The Drama School Showcase

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Types of Showcase

Depending on the drama school you choose to go to, most will host a end of year or end of term showcase. These showcase performances are an ideal opportunity for you to invite agents, directors, casting agents or any other theatre professionals that may help you break into the business. There are the full blown showcase productions to promote yourself in or there are the variety show types of showcase where every student gets an equal amount of time to show themselves off in small scenes.
If studying a straight acting course you will be cast in a classic or contemporary piece and it’s the tutors decision what play is chosen and it may be influenced by the number of students in the class. A mostly female class may get to perform Lorca’s ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ or Neil Dunn’s ‘Steaming’.
If you are at a musical theatre school expect to take part in an all singing and all dancing extravaganza! I have seen some amazing shows during showcase week and I assure you everyone gets noticed, including the chorus members.
If you are studying a course in devised and collaboration theatre, you will most probably be devising your own showcase performance. This final piece may not even be staged in a theatre. I once took part in an examination piece based at The National Railway Museum in York. We had devised a piece on ‘Victorian Train Etiquette’ and performed it during the museums opening hours for about a week. Not a spotlight in sight!
The school may host showcase performances littered throughout the whole course but it will be the final showcase that will be the most costly and anticipated event. It will be these final events that agents agree to attend and spot any up and coming talent. It is a very intense week indeed. Every drama student pins their hopes on that final showcase.
The showcase audience does tend to be made up of fellow students, family and friends with the few willing agents added to the mix. Although the general public are invited to buy tickets, they tend to stick to the West End. It’s sad but true.

Showcases and Agents

It is a myth that all drama students leave drama school with an agent. Unfortunately only a handful will end up being taken on by an agent when graduating. And landing an agent might have nothing to do with the students particular part or how many lines they had. The agent may have an opening on their books for a 5’5″ brunette, a black actress, a native Scottish actress or an Asian male actor. They have to have talent too, but agents are a business and they are looking for new acting stock.
You may invite an agent to see your show who decides to take on another student, who never lifted a finger to invite anyone at all. It may seem unfair by that’s the way the business is. Don’t be surprised if your invited agent leaves during the show. They may only have a certain amount of time available and once they have seen you they may leave, it’s not a sign that they didn’t like you.

Showcase casting

Acting is a very competitive business and it starts at drama school. Some students will get upset when they don’t land the main part or the actor with only two lines in the show ends up getting an agent. Acting is like that, you will have to get used to it very early on and you just have to get over it and carry on. Some schools are very fair when it comes to the lead parts in showcase performances. They are happy to ‘double up’ the parts so that everyone gets a chance to perform one of the lead roles, but on alternative nights.
But some schools just cast the show using the class of students and if you only have a small part or get to play a few small roles then that’s it. You have just got to do your best with what you’ve got. I spent my first two years at drama school getting good parts like Richard III and other leading roles, but when it came to our final showcase I got three small parts in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. One very small part was in the first act and the other two in the second act. Unfortunately the tutors marking me on my performance left at the interval to go to the pub, so I was a bit put out to be honest. But that’s the way it goes, acting is like that, even in the professional world. I learnt a very valuable lesson early on which prepared me for the professional world.

Contacts or Opportunities

Some good drama schools may offer a great deal more than just study. Some schools may invite professionals to come and talk to the students about auditioning, career choices or any other aspect of the acting world. Try and make the most of all that is offered to you. When you have graduated and out in the big wide world all those opportunities and offers will suddenly stop. Depending on the length of your course, it will FLY by, I assure you. Make the most of any opportunity you are offered. Some workshops or lectures may be a waste of time but life is like that. But there will be the odd event that will really inspire you and make an impact on your training or acting career.
You can learn a great deal from non curricular activities too. Most schools encourage students to attend out of school activities and workshops. You may attend a drama workshop and meet a really inspiring director or workshop leader. You may land a role in a short student film or help a local theatre director with some assistant work. It’s these contacts that you need to make a note of, remember them and invite them to your showcase. Each event is like a stepping stone, it will be a part of your acting journey. Sometimes we will make side steps or stop for a while and other times we will be leaping from one project to another without really stopping at all.