Personal Essay: Experience of Dramatic Arts for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

Write a personal essay about your experience (as a performer and/or audience member) of the dramatic arts; plays, musicals, concerts, comedy etc. (2010)


There is nothing wrong with this essay, but something is missing.

That something?

Introspection. Reflection. Conclusions. Lessons learnt.

It's like the author is telling us her story because she has to, not because it means something to her. The structure is purely chronological. There is no overarching thought, no answer to "So what?" There are little snippets of it, but it has to be much more prominent. 

I really like this piece about Misty Copeland, the ballerina. You may find some inspiration there if you need to write about this title.

My experience with the arts started at a very young age. I remember one particular Tuesday evening like it was the back of my hand. It was outside the primary school gates where my mam had just made a new friend. Just like that she handed me over to two complete strangers to be driven to my first ever ballet class. I was painfully shy at the time and the thoughts of performing in front of others left me on the verge of fear. I sobbed the whole way to Carrick-on-Shannon. I remember the lump in my throat and the tears running down my face. I was filled with rage at my mother. How dare she flog me off like that to people that we barely know? Why couldn’t she bring me over herself? At least the first time!

Write a personal essay about your experience (as a performer and/or audience member) of the dramatic arts; plays, musicals, concerts, comedy etc. (2010)

I survived the class, but my bad experiences didn’t end there. Once every year, my dance school would perform in Longford. Usually this was my favourite event on the calendar but not this particular year. My friend’s grandfather had passed away and we had missed a few classes because of this. My ballet teacher didn’t take this too well as we did not know the dance as well as the other girls. This annoyed me very much. How inconsiderate, I thought! She threatened to take us out of the dance if we didn’t learn it immediately. The lump in my throat returned and I was fighting back the tears. She quickly thought taught us the end of the dance. Her big ass in my face every time she bent over as part of the routine only added to my frustration. I wanted to tell her where she could shove the lot of it, but my mother warned me to keep my lips sealed.

This wasn’t the only part I didn’t like about my ballet teacher. Every over other week or so she wouldn’t show up because she was ‘jet lagged’. And when the school closed down, she didn’t even bother telling us! Eight years of attending her school and she couldn’t even text us to say she wouldn’t be returning - how rude!

Looking back on those days, a lot has changed. I joined a new ballet school and I’m having a much better time. The lady who drove me to my first ballet class has since become like a second mother and her daughter is my very best friend. She no longer does ballet. She attends a boarding school in Dublin. I still see her regularly, but not as often as I would like. Our busy schedules prevent us from seeing each other as much as we once could. As I look back on these days, it saddens me that I took all this for granted. I will always cherish the days that we could come home from, go out on the trampoline, eat marmalade scones and go off to ballet.

I also started drama at a very young age. I was not at all impressed when my mam threw me into the deep end yet again. Learning poem after poem off by heart seemed like a pointless exercise to me. I couldn’t understand why I had to do this, but I knew if I didn’t I would be in big trouble. I was still very shy and acting just wasn’t my thing. I hated the idea of wearing silly costumes and the feeling of embarrassment prevented me from preforming well. I hated people watching me. I was so scared. I was even more terrified of my drama teacher. She was so angry and so strict. I hated being given out to. She would shout at the top of her voice. Scream even. All I heard for years was ‘projection’ and ‘diction’. She made me so nervous that I would stumble or forget my lines. Those sixty minutes felt like sixty hours. Every week I would beg my mam not to go but she told me I wasn’t a quitter and that I had to go. Each year I hoped that she would forget to register me, but she never did.

Now I realise that that sort of boot camp was exactly what I needed to help me grow. I have come a long way since those days. I still remember those poems I had to learn. I’ve made many friends and my confidence has grown tremendously. I am no longer afraid of performing, to be honest, I actually enjoy it. Having this new confidence has helped me through so many obstacles life has thrown at me. I am now able to stand on my own two feet and I am much more independent. This freedom has given me the opportunity to do things I never believed I could. But above all else this experience has thought me that the road might not be easy but it will be worth it.

My love for the arts really wouldn’t have started without my sister Pamela. Every year Pamela and I would see a show together in the ‘Bórd Gáis Energy Theatre’. I remember the first time walking in and being amazed at the red carpet and the huge curtains that covered the shiny black stage. There must have been hundreds of red cinema-like chairs, row after row, all the way to the far wall and a balcony over that again. I always looked forward to this time of year.

My sister is thirty-one and she moved out a long time ago. She lives about an hour away now, which isn’t too bad I guess but with work events and weddings, free weekends are scarce. Back when she wasn’t so busy, she used to come home every weekend. She used to stay Friday and Saturday night. It slowly fell to jut Saturday night and now she calls round for a few hours on a Sunday. I miss when we got the whole weekend together and I am disappointed we have to settle for a few hours now. I feel really lucky that our shared love for the arts brings us together for a whole weekend together in Dublin.

For as long as I remember my mam has been making tea back stage for the ‘Boyle Musical Society’. Each year without fail I would make sure I would get to see the show, even if my sister’s wedding was the next day! I always enjoyed helping my mam with the tea because it meant I got a behind the scenes view into the production. I was able to see all the characters in their costumes getting hair and makeup done. I experienced the hussle and bussle of back stage, the vocal warm up and the joint emotions of nerves and excitement of the performers. I learned all the tricks of the trade. But my favourite part was hearing about the things that didn’t quite go to according to plan. One year a performer’s wig fell off his head and onto a load of kids in the front row!

I still go to the show with my friends I get so excited, even a week before the show. We always make sure to get the best seats and we have all the snacks you could possibly thing of, at the ready. I dream of the day I am old enough to join the society myself. The energy they give off from the stage gives me so much inspiration and motivation to work or my goal. I hope that one day I can be the one inspiring others.

In saying that, I have taken part in three musicals myself. All of which were very different from the others. Last year I took part in ‘Back to the 80’s’- a school organised musical. Long tiresome evenings were spent rehearsing. Still being in the school at a quarter to nine at night wasn’t exactly ideal but it was all worth it in the end. During the week of the show everyone was pumped up on adrenaline –everyone except the hairdresser. I don’t know what her problem was but that lady really hates teenagers! She yelled at my friends and I to come over to her to get her hair done. Mine had already been done by another hairdresser but she didn’t care. She told me it had to be done by her if I was to go onstage. It was exactly that moment when she ripped my 80’s style scrunchie out of my hair and flung it across the table. My hair, already hair sprayed, was tore out by the brush being forced through the spray. I was in such pain that my face must have looked like something out of a horror film. She pulled my crimped hair into a tight pony tail and left me looking like there was a frizzy pineapple on my head. I wasn’t the slightest bit impressed- by her attitude nor her hairdressing skills!

With fifth year behind me and study being the central focus of my life, I long for the days of such freedom again. The show was a big success and a memory and experience I’ll always treasure. ‘Back to the 80’s’ gave me a new love of 80’s fashion and music, not to mention new friends. Our love for the dramatic and performing arts has bonded us in ways school never could. After taking part in the show, I was convinced it was something I wanted to do again. But who knows what the future holds. Either way the show must go on!

The marking scheme says:

Expect a wide range of responses in terms of content and register in writing about one or more performances/experiences. Candidates may choose to adopt various approaches (personal narrative, discursive, descriptive, humorous, etc.) but they should include a reflective element.

Leaving Cert essays are marked using PCLM

Clarity of Purpose and Coherence of Delivery both have their wings clipped because there is no real message in this essay. The author told us her story, but what was she trying to say?

Personal Essay: Experience of Dramatic Arts for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

Reminder. This is what they look for in a personal essay:

P: Focus – the effective use of some elements of personal writing e.g. reflective insights, confessional tone, individual observation, use of personal pronoun, anecdotes, etc. originality and freshness, etc. 
C: The extent to which the personal approach is successfully sustained and developed effective shaping of the essay sequencing and management of ideas, etc. 
L: Quality and control of language e.g. style, vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, etc. 
M: Accuracy of mechanics

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