Launched this year, Get Into Theatre is a website that provides advice to people looking to make a career in the theatre industry. Outreach director Ahmet Ahmet answers some of the key questions posed by users of the site
Earlier this year, The Stage with the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, UK Theatre and the Society of London launched Get Into Theatre, an online resource to help you choose the right training options. Below are questions we are often asked by people looking to get into the theatre industry.
Should I choose a drama school?
Drama schools have been a popular way to begin a theatre career for many years. From onstage to backstage courses, they connect young people to agents, casting directors and theatre companies across the UK. The most obvious difference between theatre courses at universities and drama schools is the contact time. This means you have a timetable full of classes with more contact hours – the drama school approach is about training to do a job and getting a qualification at the same time.
How do I know if I fit into the ethos of a specific drama school?
The key questions here are: what kind of environment have you studied in before? Did you enjoy studying there? On first impressions, all drama schools might feel similar but, as you look into them further, you will see that they can be culturally quite different. There is no right or wrong culture – just the right one for you. There are some culturally traditional schools that are classical in their approach to training. Others use a more exploratory, independent process and like students to devise their own work. While some offstage courses are centred on nurturing craft, others might favour experiences within companies. It all depends on who you are, what kind of work you would like to produce and most importantly how you like to learn. The best thing to do is speak to some current students at an open day. By asking them what kind of work they do, what their classes look like and how their teachers teach them, you will better understand the school’s ethos and consider how it might suit you.
Can I apply for more than one course in the same drama school?
There is no general rule of thumb here. A lot of drama schools will embrace all of your different course applications and help you work out the right course for you. However, some drama schools will be interested in accepting people that have a commitment to a particular career in theatre. They are different to a more generalised theatre degree. It could make a far stronger application if you apply for one or two of the courses that are linked to what you believe you could potentially be doing. With a cost attached to each application, it also makes sense to be focused on your application choices. For example, if you are not sure of what backstage role you would like to do, it is far better to get some work experience before you apply to work out if a course in set design, stage management or producing is for you.
Is it all about performing?
No. If you think you might want to work in theatre, it makes sense to explore all potential career options before applying to drama school. You will be surprised how many people who think they want to be performers never explore what else the theatre sector might have to offer them. There are more non-performance jobs than onstage jobs available in theatre and they can often provide more sustainable careers. Where there is more demand, you are probably more likely to be in work. I advise you to consider the other jobs available in theatre to make an informed decision. After trying out various options, if being on stage is still your dream job then go for it.
Do I choose a more established drama school over a lesser-known institution?
Most drama school tutors are freelance and you could find that many tutors and creatives work across both established and lesser-known institutions. When people ask me what is the best course to study on, I always pose this question back – what are the alumni doing from each drama school? It’s a pretty good indicator of the kind of work you will likely be doing if you studied there.
Reputation within drama schools is everything. The drama school will be known for producing certain kinds of graduates. It’s less about choosing established or lesser-known drama schools and more about knowing what is possible for you after you graduate. If the alumni are doing the kind of work you would also like to do, you will know that drama school is right for you.
How much should I take into account the building and facilities of a drama school?
Firstly, you need to remember that you (even through a loan or scholarship) are paying for your experience at drama school. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to train for an on or offstage career. It is important that when you are training you have the professionally accurate, ‘real-world’ facilities you need to have an industry-standard experience. However, while a drama school has an attractive building, it does not necessarily mean the training is better. There is a difference between having an excellent space with equipment that helps you achieve your training aspirations and a building that is simply nice to be in.
Once you are confident the premises and facilities are of a sufficiently strong standard, I would be more inclined to consider whether the course is staffed adequately with experienced heads of department. This will ensure you have what you need to reach your full potential.
How can Get Into Theatre help me make my mind up about where to study?
Get Into Theatre is the UK’s top website for information on choosing drama schools, as well as highlighting funding and experience opportunities. You can find many courses based on what level you are looking to study, the location and the type of skills you have. It gives you information on experiences in drama schools, such as summer schools, and funding options that might be available. There are also blogs and videos that are designed to guide you to find your way into theatre. Many young people studying at drama school have said to me: “If only Get Into Theatre was around when I was applying for courses, I wouldn’t have to spend all that time searching.” Log on and have everything you need to choose a drama school at your fingertips.
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