As a drama student interested in pursuing the broad industry of theatre (and TV and Radio) – but yet to find my exact niche – I know that lots of different experiences and being able to talk about them will be immensely useful. It’s partly this awareness of my industry’s famously competitive nature and a need for self-marketing skills which first lead to my interest in the UEA Award.
One of my work-related activities was “Scare Acting”: zombies, evil clowns, and other horrors which find themselves populating your screens, scare parks (such as PrimEvil), and – to my surprise – night clubs each Halloween. Yes, if you were in Mercy nightclub in 2015, you may have been terrifyingly laughed or screamed at by my “twisted carnival” clowning self with my other colleagues in a “tunnel of fear” as you entered the venue. The goal was to unnerve the audience and scare them as they entered the night club; a positive, memorable experience for the customers, and contributes to the client’s theme, while developing my improvisation skills and ultimately paying for a rather regrettable pair of high heels. In these things I was generally successful and without the UEA Award I would not have reflected overly much on it.
When it came to typing up about my experience for an Award submission, I was initially a little stumped. On one hand, I was given a task and I did it: what more was there to say? But, to expand a little more: I was given a prompt and strangers for colleagues and had limited time to prepare or to review the success of our tactics between guests. There were a few times during the night that we felt threatened by the audience and in response we found methods (like ignoring them or screaming) to deter them and simultaneously not break from our roles. This was a display of problem-solving. When I began to itemise my experience I could build a list of challenges I met and realised I had had to utilise a lot of skills I already have. I also had to quickly learn on the job, as I was confronted by ever stranger reactions to our scare-jumps and, as fatigue kicked in during this six hour shift and props broke, we had more limitations to what we could achieve or even put into our work.
Upon reflection, I came to realise that I am capable of working within a brief, within a team, solving problems creatively and inventing solutions, and have since been eager to apply for more challenging roles on campus which I might have otherwise avoided. This job gave me more confidence in jumping into improvisation and interacting with the public within a characterisation; which is very unlike my previous experience in retail as a customer assistant/adviser. Though I have remained somewhat hesitant to improvise, the ability to react to the situation at hand, within a framework of characterisation, is fantastic for me to develop and have since built upon further.
I left my final shift with curiosity: I enjoyed the task, the crew, and the challenges innate to scare acting – I would love to do some more in future – and since I’ve begun to think about if clowning around was perhaps for me. I’ve since begun to hunt out vacancies and future experience in scare acting, clowning, and in character led improvisation to better understand precisely what about this experience did I enjoy and wish to incorporate into my future career. In short, it was a fun few days, a few more hours submitted for my Bronze UEA Award and another exploration to work out my career path.
Originally published March 9th, 2017 on the UEA CareerCentral blog on behalf of the UEA Award team. The UEA Award is a university skills award programme to improve the employability skills and awareness of students through qualitative CARL/STAR write-ups of curricular and extra-curricular activities.