Interview with Eimear O’Neill (2013 Foundation Student)
You have spent since September studying on the Acting Foundation Course at Italia Conti. How did you find the course?
I found the training on the course invaluable. It really gives you an insight into what is expected from a BA acting course. Our training wasn’t dissimilar to that of the first years at all! Everything is condensed into 2 terms however, so it’s very fast paced and intense. You literally have to be connected and receptive to all the work you’re doing, in order to keep on top of things. It’s abstract, playful work, but very detailed work also which requires you to be willing to commit yourself fully to the course. My favorite was movement class. Prior to starting the course, I was uncomfortable in my own body, and this restricted my freedom of movement when performing. When I visited home over Christmas, my family and friends kept commenting on the straightness of my back and upright posture. (Just four months into the course, I realized the training was benefiting me already!) Above all it improved my confidence immensely, and this is something I’ve taken on board not just in acting, but in life.
How did the course help you prepare for your auditions to Accredited Drama Schools and how have these auditions gone?
Undeniably, the audition experience is exhausting. The foundation course prepared me both physically and mentally for the audition ‘rounds’. We spent many intensive weeks focusing on our prepared speeches and potential questions that could be asked at interview stages. Conti encouraged me to play around with my monologues in all sorts of ways, and I felt this kept them fresh, and raw when it came to the auditions. (We all hit that point where we fall out of love with our monologues, having done them countless times!) One thing you certainly take away from Conti’s foundation course is stamina, and this stamina supported me throughout the audition process, allowing me begin to actually enjoy myself. I surprised myself with how well I did, so far having been successful everywhere I’ve auditioned. I’m still waiting to hear from everywhere except Conti, but I’ve gotten through to the final round of Rose Bruford, The Royal Central School of Speech and drama, (Acting Pathway and Acting with Musical theatre Pathway) and the 3rd round of RADA. I doubt this would have been the case had I not received the training on Conti’s foundation course.
You were recently offered a place on the Italia Conti BA (Hons) Acting Course – tell us about the day of your audition and when you found out.
Conti gave the foundations a day where we all auditioned together. The procedure was carried out exactly the same as the rest of Conti’s auditions; providing a half hour warm up to release all our tensions (basically lots of games and having fun), offering our speeches individually to the panel, a recall workshop stage involving singing, voice and movement work, and an interview/redirection stage. It was probably the most supportive atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at an audition. The panel genuinely wanted every one of us to deliver to the best of our ability. It was a very emotional day. I was fortunate enough to be selected through to the interview stage, however it’s hard saying your goodbyes to people you have trained intimately with for 7 months. I found out I’d landed myself a place via phone call the next day. Let’s just say my phone didn’t leave my side for 24 hours. My reaction was on loudspeaker… I’m sure everyone on the other end of the phone had a good giggle at my outburst!
What’s the biggest thing you learnt on the Italia Conti Foundation Course?
Be a bit dangerous. Yeah, it’s nice to know what ‘works’ and offer a truthful performance, but challenge yourself. I was very placed and contentious with my work before the course, but Conti encouraged me to throw myself in feet first, allowing me to make more interesting choices simply by trusting my impulses. I learned that the rehearsal process is ever-growing. You’re constantly discovering and it’s really, very exciting.
What was the most difficult element to the training on the Foundation Course?
I guess for me it was rising to the challenge of being emotionally vulnerable. Particularly in improvisation class, as you’re encouraged to instinctively go with whatever is in your mind. Trust me, you can’t easily hide away in this class! The training is extremely exposing, and you’ve got to be brave enough to take risks in the space. Generally, I was quite a ‘closed off’ person. Well, how that’s changed. I most definitely am not a crier, but the foundation course tapped into a few places I didn’t know I had. I’m excited to find out what this is about in the next three years of training.
Do you have any advice for people auditioning at Drama Schools this year?
Do the work. I know it’s clichéd, but seriously, you’re only going to get out what you put in. Choose more speeches than you need so you can chop and change. Also, sometimes I was asked if I had anything else to offer – it’s more impressive to dish out 3 or 4 Shakespeare’s than just the one. Know you’re speeches until you can say them in your sleep, but mix it up a little bit each time. Keep them fresh and exciting. If they excite you, you’re going to excite a panel. It’s undoubtedly an expensive time of year, but try and audition for as many as you can! Not only does it get you into a rhythm of auditioning, but it opens up more opportunities, allowing the pressure to ease a little bit. Every drama school is DIFFERENT. Know each one individually, and ask yourself if the training is right for you. Above all, enjoy it! After all, you’re paying to be there. Use the time wisely and knock their socks off.
What would you say to those people considering a Foundation Course in 2013?
It will certainly determine whether you are 100% sure if you want to train as an actor. If you’re undecided, but want a little taste of what it’s like – do a foundation. If you want an intimate, impersonal atmosphere where you can work on a one-to-one basis with industry professionals, then I recommend Conti’s foundation.