My son has always been interested in performing. As he is now almost 16, he is hoping to get on to a course that will help him focus even more on acting and singing as his future career.
I was all set to encourage and support him in this before the Covid-19 situation threw a spanner in the works that none of us were expecting. I know nobody could have predicted that a pandemic or the lockdown would occur, but it is an absolute shame that it happened at such a crucial stage of his education.
I don’t want my son to lose out or be held back, so can you please advise me on how to keep things moving and find him the right course, even in this difficult situation.
Having a career plan and a supportive family is helpful in giving any performer direction, but I have yet to meet a performer whose career has gone entirely to plan. Learning to cope with unexpected challenges, whether personal or – as in this case – global, is part and parcel of building the resilience that performers need to sustain their careers.
The first thing I would suggest is still possible, even in lockdown. Start researching all the courses and colleges available to you either locally or within reasonable reach. The next step – visiting the colleges and attending open days is, for obvious reasons, less of an option. Given the sterling work many colleges are already doing in relation to online teaching, if restrictions around travel and public assembly haven’t been relaxed by the time open days season rolls around, it wouldn’t surprise me if virtual ways of hosting taster events are developed.
There are questions I always encourage prospective students to ask. Questions such as how many graduates from recent years got into drama school or progressed to theatre-related courses at university, or how many are currently working in the performing arts are key ones to ask each institution. With judicious use of social media and online parent forums, you may also be able to get independent reviews from current and former students.
Even if things do return to normal in the short term, none of us can be sure that intermittent lockdowns won’t become a regular feature of life for at least the next year or two. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to ask what arrangements colleges have in place for remote teaching and what strategies they are considering should this be needed on a longer-term basis. Admissions departments should be able to offer tips on navigating application processes, whether they involve online auditions or personal statements.
You can do your bit to help, not just by encouraging aspiring students to take advantage of the vast array of online theatre currently available, but by asking questions to help them analyse and reflect on what they have seen, and relate it to their own interests and preferred career direction. Any decent drama or theatre course won’t assess entrants on talent alone, but also on whether their aspirations and abilities are a good match for the specifics of that particular curriculum. The better you and your son understand what each individual course offers, the better position he will be in to link that passion to the courses he would like to take.