Creative practice in the Digital Studio, creating motion capture performance.
One of the first UK drama schools to offer courses in virtual theatre, theatre and digital content design, with a focus on virtual reality, mixed reality and motion-capture technology, seeks to widen student recruitment.
In late autumn 2020 Rose Bruford College, one of the UK’s premiere Theatre and Performance institutions, launched the Centre for Digital Production, one of the first of its kind, which offers two innovative degree courses at the cutting edge of technology and industry practice: Virtual Theatre and Digital Experiences plus Digital Content Design for Theatre and Live Events.
With dedicated computer laboratories, a fully equipped studio space on campus with unique facilities where students can learn to operate media servers, cameras, projectors, control desks, motion capture and virtual reality equipment and green screen technologies, the college is now actively recruiting students with interests in gaming, video, photography and design who might not have considered a career or training at a traditional drama school.
James Simpson, Head of Development said: “Anyone with any interest can find a role in Virtual Theatre whether they are technical, creative or a bit of both. If you’re interested in gaming, video, photography and stage technology you will get a chance to play with all of the tech, and if you are interested in design, art, graphics, 3D CGI, writing or making stories for a live audience, you will get the chance to explore your full creative potential and work as part of a team to create original and innovative projects.”
Sally Elsmore, Head of Student Recruitment, told us: “Applications for September 2021 remain open through UCAS until June this year, in recognition of the fact that many applicants might need longer than usual to decide on the best way forward for their education. Rose Bruford College have also taken the decision not to charge for recalls or auditions on our performance programmes for 2021 entry applicants. This should go some way towards easing financial strain the pandemic may be placing on potential students.”
The first year of the new courses have been facilitated with a new partnership with SimpleCloud Education, a cloud-based system which enables students to work on state-of-the-art software programmes accessible from any technology, from a phone to a basic PC laptop. This has enabled teaching to continue in the virtual realm, despite restrictions imposed on students who are no longer able to be on campus due to the UK lockdown in force. Current students across the two courses have also all been lent individual Virtual Reality Headsets, which has enabled remote meetings and teaching.
Rose Bruford College is also partnering with Reality Check Productions, founders of ‘The Round’, a bespoke software for the creation and distribution of live digital performance in Augmented Reality.
Other partners on the project include location-based Mixed Reality experts Figment Productions, motion-capture experts Target3D, volumetric capture experts Condense Reality and Virtual Theatre creators Copper Candle.
Created especially for the platform, productions in The Round use Augmented Reality technology to allow audiences to watch new live shows, with their friends, from any viewpoint, and will allow professional artists and creatives to produce, build and distribute performances delivered live to audiences’ homes globally. The Round is due to launch this June.
James Simpson is a creative technologist and also owner of Copper Candle, a XR studio creating and developing virtual theatre experiences as well as pre-visualisation solutions.
He is passionate about the use of technology in creating theatre and live entertainment. His specialism and PhD research is pre-visualisation, particularly using XR technology, and has worked with the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, RSC & Magic leap where, as a Digital Fellow, he was part of the development of a digital immersive re-interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has also worked on shows including Miss Saigon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, &Juliet, The Olivier Awards and Commonwealth Games.
The choice and range are dazzling. There’s drama from Greeks and Shakespeare all the way to 21st Century young playwrights as well, of course, as the ever-popular musical theatre. You can opt to hone your technical theatre skills too. Then there are summer schools offering circus skills, comedy, writing and directing – among many other options. There are plenty of courses in ‘pure’ instrumental music and singing too if that’s what you want too – I am booked into one of those this summer, myself: CSSM Summer School of Music at Uppingham School in Rutland for a week in August.
If you’re interested in applying for drama school consider this: Founded in 2009, TheMTA is a musical theatre college for the 21st Century. It runs a two-year accelerated course based at Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham, London, and has an unusually rigorous approach to training and a very high graduate employment rate. Its summer school, West End Experience (20-24 July, £400 excluding accommodation and food) offers twenty-two people a week’s experience of being trained “theMTA way” by its regular staff. Included in the prices are two West End workshops with tickets to see the show later in the day, one West End masterclass to observe and a free whole day audition place within twelve months of attending the course. www.themta.co.uk
Other drama schools which run summer schools include Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (www.oldvic.ac.uk) which has five courses this year ranging from three days to a full ten-week foundation course. All are taught at the school by its experienced regular staff across its three sites. 2020 courses for over-17s are Acting Summer Foundation Course, Acting for Camera, Acting for Contemporary Drama, Acting in Shakespeare Plays, and Sing Out! Singing for Musical Theatre. There’s also a range of youth courses for children and young people from Year 3 upwards. As an example of cost, the fee for Acting for Camera is £450 for three days.
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow offers a five-day summer school which provides audition preparation and training for over-16s. That runs from 17-21 August and costs £535. Also available, among other drama and music courses for children and adult, are three acting courses for adults: For Camera, Play and Shakespeare. www.rcs.ac.uk
Or take Guildford School of Acting, part of the University of Surrey, which (www.gsauk.org) has been offering its annual Summer Conservatoire for over twenty years. It includes musical theatre courses for 14-18, and 18+, as well as one specifically devoted to musical theatre audition technique for over-17s along with various acting and technical theatre courses. Course fees range from £180 to £480 because they are not all full weeks. Accommodation is available for over-18s at £380 per week.
Rose Bruford College.
Photo: Mere Words Photography
Rose Bruford College has four main summer school options this year: Acting (two weeks at £900 plus £600 for 14 nights’ accommodation), Actor Musicianship, Lighting Design and Stage Management. These are for over-18s and in addition to a range of summer masterclasses. www.bruford.ac.uk
Or, if you’re over 16 and are seriously dedicated, consider the annual four-week Shakespeare Summer School at RADA (www.rada.ac.uk). It runs this year from 15 July – 7 August at a non-residential fee of £3,025. It is taught at RADA’s headquarters near Gower Street tube station in central London. “Launched over 40 years ago, and investigating Shakespeare from an actor’s point of view, it [Our Shakespeare Summer School] is designed to cater for a wide range of abilities and experience: for seasoned professionals, for those who may be contemplating full-time drama training: and for absolute beginners,” declares RADA’s website.
Most of the franchised providers of youth theatre and training run summer schools too. Theatretrain International Summer School, for example, takes place in Suffolk from 2-8 August. Open to all 6-18 year olds – not just Theatretrain regulars. It includes dance, drama, singing, technical theatre and leads to an end-of-week performance (www.theatretrain.co.uk). Full boarding for non-Theatretrain members costs £450. The fee is £230, including a three-course lunch, for day-students, “No auditions are necessary as we teach them everything they need to know,” declares the Theatretrain website, cheerfully.
Then there are music courses, such as the one I’m attending at Uppingham. Kent Music Summer Schools has run an annual series of residential courses for young people based at Benenden School, Cranbrook, Kent, for over seventy years. Between 9-27 July, this year there are opportunities for 8-19 year olds to take part, on courses of varying lengths, in wind bands, symphony orchestras, music explorers, string orchestras, recorder groups, choirs, jazz band and musical theatre and song-writing among other things. www.kent-music.com
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Photo: Craig Fuller
Stage schools such as Sylvia Young Theatre School run summer schools too. Based in its splendid building off Edgware Road in London, SYTS (www.syts.co.uk) is running two courses this year, with each one repeated four times. Musical Theatre Course (for 10-18) and Theatre Classes Course (7-18) run in weeks beginning 20 July, 27 July, 3 August and 10 August. The latter includes drama, audition technique, singing, street dance, jazz dance and basic circus skills. The fee is £310 for either course.
So do youth theatre organisations. Summer Company at Theatre Royal Bath (www.theatreroyal.org.uk) for example gives young people a three-week opportunity to work alongside a professional production team to create a full-scale performance in the Egg Theatre. This is the project’s fifth year.
Or, of course, there’s ‘The Bubble’, NODA’s Theatre Summer School which provides residential training to NODA members over 18 (which will include many Sardines readers). The 2020 course, based at The Peformance Hub, University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall Campus, runs from 1-8 August. The range of activity is theatrically eclectic. Options include Acting Through Song, Berkoff and Total Drama, Choreography (Dance), Costume (production), Directing New Writing, Introduction to Stage Management, Mask, Mime & Puppetry – and a lot more. The fee is £660 residential (single en-suite rooms) or £560 non-residential including meals.
Yes, there’s plenty planned to enable people of all ages to hone their performance and/or creative skills this summer.
- Summer schools are often led by the same people who teach/work in the organisation during term time. So, in the case of a drama school, it will be the school’s regular staff. That may mean that a student is ‘spotted’ and advised to apply for a full-time course – but this happens only very occasionally and is definitely not the purpose of summer school.
- Nonetheless, a summer school run by a drama college can be a good way for a potential student to sample the atmosphere, facilities, way of working and so on before deciding whether or not to apply for a full-time place at the same institution.
- Open access is usual – except for age restrictions. Some courses specify a certain level of general fitness. Overseas students need adequate command of English. Higher level courses may require an audition. Occasionally, as for the Rose Bruford Actor Musicianship which stipulates reasonable ability on at least one instrument, there are entry requirements.
Think of it as a holiday because it will have to be paid for as if it were. Almost all summer school participants are self-funding. Sometimes, however, a school or other provider will have access to a small amount of discretionary money with which to support a student, typically a young one, in serious need who would otherwise be unable to benefit from this opportunity. But this is unusual and it has to be discussed and negotiated privately on an individual basis.
- Summer schools aren’t just for summer. Look out for holiday courses at other times of the year, including Easter holiday and half-term breaks (although this year’s planned Easter courses will almost certainly be cancelled!).
- Obviously anyone tutoring in a summer school for young people should be an experienced teacher and, to work with children, have D&B clearance.
- What is the exact cost and what is included in the price?
- Are there differential fees for residential and non-residential participants?
- Can your chosen summer school provider help students from elsewhere in the country (or abroad) to organise accommodation – in hostels, B&Bs, self-catering, host families etc? If so does it have to be paid for separately?
- Are there any ‘early bird’ discounts for advance booking or ‘concessions’ reductions?
- Does the quoted price include lunch and other refreshments?
- Is every adult involved in teaching or looking after children D&B checked?
- Is there provision for special needs such as dietary requirements, wheelchair access or management of hearing loss?
Knowledge is Power:
- Start here. Many drama schools and other training providers advertise in Sardines including the many and various short courses they run during holiday periods for children and adults.
- Check the provider’s website. It will usually tell you what the course involves, how to apply, what is included in the price and what you have to bring with you. There will almost certainly be a downloadable application form too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every provider is keen to ensure that every summer school participant is well-informed and fully prepared.
- If someone you know thought a summer school was great last year and is therefore going to repeat it this, that’s a pretty powerful recommendation. Tap into the word-of-mouth network – especially via your children’s friends and their parents.
By Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD & Founder of Razzamataz Theatre Schools
I was born in Renfrew, Scotland in 1972. I was the youngest of four children and money was very tight. I was a very shy child, but I loved to dance and although it was a stretch financially for me to attend dancing classes, my parents often went without so I could continue my passion which included competing in lots of disco dancing competitions.
After my career as a dancer, I knew I always wanted to stay within the performing arts industry, so I opened the first Razzamataz in 2000 with the vision to make performing arts available to all young people no matter their background or circumstances. We want to give children everywhere the chance to attend classes taught by experienced performers, who can give them the perfect introduction to the most wonderful industry in the world. Being a shy child, the one thing that helped me was performing and I wanted to make this accessible to more children. Performing arts gave me an inner-confidence and improved my self-esteem and although I loved to dance, I lacked belief in my singing and acting so I wanted to make sure that Razzamataz would focus on all three disciplines, giving students an edge in this competitive industry.
I’ve always wanted to give back to the community by offering scholarships, which has enabled children to try performing arts for the first time. We have been working with The Stage newspaper since 2008 to offer a full year’s scholarship to attend one of our schools across the UK but, even before this, I understood the need to provide financial assistance. In fact, I recently bumped into Danielle Fiamanya at The Stage Awards party. Danielle was one of the first students to receive one of our scholarships as she explains: “Razzamataz was the first theatre school I stepped into and I just wouldn’t be here without you and my scholarships at the school. Completely indebted to you.” Danielle is currently starring in &Juliet in the West End.
It’s now really important to consider not just the financial barriers that prevent children from enjoying performing arts; theatre schools must also look at what policies they have in terms of supporting children with additional needs. Children come in all shapes and sizes and will look just as different on the outside as they feel on the inside. When it comes to little ones, there should really be no one-size-fits-all approach.
Razzamataz Theatre Schools. Photo: Razzamataz
Students at our schools have to cope with a wide range of additional needs. This can be anything from dyslexia, autism or health complications. I have always believed that we must try and include as many children as possible and work with their parents so they can enjoy rich and fulfilling experiences that will help to boost their confidence, which ultimately can help them deal with their condition in a more positive way.
One of the benefits of sending young people to a franchise with a good reputation, is that each school is under strict obliga-tions to adhere to a stringent set of audits to ensure they are as inclusive as possible.
The success comes from meeting with parents and talking through each child’s care plan and if necessary we will arrange to meet with their medical professional to get some training. We will do absolutely all we can to ensure each child can enjoy our classes and meet new friends in a safe and caring environment.
For all young people, it is critical that the theatre school really engages with them. Classes and performances must be relevant to what they are going through. At the moment, there are so many shows that really speak to young people and we have loved watching our students adapting them at their own showcases across the UK and at our gala performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End.
Performing arts has the ability to offer young people a safe haven and a chance to connect with others. To make theatre schools more inclusive, these are the messages that we must continue to spread. Ultimately, it is not about any individual’s talent, it is about the life skills that you will learn in a team of people all wanting to grow and have fun together.
Call: 01768 213086 | Email: email@example.com | Web: www.razzamataz.co.uk
Facebook: @RTSLtd | Instagram: @razzschools | Twitter: @razzschools
YouTube: RazzamatazTheatreSchoolsLtd | LinkedIn: Razzamataz Theatre Schools
At last! Some news which might be very welcome at a time when Covid-19 is restricting the movement of almost everyone. How about training in stage management by distance learning?
Antonia Collins is a highly experienced stage manager. And she’s passionate about helping others towards similarly successful careers. So she has launched a distance learning scheme in which she shares her expertise – and it could be a very useful starting point for anyone stage managing in amateur companies, wanting to do it better or maybe leaning towards doing it professionally.
She calls it Bamboo Manager Project. “An American student of mine said we stage managers should be like bamboo: strong, flexible and sustainable,” Antonia explains. “Unfortunately the domain name ‘Be Like Bamboo’ was already taken so I decided on ‘Bamboo Manager Project’.”
But surely stage management is a practical subject? Can you really master it by distance learning? “I believe you can, although of course not everyone agrees with me,” answers Antonia, who has a Masters degree in digital education. “We offer what an SM student would learn in the first year at drama school but it costs only £800 so it saves the students huge amounts of money. You can do it in a couple of months using online and Skype,” says Antonia who will be launching a second course soon and who also runs a short taster course so you can decide whether or not this would work for you.
Having trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Antonia set out as an assistant stage manager at Theatre Clywd in 1991. She found the work quite lonely although she has very happy memories of working with Barbara Eifler as Production Manager.
She relished the times when she met other SMs which enabled them to ask each other questions and share information. “Bamboo Manager Project began as a collaborative Facebook page,” she recalls. “I was simply trying to find a way to enable stage managers to talk to each other. The idea for running training as part of that came later when my circumstances changed.”
As well as working extensively as a stage manager, Antonia also taught for many years at her alma mater, RWCMD where she set up the MA in Stage Management and ensured that her students graduated with the job’s “essential skills.”
Then in 2010 came a job offer at the Academy for Performing Arts in Hong Kong. “My husband, Andy, who’s a sound designer, was already working at Disney-land HK so it fitted in quite well. I took a two-year contract. Our younger son came with us. He chose to attend a Chinese rather than an international school and he’s now fluent in Mandarin.” She tells me that she found the HK students ‘amazing’ and the facilities ‘incredible’.
Jobless again in 2017 she returned to freelance stage management in the UK and began an MSc in Digital Education at University of Edinburgh.
“Then I attended a conference at Fort Lauderdale in Florida. It led to a nine-month job offer at Florida State University because someone had died,” she says telling me that she rebuilt the undergraduate pathway there.” This time she went alone without her family and did a lot flying backwards and forwards. “My MSc was ongoing and I was thinking a lot about virtual learning environments and recalling how virtual learning had helped my Chinese students get round language problems. I wrote my dissertation on this.”
Antonia came back to the UK in May 2019, stage managed a production of City of Angels at Royal Academy of Music and decided she wanted “to pull all the bits together.”
Her elder son, meanwhile, had done a stage management degree at LAMDA so she was well aware of both London living costs and the fees involved. “We were able to support him but what happens to young people whose parents aren’t in that position?” Antonia asks, pointing out that there aren’t many scholarships for stage management.
She stresses: “I’d never say ‘Don’t go to drama school’ but Bamboo Project Manager works from a different angle in the hope of providing an affordable alternative.”
Students on the first course, which she calls Stage 101, are each found a shadowing opportunity and, starting with just eight in the first cohort, Antonia will mentor each student herself. The plan is that on the forthcoming second, follow-on course there will also be a work placement for each participant. “And we have group Skype sessions for discussions – sticky notes on a paddleboard work well. And everyone blogs.”
Antonia recommends doing the course over ten weeks, with one session per week because you have to make time for the required blogs too. “You could do it in less but it’s probably better to pace yourself.” She recalls with a grin that she wrote most of the course while stage managing shows at the Royal Court and the National Theatre of Wales. “I don’t want hundreds of students,” she says “This is a case of quality not quantity. I want to be personally accessible to everyone involved”.
Meanwhile Antonia continues to work as a stage manager herself so her expertise is totally current. She was due to work on Hail Cremation at National Theatre of Wales for its two-week run at the end of March. But unfortunately the Coronavirus (or Covid-19) of course put paid to that. “Soon I shall probably be back at Royal Academy of Music for their one-year musical theatre course show,” she tells me – with her fingers crossed.
You can contact Antonia for more information through hers personal website: andycsnd.wixsite.com/antonia-collins/projects
The Bamboo Manager Project website: www.thebamboomanagerproject.org
Twitter: @AntoniaECollins | Facebook: TheBambooManager
IMPROBABLE ANNOUNCES FIRST EVER iii! SUMMER ACADEMY (an International Institute of Improvisation project)
A rare chance to study with two great improvisers and theatre-makers: specialists in the art of not knowing what is going to happen next…
Lee Simpson & Phelim McDermott, Improbable’s Artistic Directors, have been at the forefront of the unfolding story of improvisation since the mid-1980s, leading improv into new forms, widening its scope and taking it to places it wouldn’t otherwise have gone; everywhere from scrappy rooms above pubs to grand operatic stages. They have used improvisation to research and present topics mythic, scientific, biographic; historical, medical and spiritual. They have transformed what it is possible to put on the stage, what happens in the rehearsal room, and even how meetings happen, how companies and buildings are run. Over three weeks of workshops, practice and research, the iii! Summer Academy is an opportunity to come and learn everything Lee and Phelim know about the art of not knowing…
Who is it for?
The ‘iii’ summer academy is for anyone interested in developing their improvisational experience, and/or learning from and using Improbable’s practice, whatever the form of your work. You might be a performer, director, researcher, writer, improviser, manager, or other practitioner. The workshops will be a supportive environment in which we’ll attempt to be responsive to the individual and collective needs of the group, and where you are encouraged to be both courageous and vulnerable in the examination of your practice. You will be given strategies to notice, nurture and manifest the work you want to do. We will aim to create a culture of play and creative risk-taking.
Specifically, the iii summer academy might be of interest to:
Theatre makers and practitioners;
Actors interested in improvising, devising, or expanding / developing their practice;
Directors, designers, practitioners working in stage or screen;
Writers, especially those interested in devising, verbatim work and collaborative processes;
Performance practice researchers and performance theory academics;
Drama educators in schools, HE and FE organisations;
Facilitators and counsellors;
Skill seekers and professionals working in sectors beyond the arts;
Fans of Improbable’s work.
What will happen?
The ‘iii’ (International Institute of Impro-visation) Summer Academy is split into three week-long workshops. Each week explores a different area of improvisatory practice. It is designed as a complete curriculum for making remarkable theatre. Participants can book for the whole Academy, or individual weeks. The Academy concludes with a day-long open space session, available to everyone who has attended any of the workshops. It is presented in partnership with Theatre Arts at Middlesex University, who will host the academy on their London campus.
Week 1: Core Improvisation:
This week will unfold core principles and processes of Improbable’s improvisatory practice. It will look at improvisation for performance and key meta-skills such as listening, awareness and presence. It will cover improv basics but in Improbable ways, showing how, for example, improv might involve slowing down and feeling more, rather than speeding up and thinking fast and how to include and use everything that is present in the moment – emotions, worries, the weather – in yourself, in the room and in the world.
Week 2: A deep dive into the unknown:
This week addresses how the improv and performance skills explored in Week 1 can be used in conjunction with other theatre traditions, as well as other areas of practice and research, to create new forms, reach new depths as well as revolutionise the familiar.
Over its history, Improbable has brought set design, costume, puppetry, music, movement and personal testimony into the improvisational orbit. We’ve also taken improvisational practice into new writing, Shakespeare, different acting techniques, opera, and beyond theatre, out into the world for social activism. We’ve used improvisation as a methodology for exploring new areas of research be they scientific, choreographic or dramatic. In Week 2, Lee and Phelim will lead the group into an exploration of the unknown. They will look at the deeper beliefs and methodologies behind Improbable’s work, and show how they can be used in a tremendously diverse range of creative contexts. This is your chance to join two of the great theatrical experimenters, teaching how to try what has not yet been tried, or even yet imagined.
Week 3: Bringing it home:
How can improvisatory processes be used to generate and perform material for (not necessarily improvised) performance? How do you get from an understanding of improvisation, or from a set of research questions, to a show? The third week of the academy will look at how to go from theory to practice, and will look at Improbable’s ability to adapt and create hybrid techniques from both within and outside theatre, as well as originating their own processes. This will include work on devising techniques, creating and shaping narrative, Open Space as a rehearsal tool, Process Work and improvisation with a script.
The academy concludes with a one-day Open Space event for anyone who’s attended the workshops. It will be a chance to meet and spend time with other participants from the academy, reflect on the workshops, and look ahead to future questions, collaborations and next steps.
The iii! Summer Academy is for anyone interested in developing their improvisational experience, and/or learning from and using Improbable’s practice, whatever the form in which you work. You might be a performer, director, researcher, writer, improviser, manager, facilitator, teacher or none of the above.
Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson…
…are Artistic Directors of Improbable. Together, they have directed, devised, written and performed in Improbable’s multi award-winning productions, including: 70 Hill Lane, Lifegame, Animo, Coma, Spirit, Sticky, Cinderella, The Hanging Man, The Still, The Stars Are Out Tonight (with Amici), The Tempest, Still No Idea, The Paper Man, Theatre of Blood and Lost Without Words (both with National Theatre), Satyagraha, Akhnaten, The Perfect American and, most recently, Tao of Glass.
The iii! Summer Academy VENUE
Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London NW4 4BT
£1,250 for the full course. You can also book for a single week, Monday -Friday, at £500. There is no VAT on the workshop places.
20 places per week.
by application only
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a short (approx. 200 words) explanation on why you would like to attend, which week(s), and what you hope to get out of it. Please also attach a biography, CV and/ or a link to examples of your work. You’ll be notified within 10 days if successful and, if so, will be sent a booking link to confirm your place. Payment may be made in instalments.
There are three supported places available for each week of the academy. These places are free and come with a stipend of £250 towards expenses. These places are available to:
People who would not be able to afford a full-price place.
People of colour, people who identify as D/deaf or disabled, and people who identify as trans*/non-binary.
Note: People with these protected characteristics are historically under-represented in improvisation, and offering bursaries to these people is one way of helping to redress the balance.
Bursary Applications to: email@example.com with around 100 words on why you would like a bursary place. Deadline for bursary applications is 11pm on Sunday, 5th April.
The iii! Summer Academy is presented in partnership with Theatre Arts at Middlesex University. Access Information: www.improbable.co.uk/portfolios/iii-summer-academy-2020
Web: www.improbable.co.uk | Facebook: weareimprobable | Twitter: @improbable1
A new, collaborative initiative between two acclaimed drama and musical theatre schools, Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company and READ College, has launched. Providing a regional opportunity for young people based in or around two locations (Belfast and Stockton-on-Tees) to audition without the potentially prohibitive experience of travel to London or Reading, this collaboration reflects an ongoing commitment from both schools to ensure their auditions and training opportunities are as accessible as possible. In short, they are coming to you!
Fourth Monkey and READ College will be bringing their panel to two regional locations; The Crescent in Belfast, on Sunday, 26 April* and ARC Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees on Saturday, 2 May* for a free, full audition day at each venue to be shared between both schools. Prospective students can expect to be in attendance from around 10am-6pm and, during this time, will be given an insight into both drama schools’ respective approaches to training.
Jamie Read, joint Chief Executive at Read College says: “With most ‘top’ performing arts colleges being based in London, all too often there are pockets of areas from around the UK that are under-represented within them. In an attempt to ensure that ALL young people who have ever dreamt of performing are given the chance to train, we are delighted to be bringing a collaborative audition panel to Belfast and Stockton-on-Tees providing ‘Access To The Arts’ for all.”
Read College provides Foundation Training for students wishing to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, whether purely as an actor or as a triple-threat (acting, singing, dancing) performer. Their intensive vocational courses are unique in their approach, with students able to study full-time on their two-year vocational 6th Form in Performing Arts, one-year Foundation Course in Musical Theatre or their one-year Foundation Course in Acting.
Steve Green, CEO and Artistic Director at Fourth Monkey said; “2020 is our ten-year anniversary and as we look forward to the next decade, we want to ensure our auditions and ultimately the school are as accessible as possible. It is why we decided to abolish all audition fees in September 2019, it is why we will be providing a number of travel bursaries for any recalls offered following regional auditions and it is why we are proud to be joining in this collaborative endeavour to bring our panel to Belfast and Stockton-on-Tees with READ College to make sure that accessibility truly starts at audition.”
Fourth Monkey is taking its innovative, ensemble-focused approach to actor training to Belfast and Stockton-on-Tees, where prospective students will be able to audition for both programmes offered by the London-based drama school; the BA (Hons) Acting accelerated two-year degree and the Year of the Monkey one-year intensive actor training programme.
Anyone wishing to take advantage of this exciting free audition should register in advance at www.fourthmonkey.co.uk/training/regional-auditions and select their preferred date via the electronic application form, or at www.readcollege.org via the ‘Apply Now’ link.
*Due to the current health crisis, please confirm the published dates have not been cancelled or postponed prior to attending any audition events.
I think about auditions a lot. I know how difficult it is for school students, often lacking any sort of professional advice, to audition effectively for drama school. So they fail – repeatedly and it may not be for lack of talent or ability. And on top of that they have to pay audition fees. The hurdles, for some, must feel insurmountable.
Two pieces of good news (well, three actually) on the auditions front have crossed my desk this week.
First I learned that Dorset School of Acting is teaming up with The Actors Centre in Covent Garden to run a one-week how-to-audition course in August (5 – 9 inclusive). It costs £400 but that’s a fraction of the price of a one-year foundation course to get the same information. And Dorset School of Acting has an excellent track record in getting students into drama schools including. RADA, LAMDA, RCSSD, RBC, BOVTS, E15, ALRA, GSA, RCS, LIPA, Italia Conti and Arts Ed. James Bowden and his colleagues really know what they’re talking about.
Second there was a very welcome announcement that Leeds College of Music is dropping audition fees for all its courses. Well, we need a few colleges to take this line and perhaps others will follow suit. Some of the big colleges, including drama schools and music conservatoires, are making large sums of money from audition fees and it’s a scandal.
When I tweeted my approval of the Leeds College of Music decision, Mark Griffin, Head of Humanities and Drama at St Mary’s University Twickenham, contacted me – and this is the third bit of good news – to say that all his auditionees receive a full audition process with panel, feedback and group workshop. “We see four hundred actors a year for seventy places. We’ve never charged audition fees.” Mark tells me. “It [charging fees] goes against our commitment to inclusivity and nurturing talent regardless of background.”
So you see: It can be done. Nearly every other provider of vocational training in the land,
By Amanda Davey
Established in 1978, The Actors Centre is the UK’s leading artistic and professional development organisation supporting actors and creatives throughout their journeys/careers. Through a programme of diverse workshops, masterclasses, company projects and conversations (led by renowned practitioners from the worlds of theatre, film and television) The Actors Centre provides an essential space in the heart of the west end for artists to network, to share, to create, to thrive.
We deliver an eclectic mix of original, evocative, diverse and challenging opportunities to assist actors and creatives in developing and honing their craft. At the core of our organisation is a commitment to supporting artists – facilitating opportunities for emerging, as well as established, artists and companies.
Our flagship space, the Tristan Bates Theatre (estab. 1994) has become a celebrated off-West End venue, soon to be presenting high-quality work alongside UK, European and world premieres of plays and musicals. The John Thaw Studio, which stages the John Thaw Initiative, will see the introduction of one-week runs for work-in-progress productions, which will also include free rehearsal space prior to first performances, as well as access to the management team at The Actors Centre for advice and guidance. This unique space hopes to open doors for creativity and be a vital testing ground for provocative and engaging new work, which may otherwise go unheard and unseen in today’s divisive political climate.
This is an incredibly challenging time for the arts and the country more broadly. In moments of despair and division, the creative industries have the power to bring people and communities together, contributing to social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development. The creative industries are also of growing importance to the economy, and in the UK are now worth more than £100 billion annually and employ more than three million people. There are of course major concerns following Brexit; freedom of movement for artists, and the government’s recent decision to withdraw from the EU Creative Europe programme, decisions that will sadly have ramifications for generations of artists and audiences.
The industry has changed beyond recognition over the last ten to twenty years, people access it in different ways, and there is quite rightly and belatedly a recognition that talent is found in a variety of different pools. The way in which we perceive art has also changed, in part due to the advancements in digital technologies, we have become a society that consumes, culture has become a product, to provide entertainment, or generate tourism, there is a perception that to be successful one needs to be selling, either themselves or their work.
As public subsidy to the arts is reduced, and the social, moral and cultural value of the arts is underplayed, or neglected, creative organisations find themselves conflicted. To continue benefitting from monies invested from central, and/or local government, match funded through trusts and foundations, in order to prove themselves to be both relevant and resilient they increasingly become the gatekeepers to success, they programme according to taste and sales as opposed to art and artistry. The outcome of which is that both organisations and artists are increasingly less likely to be subversive, to take creative risks, through fear of losing funding by having monies reduced or cut completely.
Those studying pay an extortionate amount of money annually in terms of training; there are now thousands of students in drama schools, in further, higher, or continuing education, they are paying for a service and, as such, expect a return on their investment. That return is success (whatever each individual deems success to mean for them). There is an expectation of instant gratification, of fame rather than artistry which, being a graduate means immediate employment rather than acknowledging that it is just the start of the journey, one needs to hone one’s craft, to develop, to find one’s niche, to be creative.
It is against this backdrop that I take over as Chief Executive of The Actors Centre, a daunting but incredibly exciting prospect. I don’t sit here and cast aspersions of everyone else from a position of supposed power. As an organisation, we too need to refocus our thinking, and realign our programme. There is a huge legacy, and lots of good work and examples to follow however, as an organisation we also need to acknowledge that we have not always gotten it right. We haven’t conversed with, listened to, or adapted in times of change. I hope that, along with the team, and the wider Actors Centre family, including those not yet engaged, we will start to practice what we preach. I would like the result of this will be that The Actors Centre becomes a place for actors/artists to make work, to take creative risks, to collaborate, to fail, to be radical and to develop one’s craft. I hope that it is not only a space that reflects and responds to the sector, but is a space in which our members can learn how to navigate and thrive in these often difficult times, but essential industry. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that at The Actors Centre, our doors are always open!