First Meeting at the Theatre

Becoming a mentee on the scheme came as a surprise, and is proving to be an amazing opportunity. I say surprise, only because I was never certain that I would get a place given the competition, and how prestigious the mentors are. So if you are in any doubt of your chances, or just unsure if you want to have a mentor or not, just apply. You never know what might happen, and it is an opportunity you ought to grasp while you can.

My mentor is Phyllida Lloyd CBE, who has an illustrious career directing theatre, opera and film. I want to become an actor, but I can’t imagine anyone in a better position to advise and guide me about the industry, and what a director would look for from their cast. Phyllida has been approachable and helpful during my time with her, and anyone who receives her mentoring in the future is very lucky and in very capable hands.

The first time I met Phyllida was quite informal, and relatively brief. She had invited me to watch the dress rehearsal of Julius Caesar, one of her three all-female Shakespeare productions that she had directed for the Donmar’s temporary theatre at King’s Cross. Getting to watch a professional rehearsal was a new experience for me, and insightful to witness and feel for myself what the working environment was like. Before the rehearsal, Phyllida spoke to me for a while as she got ready for her working day. She asked about my degree and what I wanted to do afterwards, while she shared with me her degree experience and path into the career she is in. I never anticipated the meeting to be very formal, given the nature of the profession, which suits both the environment we were in, and myself as a person. But there is still a great focus there. I’ve valued how approachable and genuine my mentor has been, as it means I feel as a mentee completely comfortable to ask any question no matter how seemingly small or silly.

I later watched one of her other productions, The Tempest, playing in the same theatre. And later again I came to watch a rehearsal of the other play in the trilogy, Henry IV. It was a privilege to see another rehearsal, and get to experience again the atmosphere and expectations of a dress rehearsal of a professional show. Following the rehearsal, Phyllida and I went to have a one-on-one meeting together where she asked me in more detail about where I wanted to be after my degree, and how I thought I would get there. From this, she listened to what I had to say about myself and ambitions, but was able to guide it to identify subjects to discuss in more detail, and advise me with. In the meeting she answered a lot of questions I had for her, and has answered many more in emails between our meetings and after.

I’ve enjoyed my time with my mentor so far, and am really looking forward to seeing how it develops in the coming months. The trilogy of shows has now transferred to New York, so it may be some time before I have another face-to-face meeting. But in the meantime, we are sharing emails, and voice mails, so we keep in contact and I keep learning.

Erin Quilliam, 3rd year BA Drama / English Lit

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