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MTA principal Annemarie Lewis Thomas: ‘I don’t want my college to be some elitist institution’

Annemarie Lewis Thomas. Photo: Leejay Townsend Annemarie Lewis Thomas. Photo: Leejay Townsend
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How did you start off in theatre? 

I trained as a ballet accompanist back home in Swansea and then did a BA in performing arts at Middlesex Poly. On graduating, I ran a theatre in education company with a friend writing mini-musicals for schools, working at the same time on the London fringe circuit.

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

Know yourself as well as know your craft.

What would you change about UK training? 

I’d regulate the industry and fund it more fairly. At the moment you can pay £27,000 for a degree course claiming to get you industry-ready, but contact hours can vary from six to 30 hours per week. Who is going to be industry-ready on such small contact hours? Funding should be based on tangible industry statistics and all colleges should take a whole-school approach to mental health. I’m really proud of everything that our mental health campaign #time4change achieved, but it was only ever meant to be the start of the conversation.

What is the best part of your job?

Going to work. You have the opportunity not only to help people realise their dreams, but also to be the best versions of themselves. I still write, so I get to be the ‘creative’ me too.

Read more stories about the Musical Theatre Academy

And your least favourite?

Constantly banging my head against a brick wall when it comes to funding. I feel like I’m in a one-sided penpal relationship with certain MPs.

Who should students look up to?

I wouldn’t dream of telling them who their hero should be. Mine include Diane Langton, Julia McKenzie, Tim Minchin and Imelda Staunton.

What is the one skill every successful theatre professional should have?

To listen and hear what isn’t being said.

What’s next for The MTA?

#50percent. It was always part of my vision to run a college with 50% scholarships. I am proudly working class, and have always been adamant that my college would not be some elitist institution.

Annemarie Lewis Thomas principal and chief executive of Musical Theatre Academy was talking to John Byrne

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