The Independent Centre for Actor Training, founded 10 years ago by artistic director Simon Trinder, provides actors with affordable courses and first-class, industry-led weekly coaching
It’s often said that acting is all about luck. But for Simon Trinder, founder and artistic director of the Independent Centre for Actor Training, luck is preparation meeting opportunity. “The preparation bit is difficult for us actors, but it’s also the bit we’re in control of,” he says. ICAT’s new online membership community, ICAT Studio Online, enables you to train every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes, so that when the opportunity presents itself, you are ready.
The online platform is not only incredibly affordable, it is brimming with resources: from first-class, industry-led, live weekly coaching, to hours and hours of outstanding digital training material on tap.
There are three membership levels, Silver, Gold and Green Room, starting from £10 a month. Memberships give access to live coaching from acclaimed actors all over the world, as well as a huge library of video on-demand courses, packed with wisdom from incredible people from the industry, whether it’s TV, film or theatre. There are also downloadable PDF resources, webinars for audition technique, weekly training videos and monthly masterclasses with special guests, such as Olivier award-winning directors, Emmy-nominated actors and respected industry professionals.
On top of that, Trinder has spent years collecting video conversations with a wide range of renowned actors and practitioners while working in theatre. Trinder explains: “This collection, called ICHAT, is little videos I’ve taken on my phone when talking to someone, just informally, during the day in our digs before going on stage, or from dressing rooms, or hotels. It’s really honest advice on acting – Simon Russell Beale talking about breathing, Joseph Millson on being an extra. It’s stuff you don’t hear in other interviews. It’s like an apprenticeship: people talking turkey about the practicalities of this job, a whole library of actors you’ve just watched on Netflix talking about the realities of acting."
The Studio Online allows you to train yourself from scratch, with 24/7 access, and to repeat modules and exercises as many times as you like. Brilliantly, ICAT also offers something called the Coffee Club, which consists of complete access to all their online training with new content weekly for the price of a coffee per month. It includes the brand-new, downloadable ‘Pro-Act Challenge: 52 Weeks of Conditioning’, in which you can do a class a day for just 10 minutes wherever you are throughout the year to keep you on top of your game and audition ready. They are also offering a seven-day free trial for the Gold Account membership, which includes live group coaching.
ICAT also runs in-studio short courses, and certain memberships get free training days in a London studio with respected training professionals.
“It’s like a virtual training centre,” says Trinder. “You go into this room for auditions, this room for the Stanislavski approach, this room for voice training. The video on-demand courses are super interactive too, and people regularly comment that they feel like we are in the room with them. Participants are up on their feet and physically training.”
The wealth of material allows members to always be warmed up: always available, spontaneous and able to take direction. “I believe that acting is a sport. There is a contact that needs to be made afresh every time. We can score points on stage every single night if we’re ready, available and listening. In order to remain open and connected, we have to flex those muscles every day,” says Trinder.
‘We can score points on stage every single night if we’re ready, available and listening’ – ICAT artistic director Simon Trinder
He continues: “We had an actor last week with an agent meeting, who got signed because she was prepared, she was tuned into it. Another actor had a mock audition with the Royal Shakespeare Company and after delivering her speech she waited for feedback. The casting director said: ‘There is no feedback, you nailed it. What did you do to prepare?’ She said: ‘I did Owning Shakespeare at ICAT.’”
Trinder adds that the Studio Online is perfect for people considering applying for drama school, too. “What we teach goes from scratch. Because we offer different packages, and people have different financial circumstances, we have a lot of pre-drama school students coming to us. One thing I think drama school applicants suffer from is that they are taught to perfect their speeches and to perform them for the panel as they did in the shower that morning. Then when they get asked to adapt, they can’t do it. They’re inflexible. So we teach Mike Alfreds’ principles: flexibility, availability while remaining specific. If they can take that into their auditions, they’re going to fly. Not to mention our commitment to Shakespeare and knowing how to use verse. As a drama school applicant you’re going to raise yourself above the rest.”
Trinder is himself an award-winning actor with 20 years’ experience in television, radio and high-profile theatre, who has worked with some of the biggest actors, directors and companies in the world including seasons at the RSC, Young Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe and London’s Royal Court.
He explains why ICAT was set up: “My first job was with Mike Alfreds, the acclaimed director, who introduced me to a set of principles for performance based around action, flexibility and fully inhabiting the character. It blew me away. I thought: ’We did not learn this at drama school.’ These principles are so effective, practical and reliable regardless of your energy levels. It’s Stanislavski-based but so freedom-enhancing, and so enjoyable too. I remember thinking at the time: ’I learned more about acting in the last two hours than in three years of drama school.’
“I started to teach them to people, and soon pupils were coming to me from all kinds of different courses until I was running covert sessions on lunch breaks to try and fit everyone in. I thought, I’ve got to make these lessons available affordably to everyone. So we created a weekly class, and then a year-long class. People were telling me they couldn’t afford to go to drama school, would I ever consider a part-time affordable class? So that’s why I founded ICAT.”
The centre is now 10 years old. As well as focusing on the principles established by Alfreds, there is an emphasis on receiving training from people who act for a living. “There is an approach to our work that is necessary when you have to put food on the table,” says Trinder. “All of us are working actors and directors. We have to pay our bills acting, so we know what works. There is a difference between what you do when you have to survive and when you’re just doing it as a hobby.”
Earlier this year, when the pandemic hit, Trinder and his team completely remodelled the centre’s approach. That’s when Studio Online was born. They designed, recorded and uploaded a huge range of courses – both live and pre-recorded – so that actors can keep their practice going, and can continue training at an affordable rate.
“I’m in The Lion King at the moment, working with 30 world-class dancers and watching the way they get daily training,” Trinder explains. “It was obsessive, and I was jealous. I thought: ’Why can’t we as actors do that?’ The discipline and rigour that other artists enjoy is so difficult to replicate for the actor. Who can afford to go to an acting class every day? So that’s what the studio online is. It’s about doing something every day, whether it’s PRO-ACT, our 52 week challenge, the Owning Shakespeare course that will transform your understanding of the playwright, or the Complete Actor’s Toolkit, an industry-respected course full of practical exercises and packed into seven modules. People are so warmed up.”
As one member put it: “I feel like I’m not waiting around, I’m now working”. With such a vast library of training resources available 24/7, as well as a seven-day free trial for the Gold membership, you will be ready to excel when that next opportunity comes along.