and Mountview are both done privately: print it off, fill it in and send it to them directly. The Royal Academy of Music and RCS use CUKAS – the Conservatoires Admission Service UK.
What were the auditions like?
It all depends on your course. There tends to be about 100 people a day. The ArtsEd and Mountview auditions were all in one day. After that day you don’t audition again and you hear within two weeks whether you’re in or not. Central’s was a bit crazy: there were about 120 people there and then went down to 17 at lunchtime! We were split into groups and then they told us which pathway we would be recalled for – whether it’s pure acting or musical theatre etc. At central they’ve also got a devised and collaborative theatre course.
I was inevitably nervous, but I dealt with it by sipping water – the adrenaline was sort of a good thing. I’d say, generally, that it’s much harder to be a girl auditioning for drama schools.
What did you have to do in your audition?
Every school wants something different and they all ask you to prepare different things. I ended up preparing four or five songs and up to eight monologues. Central have their own list of Shakespeare monologues and they can be very specific. Every school is looking for something different. You get an idea about the schools from their students and the sorts of shows that the schools put on. So, for example, you may want to do something more modern for Arts Ed whilst others want something a bit more traditional.
What songs did you do?
I did "Lost in the Wilderness" from Children of Eden and for a more traditional song I did "Younger Than Springtime" from South Pacific.
Guildford had list of songs, so I did "Maria" from West Side Story. It was interesting because they had a list and songs that you’re usually told are too obvious for auditions. If you do an obscure song, though, there should be a healthy balance between traditional and obscure. Don’t sing anything from Les Mis because that’s so obvious, but equally if you go too obscure it could be bad. They’ve heard "On My Own" too many times. If stuff is really obscure, there’s usually a reason it’s obscure. However, there are some songs that you think are too obvious, but if it suits a person it doesn’t necessarily matter.
Did you have to dance?
At dance schools like Laines, Millennium and Urdang you tend to have to prepare a one minute dance solo with your track and you have to do jazz, tap, and ballet classes. So I didn’t audition for those! I did dance workshops where you go in do a warm-up and they watch you and teach you a short routine.
How do you feel your auditions went?
The examiners don’t let anything on. I had a few auditions where I know I messed up, but the panel very rarely engage or give anything away, even if you’re doing a comedic monologue. They might give you an awkward smile. You go away thinking ‘I have no clue how that went’.
How long did you have to wait to hear back from the schools?
They take their time with their final decision. They tend to be quite quick with their recall, it can be a week. With their final decision, it tends to be it can be a bit longer up to three weeks; Central took a month with mine.
Do you think YMT helped you?
Yea, I do. It opens you up. It’s not like other people coming to auditions, who have only done classic musicals like Guys and Dolls and Anything Goes. They’re probably very good productions, but with YMT you get to do new and interesting stuff and you get to work with professionals. It makes you grow and sort of appreciate it more.
What is your favourite YMT moment?
I don’t know. I think, maybe because it’s recent, but the last night of Variété was really special. I think as a cast we were all really close and there was no one who doubted the show. Everyone was really into it. When we got to the last show, we were like, ‘this is the last time, let’s go out and give them a great show’.
What was it like working with the creative team?
It was crazy, in a brilliant way.
What three pieces of advice would you give to our young people thinking of drama school?
- Preparation is key! There’s nothing worse than being nervous and learning the lines the night before. Everything’s going to go wrong. Be prepared! Don’t be worried about over-working a piece. Just keep at it and finding new thingss
- Be really open, they can throw anything at you to see how you react. Go in open-minded. For example, if you’re doing a monologue and they sense that you’ve done it like that loads of times, they’ll probably throw something at you and see if you can take direction and respond well. They’re not looking for the finished product; they’re looking for potential!
- You don’t have to give up if you don’t get a place. The students show us around at the schools told us that they got in on their fourth or fifth time auditioning. It’s difficult. You have to be able to take rejection and let it make you stronger.
We wish Ryan the best of luck at Central and we hope he mentions us when he wins his first Olivier or Tony!
Halloween is here! Bored of the black cat outfit? Fed up of wearing last year’s ghost get-up?
We don’t know about you but everyone at YMT loves to get into the spirit by dressing up in our creepiest and/or most original Halloween attire! So to get you in the mood and sticking to what we know best, we’ve thought up some ideas based on musical theatre baddies!
Take a look at the top 10 best ideas for theatre baddies here…
1) The Woman in Black – The Woman in Black
A ghost from a West End play that only uses 2 characters throughout, The Woman In Black sure is a creepy character. Based on the horror novella by Susan Hill the story follows a lawyer Arthur Kipps who sees the eerie figure of a woman in black when he attends a funeral, things quickly spiral out of control! No prizes for guessing what colour to wear for this character!
2) The Wicked Witch of the West - The Wizard of Oz
It’s true, a witch is one of the most obvious choices for a Halloween costume, but you’ve got to have an exception for this evil lady. She controls a pack of wolves and a swarm of bees, tries to kill Dorothy and ultimately take over the land of Oz. Depicted as having green skin in both the classic 1939 movie depiction of the original book by L Frank Baum and in the musical adaptation Wicked it’s time to get the green face paint out!
3) Count Dracula - Dracula
If you fancy getting your fangs out, you’ve got to get inspired by The Count who is the archetypal vampire. This character is centuries old and from Transylvania – he’s not just a vampire, he’s a sorcerer as well and unlike lots of depictions of Vampires is actually quite charming. Get practicing those accents and some charisma to go with the cape!
4) Scar - The Lion King
An African lion and the lead antagonist in The Lion King, Scar provides the perfect baddy for those of you just desperate to dress like an animal! The musical version is based on the 1994 film and both see Scar plotting to seize the throne and even kill Simba’s father Mufasa, now if that’s not evil, then I don’t know what is…
5) Captain Hook - Peter Pan
The Captain of the Jolly Roger and long time enemy of Peter Pan, Hook has one obvious costume feature that can’t fail to impress – the iron hook replacing the hand that Peter Pan cut off! Who wouldn’t be freaked out by shaking that hand on dark night?
6) The Evil Queen - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
This baddie is completely obsessed with being the most beautiful in the land, so, a modern day Jordan perhaps? If acting like a (very) old school diva takes your fancy, you’ll need a Magic Mirror to look into at regular intervals, an extravagant cape and a crown.
7) Iago - Othello
The most evil character in Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago hates the main character and devises a plot to destroy him by leading him to believe his wife is having an affair with his lieutenant. And if that’s not bad enough, what’s most sneaky about Iago is that Othello puts a lot of trust in him, in fact, the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” comes to mind! Don some Shakespearian tights and put your back stabbing head on for this character!
8) Lady Macbeth – Macbeth
Another Shakespearian character, Lady Macbeth is the most evil of Shakespeare’s female personalities and even persuades her husband to commit regicide in order to become Queen of Scotland. Think lots of long plaited hair (customize with a wig if you need to) and drape yourself with fabric - 16th century style!
9) Fagin - Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens' character Fagin is the leader of a group of children who he encourages to pickpocket, smoke and drink and is described as “grotesque” to look at. So for those of you that really want to go to town with the creepy Halloween thing, this is your guy!
10) Monsieur Thénardier - Les Misérables
And last but by no means least, Monsieur Thénardier, a baddie from the longest-running musical in the West End: Les Misérables. Based on the character from Victor Hugo’s novel, Thénardier is a cruel, money-obsessed man who, with his wife (potential for a double act costume here..!) cheat their customers at the inn, beg and steal.
In celebration of the Benjamin Britten centenary, YMT bring their production of The Dark Tower to the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith.
The Dark Tower is a response to the 1946 radio play written by Ulster poet Louis MacNiece and scored by Benjamin Britten. Ahead of these performances we ask the question – exactly who was Benjamin Britten?
- Benjamin Britten was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, producing a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces.
- He started piano lessons when he was seven years old, and three years later began to play the viola.
- He was one of the last composers brought up on exclusively live music as his father refused to have a gramophone or, later, a radio in the house.
- Britten was a greatly sought-after conductor and pianist despite being reluctant and nervous at them both!
- Many singers and musicians admired Britten's conducting, and David Webster even offered him the musical directorship of the Covent Garden Opera in 1952. Unfortunately he declined as he wasn’t confident enough in his ability – crazy!
The Dark Tower comes to Riverside Studios Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th August at 5pm and 8pm, matinee on Monday 26 August 1pm.
Book here: www.riversidestudios.co.uk
Box Office: 02082371111
We get up close and personal with the characters of one of Charles Dickens’ greatest novels now made into a musical by YMT.
Showing at the Rose Theatre, Kingston this August, Great Expectations is the classic coming-of-age tale of social class, empire and ambition – and just in case you don’t know the central characters or the storyline, Heather Welsh gives you a quick rundown of who’s who!
“Come gather around and hear the tale that’s unfolding of one boy with Great Expectations. His Christian name Philip, his surname was Pirrup but call him Pip”. The central character, Pip is an orphan and portrayed as both a child and a young man. It is his growth and coming-of-age that brings together the plot and provides the introduction of all the other characters too. Throughout his childhood, Pip dreamed of becoming a blacksmith but gives up that dream to move to London and become a gentleman.
Pip's fiery tempered adult sister, Mrs Gargery raises him after their parents' death but frequently complains of the burden of raising Pip. Her husband's journeyman Orlick attacks her, and she is left disabled until her death.
Joe is Pip's brother-in-law and his first father figure. He’s a blacksmith and very kind to Pip who is always honest with him. Joe is disappointed when Pip decided to leave his home and travel to London to become a gentleman rather than be a blacksmith.
An elderly spinster, wealthy Miss Havisham is overcome with desire for revenge on her jilted lover who left her at the altar several years before. She takes on Pip as a friend and so Pip suspects she is his sponsor.
Estella is Miss Havisham's adopted daughter who Pip pursues throughout the tale. She’s the daughter of Molly, Jaggers's housekeeper, and Abel Magwitch, Pip's benefactor, however she doesn’t know this. Estella was given up for adoption to Miss Havisham after her mother, Molly, is tried for murder. Miss Havisham ruins her ability to love so she can’t return Pip's affection. She warns him of this over and over, but he doesn’t believe her.
Herbert is Matthew pocket’s son, Miss Havisham’s presumed heir and Pip’s tutor in the “gentlemanly” arts. He shares his apartment with Pip in London and becomes his good friend.
A prominent London lawyer who represents Pip’s benefactor and Miss Havisham, his law practice links many of the characters.
A convict who escaped from a prison ship, Abel Magwitch uses the aliases Provis and Mr Campbell to protect his identity. He treats Pip very kindly and is in fact his patron. Pip pretends Magwitch is his uncle in order to further protect his identity.
Great Expectations is showing at Rose Theatre, Kingston from 29 August – 1 September 2013 at 7:30pm (Matinees Thursday & Saturday at 2:30pm and Sunday at 3pm) www.rosetheatrekingston.org. Box Office: 08444821556.
Soul Music: 5 music genres to compete with Terry Pratchett’s ‘Music With Rocks In’ - by Heather Welsh
Based on Terry Pratchett’s 16th Discworld novel, YMT is putting on the show Soul Music at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell this August.
It follows the story of Imp Y Celyn aka ‘Buddy’ and a group of musicians’ short-lived yet glamorous career in the group ‘The Band with Rocks In’ whose music was inspired by an addictive new genre ‘Music with Rocks In’.
Enthused by Pratchett’s creation of a completely new genre, Heather Welsh takes a look at the craziest music genres out there:
In case you were wondering whether or not to get out your calculator for this genre, actually, Mathcore is a rhythmically complex and jarring style of Metalcore! Like Math rock it makes use of unusual time signatures and has its roots in bands like Converge, Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan. So put your abacuses away!
2. Epic Doom Metal
It’s epic, it’s doom filled, and I guess you could say it’s a kind of metal music! With a slower tempo and thicker, heavier sound than other metal music, this is a sweeping, ambitious music fit for a graveyard scene in a film, ooh!
3. Space Disco
A fusion of disco music with futuristic themes, sounds and visuals – think boogying in a spacesuit! It is notably inspired by sci-fi films such as Star Wars, Solaris and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Also known as 8-bit music, Chiptune is synthesized electronic music produced by the sound chips of vintage computers, video game consoles and arcade machines (or imitations of these sounds). Think of the noises your old Game Boy used to make and you’ve got it spot on. Fusion genres include Glitch, Skweee and Chip-ska – try to get your head around those names!
A European style of techno music that originated in Germany, Schranz is based on massive kick drums, driving percussion and distorted, looping synthesizers. Originally Schranz is hard sounding and up-tempo (about 150 BPM) so it’s not something for the faint hearted!
Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music is showing at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell on Saturday 24 August at 2.30pm & 7.30pm, Sunday 25 August at 2.30pm. Book here: www.southhillpark.org.uk Box Office: 01344 484 123.