Drama schools urged to widen skill sets

New research has sparked a heated debate over the function of drama schools.

In light of a surprising new study, industry professionals have said drama schools must focus now put more emphasis on preparing students for a variety of different career paths after graduating.

From a sample of 365, the report found a quarter of acting graduates work in fringe theatre rather than television or commercial theatre.

Former BBC casting director, Jane Deitch, who conducted the survey, stressed the importance of fringe theatre as a place for budding new actors to network and gain experience.

The report also found a sizable number (17.5%) also acted in short films and 93 in television adverts while 66 took jobs in theatres and major companies, and only 6 in the West End (excluding work with musicals).

Following the study, industry professionals have become aware that drama schools need to do more to prepare for this diversity in the world of work – but how? Should they focus on the core skills – such as projection, movement, enunciation – or offer more vocationally orientated content?

Philip Hedley, former artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, said schools should avoid specialising in specific areas: “The crucial thing is the ‘commonality’ of acting skills, which applies across the board whether you are doing cabaret or serious tragedy.”

While representatives agree students need to adapt their skills to more broad career paths, there are conflicting views on how drama schools should provide the skills to prepare for those career paths, with some raising concerns about the possible fragmentation of training.

But Jane Harrison, principal of Arts Educational Schools in London, said its acting degrees were changed a few years ago to put a stronger emphasis on television and film.

Unistage, which supplies staging to drama organisations throughout the country, said drama schools should prepare for different types of acting with varied equipment – and that the best type of staging to use is modular staging.

Stephen Huckle, Managing Director of Unistage, said: “Modular staging is fantastic for actor training because it allows you to create the foundations for any performance.

“Single or multi-level stages give you the flexibility to change your stage design time and time again.

“It’s simple to use, versatile and can be used anywhere – venues from schools, village halls and churches to casinos, hotels and retail stores.”

Unistage staging is simple and safe to build, without the use of tools or small, easy to lose components. It is an exceptionally quiet staging solution, ensuring that your performances are not interrupted by unnecessary noise.