Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Backstage with Cris Penfold

After graduating at London Studio Centre Cris Penfold went straight into a short stint in Panto, and then appeared in the West End musical 'On The Town' at the Coliseum, London. Still only a year out of LSC, Cris is currently performing in 'We Will Rock You' in Zurich, Switzerland.

Can you tell by the costume?

The following ten questions have been put together by some of our GCSE Dance and Drama students for our Backstage feature.

1. What made you want to get into your profession?
I was a very energetic youngster so my Mum put me into theatre workshops and then the local pantomime auditions. I then went to a stage school on Saturday's called Stagecoach. At age 12 they got me an audition for Oliver! at the London Palladium. I got it and loved every minute of it and from then on I was hooked and that was all I wanted to do.

2. Where did you go after school? Where did you train/study?
Whilst at school I started lessons in singing/dancing/acting in Cheltenham. After leaving school I went to train at London Studio Centre.

3. What age did you start training/study?
I started singing/dancing/acting at age 11. Went off to London to train at age 18.

4. Did you specialise in your current area of work, or are your skills more broad?
It works well to be versatile in the business, so I focused more on musical theatre and jazz dance, but still trained in other areas.

5. Do you recommend to specialise?
I recommend that you should make sure you're proficient enough in the main area you wish to pursue, however it is not so good to just be a one trick horse if you want to keep working. Also in auditions you never know what they might ask from you, so work on as gaining skills in quite a few areas.

6. How did you find an agent?
I was lucky and had offers from agents who watched my 3rd year showcase at London Studio Centre. I then met with them all and chose which one I wanted. It is good if you invite some agents to see you showcase yourself if someone hasn't invited them already.

7. What makes you come across well in an audition?
To be honest that's a hard question as mainly the panel would be able to answer this sufficiently. However I know that I think to myself I'm being the best one there, of having something slightly different about me. The main thing is to perform and convey your enjoyment even if you go wrong, it's best to give it all you've got than to get the steps right. Also listen really well to what the choreographer/director/musical director wants.

8. Are you ever out of work?
Generally no because when I'm not performing I'm teaching so I keep myself going. However I've only been out a year and I'm in my 3rd contract which is lasting a year itself.

9. Are you selective about the jobs you choose?
Not really. I can be selective about which auditions I go to now but not very often and at the beginning it is best to go to everything. It's not good to turn your nose up at a job until you've been in the business for a while and know something else will be there. Some people turn their noses up at pantos and cruise ships - DON'T! These can be the best paid jobs and provide great experience. Panto is so much fun and is a short contract which is useful, allowing you to audition for other things. You never know who the director or choreographer is as a lot of good ones do pantos. Ships allow you to save money and see the world, as well as perform, and they can look after you. Six months isn't much in the whole career so it's good to do one.

10. Do you have any words of encouragement for us, or top tips for being successful?
Work on yourself to be the best you can be while you are training. Whichever path you choose to follow get what you need out of it and don't think too much about others. Don't be afraid to talk to people in the business and see everyone as a contact who can provide advice. Above all, try and enjoy it - it's a hard business that can be like a rollercoaster and can get stressful. If you enjoy it you know that it's worth it and if it's your passion never give up. However many auditions you go for some jobs just aren't right for you, but something will be. It is true when they say the right job's out there somewhere: you've just got to find it!

Thank you Cris! Some good words of advice there!

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