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ArtsEd director of school of acting Julie Spencer: ‘Steal what works for you and make it your own’

Julie Spencer. Photo: Ethan Spencer-Farquharson

How did you start in theatre?
As an actor in the late 1980s.

What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
You are enough, so be fearless.

What would you change about training in the UK?
I want to decolonise the curriculum, look at how we teach what we teach and employ more permanent non-white teaching staff

What is the best part of your job?
I love working with the students.

And your least favourite?
Assessments. We ask the students to not be afraid of failing and then we set up this entire framework that dangles a potential ‘fail’ over their heads.

Which practitioners do you admire the most/who should students look up to?
We should be magpies across different cultures. I pinch from African and Asian movement and breath training and mix it up with Chekhov and a dash of Mike Alfreds. As for “looking up to”, I’m not sure I’d advocate that. I tell students to have respect for all approaches to the training. Observe, steal what works for you and then make it your own.

What is the one skill that every successful theatre professional should have?
Knowing and remembering how to play.

You believe that students working on classical texts such as Shakespeare as part of their training is still very important, even today. Why is that?
There’s no subtext in Shakespeare, so as an actor you have nowhere to hide, emotionally, vocally or physically. You just can’t. You have to be fearless.

Julie Spencer was talking to John Byrne

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