What can you expect from your first year of studying Drama at the University of Manchester? We interviewed Molly Stedman, who’s about to start her second year, to find out.
What kind of things did you do in your first year?
So we’ve been doing quite a lot of theory-based things. Quite a lot of looking through the history of drama in a sense. In the first semester we looked at loads of stuff, from Greek theatre to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, right through to contemporary theatre practices in the second semester. And there are practical modules, so every Friday we had a long bit of practical, which we did a devised performance for. We did six weeks of learning different theatre practices, loads of different things like flashmobs, happenings, Mark Ravenhill, stuff like that. Then for four weeks different practitioners came in and taught us which was really good. I’m really interested in sociology so I love stuff like forum theatre, and we got to do that which was really nice.
That’s all very academic stuff, what about outside the course?
I’m part of the Drama Society who put on loads of plays. There was the Autumn Showcase, there were four plays, two of which were new writing. I was in one of those, which was so much fun. Being in one of those at the start of the year was the best thing, I got to know second years and loads of people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and now I’m really good friends with them. There was the MIFTAs festival as well, which were mostly written by students, and the third years’ directorial projects. And the New Writing Showcase at Contact, which was really fun, I was in one of those.
What have been the highlights of first year?
Probably doing the plays, I think, with the Drama Society, and getting to know more of the people in it. It’s nice to get to know people outside your year because it’s quite a small course. But also just meeting people at university and living in halls; I’ve really enjoyed being in halls.
Was there anything that was unexpected?
I was so homesick at the start of the year! I didn’t love freshers’ week, that was unexpected; everyone told me that freshers’ week will be the best week of your life and it just wasn’t my thing. I think because you don’t have anything to do that week, it was hard. You’ll get over it though! I had two really lovely peer mentors who helped me so much, making sure I was okay, so I did get over it, it was all fine in the end.
Also, the film module I did, The Art of Film. It was so much fun, it was one of the best things I’ve done. I didn’t realise I’d really enjoy film, and now I’m carrying on some of the film modules this year. That made me love film a lot more. I learnt a lot about identity on film, which I really liked.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt?
Life skills! Being at university teaches you how to get along with people that you maybe wouldn’t usually get along with. Learning how to see beyond what people first seem. That sounds really sentimental! And the learning has fed into what I’m doing outside of the course. I volunteer with Student Action at Refugee Conversation Club and a lot of the stuff I’ve learnt, especially about applied theatre, has really made a difference there.
What advice would you give to someone about to start studying drama at Manchester?
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get into things in first year. Don’t stop trying! And don’t be scared by the theory you learn. I think a lot of people come to university and think you’re going to be acting the whole time but that’s not what it’s like. Learning the theory gives you skills, it helps you to watch drama in a very different way, and make it in a very different way. Also, use the library! No one uses the library. It’s great.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make friends! People have a lot of preconceptions about university, and sometimes it feels like if you haven’t made loads of best friends immediately you’ve done something wrong. But it will all be fine!