Not many people have the opportunity to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) with less that 5% making the cut each year, so when 2023 Alumnus Pippa Luscumbe was accepted into the highly esteemed performing arts institution, it really was a dream come true. We caught up with Pippa to see how things are going so far.

Had you always had the goal of applying for NIDA or when did it become an goal for you?

Attending NIDA has been, for as long as I can remember, a bit of a pipe dream for me. One of my first experiences performing to a large audience on a big stage was at NIDA back when I was in year two for a primary school-related dance competition. This was one of my first memories of falling in love with performing, so I have always had a nostalgic love for the place. Being involved in performing arts, you naturally pick up a lot of insight into the industry through word-of-mouth, and NIDA was always held to such high esteem and reputation, having produced some of Australia’s most successful artists. Listening to people’s personal experiences with the institution as well as through my own research, it became apparent that this school was one of the best dramatic institutes not only in Australia but internationally, and therefore this level of prestige, intensive training, and successful alumni made the institution incredibly appealing to me.

What was the audition process like? 

The audition process is quite lengthy, occurring over a few months. It is also very competitive; each year, hundreds of applicants apply for twenty positions. On average, the acceptance rate is usually less than 5% every year. For me, the process began around June–July of 2023, when the audition packs and information explaining what was required for the auditions for each course were released, along with a rough timeline of events. For my course, the first round of auditions were self-recorded, which involved putting together a showreel that included a one-minute introduction to camera, (introducing myself, where I was from, and why I wanted to be in the course), followed by a short monologue and two short songs of contrasting nature. In conjunction with this, I needed to submit a current CV outlining all relevant training and performance experience, as well as provide written responses to a selection of questions once again relating to my previous training and performance experience and why I wanted to attend NIDA. Preparation for this began around mid-year and was submitted in late September. From this first round, roughly 70% of applicants were cut, and those successful were called back for a second, in-person audition. For those in Sydney, they took place at NIDA from early to mid-November. The audition panel also traveled to Melbourne and Brisbane, and anyone else who was successful in getting a callback but didn’t live close enough to attend an in-person audition would have their callback via Zoom. This callback consisted of a two-hour dance call, which included an assessment of my technique and flexibility as well as my ability to quickly pick up and perform a short jazz and ballet routine. After this, there was some ensemble acting work before each applicant was brought in one-by-one to re-perform their two original audition songs. About two weeks after this auditon, successful applicants were called and notified that they were given a position.

How did your time at Inaburra prepare you for NIDA?

My time at Inaburra has had an invaluable impact on my development as a performer in a multitude of ways. In the younger years of high school, I really looked up to and admired many of the older students, often who were either leads in the senior school musical or soloists in stage band and I was determined that when I was their age, I would do that too. I think the community-nature of Inaburra, in conjunction with the high caliber of their music/performing arts programs, inspired my desire to pursue the same outcome. The plethora of performance opportunities I was fortunate enough to be involved in, whether that be through the musicals, choir, stage band or even regular classes, regularly forced myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone out there and learn how to build up skills in performing. Furthermore, all the teachers I was lucky enough to learn from were always so incredibly passionate and supportive of not only myself but also their area of teaching, making themselves a rich source of information to draw upon for help and assistance.

What are you studying?

A Diploma of Musical Theatre.

What does a day at NIDA look like?

My course runs from 9am to 5pm Monday through Thursday, with two two hour classes in the morning followed by a three hour class in the afternoon. Within that, we have a pretty even split between classes in singing, acting and dancing. Our singing classes include solo vocal workshops and tutorials, acting through song workshops, and ensemble singing classes. We pretty much have two hours of dance every day, alternating between the styles of jazz, ballet, acro/strength, and tap. Acting includes group acting classes, improvisation classes, and accent/dialect classes. We also have some classes that look at the commercial/marketing/legal sides of the industry as well. It is a regular occurrence (pretty much weekly) to bring in external teachers and industry professionals to run classes and workshops. For example, I just had two full days of dance with a lady named Danielle Bilios, who was a resident dancer on X Factor Australia, an assistant choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, and was just recently the associate choreographer on the Australian touring production of Moulin Rouge, the musical. It’s also not uncommon for other well-known public figures to pop in to NIDA (e.g., the NSW premier Chris Minns visited NIDA last week and came into our class, where we briefly taught him how to do a general American accent).

Highlights so far?

It’s really difficult to say because everything has been so amazing, but I think my highlights are getting to learn, interact with, and meet pretty much on a daily basis, practicing artists within the industry. Without an institution such as NIDA, this constant opportunity to interact with leading industry professionals would just not be possible, and the valuable insight and enrichment of skills that I personally gain from it is amazing. As well as this, simply getting to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate group of people within my course is such an inspiring and humbling experience. Roughly half the people in my course are either from interstate or internationally, so getting to meet and learn from people of different ages, lives, and experiences is not only interesting but also very helpful in my own development.

Will we see you on stage anytime soon?

Yes! Not much information is known just yet, but towards the middle of the year, my course is being directed in a cabaret at NIDA.