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Guildford School of Acting lays foundation for success

Guildford School of Acting’s Musical Theatre and Acting Foundation programmes have been updated and revitalised this year, with new leadership from two specialists: Gerry Tebbutt and Michael Toumey, who bring more than 80 years of experience to musical theatre and acting respectively. Tebbutt was the former head of musical theatre at GSA and has returned specifically to run the Musical Theatre Foundation programme. Toumey has worked at GSA as both a tutor and director and has a successful career as a director outside of GSA. We spoke to them to find out more about the Foundation programmes.

What are the aims of the Foundation programmes? Who will they appeal to?

Gerry Tebbutt

GT: The Foundation programmes are designed to prepare students for the next phase of their journey with thorough and intensive training.

MT: They will appeal to anyone who doesn’t feel ready to do a BA in Musical Theatre or acting, or who perhaps hasn’t yet been successful in getting a place at one of the top conservatoires, including GSA. We will equip them with the skills they need to get where they want to be.

What training do the GSA Foundation programmes offer?

MT: In Acting, we study acting technique including text analysis, audition technique and core skills including improvisation, movement, dance, voice and group singing and acting for camera. This culminates in a showcase.

GT: We also train our Musical Theatre students in acting technique and audition technique, as well as dance, voice, singing and acting through song, again with a showcase.

As the new leaders of these programmes, how are you looking to develop them?

MT: The training is in-depth and incredibly demanding, really pushing students to be able to compete in the tough performance industry.

GT: Both Michael and myself are very aware of the current needs of the industry and so monitor new trends in musical theatre and acting. Of course, we impart information that is not only pertinent to their careers but also hopefully increases their chances when applying for three-year courses.

Why choose GSA over other schools?

Michael Toumey. Photo: Dean Whiting

MT: I have always loved the atmosphere at GSA; it’s like a family where everyone supports one another. The Foundation students are very much part of student life, particularly because they all live on campus. It is such a vibrant and friendly place.

GT: For me, it is the experience of the staff. Everyone has been out there in the industry and knows the kind of challenges students need to prepare for.

What are the benefits of being part of the University of Surrey?

GT: One of the great benefits of the Foundation programmes at GSA are that you get access to the university’s on-campus accommodation. You really feel like part of the university and get the full student experience.

MT: The university has an incredible range of facilities. There are so many things to do all the time – clubs, societies, sports, music events – it helps give you a wider experience and makes you a more rounded performer.

Where do you see this year’s cohort in 12 months’ time?

MT: Hopefully back auditioning and winning a place at GSA on a BA Acting, BA Musical Theatre or BA Actor Musician programme!

GT: The Foundation programmes introduce the students to all the other conservatoires. We have had students win places at RADA, LAMDA, East 15, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Mountview, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, to name a few, so it will be nice to see where this year’s cohort head to.

The next GSA Foundation Open Day/Audition Day is on February 12. To register, and to find out more about GSA’s Foundation programmes and apply, visit gsauk.org/courses/founation/

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