Trey Augustus

Students & Alumni. Acting.

Trey Augustus sitting in Mumford Theatre

Trey is a mature student on our BA (Hons) Acting course at ARU. Originally from California, after three years working in the UK he decided to concentrate on his acting, taking up roles with various troupes around Cambridge as well as joining our course.

Where and what did you study before coming to ARU?

I grew up in the States, so I did high school and that's a little different to how stuff works here. Here you do A-Levels and get to pick your subjects. In the U.S. you just do a lot of general education. Originally I wanted to be an architect, and I started a programme at a junior college, but they cancelled the programme part way through. So then I didn't really know what to do. I started doing business because I thought that was a smart decision. But it was a bit dull, and I decided I didn’t want to do that. Then I decided to do some more general education, and part of what you have to do in junior college is a practical or performing art. I always used to do drawing or sketching, but I decided that I wanted to do something different.

So I did an acting class because my friend said it was quite fun. It was every Tuesday and Thursday, and I just remember looking forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays more than anything in the entire week. I'd be a bit bummed on Friday because I knew I had to wait a whole weekend before it was time to do more acting. And I realised this was quite significant, so I did the rest of the courses that they had there. I considered doing drama, but then I moved out here. When I decided to do a degree, it needed to be in something that I wanted to do, so I applied to drama and acting at ARU.

Did you always know that you would go to university and if not, what changed your mind?

I always wanted to, even straight out of high school. I had applied to a university and I got in, but it was very expensive. My parents said “Sorry, you have four brothers. We can't blow all of the money on just you going to college.” So then I decided on junior college, which just allows you to do the first two years of a degree, and then you transfer to a proper university to complete. So I went straight in for that, and I was working on on doing that. So I think I always wanted to go to university, it was just a matter of it not being the right thing at the right time.

"Haunted", a short film created on the BA Acting course

Why did you decide to study in England, and particularly at ARU?

My Mum is English, and one of my aunts that lives here had a spare room and said “Why not come and see what it's like to live in England?” We’d come to visit a few times for holidays, to see all the family, go around the castles and visit London. So in my head, England was hyped up to be this big fun place. We would come here in the summer and play with all of our cousins, travel the country and see all these cool things that we don't really have in the states.

So I decided, why not?  I just took a big leap and I moved out here, got my paperwork all sorted for my dual citizenship because I didn't have a passport or anything before - it was just by birth - so I'm officially a dual citizen now. She lived in Cambridge, and I got a job here which I liked for the most part. Then when I decided I wanted to go to university, I didn't want to have to relocate because my job was willing to work around my university schedule. So I'd have the ease of having a job I already knew and was good at, so I applied to ARU. I've made some really good friends here, and it just feels right.

What’s your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge, and what have you learned about the city that you didn't know before?

I didn't realise that they had such a big theatre scene. I assumed they'd have something because it's a university town that's quite near London, but the calibre of stuff that comes out here - it's all professional level. Obviously it's technically am-dram, but I really hate that term because it makes it sound like it's amateur, and just gives a negative connotation. I like that it's called community theatre back in the States, because it's just our community putting on the show versus a professional one coming through from London. But all the shows that I've been a part of here so far have been mind-blowingly good, and our reviews have been amazing –basically every one a sold-out show.

It's giving me so much experience, working with all these different people in these big theatres with really big creative teams, who sometimes do work in London or run dance teams. They're basically big shots in their own area, and they're here to do this free show in Cambridge, which is just wild.

I started my course and then right after did my first show in Cambridge, and now I know people everyone's saying “Oh, come see me in this. Come see me in this.” I've got, like, three things a month that I'm supposed to go see people do. Things are constantly on, which is great, and whenever I get the chance, I go down to London too, to see something new.

Last year our Course Leader took us to see the touring show of Home, I’m Darling at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, and it was phenomenal. It was the first time I’d seen a straight play in a long time. I realised how lost I’d got in musical theatre, so it was good to see just a play again and realise that this is something I also really like. It’s more like what I used to do back home.

Trey Augustus

What projects are you currently working on, both on and off the course?

On the course our modules are on physical theatre, so we're about to start working on devising a piece. We're going to do some non-dramatic text work, and devise that into a physical theatre piece in groups. In our performance projects, where have an external director from  London coming up to direct the show, we’re doing Tartuffe.  I actually get to play Tartuffe for the first half, then someone else takes over for the second. It's a very good show, very interesting -  this is the one where we're not allowed to write down blocking yet.

Outside of uni, tonight Pied Pipers have an information evening before auditions next week for the musical Made in Dagenham, so I want to be in that ideally. What I'm working on right now is with Cambridge Theatre Company. We're doing Beauty and the Beast, but this this version is completely different to the Disney version. It’s only been done once before - the people that wrote it put it on once, and now we are the next people to be doing the show ever.

What inspired you to get involved with acting in the first place?

I always appreciated just good acting in general.  I don't know if I could say I have a specific someone originally that helped make me want to do it. Once I started doing the acting course, I tried to pay attention more not just to whatever was happening in the story, but to the people playing it. I quite liked Saturday Night Live, the knowledge that these people just get given a script and have to sort it out for a week and put it on for everyone, then scrap it all and do a whole other thing next time. That was just a very interesting idea.

Then as I got more into acting, I started liking musical theatre more as well. One of my biggest inspirations in musical theatre is Jeremy Jordan. He originated a couple roles, including in some of my favourite shows. I got to see him live a few times and if I could be half as talented as him, that would be ideal.

"Constellations", a short film created on the BA Acting course

What do you hope to do when you graduate from ARU?

I am not sure, to be completely honest! I knew that I wanted to get a degree, I decided to do it in something that I liked and hopefully I can kind of figure out something to do from there. Ideally, I would like to do something in acting, so I'd like to do stuff in London on the stage, or in TV. I like all of it, even video games would be quite interesting, voice acting and those kinds of things. So the plan is to see what I can find and what I can do here, and then if it doesn't work out after a little while, then I can always go back home and try to find something there as well.

I'd prefer to stay open because I might think “Oh, I want to go and do this,” but while I'm doing that I miss out on a couple of other good opportunities. So I want to stay open to anything within the field, basically. I wouldn't mind teaching. I always thought I'd be a good teacher growing up - some of my teachers were my biggest inspirations. So it would be cool to be that for someone else. But something still to do with with acting or drama would be ideal.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

If I was talking to myself directly out of high school, I’d say “Architecture could be fun, but what you really like is theatre.” Because I didn't realise I liked it. I hadn't ever done anything with it really until that class, and finding that out a bit earlier, I could have done more acting in high school. I love it so much that I wish I'd been doing it for longer, because sometimes I feel slightly behind. There was a drama class through high school, but I just didn't ever do it because I was practical and did a language - that was one of our electives. Then when I had a choice I picked something that I thought could be useful.. I just didn't see drama as useful at the time.

I settled on architecture because I was good at math and drawing - my mum and I used to draw, she's quite artistic. So it was like meshing two things that I'm good at together to make a career out of it, and my parents thought that made complete sense for me, but when I started doing acting, while I was still home in the States, they came to all of my shows and were really supportive.

What's the most valuable thing you will take away from your course?

It's interesting because we've done a few different shows with a few different instructors, and they all have slightly different methods to how they instruct us and how they direct. I think that's invaluable information to have. A lot of people have it in their head how things are supposed to go, but I think it’s best to have a more open minded approach to it, being a collaborative effort, because a new director might say “Well, we're not going to do it like that. We're going to do it like this.”

We're working on a show right now, and the director doesn’t allow us to have set blocking, which is very weird because every other show I've ever had, it's been “Start to work on your blocking. Jot it down.” That way you're always doing the same thing, but she just prefers a very free flow. She'll say “If you randomly get the impulse as your character to go sit over there, try it out and see what happens.” At first I thought “I don't like this. I'm gonna keep doing the same thing.” Then I realised I needed to try different things, and discovered I quite liked doing this thing better than that one, but I wouldn't have tried it if we'd already pre-blocked it. So that is one of the biggest things - we've had a lot of really good variety.

Trey Augustus sitting in Mumford Theatre

Which aspects of your course have most helped your career development, and why?

We’ve now done lots of reading, which was really beneficial to me because I didn't do GCSEs or A-Levels in drama. Sometimes people will say “We need to do the Stanislavski method for this”, and I don't know what that is and everyone's  nodding. But now we're getting all this reading in, it's helping me get the lingo that some people might mention, or the styles that people might use.

On top of that, we did some work on monologues and auditions, and I've used that in the shows that I've done for different musicals within Cambridge. So that's been quite helpful, to get back into doing the active thing and not being afraid to be in front of people, and really selling myself.

We also did a lot of abstract stuff in our first semester, which was interesting because  it always feels really weird. You have to move around as an animal or just move with half your body at a time, but when you have those limitations you can still find ways of getting something across in this big abstract way. Then you realise that if you narrow it down and put it into little subtle things, that's how you can really develop a character physically.  We did a lot of work on that early on, which was good.

What has it been like for you, as a mature student on an Acting course?

I'm 31 and everyone else on my course is 21 or below. It's interesting, because I thought I was going to find it hard to connect with anyone, but that hasn't been the case. I've made some really good friends on the course.  I'm quite a kid at heart, so I joke around just as much as everyone else.

Sometimes it feels like our priorities are slightly different, because I've had 10 years of experience over them.  I haven't come straight from like my parents' house or college. I’ve tried a couple of things our, done a bunch of different jobs, and I know this is definitely what I want to do.

There's times when we're doing rehearsals and, obviously, we can’t all be on stage at the same time, so people go work on lines somwhere else, or sometimes they’ll be on their phones. And I just sit there, through the whole rehearsal process. I'm not in the scene for the next three hours, but I'll just sit there and watch them build the scene up, and every once in a while I'll have a suggestion. They don't have to use it, but if they like that idea then great. Or when someone gets stumped on something, I can say “Well, what if you do this?” I'm so enthralled and happy for that whole time, and all of a sudden it's been three hours and everyone can have a break or go to lunch. I'll go eat, then come straight back. I can't get enough of it!

"Sure Thing", a short film created on the BA Acting course

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