Extra Curricular

Theatre Outside the Classroom: UK Edition

Are you looking for a way to engage with theatre alongside your academic degree or wondering how valuable joining a university theatre society could be for your theatrical development? If so, read on.

University in the UK is not merely about gaining an academic degree; it’s about gaining life experience and nurturing your passions! It is one of the most exciting places to pick up or continue your involvement in theatre. I went to Edinburgh University and I was surrounded by a vibrant student theatre scene, the Edinburgh Fringe and a network of young creative people, many of whom, like myself, have chosen to pursue a career in theatre. I am grateful for the experiences and life lessons I gained from being a part of student theatre, so, I decided to interview some of my peers from Edinburgh and other UK universities to inspire and encourage our readers to get involved in the theatre scene at their current or prospective future universities.

I asked my interviewees about the top lessons they learned from being a part of theatre societies. In no particular order below, I have listed my favourite points raised by current students and recent graduates of UK universities.  

Prioritize Your Time

‘As an actor, you learn to establish your character early on in the process. Our student drama calendar (pre-COVID) moves quickly, so you have to find ways to access your character quickly as you might only have a four-week-long rehearsal process’ – Anna, Edinburgh University.

‘Don’t procrastinate until the last minute. Starting early by doing small bits is infinitely more useful and way better for your mental health’ – Harry, Edinburgh University.

Think Outside the Box

‘Try new things. I came to university as an actor and singer, but I got involved in other aspects like producing, directing and being a committee member. And it was so much fun! Producing and being the president/secretary especially taught me so many new skills that are relevant even if you don’t go on to a theatre job later. My current drama school loved the fact that I wasn’t just an actress and knew it would see me in good stead further on in my career, as these days being proactive is crucial if you want to make theatre. I’d really recommend getting involved in a production capacity’ – Georgie, Edinburgh University

‘Rigging/Stage Electrics/Lighting Skills. I arrived at uni convinced I was going to be a musical theatre actor, but after a couple of terrible auditions, I gave up on that and fell into tech almost by accident. I had zero experience at that point but have spent the last three years learning as much as I can’ – Emma, Edinburgh University.

‘There are so many different acting styles and mediums to explore. Some you will love and be great at, some not as much. It’s important to be versatile, but it’s not the end of the world if your voice isn’t good enough to perform in a stage musical as that’s only one acting medium’ – Sarah, Bristol University.

‘At Oxford you get a lot of responsibility, so I learnt the basics for how to put on a play from start to finish. i.e., the process of pitching to a theatre/for funding, making a budget, explaining artistic intentions etc.’ – Alex, Oxford University.

Face Your Fears

‘I think rejection and learning to deal with rejection is such an important skill to learn whilst doing university theatre, it builds up resilience for the future when you take that step into the theatre industry after uni. The theatre community at university acts as a microcosm of the theatre industry so you sort of have a trial run of the audition and rejection process’ – Maya, Edinburgh University.

‘You may not always be the best at everything but you’re the best at something. I can’t sing, so I would get so nervy in singing rehearsals – but I found it’s so important to remember that I was cast for a reason. Believe in yourself!’ – Charlie, Exeter University.

Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this piece or any personal experiences of theatre societies at university in the UK you’d like to share! We’d love to keep the conversation going!

Izzy Parriss

Izzy is a producer and director. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 2020 where she directed, produced and stage-managed multiple plays and operas alongside running Candlewasters, a new writing theatre company, in her final year. In addition to being the producing intern for Yonder Window, Izzy produces and directs for the Bomb Factory Theatre, which is an emerging women-led theatre company based in North London. She also produces theatre independently and has worked freelance for a number of theatre companies such as Wessex Grove and the Birmingham Rep.

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