If you’re interested in acting, DramaSoc has a wide variety of ways to get involved, one of which involves Open Drama Nights, or ODNs.
For those that don’t know, ODNs are Monday performances that showcase student work, so they’re a bit different from the regular weekend shows that the Society puts on. But in my opinion, they’re just as great an experience, especially as you’ll often be directing your own written work, as I have done. I would get into what it’s like writing a play, but that’s another article in and of itself!
While it’s not mandatory, I’d recommend being involved with another show before you pitch an ODN yourself, since the pitching process can be quite daunting, and it’s useful to gain some experience within the Drama Barn. At least to see what the Drama Barn is like, as that’s where you’ll be staging your work. If you’ve ignored that advice, and your pitch has already been picked to perform, well then congratulations! Time for the real work to begin.
Thankfully, you’re not alone; there are Reps that are specifically there to support ODNs and any new writing. There’s generally a meeting after pitches have been picked to answer any initial questions, and don’t be afraid to reach out during the process! They can guide you through the audition process (which as director, you’ll be running) and help you find any necessary prod team. Unless you’re one of those people who want to write, direct, produce, and star in a show all by yourself, you’ll need a team to rely on. There are tons of people within the society who are looking for opportunities, so thankfully you won’t need to look far to find someone. Find yourself a producer, at least.
Rehearsals are the main part of ODNs. Make sure to plan beforehand; have the staging written out, think over the emotions of the characters, and dear God, make sure you have a room booked.
I’d recommend when giving direction, always try and note one good thing your actor did, along with what you want them to improve on. Try to keep the rehearsals fun, as they’re a chance for people (including yourself) to make new friends, and for ODNs it’s often a person’s first time acting in DramaSoc. Obviously, rehearsals are there to make a great show, so push your actors to do their best, but your cast will always work better together if they’re having a good time. I’ve made a lot of friends through rehearsals, and some rehearsals have been my favourite moments in my entire university experience.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to ODNs is to keep it as low-key as possible when it comes to set, props, and costume. Not because people won’t believe in your big ideas, but because you have a single day to set things up, perform it, and pack things away. It’s also because you have absolutely no budget. While you can use anything backstage within the Drama Barn, anything new, you have to pay for yourself. So if you don’t want to go broke, you have to get nifty with it. I once tried to play off an old telephone and an old radio as high-tech military communications equipment. And yes, it looked as silly as it sounds.
When it comes to opening night, it can be the most terrifying, or the most exciting night of your whole term. Most likely it will be both. Especially when it comes to certain genres; I remember watching the audience come in to see a comedy I had written, and the only thought in my head was, “Dear God, please let them laugh at this, please let them laugh at this!” For the beginning of the play, you’ll find yourself gnawing at your knuckles, and whilst you have the utmost faith in your performers and prod team, in theatre, something can and often will go wrong. But usually, that faith will be restored within mere minutes, you’ll be sucked in along with the audience, and you’ll find yourself beaming proudly at what your team has managed to achieve.
Because it is a great achievement. You’ll head to V-Bar after the show, and drink as if you’ve handed in your dissertation.
After all those weeks of hard work, ODNs do feel like your baby; your passion project. It’s stressful as hell, but I couldn’t recommend anything more.
Featured Image by DS Pugh