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CU Scarborough and Stephen Joseph Theatre join forces to offer revolutionary training

Photo: Mark Lamb

[1]The acting industry is always changing, with new platforms, productions and performance styles constantly being created. It’s vitally important for acting courses to keep up with that evolution.

[2]A brand new course – the result of an exciting partnership between CU Scarborough [3] and Scarborough’s famous Stephen Joseph Theatre [4] – is doing just that. Based in the picturesque North Yorkshire seaside town, the three-year BA (Hons) in Acting offers a revolutionary vocational training programme. It’s affordable, accessible, and, crucially, up-to-the-minute.

“We’ve been really hard at work designing a course to reflect the contemporary acting world, rather than a stuffy one from a bygone era,” says Paul Robinson, artistic director of the SJT. “We want to equip actors with the best acting, vocal and technical training, on a par with the best drama schools, but within a more progressive curriculum. It’s all about turning out graduates who are as employable as possible.”

What makes the course so radical? Whereas most acting degrees deal solely with performance in theatre and television, the CU Scarborough programme widens the focus to include lucrative, emerging performance platforms – video gaming, vlogging, YouTubing, corporate role playing and more.

Graduates will leave not just equipped to tackle traditional theatre, but also to make money working in more modern contexts. As course co-deviser and acting tutor Paul Elsam says, “it’s an opportunity you simply won’t get in other drama courses”.

Stephen Joseph Theatre's Paul Robinson [5]
Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Paul Robinson

Elsam’s approach to acting draws heavily on the scientific study of moods. “Actors are storytellers, trying to affect people by moving them emotionally,” he explains. “So we asked: ‘what if actors were allowed to became real experts on emotions and moods and on how these things are generated in your body?’ That’s our focus: we’re going to study and explore feelings, and we’ll be doing so in depth and detail.”

But, he adds, there’s no need to feel apprehensive. “People who employ actors have become much more aware of the ethics and responsibilities of asking actors to access their own personal histories,” he says. “Our students will become emotion ‘experts’, but they’ll also get access to a unique technique for changing your moods, which allows them to be emotional, without needing to access any personal trauma.”

Paul Elsam [6]
Paul Elsam

Students will also benefit from a close relationship with the world-renowned in-the-round Stephen Joseph Theatre, home to legendary playwright Alan Ayckbourn.

“Students will become a massive part of the building,” says Robinson. “As part of the course, they will receive enhanced training from our members of staff and our associate artists. They will act on our stages and even have the opportunity to audition for our shows. There’s never before been a course in actor training so intrinsically linked to the professional world.”

“The UK is famous for its drama training, so we’re not too surprised at the level of interest in the course,” says Elsam. “The chilled vibe of a North Yorkshire lifestyle is a real attraction. People from all across the UK, the EU and further afield are taking advantage of our online, video application process.”

CU Scarborough and the Stephen Joseph Theatre are committed to keeping the course as accessible and affordable as possible. They’ve abolished all audition fees – often a financial barrier to applicants – and the course tuition fees themselves are lower than the sector norm.

“It’s a course that everybody can apply for,” says Diana Logan, associate director of the SJT. “Everybody can have a fair crack of the whip. We’re looking for difference. We’re looking for people who can think outside the box. We’re looking for people that are inspired not just by theatre, but by other areas of performance.”


For more information about the BA (Hons) in Acting, including how to apply, visit coventry.ac.uk [7]