An open letter to my first year drama school self

With the start of the academic year just around the corner, a brand new influx of students are about to start their performing arts training at a range of institutions throughout the country. As someone who has just recently finished that journey, I thought I would write an open letter to that small, slightly chubby, basically pre-pubescent boy, who is about to start his life at WAAPA.

Dear first year Joel,

First off, get a haircut. Five weeks in to your life in Perth, there is no excuse to not ask around and find a good hairdresser. Because by the time you get to the middle of Term 1, you will have a mullet, and the rest of your year level is never going to let you live it down.

First year Joel getting ready to brave his first uni party feat. mullet
First year Joel getting ready to brave his first uni party feat. mullet

Secondly, it is probably going to be a little harder than you think to start off with. You have so many exciting things ahead of you, but you have moved countries, moved out of home, and you don’t actually know anyone already. You’re probably going to feel a little unsettled and maybe even home sick at times, but I promise you that it’s a temporary wave you just have to ride. Just be yourself, and you will be used to your new life in no time.

Make the most of practice rooms. Once you graduate, you’re only going to have so much time you can sing around the house before your flat mates want to punch you. And the opportunities to dance or the space to even stretch will probably be limited. Although it will reaffirm that you actually don’t have a life outside of uni, go into campus as much as you can and make the most of the facilities there.

You are going to have a lot more time in first year than in the next two years afterwards. You may sometimes find this frustrating, because you just want to learn and do everything all the time, but make the most of it. Really make sure you understand the foundation of training in all the disciplines, so that when everything else is suddenly thrown at you, your groundwork will always stay super solid. Also, try and get your university party animal out of the way in first year, because you’re probably not going to have time to be much fun after that. And remember, every life experience- good or bad- just makes you a better actor. Take from that what you will…

The people you do this course with are going to be one of the most important parts about your time at drama school. Your training, and even your career beyond that, is going to have numerous highs and lows, but the friends you make are going to remain the constant that keeps you sane. So try and formulate as many positive relationships as you can, even beyond your department. But just a heads up, Joel, the 19 others in your year level are going to be the best people in the world, and it’s not going to be very hard for you to do that.

Don’t ever take it for granted. Always remember how desperately you wanted to be accepted into the course in the first place – and how many others beyond you. If at anytime you start to feel bitter or despondent, just remember that you get to sing and dance for your degree, while your ‘normal’ friends are cramped in big lecture halls learning about ‘normal’ people stuff. Life really could be worse.

You are going to doubt every ounce of ability you ever possessed. Whether it’s your talent in acting, singing, or dancing, or all three at the same time, along with your insecurities as a person, it will probably all come crashing down at some point in the course. First of all, if it’s because of an outside circumstance, you really need to identify whether it’s anything to do with you. Everything happens for a reason, and anytime you face rejection is an opportunity for you to learn how to cope with it. If it comes from within, just trust that this is another wave you have to ride and you are going to come out the other side so much better. Let it make you strive to work even harder.

Three years later: The day we were forced to finally leave the environment we had become so used to
Three years later: The day we were forced to finally leave the environment we had become so used to

Please don’t get too swept up in the whole ‘casting of shows’ drama. You are going to have just as much fun when you’re in the ensemble as when you are a leading role. Work as hard as you can towards your goals – but just remember that you are ultimately in a training institution, and you can get as much as you want out of every experience.

On that note, drama school is what you make of it. No matter whether it’s assigned or not, there will always be something you can do to better yourself and make yourself the best you can be by the time you graduate. Yes, I will once again reiterate that you won’t have much of a life. But if you really love this, then it won’t feel like much of a sacrifice.

You are going to have the best three years of your life. Please make the most of every single moment of it.

Lots of love,
Your future, newly graduated self

PS. You’ll eventually learn to love the ginger. Hooray! It only took 21 years!


Joel Granger

Born in the land of sheep and hobbits, Joel Granger moved to Australia to study at WAAPA's Music Theatre course, class of 2015. Currently playing the role of Elder McKinley in the Australian tour of 'The Book of Mormon' tour, his other stage and screen credits include 'She Loves Me', 'Brigadoon', 'Sweeney Todd', 'Please Like Me' and 'True Story with Hamish & Andy.' He would like to say he enjoys long walks on the beach, but his ginger hair and freckled skin means he actually avoids sunshine as much as possible. Follow Joel on instagram at: @joelgranger_

Joel Granger

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