I don't mean cat fights and gossip, I mean am-dram, student theatre, and the drama society.
I had wanted to get involved in student drama right from the off and I remember as a nervous Freshers, approaching a very scary seeming finalist who I had heard was into the drama scene, and asking how I could get involved. She rolled her eyes at me for interrupting her work and then told me about the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS, I'm still not sure if it's pronounced ooods, or owds). She added me to the Facebook group and explained how it worked:
Productions post calls for people and things they need and you get in contact with them for a position. For example, usually a production company will have a script and a director ready and then they will post a crew call looking for set designers, lighting and sound technicians, production managers, welfare officers and loads more. This often involved a google form link where you apply for the role. It's normally not too onerous: name and email, why you're interested, any previous experience, although most of the time you never need to have any. And then they get back to you later on! If you want to be involved on the acting side, often in tandem or slightly after, production companies (all of which are student run) will post casting calls and you audition.
I've had a go at both sides of this. Before COVID, for casting calls, there was an in person audition that you had to book a slot for via a very clunky online portal that I never really got my head around. However, when everything went into lockdown and moved online so did the auditions. I was very unsuccessful in the in person auditions I tried out for in first year. I wasn't very experienced, nervous and got very lost in St John's College on the way there. I much prefer the online auditions process. You send in a video submission or you can do it in front of the directors etc via Zoom. The video auditions of course have the added advantage of you being able to redo them but the in person was good practice so there's really pros and cons. I've faired better with video submissions myself although have yet to get a part in anything.
From a crew point of view, I recently completed set designing a run of an Original play, 'Quartet' at the Burton Taylor Studio in the centre of Oxford. It's quite a famous, little black box theatre space (no set or 'stage'). I applied via the OUDS Facebook page and was given the job after an interview. I really enjoyed it and was put in new situations with new people which was a welcome break from the academic work. For the most part it didn't involve a great deal. I made an initial design, spoke with the director and altered it a bit and then spent the next few weeks slowly gathering and sourcing props and furniture.
For set there is a dedicated store called TAFF (Tabs Are For Flying, I don't know what that means either). They have an online portal where you can view and reserve items very cheaply and a large converted telescope building where they keep the actual furniture.
The main stress was the run up to the dress rehearsal and opening night. I will admit I had been very much lulled into a false sense of security with the pace we had been going at and all of a sudden I was needed to have acquired everything. So, I was definitely a bit messy and all over the place during the run. We had the late slot so set up was 9pm and putting away was 10.30pm which meant a week of late nights, staying in the library at Benet's before I could go home.
I also found it difficult communicating with the cast sometimes who were themselves quite stressed, and had very particular ideas about certain aspects. But artists are divas, I suppose.
It was generally though, a really good laugh. I enjoyed the wrap party and I enjoyed the performances, although some of my friends who I dragged along were less complimentary...