With access to cutting-edge facilities, Guildford School of Acting’s technical theatre students enjoy exemplary all-round training with which to forge a career in the industry
Set on the leafy, lakeside campus of the University of Surrey, Guildford School of Acting is not only a beautiful place to study, it’s also one of the most renowned schools for technical theatre training in the UK, with world-class facilities and outstanding teaching.
The three-year BA in Theatre Production enables students to try a bit of everything: sound, lighting, video, stage management, construction, scenic arts. As the course progresses, they begin to specialise while working practically on a number of productions.
“It’s an all-rounder degree,” says Jo Franklin, head of Technical Theatre Arts and MA programme leader. “And we think that’s better than specialising straight away. Many students don’t know what they want to do beforehand, so this degree allows them to find out where their skills and passions lie. Also, we know that employers like multi-skilled people: a stage manager who has lighting knowledge, or a lighting technician with experience in video.”
At postgraduate level, GSA offers a one-year MA in Stage and Production Management, ideal for people who studied subjects such as English or Drama at undergraduate level and now want to forge a career in backstage and technical work. The MA also suits international students who have experience of technical theatre in their home countries, but want to gain knowledge of UK practices.
Students who train at GSA have access to its leading-edge facilities, which include three theatres equipped with the latest technology, such as an automated flying system and professional-grade video production equipment for live-streaming.
The school’s brand-new scenic production workshop has state-of-the-art machinery for set building and prop making, as well as CAD design software, a CNC machine and a 3D printer. This extraordinary range of technology ensures that students have a vast skills set for a rapidly changing industry.
Technical students at GSA work closely with performance students to create about 30 shows per year. Franklin stresses that there is a strong sense of collaboration and community. “The ethos is that we all support each other. Students are often creating their own work while at GSA, and there’s an atmosphere of being innovative and entrepreneurial.”
The communal ethos extends to the way students are taught, too. “It’s absolutely not the traditional drama ethos of ‘we are the experts and we will tell you what to do’. It’s about co-creating and sharing knowledge.” Staff and visiting professionals at GSA are all highly experienced industry leaders, with knowledge of the theatre landscape today and strong links to the industry. Franklin points out that “we have a strong record of placement with theatres across the country: you name a theatre and we’ve had a placement there”.
What also makes GSA unique is that it’s situated within the University of Surrey campus, which provides the best of both worlds: outstanding conservatoire training and the full campus experience, including access to the £36 million Surrey Sports Park.
GSA is highly regarded in the industry, and is always working hard to uphold its reputation. As a member of Stage Sight, the school is deeply committed to increasing diversity in backstage areas. Franklin is clear that employment practices in technical areas – word-of-mouth jobs and reliance on who you know – cannot continue. Changing the way that it recruits students, staff and freelancers “is something we’re really focusing on at the moment”.
“You may have a lot of knowledge or prior experience, or you may not,” says Franklin. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before. We just want you to be enthusiastic, committed to a career in the entertainment industry and curious about all the places that might lead you.”
For more information, visit: gsauk.org