How did you start off in theatre?
At a family-run youth theatre, which led to directing and writing. I spent many years composing musical theatre.
What’s your best advice for students today?
“To thine own self be true” – trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it is. Create your own definition of success. The one you have inherited is faulty.
What would you change about training?
Education should be free: it is a social good. A decent liberal arts education empowers people to be happy, healthy and find their own place in the world. Secondly, we need artists who can think across disciplinary boundaries, not be constrained by them. This is no excuse for sloppiness – you can still offer rigorous training with an inclusive mindset.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing students realise their potential. Often, they’ve had years of not being listened to, or being told they are wrong or incapable – particularly those who have been excluded from the mainstream. Yet these are the people who often have the most valuable and exciting perspectives to share with the world.
And your least favourite?
Increasing government interference in, and hostility towards, higher education.
Which practitioners should students look up to?
I would advise students to look to those artists who wish to engage in an honest conversation, rather than perpetuate debilitating myths – then they should go out and do their own thing.
What skill should every successful theatre professional have?
The ability to produce one’s own work. Why sit around waiting for the world to call?
What would you do differently if you were starting out now?
Listen more, be more open to opportunities that don’t at first glance seem relevant to my game plan, and trust my instincts. I hope I would be quicker to ask for help and gentler with those around me.
Alex Loveless is course leader, BA Acting and Theatre-Making at London College of Music, University of West London. He was talking to John Byrne