Interview with Emma and Sam Tugman
ALRA through the eyes of two drama students from two different generations of the same family
We recently took the opportunity to interview our school's first and second generation students, Sam Tugman and his mother, Emma.
Emma is a 1985 graduate of the Three Year Professional Acting course at ALRA, while Sam is a current student of our three year BA in Acting course and is due to graduate this summer.
It was interesting to find out more about their individual experiences at ALRA, how they influence each other and more. Here's what Emma told us:
ALRA: Sam is ALRA's first second generation student, can you tell us about what it's like having two generations of ALRA trainees in the family?
Emma Tugman: I was a student at ALRA the year it was accredited and I was so proud to be part of that achievement - it all seems like hundreds of years ago now, and having my son about to graduate from ALRA this year makes me feel very old!
ALRA: Was Sam's decision to train at ALRA influenced by your experience?
Emma: Not at all - if anything I steered him away from ALRA because I thought that if I encouraged him to go there he would feel in some way obliged to audition just to please me. It is important to find a training that is right for you, and from the onset Sam seemed to be attracted by the training and ethos ALRA offered.
ALRA: What would you say are the differences and similarities between what Sam is learning and your own training?
Emma: Like I said, I was a student at ALRA when it was first taking shape and was still in the process of finding its own style, but there are certain aspects of training that will probably never change i.e. voice, movement and script work and I’ve seen a close similarity in Sam’s training to the training we undertook.
However, the discipline and structure seems a lot more coherent now, and the training the students receive in camera work is invaluable.
I’m pleased to see that there doesn’t seem to be quite as much pressure on students losing their regional accents, as this was pretty standard practice for drama schools in the 90s. It's great to see that this school of thought has definitely closed and diversity of voices is being promoted instead.
ALRA: Can you tell us what ALRA was like in the mid-1980s?
Emma: Probably very similar to what it’s like now! I showed some photographs to Sam of myself with some of my peers ‘relaxing’ in the courtyard and he said it could be an exact scene from his own time there.
ALRA: What are your warmest memories of your time at ALRA?
Emma: I remember being thrilled to be in London and to be spending my days learning skills to help me as an actor. The tutors were all so passionate about what they were sharing with us - I think I loved them all! Also, definitely the people!
One of my year group has just started up a Facebook page for past ALRA students and it’s so lovely to see those faces again after all these years (and to find that many of us still work in the industry!).
Finally, this vocal warm up lives with me, still: 'Articulatory agility is a desirable ability, manipulating with dexterity, the tongue, the palate, and the lips'.
ALRA: What does it feel like to watch your son perform in his final year at ALRA, being an alumna yourself?
Emma: Terrifying! I’m probably more nervous than he is! At the same time I’m really excited for him. I remember that feeling of leaving training ready to take the leap into the profession and truly believing that I could achieve my dream.
ALRA: Finally, what words of advice would you give to our graduating class of 2017?
Emma: I would say to never give up! If this is what you love then stick with it even if you go for months without finding an agent or obtaining acting work. Also, don’t compare your story to anyone else's - it can be difficult seeing your peers land work when you’re still having to serve tables but that acting role will come if you keep working at it and stay positive.
From watching Sam’s progress and seeing the students' work over the past couple of years, I think this is such a talented year group and I’m sure they will all go on to achieve great success.
We caught up with Sam next, discussing his mother's role in his choice to be a professional actor, as well as how he feels about his imminent graduation:
ALRA: Was your decision to pursue an acting career inspired by your mum?
Sam Tugman: Not to begin with. If anything, witnessing the hardships of the business firsthand and the mental, physical and financial struggles that come with it, I was quite reluctant to follow the same path as my mum. At school it never even occurred to me that I’d pursue this career. But, when I did make the decision to become an actor, my mum was invaluable in terms of the support she provided and her uncompromising honesty of what it takes to succeed in this business.
ALRA: Do you ever ask your mum for acting advice and, if so, what sort of advice have you asked for?
Sam: I constantly ask her for advice, why wouldn’t I?! She lives and breathes the work and has an understanding of the industry that I’d be a fool to ignore or not take advantage of.
Most recently, I’ve asked for advice regarding agents and what to do if contacted, and how to maintain focus when you feel like things aren’t quite falling into place as you’d hoped.
ALRA: As you are graduating this year, can you tell us what your three years at ALRA were like?
Sam: Exhilarating, intimidating, demanding, tumultuous, everything from the relatively boring to the absolutely awe inspiring. And that was just the first week! Needless to say, the three years have been a rollercoaster of emotions.
On the whole, I think the training here is fantastic, and the faculty seems to be addressing and improving the elements that require it year on year. As well as myself and my peers, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my school progress.
My time here has obviously shaped me as an actor but also as a person, and has encouraged me to self evaluate and constantly question my ability, work ethic, strengths and weaknesses etc. I feel like I have learnt so much more about myself than I ever thought I would have when I first walked through the door.
ALRA: What are you most looking forward to in your career ahead?
Sam: Working! As much as I’d love to be whisked away to Hollywood to feature in a Coen Brother / Tarantino collaboration, my realistic, and far more achievable, goal is to be in a position where I can live and survive off my acting career alone.
I often say that I don’t care about possessions, cars or how many empty rooms my house has; I will die a happy man if I lived in a squat but woke up every day thrilled about the idea of going to work.
ALRA: Finally, what words of encouragement will you give to fellow students at ALRA, based on your experience?
Sam: I can’t emphasise enough the need to work as a unit and support your peers. That may be challenging occasionally, but come the time when you’re doing your final shows you don’t want to be in a year that’s bitter and divided, it benefits no one. And finally, trust yourself and dare to be different. There’s a meme in there somewhere.
We would like to thank Emma and Sam for taking the time to chat with us. It’s interesting to see how actor training has shifted to include more of the recorded arts and the changing culture around accents and diversity.
If you are an alumni and would like to share your story or current projects with us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up to date with what our graduates have been up to by visiting our dedicated alumni page.