Convener(s): Jim Pope

Participants: Rebecca Brown, Amelia Bird, Mark Griffin, Dan Marsden, Rich Rusk, Michael Dempsey, Charlotte C, Ande(?), Oliver Senton, Katherine Lamprell

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

My reason for convening the discussion was due to my personal experience of drama school training, which involved being taught several disciplines I had no interest in pursuing. They were considered valuable due to their diversity and the possibilities made available for me to pursue. I now work in both theatre and education. I have been responsible for setting up training courses in the community and am genuinely unsure about the role college has to play in the life of an artist.

Involved in the discussion were those who had followed a conventional path through FE college and accredited drama school before working in theatre, those who are currently at and those who are soon to attend drama school (both accredited conventional and alternative arts courses,) those who teach in further and higher education and those who work in theatre having received no formal training.

The question was thought to be subjective and perhaps not the right one to ask. The short answer is “you don’t.” We decided to carry on talking never the less.

Rebecca, who did not go to drama school, has worked in theatre both in England and abroad. She said her feelings alternated between resent at having missed out on the opportunity and gratitude at having had to make her own discoveries.

These feelings were also felt by Rich, 23, who, having worked and played in theatres since the age of 8 has been involved in many aspects of acting, directing, lighting design and writing. He felt that he would not have been offered the same rich variety of experience in a drama school but still feels insecure at times, due to his lack of training.

Oliver, who had a classical training from an accredited drama school spoke about the many valuable skills taught from people who, themselves work in the industry. He extolled the virtues of a diverse training, which has allowed him to choose from what he found useful and develop his own craft. His work since graduating has spanned many forms of theatre from conventional text based to devised, experimental work.

Dan who is currently attending a lesser known, alternative performance arts forms course thought that a key reason to attend college was that it offered a financial safety net of sorts, during which time mistakes could be made without fear of failure.

Members of the group wondered whether all creative ventures should be undertaken without fear of failure.

Amelia and Rich had no training and are founder members of a theatre company. They had received some arts council funding for their work but having applied a second time were told that they did not qualify for funding due to a lack of degree level qualifications. The fact that Rich had multiple roles within the company made it very difficult to fit into the arts council’s remit. A role as part director, part lighting designer part performer was problematic in terms of funding.

Mark, who has trained at a drama school, worked briefly as an actor, then a director and now teaches drama full time at an FE college, said there is a very noticeable difference between a trained and a non - trained actor. Technically, vocal skills in particular were present in actors who had received training.

Phelim, creator with Improbable sat in for a while. He said that sometimes students asked him which drama school they should apply to go to and he was always tempted to say “none of them.” In an ideal world, training would support people to believe in the artist and encourage them to ask; “what are the new forms I can make?”

Michael, who is about to become a mature student at the age of 31 and has enrolled to study at LISPA thinks that the majority of performance arts colleges are not set up for creative success and that students are led to believe they will get something that is not really available. He made a distinction between creative success and commercial success and expressed concerns that the theatre will not evolve if drama schools prepare students for a set model of theatre, rather than to make their own.

Mark said; “I don’t think we know as teachers how to set people up for theatre.”

Ande(?) said that teaching in an FE college, she was confronted continuously by students who weren’t interested in what was being taught and whose highest ambition was to be on pop idol.

Mark said there is a defensiveness and a bitterness behind the question which needs to be addressed, There needs to be more dialogue between students and colleges which is more possible now than it was ten years ago and needs to go a lot further. A useful exercise would be if budding theatre practitioners were to go to colleges and say to them; “I would be interested in coming to you if you could offer me…………”