For as long as I could remember I had wanted to be an actress. I am not ashamed to admit that I love to be the centre of attention and always have done. I was a regular at the local drama club and studied acting throughout secondary school and sixth form.
At 18, I made the decision to go to drama school instead of university, and did the usual audition circuit. I think I auditioned for about five or six drama schools, but was only accepted by Birmingham School of Acting. Although I was hugely relieved that someone had taken me on, it couldn’t have worked out better as this had been my number one choice of school. I loved the area, the teachers seemed great, and I had an innate feeling that this was the right place for me.
I did enjoy my time at drama school and I met some amazing friends for life, but somehow I never felt as if I completely fitted in. I acknowledge that one needs to try new things and take oneself out of one’s comfort zone to grow as an actor and indeed as a person, but I didn’t enjoy or feel comfortable with all the exercises. Where was the sense in channelling our inner butterflies or imagining our physical return to being a foetus? I have to say that most of these exercises went right over my head, and I spent the majority of my first two years walking around with a perplexed look on my face, wondering how it was all going to make me become a better actor. Nevertheless, I persevered with the physical theatre, and the hours of breathing exercises, chanting, facial exercises and tongue twisters, in the hope that I would eventually catch on and it would all make perfect sense.
And it did just that. The third and final year was spent performing play after play. With the prior two years’ training under my belt I was now able to concentrate on developing a truthful character without having to worry about how my voice sounded, whether my voice would get tired or strained by the gruelling rehearsal and performance period, but most importantly, that I wouldn’t run out of breath when the nerves kicked in which had always been a personal struggle of mine.
I didn’t become an actor in the end. A few too many knock backs and the need to pay my rent meant that I would need to choose a different career path. It took five years, three different cities, more temp jobs than I care to remember and countless tearful phone calls home to finally discover my calling and set off on my chosen career path: that of an elocution coach.
Whilst I didn’t entirely enjoy the temping jobs, I was always extremely grateful for the steady employment, especially considering the state of the economy at the time. I firmly believe that the reason I and fellow drama school graduates found ourselves repeatedly employed, was due to the extensive three year training at drama school.
From confidently articulating myself in the interview process, to being able to adapt to many different working environments, and meeting and communicating with a diverse workforce, often under pressure, meant I stood head and shoulders above other interviewees.
I am a big believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason. You may not know the reason at the time, and it can be a scary, confusing and difficult journey, but ultimately you will learn and grow from these experiences. Along the way you may also find yourself in amazing situations that you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.
This is how I feel about drama school. Out of the struggle to be an actor I found presenting and voice-over work, which I love and feel incredibly fortunate to continue to do on a part time basis when I’m not teaching.
I also wouldn’t have found elocution coaching, nor had the opportunity to set up my own business. This is a career I love and I am good. It’s something I would never have thought possible before.
As an elocution coach, I have developed many of my own bespoke exercises to help my students. I also use some of those very exercises that I once questioned back at drama school. When working with my students I am able to identify individual issues and concern and devise an appropriate lesson plan to focus on that individual’s needs. I see remarkable improvements as students begin to understand the mechanics of their voice, and apply new-found vocal knowledge to their day to day lives.
I am always thrilled to hear from my students and how their confidence has grown through their lessons. It is my ultimate reward to hear how they have put themselves forward for a promotion or new job, have stood confidently in front of a roomful of people to deliver a clear and effective presentation, or have initiated conversation with a stranger when they never would have dreamed of doing so before.
Although I did not ultimately become an actor, I do believe I am where I am meant to be in life. I will never regret going to drama school, and I will never regret taking myself out of my comfort zone and learning the tools of my trade at Birmingham. Without those difficult years, I wouldn’t be where I am today.