About to graduate from the University of Ballarat Arts Academy, ex Adelaidean Sarah Spaven, gives us an insight into the world of being a student in the performing arts.

Explain your BAPA audition process?

My audition to get into the Arts Academy seems like a very long time ago and knowing what I know now, I would probably have auditioned very differently. The great thing about a course such as this, is that the panel aren't expecting a finished performer. They made it very clear you you were in a comfortable and relaxed environment. Obviously you want to impress.  Most valuable is being able to demonstrate your potential, with that "something exciting" that makes you unique. BAPA made it very clear they were looking for people who were comfortable with direction and easy to work with.

Realistically is it what you imagined it would be?

It actually is. You are constantly surrounded by music, people dancing in corridors and walking through couples practicing scene work. The arts Academy, being isolated in Ballarat, gives the school a unique sense of community and with majority of the students from interstate, you make friends quickly. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the amount of work required to do well in a course like this. Your life is put on hold for 3 years and the most important thing becomes the work. It is all consuming. In saying this, it has also been the most exciting 3 years of my life.

How did you cope with leaving your home state and family?

Leaving home was difficult, especially during the 1st year of Uni. It was my first experience living out of home and I quickly learnt to be self reliant. The hardest part about studying away from home is balancing your finances. A performing arts course doesn’t allow for much free time and the biggest challenge is supporting yourself yet not allowing it to interfere with your practice.

Explain your general day?

A general day at BAPA is a mix between skills based classes and performance based classes. Each year of study has a different focus, eg in my final year the focus is on professional practice and performance. My morning would usually start with a dance class either ballet, jazz or tap. In these classes we’d work on technical aspects and the teacher would run the session as an open class. The remainder of the day would be spent in rehearsals for our major project for the term – Oklahoma. In the evening we would participate in another skill based class whether it be monologues, singing technique or a lecture in grant writing. Every day is a little bit different.

Photo:  Rehearsing RENT

For young would be auditionees what can they expect?

Expect to be challenged. Expect to be honest and open to directions. Your first year at university is all about knowing yourself as not only a performer but as a person. A grounded performer is one who can be comfortable with who they are.

What valuable industry knowledge have you gained?

The most important piece of knowledge I have gained is not to take casting personally. So often it comes down to height or vocal type, qualities about yourself that are out of your control. If you are right for the role, you will get it.

How was your first professional audition?

My first pro audition was actually a lot of fun. After three years of preparation and lectures, the ‘industry’ can seem like a very daunting place. We often forget that the panel are wanting you to be right for the job.  They need you.

What words of wisdom would you empart to others?

Make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing. This industry is too hard and testing if at the end of the day, you don’t have the love for it.

What is your ideal gig once you’ve graduated?

My ideal gig is anything that pays well! No, I would love to sign a contract for a touring show around Australia. Something successful, with a long run and maybe even a few months overseas. Straight out of school, the ideal situation would be guaranteed work.

Gareth Prosser and Sarah Spaven ready for RENT