I am sweating buckets. Quite a few of us are. For this is our first play at a new university, in front of people we barely know. And I am about to go on stage where I will kiss my ‘sister’, do 10 topless pressups and then, as the piece is structured by repeated vignettes, do it all again. That show, Simon Stephens’ Pornography, was one of the highlights of my first term at York, and remains one of the most thrilling and fulfilling experiences, let alone shows, during my time here. I encourage all of you to get involved with Dramasoc in any way you can, because not only do you find your experiences feeding back into your course, but getting involved with theatre can be one of the most enriching things you can do at university.
First of all, let me just give you a brief breakdown
of how Dramasoc works. It is one of the most active university theatrical societies in the country, putting on usually 8 shows every term. If there’s a show you can’t wait to be in, then auditions usually happen the term before, but in your first term, 5 of the shows hold auditions early on in the term itself so freshers don’t miss out. If there’s a show you would really like to direct, then in the middle of the term before you can pitch it to Dramasoc. But outside of acting and directing, if you fancy trying your hand at other production roles, be that tech, costume, set design or publicity, then there are so many opportunities to do so. Having acted in, directed, and produced shows here, I can say that there is a wealth of possibilities for the budding dramatist, and I have always found Dramasoc to be a warm and friendly environment that is constantly on the lookout for new people to get involved.
Probably the definitive moment of my involvement in Dramasoc, and potentially my university experience at large, was directing a show, Bull by Mike Bartlett, in my third term. It was my first time directing, and I was directing actors with far more experience than me. This, combined with the fact that we had only 2 and a half weeks to get things into shape, meant that naturally I was terrified. But after a couple of rehearsals, you begin to find your rhythm, your mode of directing. As I began to settle into my directing, I found myself becoming so much more attuned to how a play actually works. That may sound like an obvious thing to say, but directing my own play became absolutely transformative, both in how I viewed theatrical productions I saw in my own time, and for my course. If you’re an English student reading this, you will at some point get to grips with how theatrical texts function, and performance is a huge part of that. I cannot recommend directing highly enough to you, it has been so important for me as a student, as well as giving me greater confidence in expressing my own views.
I mentioned earlier that backstage opportunities are readily available in Dramasoc. I found this to be the case in my first term as I had heard that a show needed a producer for the next term. I sent a hilariously keen email (pictured) to the director, and I ended up producing the show. Producing requires impeccable organisational skills, great communicative ability, and total control of the situation. And while these were not always applicable all of the time to me in my attempt at producing Fahrenheit-451, I learned shed-tons. What I am hoping to demonstrate here is that if you’re looking for positions of responsibility in a highly active university society, then you will not struggle in the welcoming environment of Dramasoc.
Of course, I can enumerate the benefits of being theatrically active in terms of what I have ‘gained’ from doing so, but ultimately the benefits are really more holistic. It is a well-worn cliche that Dramasoc is like ‘a family’. And truly, I have found a kind of family in the group of friends I have made through the society. If you’re thinking about choosing universities at this point, then societies at York, like Dramasoc, are perfect compliments to your academic life, as well as helping you develop key skills for the future. Most importantly Dramasoc will help you, like it did me, settle into university life and feel at home.