“So, what are you doing this year?”
Hands up who’s been asked that question?
At this time of year, everyone who has recently celebrated finishing high school is being asked this question at every family event and neighbourhood barbeque by every curious relative and friend they know.
And I know from experience that it can be a frustrating question to be asked. Trying to sum up your plans for a year in one simple sentence tends to leave you with a feeling of inadequacy about your plans. And God forbid you’re intending on having a gap year. Try explaining that one.
For those of you who are going into a uni course – fantastic! Well done, that’s a nice settled few years planned out for you. Arts, or Commerce, or (if you’re feeling ambitious) Medicine – whatever your choice, you have a clear-cut education which will give you a degree and a most likely a job at the end of it.
But I’m sure many of the people reading this who visit this site won’t be looking at a clear-cut education. They can’t easily say, “I’ll be doing three years of study here and then will get a job” because their (and my) chosen field isn’t quite as stable as that. For we are embarking on a tumultuous educational road known as the performing arts.
For those of us out there who desperately want to be a part of the performing community in Melbourne, the road is a little more uncertain. Firstly, there is no guarantee you will even be allowed to get the education you want. There are auditions you have to get through, and often-times it’s not as simple as being talented. There’s a look they’re going for, or maybe they already have too many blonde sopranos in their course and need more of a mix. If you do get into a course – congratulations! But still there is no guarantee. You can finish three years of study and not get any work after graduating. It’s a bumpy path. The thing you’re looking for is the most supportive environment that provides the best training by the best teachers, whether that be at a three year course, a one year course, or at separate classes you piece together yourselves.
I myself have been through the nerve-wracking process of trying to figure out what the hell I should be doing. I finished year twelve and, with the prospect of making a decision then and there being too daunting, I took a gap year. I did some good things that year, and I wasted a lot of time as well. By the time the end of the year rolled around I was ready for something more. And so I auditioned for musical theatre courses in all the performing schools. I prepared for months. This is it, I thought. This is my chance to prove I can actually do this. Unfortunately, nothing went my way, and in all honesty, I was heartbroken. If some of you have been through the same experience, you would know how it feels when you invest in something with all your heart and it doesn’t reward you. That’s our first taste of the rejection of this industry!
Though I was disheartened, I managed to be in the right place at the right time and I found out about a new course called Showfit. If you haven’t heard of it yet, now is the time to prick up your ears and pay attention because Showfit is a force to be reckoned with. I auditioned and got a spot on last year’s musical theatre course and now I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t get in to any of the other schools. I knew from the moment I stepped into the audition that this would be a fantastic place to study. Simon Gleeson and Leanne White were on the audition panel and were both incredibly kind and welcoming (and remained that way for the rest of the year).
So if you’re undecided about what you want to do, let me tell you a bit about Showfit and add it to your bag of options.
It’s a one-year full-time musical theatre course. Five days a week, you trundle over to Centrestage Performing Arts School in East Brunswick and wake-up in the morning with a dance class, pushing you to be as flexible, strong and enthusiastic as you can be. Throughout the day you do acting classes where you test your boundaries and learn what it is to be open and honest. You take group singing classes, and classes where you sing in front of your peers and work on those parts of your voice that need work. You have practice mock auditions to get feedback about your progress and feel comfortable in an audition situation. You learn music theory, and theatre history, and (though it may scare you at first) acrobatics. You meet professionals, get advice from incredible performers and create contacts that will be invaluable to you. You collapse, exhausted on the floor after a massive week, and on Monday you can’t wait to get back in and do it again.
Does it appeal to you yet? If not, let me promise you that this is something to look into. I dismissed it at first, being uninterested after all the ‘big’ schools had rejected me. But having seen first-hand what it can do I know it should not be dismissed.
My own experience of this course has (as clichéd as it sounds) made me not only a better performer but also abetter person. Any performing education will test you. You’ll go through ups and downs (I certainly did) and you will shed many tears of frustration. You’ll curse the skies because your soprano notes aren’t coming easily. You’ll want to scream because you can’t land a damn pirouette. These moments will come regardless of where you are, but the moments that come after – the moments of success, relief, encouragement; these moments depend on your environment. The breakdowns you have will be all the more rewarding if you are in a place where you are allowed – even encouraged – to fail, because it’s from failing that you can improve. That’s the first lesson you’ll learn if you experience a course like Showfit. Failing is incredibly productive, though it takes you a while to feel that way, and you’ll never feel that way if you are in the wrong environment.
The teachers at Showfit (all incredible professionals in their own right) had my back at all times. If someone burst into tears in class (and it happened quite a lot) they would comfort you, or – if you needed it – they would push you to keep going through that frustration. If you were ready to give up, they would teach you something new that led to a breakthrough and gave you that surge of, “Maybe I can do this!” They even were willing to listen to how we were dealing with the classes themselves. If something wasn’t sitting right with us, they would change it so it did. They looked after us and taught us to be self-reliant and self-assured performers at the same time, and that’s not easy to do to a group of emotional, ambitious and occasionally reckless young performing-aspirers.
If you think you’ve missed out, never fear. I auditioned at the latecomer auditions myself. There are still a few spots open for this years course, especially for the boys out there. I urge you to at least look into it. If it’s not for you, no harm done, but it’s definitely not an opportunity you want to miss.
I know it may be hard to take my word for it. I can praise the course, and my experiences there, all I want but ultimately, you have to see for yourself. But I know there will be a fair few of you out there who are still unsure what their answer is to that so often-asked question, “What are you doing this year?” If your answer could be “I’m doing Showfit” then you can rest assured that you have an adventure of a year in front of you, and one you’ll never forget.
Visit the website for audition information: