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Try drama teaching: be the inspiration behind tomorrow’s performers

Lizi Patch teaching members of the City Varieties Youth Theatre at the Leeds Grand Theatre Lizi Patch teaching members of the City Varieties Youth Theatre at the Leeds Grand Theatre
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Love performing, but don’t want to act? Or do you just need a side hustle? Freelance teaching could be a fulfilling temporary, or even permanent, profession to supplement your bank balance. Samantha Marsden explains

Working as a freelance performing arts teacher is rewarding, creative and fun, and pays around £25 to £30 an hour. Working hours can be anything from one hour to 60 hours a week, and it can be a flexible way to earn a living while training, auditioning and/or performing. It can also be a very satisfying career for those who love the arts, but do not want to be performers.

What if I’ve never taught drama before?

Actors, singers and dancers tend to make excellent teachers: charisma, energy, passion and the ability to improvise are all assets in the classroom. You do not need to have any teaching qualifications or experience to be a freelance teacher. But you do need an eagerness to learn and a passion for helping young people. You will also need to develop some good classroom management techniques as this is where many performers can fall short when faced with a class of their own.

Seamus Allen, a freelance drama teacher and director of the Young Company at the Watermill Theatre, explains: “For people really new to this, if you’re a performer and you have some years of training behind you, you can teach. If all you do at the beginning is recycle your workshops from college, do that. You’ll actually learn a whole lot about your own education. You don’t need anything extra (other than your CRB check). Be yourself.”

He adds: “Don’t divorce yourself as a professional performer from yourself as a drama facilitator. They’re not two separate things. Allow one to inform the other and take both just as seriously. You’ll grow as an artist.”

Seamus Allen teaching at Reed College. Photo: Mark Dawson
Seamus Allen teaching at Reed College. Photo: Mark Dawson

Training options

If a school offers you a freelance teaching job, it may offer you some training before you start. Both Perform and Bigfoot tend to train their teachers before they put them on the job. Or the school may give you a chance to watch other classes so you can learn from other teachers.

However, it can also be very useful to take a course. The National Association of Youth Theatres offers a youth theatre practitioner training weekend called Raising the Game. This is a long-established training event for youth theatre directors, practitioners, freelances and assistants working with a variety of groups in a youth theatre context. The next course will run in Northampton on September 22 and 23, costing between £60 and £70 dependent on your age and the time of booking.

Great Oaks Education offers one-day courses for £275; these include managing behaviour in creative arts subjects and teaching outstanding drama lessons.

Where can I teach?

Many part-time theatre schools are specifically looking for performers, or teachers, to inspire students. These include franchises such as Stagecoach, Razzamataz, the Pauline Quirke Academy, Bigfoot and Theatre Bugs. There are also many independent groups, after-school drama clubs and youth theatres that will take on freelance performing arts teachers. It’s also possible to start up your own after-school singing, drama or dance club within a state or private school. There are many schools, primary schools especially, which are on the lookout for specialist teachers to run extra-curricular clubs, especially outside of London.

Finding freelance teaching work outside of London tends to be easier than in London. In the capital, there are many drama school students and graduates keen to take on teaching work, making competition for jobs fierce. If you live in London you may want to consider commuting to suburban areas.

Can I audition and teach?

Most of the working hours as a freelance teacher are out-of-school hours. Many schools welcome performers, although they vary on whether they are willing to give them time off for auditions and jobs. Ben Ashton, actor and freelance drama teacher, has been teaching and acting since he graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School 10 years ago. While at BOVTS, he would travel home every weekend to teach at Starmaker Theatre Company is professional acting work has included jobs for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the BBC and Guildford Shakespeare. As a freelance drama teacher he’s worked for Shiplake College, the Marist School and Kingsclere Performing Arts College.

Starmaker Theatre Company production of Fame, directed by Ben Ashton
Starmaker Theatre Company production of Fame, directed by Ben Ashton

Ashton explains: “It can be difficult to juggle a teaching and acting career as you are required to drop things at the last minute due to castings that come through the day before, or professional acting work. I’ve found it’s always best to be honest and open with your employer and parents/students that this can happen and to be flexible where possible.

“I’ve been fortunate that the schools I work at teaching the LAMDA syllabus have been very accommodating in allowing me to go off to castings and on to professional work sometimes lasting up to six months. These establishments like the fact that they have a professional actor working with them, who still works in the acting industry, as it inspires the students and keeps the skills current and keeps them aware of what is happening now within the industry.”

Life as a freelance teacher

The work is varied. You can teach a range of age groups in a variety of different settings. And it’s likely you will be planning and teaching group lessons, giving private tuition and directing shows.

Pippa Anderson, a freelance voice coach, explains: “Working as a freelance voice teacher and coach is the best decision I ever made. I am in charge of my schedule, it isn’t in charge of me.” She adds: “It’s important to stay industry savvy and keep a foot in the professional world. This way you can bring the industry knowledge right back into the teaching studio.”

Sharing your skills

Sharing your performing arts skills can inspire students, help them reach their goals, and give them a place to be creative and explore the arts. Not only does teaching benefit the student, it can also benefit the teacher.

Lizi Patch has been a freelance drama teacher/practitioner for 30 years. She says: “It’s truly a two-way process. We learn together. I provide the expertise and they refresh my expertise and practice every time I get into a class or session. I get told time and time again from the young people I work with that being involved in drama improves (among other things) their self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, independent thinking, mental health, physical fitness, relationships and communication skills. It does the same for me.”

For further information on the National Association of Youth Theatres go to: nayt.org.uk

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