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Short acting courses to keep your career on track

Participants workshops at the Actors Centre

Whether you’re a school leaver embarking on a theatre career or a working performer who wants to top up on stage skills, part-time training can help you flex your acting muscles. Susan Elkin looks at the options offered by schools across the UK


Ongoing part-time training can help actors keep their acting muscles warm.

“Just as a musician needs to practise scales and an Olympian athlete needs to maintain fitness, so an actor needs to work out,” says Adam Stadius [1], who teaches alongside Stephanie Upsall and Laura Lindsay [2] as part of Both Feet Actor Training. “We understand how unpredictable an actor’s life can be so we’ve designed our training to fit round that uncertainty.”

Nobody learns everything they need to know for a whole career in three years at drama school. Some things may not be covered, while there are others in which the actor might become interested only later.

The industry’s needs change continuously too. At the moment, actor-musicians and those with puppetry skills are in high demand but those who trained some years ago may have had to acquire these skills along the way because they didn’t used to be taught much in the schools and colleges. In another 10 years, it is quite possible that something else, not yet anticipated by drama schools, will be in vogue.

Yet actors are human beings. Their instrument is themselves and their lives, both of which change all the time. Professional development in the form of part-time top-up training helps actors to adapt the way they work.

The UK tends to have a culture of regarding three years of training as the be-all and end-all of learning to be an actor. It’s different in the US, where working actors frequently continue to take classes or one-to-one tuition. Perhaps we need to change our mindset.

Stadius adds: “An actor should be constantly curious about his or her self and the surrounding world. Part-time training can often give an actor the best chance to explore both.”

Part-time training is also a useful alternative for actors at the beginning of their career who can’t afford to embark on full-time courses. The performing arts can be expensive to get involved in – the cost of headshots, Equity membership, subscriptions to casting sites and audition travel all add up.

Training part-time can give actors the space they need in their lives to live, work and further their acting career at the same time. It is available to more people who, for whatever reason, cannot access or commit to a full-time course.

More short courses to try out over the summer [3]

Part-time courses can be particularly helpful for school-leavers who are interested in an acting career but need to be absolutely sure before going down the full-time route. A summer school or evening class can be the experience that clinches the decision either way. And if it turns out not to be for you, a part-time course is a much cheaper way of finding out than starting full-time training and then realising you’ve made a mistake.

Participants in workshops at Arts Ed’s Easter courses. Photo: Tom Packer [4]
Participants in workshops at Arts Ed’s Easter courses. Photo: Tom Packer

Short Courses for Adults

The Actors Centre

A membership organisation for actors and other theatre workers, based in Covent Garden, London. Professional development opportunities include workshops for emerging and established actors. actorscentre.co.uk [5]

Actor in Session

Based at London’s Kensington and Chelsea College, its single-term courses are taught one evening or one weekend afternoon per week, focusing on either stage or screen acting. There are four courses at different levels. actorinsession.com [6]

Arts Educational Schools London

Arts Ed Musical Theatre Experience for over-17s provides a taster of musical theatre training for potential BA applicants – from July 23 to 27. artsed.co.uk [7]

Both Feet Actor Training

A range of Meisner-based courses including weekend courses, week-long intensives and weekly “gyms” where an actor can turn up and have a good workout. Courses take place in Leeds, Manchester and other cities. both-feet.co.uk [8]

Central St Martins, University of the Arts London

Acting for Absolute Beginners (July 16-20 and August 3-7) is one of a huge range of short courses run by the London institution. csm.arts.ac.uk [9]

City Lit

Evening and weekend courses offered at City Lit’s base in Covent Garden include acting, musical theatre and stage combat. citylit.ac.uk [10]

LAMDA

Introduction to Drama School is one of a range of courses for students over 16 at LAMDA in West London. The two-week course includes voice, movement, singing, acting and play building, running from July 23 to August 3. lamda.org.uk [11]

Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts

Currently based in Wood Green in north London, Mountview is moving to Peckham in south London in September. It runs parallel three-week summer ‘boot camps’ for over-17s in acting and musical theatre, from July 23 to August 10. mountview.org.uk [12]

RADA four-week Shakespeare School

This annual course, from July 18 to August 10, caters for “seasoned professionals, those who may be contemplating full-time drama training and people who simply wish to explore an interest in the craft”. It has no age limits. rada.ac.uk [13]

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Various courses for adults (over 18) are taught on the city centre campus, including The Natural Voice from July 17 to 20.  bcu.ac.uk [14]

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Offers more than 70 summer schools in Glasgow including Acting Shakespeare (for adults) and Directing for Theatre. rcs.ac.uk [15]

Look for training opportunities on The Stage website [16]