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About the Oxford drama scene…

Alex Foster gives us the lowdown on the path to student stardom.

The Oxford University Drama Society: the place that launched a thousand shits, like Hugh Grant, Rosamund Pike, and more than half of the white men you usually see Mocking the Week. You too could wrangle your name onto that illustrious list, and you only have to read this guide to learn how to do it. And apply for about ten roles before landing a minor part.  

Step 1. Get Facebook

When they said that the theatre world runs on connections, they weren’t lying. Who’s ‘they’? People who got Facebook in their first week, and consequently have access to all the casting and crew calls for shows coming up that term. With a quick filling in of a Google Form detailing your experience (or lack thereof, it’s no biggie) you can apply for anything from Director to Costume Designer to Lighting and Sound, and everything in between. Of course, you can also just send in an audition tape to get your first role; though self-tapes sound scary they’re really just a way for directors to see what you can do, and you’ll almost certainly get a callback. You can also sign up for the weekly OUDS mailing list (edited by yours truly) which puts all of these into a fancy little email that 36% of you never read.

Step 2. Drama Cuppers

Yes it has a stupid name, no, we’re not changing it. Drama Cuppers is a week for freshers where groups in each college can get together and put on their very own show. It’s a chance to meet other people who either a) love drama or b) have nothing better to do, and the results are… unique. With special prizes like ‘Best New Writing’ and the nebulously named ‘Spirit of Cuppers’ up for grabs, why not apply? Previous Cuppers plays have had titles like ‘Nuts’, ‘Killing Steve’, and ‘The Lamb and Slag’. Only one of these was good. I speak from experience. 

Step 3. Your First Play™

Everyone has a special place in their heart for their first play. Maybe you’re the token American (even though you’re British) on a lesbian remake of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, stressing over where in the US their accent will land this night. Or perhaps you’re Assistant Director on new writing about a talk show gone wrong which is both a comedy and really, really deep, actually. You’re barrelling into the poky Burton Taylor or ever so slightly larger Michael Pilch Studio in 7th week, having done the world’s most rushed tech rehearsal. If things go well, good! If they don’t – who cares: the real theatre is the friends we made along the way. Either way, you’ll get lovely reviews from the student media industrial complex. It’s a good time had by all and, worst comes to worst, you can always put ‘Lighting Designer’ on your LinkedIn CV when you apply for jobs that make you money. 

Step 4. The Next Step

So you’ve done a show or two, and you want to move to the big leagues: setting up your own production company. This means you can cast whoever you want, put on whatever play you desire, and do whatever you fancy. Don’t go too crazy with all the power. All this requires is a quick form filling on the OUDS website (hyperlink – OUDS.org) and you’re good to go: all those casting calls on Facebook, all that mindless admin, all the meticulous planning of the production company’s Instagram layout (okay, that last one is fun @asquaredprods shameless plug xo). Just be sure to give some roles to newbies, though. Someone took a punt on you and placed you on the inexorable gravy train to semi-greatness, so you can do the same: you might not be the next Ivo van Hove, but maybe they are? Okay, maybe not, but Oxford Drama is there for fun as well as careers. Just don’t take it too seriously and you’ll be good to go. 

Image credit: Madeleine Woog via Wikimedia Commons.

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