Joe Dennis was 18 when he first auditioned for our partner organisation, National Youth Theatre. He has since gone on to join the NYT Youth Council and audition for their latest performance. We caught up with this old timer to find out how he turned audition nerves into summertime success…
You first auditioned for NYT last year. Was it what you expected?
I’d never done any auditions before, so when it came down to it I didn’t know what to expect. There was much more to it than just walking into a room, doing your monologue, and walking out again.
What did you have to do?
We did a group-based workshop in the morning where we played name games and did physical exercises like creating shapes with our bodies in small groups – all quite funny stuff.
For one exercise you’d all be touching – say, with your knee to someone’s back or shoulder – and then the other people would have to interpret what that shape looked like; like soldiers battling or people walking on the moon.
What was your group like?
At first, you’re all in one big group – there were about 30 or 40 in mine – and then in the second half we went into smaller groups. I was quite surprised by how many people there were.
So, your morning was spent doing workshops. What about the afternoon?
After lunch I did my monologue in a separate room, watched by the director and an ambassador. There were just the three of us in the room.
It is nerve-wracking, but they’re nice people. It’s not like X Factor or anything like that – they didn’t look at you with deadpan expressions. It’s all very friendly.
What did you perform?
I did this monologue from a play called Eleven Vests. I found it in one of the monologue books my drama teacher had brought in.
The monologue has to be two minutes long and they say that if you go over they’ll stop you.
How did you deal with your nerves?
If I’m confident that I know the monologue, then it calms me down. Also, the way the day was introduced, with the workshops, helped me feel less nervous.
Did you have any embarrassing moments?
Well, during one exercise I thought I was told by the practitioner to scream at someone. So I ran straight at this girl, screaming as loud as I could. Apparently, they hadn’t actually said anything about screaming. So that was a bit embarrassing.
If you could go back and do it again, would you do anything differently?
I think I would buy a play and read it all, rather than getting it out of a monologue book. That way, you can find all the layers of character.
How did you hear that you had been successful?
They emailed me three or four months later. It was an amazing feeling. I had been planning to go to university, but when I got in to National Youth Theatre I decided to take a year off a see what I could do with them.
So, tell us about the course. What was it like?
The course lasted for two weeks in August. We’d walk to Rose Bruford College [in Kent] and the day would usually start at about 10am. I wasn’t staying with the people from my course; they mixed it up so you’d meet different people all the time.
We went out to the theatre every other night as a group and there were a lot of parties in our halls.
Why do you think people should audition for the National Youth Theatre?
It’s great to meet a large group of people who are interested in the same things as you and are at exactly the same stage.
To find out more about the NYT auditions, watch their very helpful video.