Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Dicky Benfield is in his 40s and has worked in the West End, at the NT, the Globe, and in theatres around the country, as well as regular TV appearances
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management
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 and television
Jenny Talbot is 39 and has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV and film
Jenny My origins are in amdram here. It goes way back to my grandparents being involved, then my parents, then me.
Charlotte I danced, did drama in and out of school, youth theatre and amdram.
Beryl I did lots of plays and concerts at infant and junior school, then drama was cut at my comprehensive.
Albert I did a play in the infants’ school. I made people in my class do it with me and we put it on together. My memory tells me it lasted half an hour, but I suspect five minutes was nearer the truth. I liked it when they clapped.
Jenny I liked it when they laughed.
Ros Most of the school stuff – until later – was acting, not stage management.
Charlotte Me too.
Jon When did you make the switch, Ros and Charlotte?
Ros GCSE year, I think.
It all comes down to one particular teacher. She’s still a great friend
Charlotte When I reached GCSE and was asked to help the A-level theatre students with their practical work. Although apparently I told someone at the age of three that I wanted to be a deputy stage manager.
Dicky It all comes down to one particular teacher. She mapped out six years of my life. No one in my family had even been in further education. I followed her advice to the letter. She’s still a great friend.
Jon I was a theatre brat. Both my parents were in the business and so was my older sister. When I was at primary school, I was in the same class as a kid whose mother worked at LAMDA. I ended up playing Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale aged seven. Apparently after the last show I stood outside the theatre sobbing: ‘Nothing wil ever be as good again’, and my parents were like: ‘Oh no, we’ve got an actor.’
Jenny Did you feel much pressure in the family to go into the business?
Jon I felt pressure not to.
Beryl I have a parent in the biz – but they didn’t train until I was about seven. Then I really got the bug.
Charlotte My careers tutor at school was amazing. I had no idea how to become a stage manager and she really helped guide me.
Albert My grammar school spent seven years persuading me I was too intelligent to become an actor and wanted me to do Oxbridge, but I had my heart set on drama school.
Ros I was a total surprise. No one on either side of my family had been in the industry or were that interested in the arts. But I was obsessed from such an early age.
Jon My parents insisted that both my sister and I got academic degrees and said that we could always do postgraduate training. The result was that neither of us went to drama school. I’m glad in a way. I think university dissuaded me of my conviction that I was the greatest actor the world had ever seen a lot more gently than drama school would have.
Beryl Being around mum’s drama student friends was fun, they all played brilliantly. I really liked these people – they were happy.
Ros I have to forever give thanks to my GCSE/A-level drama teachers and my sixth-form head. They taught me what stage management was and also told me that drama school existed.
Jenny I was lucky that drama schools started doing degrees the year before I went or I’d have had to go to uni too.
Charlotte I did all my training on the job and didn’t go to drama school. I’m not sure if that helped or hindered me.
Dicky Careers people were dead against it for me and suggested the army! I can’t even be told how to stack the dishwasher, never mind be ordered to do something.
Beryl I was encouraged to apply to the new soft toy factory because I was ‘artistic’.
Ros I had no idea drama school existed. I was never planning to go into any further education as I didn’t think it was for me.
Jenny My teachers thought I was crazy going to drama college and the head of sixth form tried to get me to apply to university as she thought a career in acting was unrealistic. She wrote me a letter when I did my first West End job apologising for it.
Beryl A great eccentric English teacher encouraged a bunch of us who had joined the local amateur group to do Shakespeare with her, in our spare time. We just read – never performed – but seeds were sown.
Dicky I love an eccentric teacher.
Albert I was amazed when I got to drama school that there were students in my year who had only just decided to become an actor – they had not always wanted it.
Jon On the few occasions I’ve been asked to talk to young actors, I’ve always reminded them that 99% of professional actors were the best actor at school.
Albert Good line. I always remind them that 99% of them will not be doing this by the time they’re 40.
Ros I remember a conversation with my careers adviser who, when I described what a stage manager did, said to me: “So I think you want to be a secretary.”
Dicky It’s now ‘a thing’ to study drama. sSo many of my daughter’s friends want to do it. At our school we were the freaks.
Beryl That’s it – we were the freaks. Now, anyone can be a freak.
Jenny I worry about people going into our business to be ‘famous’ because of Britain’s Got Talent. You have to go through a bit of adversity to get the determination to keep going.
Albert I think it’s too easy now. You can get into drama school easily. It’s getting into a good one that is the problem.
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