Last week I attended a very interesting discussion with four trainers from different backgrounds and points of view. There was an enormous, humbling amount of expertise and experience in the room.
The key question was are we training drama (and other performance students) to work in the industry as it is now – or are we behind the times and training them for how it used to be?
Do drama schools and other training providers do enough, for example, to develop entrepreneurial skills so that graduates can create their own work and produce and market it?
I was immediately reminded of Filskit Theatre Company. It consists of a small group of young women, graduates of the European Theatre Arts BA course at Rose Bruford. They are rapidly developing a distinctive style involving imaginative micro-projection and are now busy developing their second touring show.
“We do this because we are passionate about creating work and would rather do that than wait for the phone to ring with the offer of dull work,” one Filskit member told me. She added, interestingly given my recently expressed view that schools are turning out too many performers for an already saturated market: “And there were so many students on the ETA course that year that it made us self-sufficient.”
A number of schools – well aware of the growing need and initially in the face of opposition – now teach devised and or collaborative theatre as a degree option. CSSD, for example, offers a BA Hons in Devised and Collaborative Theatre as one of the “pathways” through its main Acting degree.
Birmingham School of Acting covers some of the same ground in its BA (Hons) in Applied Performance (Community and Education), as does the BA (Hons) in Acting and Community Theatre at East 15. Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts has a BA (Hons) course in Community Drama too. And those are just a handful of examples plucked almost at random. There are plenty of others.
But, having learned all that, does the training tend to make students passive and lacking in the get-up-and-go skills needed to produce and market their own work? Well there’s clearly not much passivity in the Filskit Theatre Company.
Are they unusual? Jeremy Stockwell, who teaches at RADA, thinks that they may be – which is why he and colleagues are starting Red Thread in January, which I wrote about in The Stage recently. He intends, in a one year course, to develop both work creation and business management skills alongside acting technique so that his trainees leave equipped to manage themselves and their companies as businesses.
So what are your experiences? Are you a recent graduate busy making work and do you really know how to manage the whole thing from start to finish? Did your training equip you with the skills you need? Or are you waiting for the phone to ring?
Please get in touch – comments on this blog or find me on Twitter @SusanElkinJourn – and let me know.