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Essex college launches UK’s first world performance degree

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East 15 Acting School has launched the UK’s first world performance degree programme, which aims to combine practical training with an understanding of global performance techniques.

The new BA, set to be introduced in September 2008 at the acting school in Loughton, Essex, will look at theatre, dance-drama, masks, music and dance from Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America.

Established by East 15 director Leon Rubin, who has been artistic director for venues such as Bristol Old Vic, Belfast’s Lyric Theatre and the Watford Palace Theatre as well creating shows internationally, the course aims to move away from “western-centred teaching”.

Rubin told The Stage: “The challenges faced today are not the same as they were 45 years ago, when they were about class, style and making sure people could go to theatre from all backgrounds, [making it clear that] you didn’t have to be highly educated to go, and the actors themselves didn’t have to come from a particular background or class. Today the challenge is different, it’s about different cultures, different people, different audiences. I think it’s time someone in the UK did it.”

The world performance course will explore history, religion, architecture, and philosophy to give students a deeper understanding of international performance – and partnerships are currently being established with theatres in Moscow, Bali and Thailand. Open to 20 people, who will be given entry through a standard audition process, the degree is aimed at those who do not want to be “traditional, professional actors”.

Rubin added: “They will want to be performers some of them, but they won’t think of themselves as working in a normal text-based repertory theatre. They will go out and change the world, and this will enable them to do that because there is a strong creative element, and they will make their own projects as performers, writers and directors, as well as learning the traditional skills.”

An MA programme in world performance is expected to be in place within a few years, and according to Rubin future projects for the acting school, which is part of Essex University, will include setting up a virtual theatre and creating courses for one-man film makers.

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