Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked professionally as an actor on fringe projects and with young people, and more recently as a writer
Ros Clifford, 30, is a deputy stage manager. She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre
Jenny Talbot is 39, with nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV and film
Jenny No. I sometimes go for singing lessons – but it’s been years.
Ros I did for the first time last year.
Peter No. And I’ve never had any training.
Jon There are different schools of thought on that one. I’ve noticed some older musical theatre actors are scandalised that younger performers don’t have regular singing and dance classes.
Peter I don’t do musical theatre. I couldn’t inflict that on the public.
Jenny I wonder if that’s because they have a more solid foundation of singing and dancing in their training now, Jon? It’s a relatively recent thing to have specific musical theatre courses. Well, in the last 25 years…
Eoghan I do go to classes occasionally. I went to several with casting directors immediately after drama school as a good way to meet some. I’ve tried a dance class, the odd singing lesson and improv drop-ins.
Beryl I don’t pay to attend any classes or workshops, but do a lot of development work on new writing, so I get to flex those muscles
in lots of different ways.
Ros The Stage Management Association offers classes and workshops, which I think is great.
Jon Ros, is anything mandatory for stage managers? Health and safety qualifications, that kind of thing?
Ros I’ve had stuff like manual handling training in the past.
Beryl I’ve had to train for specific things on jobs, but that’s generally been organised by the employer.
Ros I’ve also stage-managed some research and development workshops lately, which has been great – it’s something I want to do more.
Jon I’ve been asked about this topic more than any other in emails, which is interesting.
Albert Workshops are great for learning new skills. I’ve led lots but never been to one.
Peter Every time you work with a new actor or director it’s a sort of class. You learn.
Beryl When you’re starting out, I’d say do whatever you can.
Jenny It’s a big thing in New York. People go to classes and coaches for everything.
Albert I think it’s the getting together with other actors that is important. Singers can sing at home, dancers can stretch or go to the gym, but as an actor, reading plays aloud at home – it’s a bit like sex for one.
Jon I know quite a lot of people who host readings between jobs – with wine and snacks, that kind of vibe.
Beryl I remember wanting to go to certain classes when I was a recent graduate, but not being able to afford it.
Jon I’ve heard stories about people who have been to paid workshops with casting directors and then been called in for something. On the one hand that feels iffy, but on the other it gives CDs a chance to widen their networks.
Eoghan I think CDs or directors hosting workshops is a good thing, so long as they’re affordable and valuable. A Q&A session is bollocks. Working with sides, being redirected or put on film, and getting a proper experience of auditioning is fine.
Albert Casting director workshops are always full for exactly that reason. Everyone thinks they are going to be spotted.
Beryl Now, if I want to do a life drawing class, for example, I’m loath to sign up in case I get work that means I can’t finish the course.
Albert The Mono Box seems to have got it right. It offers workshops and networking and seems to have an integrity about it.
Peter Some classes are really useful – like how to do a self-tape.
Jon There are quite a few actors who run drama school-type independent classes now too, with showcases and so on.
Albert The Actors Centre, which is slap bang in the middle of Theatreland, never gets working actors from shows going through its doors. If it were in New York, it would be full of them, but it’s not. As an out-of-work actor, I spend my time focusing on work and getting it – not on doing workshops to pretend I’m working.
Beryl That’s it, Albert.
Eoghan They’re not always affordable. Occasionally, something will pop into my email inbox and it’s £50, £100 to go meet someone or do a scene and that just absolutely blows my mind. It’s unscrupulous.
Peter There are a lot of cowboys about.
Ros Extra training isn’t cheap…
Eoghan It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing, isn’t it? We need the work to have the money to afford stuff like this, but then maybe if I pay for this workshop with that money I don’t yet have, I’ll get the work…
Peter Let’s face it, the people doing the most classes are the ones doing the least work.
Beryl How do you know you’ll get your money’s worth?
Albert You don’t. Because we work in an unquantifiable profession.
Beryl Keeping fit is a good thing to do, but you don’t need to do classes.
Albert I think it’s great when actors get together to create work, to have a passion project, but acting for acting’s sake I have always found rather dubious, and that’s what a lot of workshops are. I’m pretty sure I can get through my life without another two hours of Meisner on a Wednesday afternoon.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email email@example.com