Do drama schools prepare performers for the world of work?

Alistair Smith
Alistair Smith is editor of The Stage. Having joined the publication on staff in 2004, he has also held the roles of reporter, news editor, opinion editor, deputy editor and print editor at The Stage and has written for publications ranging from The Guardian to Hello! Magazine. He is also the author of two major industry reports (the London Theatre Report and the Theatre Workforce Review) and a founder of the My Theatre Matters! campaign.
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I've been reading Julius Green's excellent book - How to produce a West End show - over my journeys in and out of the office over the last couple of weeks.

It really is a good read and well worth a look for anyone wanting to work in the theatre, not just people aspiring to be commercial producers like Julius, who works for Bill Kenwright Ltd.

One of the best things about the book is how opinionated Julius is about all aspects of the business, and there is a paragraph in the book that got me thinking this morning - not about the West End at all, but about drama schools and how well (or not) they are serving the industry.

Julius writes:

Much as they may be happy to talk about their work, there is a limit to the amount of time that producers can be expected to spend explaining exactly what it is they do, and drama schools must surely take on at least some of the responsibility for educating young performers on how to get the best out of the dynamic with their future employers. And while they're about it they could usefully spend a bit less time teaching their students how to find their 'motivation' and a bit more teaching them how to fill in a tax return and explaining to them how to go about booking digs. It is a constant source of amazement to me how ill-prepared for the exigencies of life drama school graduates can be...

If the above if a reflection of Julius' experience of actors fresh out of training, then I suspect it's one that is replicated for producers across the business.

But what about actors? Do you feel that your drama school experience has prepared you fully for being a jobbing actor? Or, did you find yourself wishing that your course had addressed a few more of the practical, mundane aspects of the trade?

After all, with the disappearance of the repertory companies, the opportunity for actors to 'learn on the job' has also diminished steadily over the years. Do drama schools need to do more to fill that gap?

How to produce a West End show is published by Oberon Books, priced at £14.99