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Actors Jam director Stephanie T Clarke: ‘Lack of diversity makes me question whether the arts are for all’

Stephanie T Clarke

How did you start off in theatre?

I developed my craft at institutes such as Identity School of Acting, Battersea Arts Centre [1] and Cardboard Citizens [2]. In 2016 I became a young associate at Ovalhouse [3]. Under the guidance of then head of youth arts Naomi Shoba, I was pushed and supported to create bold, new work and given the space to produce, direct and perform.

What would you change about drama training in the UK?

The absence of diversity across all platforms. I feel that minority ethnic performers are heavily under-represented in the industry, especially within drama schools. When I was auditioning for drama schools, there were always just one or two minority photos on the alumni board. It’s disheartening to see and makes me question if the arts are really tailored for all.

What is the best part of your job?

Actors Jam is a community-based theatre company providing free training for minority ethnic actors and writers aged 16-25. It’s become a platform of healing for writers and a platform of free political expression. It’s beautiful to see young performers’ growth and their journey from auditions to our showcase.

And your least favourite?

The lack of funding to be able to put on major productions. We work with what we have and make the best out of it.

Who should students look up to?

There are some amazing practitioners that have helped me along the way and I really admire their work. To name a few: Naomi Shoba, Craig Blake, Ruben Braithwaite, Karena Johnson and Boris Witzenfeld.

What is the one skill that every successful actor should have?

Networking. It’s so important to make connections.

What is the best piece of advice you have for drama students today?

In an industry where it’s so easy to drown, keep swimming. My faith has always been in God, which has kept me humbled and grateful. Keep creating, pushing and have faith that everything will work out in the end.

Stephanie T Clarke spoke to John Byrne