Rachel van den Berg
- Course: BA Theatre and Performance
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Rachel van den Berg. I am 20 years old. I was born on the 8th of September 1999. I’m half English and half Dutch. I was born in London and moved to Sevenoaks when I was 4 and have lived there ever since. I went to Walthamstow Hall School. I worked as a waitress while in sixth form. I have always partaken in activities to do with the arts such as acting in plays, operating sound and lighting for productions and volunteering at my local theatre, The Assembly Hall Theatre.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I have always strived to achieve a career in the arts and after researching several different University theatre courses I decided Leeds was the right choice for me due to the wide range of module options. I decided these modules would provide me with a diverse variety of skills. I was attracted to the Performer Training and Theatre Directing modules as well as Collaborative Projects. I had heard from friends who attended Leeds before me that it was a bustling and lively city for students to live in which attracted me to the area.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
I love the confidence performance gives me in everyday life. It helps me present and speak with sophistication and also enhances my communication skills by improving my vocal awareness which is useful in interviews and work life. I am passionate about theatre as I admire the way it can transform me. I can be an actor one day and a director the next. I never feel limited. I surprise myself daily with the depths of creativity I can access. I am also passionate about the way theatre and performance entwines with prevalent societal issues and I enjoy how performance can be used as a medium to explore cultural, historical and political contexts.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Theatre Directing module; the combination of theory and practical workshops is balanced and useful. I enjoy learning about a new practitioner’s techniques each week. I have enjoyed casting and directing a scene for my exam; this has enabled me to gain valuable leadership and communication skills. I enjoy that the course as a whole allows me to research all aspects of performance including contemporary art. I feel I am gaining a wide knowledge of performance in relation to society and its prevalent issues today. I also enjoy the community feel the course has to offer. Due to Theatre and Performance being a small course everyone knows everyone and the groups have a friendly atmosphere where all ideas are welcomed.
What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?
How friendly everyone is! Coming from the south this was so refreshing! Everyone has time to help you and welcome you with smiling faces to say good morning.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
I would say the facilities are of a very high standard. I frequently use the university libraries to help with essays and revise in quiet spaces. Skills@library is great for helping with referencing and bibliographies. Also, as I am dyslexic Anthony Butcher sends me emails to ensure I have the correct allowances for my hand-ins and I always feel I can email someone easily if I need a question answered. The rehearsal spaces are great; I usually rehearse in g11a and g11b and it is easy to book these spaces yourself on Minerva. I have recently learnt how to use the lighting and sound desk in Alec Clegg and I’m amazed by what can be achieved in such a small space!
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
There are many dramatic societies such as Stage Musicals Society, Music Theatre Society, Open Theatre Society, Theatre Group Society and the Performance and Cultural Industries Society. In first year I joined PCI Society and performed in a Christmas pantomime; this was a great way to integrate with people in second and third year whom I regularly ask for advice and it was a great way to make new friends.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
DO IT!! Not only am I learning vast amounts about performance and its relation to historical, cultural and political contexts but I am having fun whilst doing it! You’ll have a variety of module options so you can chose what is right for you as a developing artist. You will certainly make friends and join a welcoming and collaborative community that resides in the University of Leeds.
What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?
I plan to use the confident communication and teamwork skills I have developed at Leeds to secure a career in the arts. Whether it be in directing, acting or marketing I hope to extend my knowledge of performance and its relation to prevalent societal topics into the chaotic world that is the arts. I hope to collaborate with the National Theatre at some point in my artistic career as their ethos as a company inspires me – I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me as a University of Leeds graduate!