Issue: Does Training/Education in Theatre merely promote elitism in the field – and is this necessarily a bad thing?

Convener(s): Michael Spencer

Participants: Giuls Driver, Yannis Blaaskas, Dan King, Lianne Howard-Dace, Aaron Minnigin, Paron Mead, Harun Morrison, Pooly Moseley, Mathilde Lopez, Danny Bravesman, Ben Neale

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The discussion centred around the main question – as opposed to the rider.

Provocation: would there be better theatre without any education or training in the subject?

On the negative side many felt that education/training (e/t) tended to promote what was established as opposed to what was innovative, although there were signs that this was changing. The ending of student grants was also a factor in creating a potentially elitist group of practitioners, although the recent Wider Participation government initiatives – 50% of population in HE target might help this – but how are these potential students going to be pulled into an elitest system???

Most felt the e/t institutions merely reflected an elitist industry. Acting training at RADA has much more kudos than that at Exeter Uni (for example) – but are they necessarily ‘better’’ actors – the industry seemed to think so. The tail wags the dog – ie. The e/t institutions are shaped by the need to be seen to feed the existing industries.

There was criticism of e/t institutions which generally labelled students coming in for a role which they may or may not develop within (a straight jacket?) – although training for actors at Drama Schools seemed to be apart from this in that the students wanted to be actors and actors only when they came out, as opposed to other t/e institutions where the students wanted a degree and therefore the education aspect was more important than the training aspect. How would WP impact on this trend – would more students come in wanting to do the subject because they were passionate about it rather than expecting to get a job in the end?

A participant who was working in the field without any formal training spoke of the difficulty in not being able to speak the same creative language as others. The notion of Talent being associated with qualifications was challenged.

Most thought however that t/e was important and valid – why?

  • it creates a space for students to meet other people and be exposed to new ideas
  • it provides a space to fail
  • social value (right of passage)
  • skills that can be transferred to other fields of activity

How could e/t institutions be better and stop the promotion of elitism?

  • take away the emphasis on labels/roles in theatre e/t
  • orientate students to the outside world more in terms of empowering them to make their own work (make applying for funding a project…)
  • target mature students (a career in theatre is a marathon, not a sprint)
  • consider audiences more – not just preach to the converted of an audience within the e/t institution
  • take more diverse people as teachers/mentors – not just those who were ex-students and promote the past (the ‘old boys network’)

I think that’s it – kind of……thanks to everyone.