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Diversity issues at drama schools need to be addressed (your views, September 21)

Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts scored highest in our survey of percentage of BAME staff at drama schools
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It’s true that leading drama schools should be more forthcoming about their black, Asian and minority ethnic staff (Editor’s View, September 14) – and that student diversity can be affected by a lack of role models.

While I am pleased that Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts tops the chart, this is a complex issue: the hammer of a single statistic only bangs in one nail.

Let’s take, for instance, the regional dimension that plays into employment patterns. I have heard that LAMDA’s teaching staff are 95% part-time; ours are nearer 30%. In Liverpool, the level of creative and performing arts professional activity affects the pool from which we can appoint. Other considerations include the varying ethnic patterns in the local population and historical professional engagement patterns – I suspect no school employs anyone without considerable professional experience.

In case anyone gets the impression LIPA makes a special effort to employ BAME teaching staff, we don’t. Like other schools, we simply search for the best we can find.

Mark Featherstone-Witty
Founding principal and chief executive,
The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts Learning Group


Having auditioned for drama schools for two years running, I have recently been offered a place. However, I sense that diversity will never not be an issue in drama schools because of the way drama schools audition students.

When I spoke to an ex-drama school teacher, she told me that drama schools often audition students on the basis of whether they fit the role of a certain character in the final-year production. So, for example, if the school were proposing to perform the musical Grease, then they would be trying to cast the perfect Sandy or perfect Danny.

The lack of diversity is not just down to the type of work drama schools choose to do, but also a failure to recognise that actors of a different ethnicity will be able to pull off certain characters.

If diversity is denied at the audition stage of the training of an actor, I have little confidence that the industry is capable of changing.

Sunny Shah
Email address supplied


Given that the total population of minorities in England is about 12.9%, is it really surprising that there is a low amount of minorities in drama schools?

Culturally, white British people – who make up 87.1% of the population – are more likely to be drawn into UK theatre than those of a different cultural background. Can we really claim discrimination is at work here?

George Green
Via thestage.co.uk

Programmes should go digital

David Lister is right to say theatre programmes are useless (Opinion, September 14).

It is also a missed opportunity that venues are not producing digital ones – those that have tried it have merely produced PDFs of the same tired format. Technology could provide rich content in the form of interviews, clips from rehearsals and detailed web biographies.

Audiences could interact with the show. In return, the company would get a rich seam of data about who accesses their product.

Ken Parry
Via thestage.co.uk

Nurturing writers

I agree with Andrew Shepherd about funding new writing (Letters, July 27). It takes an enormous amount of effort to read and judge plays. Shepherd says 169 writers have debuted their work at Theatre503 in the past 18 months, so spare a thought for those who had to read everything submitted for consideration.

We need to create a safe but challenging environment for new writers and their work to develop, including workshops and rehearsed readings before full performances. This way, we can allow new voices to be heard in theatres.

Faith Hines
Executive producer, Old Court Productions

Theatre names

Don’t change the King’s Head Theatre’s name (Letters, August 24). It will lose its historic identity – leave it alone.

We need a campaign to save theatre names.

Martin Lightfoot
Peterborough

Quotes of the week

“We’re in a business where perhaps if you’re handsome or beautiful you might find yourself getting roles that you’re not deserving of in terms of your talent, because there are a ton of actors I know who are really good and not working, and many who aren’t that good who are.”
Mark Strong (Observer)

“The theatre keeps changing and one generation’s firebrand is the next generation’s dead wood.  And, of course, much of what Peter stood for and championed has been challenged and rejected in recent times. This is entirely natural and I think Peter in his old age understood that.”
Stephen Unwin on Peter Hall (Evening Standard)

“Someone like me doesn’t normally get to represent America, especially in this time of Trump. It’s nice to say, ‘No, the crazy drag queen is the thing that represents America.’”
Taylor Mac (Guardian)

“Don’t sexually pursue women in theatre roles junior to you. Even more important, when the men around you do this, call it out.”
Critic Kate Maltby on sexual harassment (Tweet)

“You don’t need to go out and serve the audience, you’ve got to serve the music. Invite them to witness the intimacy of the storytelling, rather than spoon-feed them.”
Opera singer Barbara Hannigan (Telegraph)

“The best thing about theatre is the act of congregation. The day my heart doesn’t beat faster when the house lights dim is the day I’ll quit.”
Playwright Chris Thompson (Evening Standard)

“So proud to be an ambassador for these awards from The Stage. Solid talent alongside infinite variety.”
Actor Noma Dumezweni at The Stage Debut Awards (Twitter)

“I always feel that with acting – this sounds like actor school me saying this – it’s a lot of reacting. If you’re working with a lot of great people then for me the most fun thing is doing as much work as you can, and then getting on set and trying to forget everything and be surprised.”
Actor Adam Driver (Independent)

“The Stage Debut Awards – great to be at an award ceremony where it is not just the usual suspects.”
Lyn Gardner (Twitter)

What you said on Facebook

About Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first relaxed performance…

This is a good idea for anyone requiring a relaxed performance and shortening the ballet is wise in these circumstances.

My issue is that formal theatre rules are no longer adhered to. Many people just behave as if they were in a pub: fiddling with mobile phones, rustling sweet papers, drinking alcohol and talking. If only we had special performances that banned this now and again.
Sue Middleton

About David Lister’s damning indictment of theatre programmes…

I buy a programme at every show I see, and, while the biographies are often sketchy, other articles about the production, play and playwright are often worth a read.
Ed Barrett

I am still shocked in London when I have to buy a programme. In the US, you can buy a booklet with pictures but very little show information, but you always get a free playbill that gives you these short biographies. I find both useful.
Pamela Rosen

About Lyn Gardner’s column on the limited audience capacity for Punchdrunk’s new show…

If theatre companies and producers increased the number of tickets, the character of many plays would get lost. Many small venues produce absolutely breathtaking theatre.

The claim that it’s impossible to get tickets for some highly coveted productions is nonsense. I’ve often managed to get tickets through ticket rush schemes, online ballots or checking for returns.
Maya Witters

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