James (he/him) is a third year BA English Literature and Language student at St Edmund Hall. He is currently the President of the Oxford University Drama Society for 2022-3. To get in contact with OUDS, or to find out more information about how to take part, please email James.
Tell us about the society and your role!
The Oxford University Dramatic Society is one of the largest student drama societies in the country. We have over 3,000 recent members, and thanks to the Cameron Mackintosh Drama Fund (supported by the Mackintosh Foundation), we have almost unparalleled funding opportunities to put on productions at a higher-education level. I am very fortunate to be the President of the Society for 2022- 3. This role involves managing a committee of around 15 people to help ensure that the multiple productions which happen each year run smoothly. Around 50 productions happen each year, across a variety of different venues in Oxford, such as the Oxford Playhouse, the Keble O’Reilly, and the Michael Pilch Studio (based in Balliol College). Students also love to take shows beyond Oxford, to pub theatres in London and the Edinburgh Fringe. Whether you want to try out acting, or are more interested in backstage work, directing or producing, OUDS offers hundreds of opportunities to current students at both an undergraduate and postgraduate level.
How / why did you get involved?
I came to University knowing that I wanted to get involved in the drama scene here. I had acted, written and directed in a couple of shows at school, and I knew I wanted to continue my passion once I had got to Oxford. Saying this, plenty of people in Oxford Drama have never been involved in any form of theatre before joining Oxford whatsoever! I would like to emphasise that no experience is required – it can seem daunting to put yourself out there at first, but everyone in the Drama Society was in your position once, and appreciates how nerve-wracking applying to shows can be! The first steps would be to look at our website (https://www.ouds.org/), which also has details about how to audition for shows. If you’re interested in finding out more about the technical side of theatre (lighting, sound, set design), we recommend getting involved with our friends at TAFF.
In terms of how I got involved, I applied to be an Assistant Director on multiple projects, as I knew directing was what I was primarily interested in. I actually got rejected for the first three or four projects I applied for – so stick with it! I then set up my own production company with someone else in my college, called Love Song Productions – setting up a production company (which enabled me to put on my own shows) was an invaluable experience, and much less scary or official than it sounds. I learnt important life skills, such as budgeting, how to raise finances and investment in shows, and how to manage a team. I’ve also found it a useful springboard in terms of professional development – I’ve just completed an internship with a West End and Broadway Producer called Adam Blanshay (who is currently a 2nd year EMBA student at Keble College).
What do you offer students?
OUDS is primarily a funding body. We offer loans of up to 1,000 pounds for student production companies, so they do not have to put their own personal funds into shows. An essential part of our ethos is trying to make drama and the performing arts accessible to everyone. We provide training opportunities such as The OUDS Quick Company (set up by my predecessor and named after the first female president of OUDS, Diana Quick). The Quick Company is an acting group for first time actors, allowing people new to Oxford drama a safe space to experiment and build confidence. We organise socials and inter-collegiate drama competitions. On top of this, we organise events with high profile speakers – Oxford recently had Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton, Doctor Who) deliver a lecture, and OUDS have an exciting program of speakers for the next two terms which we can’t wait to announce. Students dedicate a huge amount of time, energy and effort into running the society – if I listed every opportunity open to students, I’d be here for days!
What are your aims for the society?
We are all continually working towards making OUDS a more accessible society for people from underrepresented backgrounds through our initiatives like the Quick Company. This year, we’ve introduced a larger team of four Access, Diversity and Equity reps, who provide an essential point of contact within the society for students from these underrepresented backgrounds. We are also keen to continue to promote funds such as the Cameron Mackintosh Personal Development grant, which provides grants of up to £250 for students to participate in an activity which will contribute to their personal or professional development within the performing arts.
What are your future aspirations for the society?
One of my big aspirations is to raise awareness of the society for students from the beginning of their time at the University. I often hear students tell me that they wish they’d got involved sooner, as they only find out about the society towards the end of their first year or during their second year. I would always say that it’s never too late to get involved. One student I know didn’t get involved until just around the time they were beginning their PhD – and have subsequently performed in up to 3 shows a term!