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Actor training and the university

By Ross W Prior


This keynote looked at the need for the 'conservatoires', vocational training establishments like RADA or LAMDA, to gain access to funding and other benefits by offering degrees, while the universities that validate those degrees are more and more offering acting degrees or programmes of drama of their own. Keynote speakers included Professor Michael Gaunt, deviser of several 'conservatoire' courses, Dr Ross Prior, responsible for one of the new degree acting courses, and Dr Sophie Nield, with experience of both aspects in Central School's wide-ranging programme. The keynote offered general agreement that there is no comparison between the ten-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week intensity of the conservatoires' courses and the handful of lectures and workshops offered in the academic departments, although it was also acknowledged that god-given talent might mean that great actors could emerge from shorter courses, or even no training at all: it is ironic that there are far fewer courses available in either sector for directors, who might be reckoned to need even more instruction ­ many of them gain experience by being hired to direct conservatoire productions. It was because of this lack that the Directors' Guild helped set up Birkbeck College's respected MFA in Directing. The question of nomenclature is a consideration: it would be unhelpful if the two groups offering actor training or quasi actor training were to compete, ­ rather they should work together to resist the inevitable cuts which will affect them both, in an area of training which has to be labour intensive at any level, and emphasise the different but real value of each. It would seem a good idea if conservatoire courses, which require so much more instructor input (something which is already acknowledged in a system which, we learned, already allocates 60% or even 100% more funding to such courses), should be distinguished from more basic BA courses by being called Bachelor (or even Master, as with Birkbeck) of Fine Arts. That the very concept of the conservatoire is in danger is shown by recent events in Scotland, where advanced courses at both RSAMD and Queen Margaret are under threa

Topics: PN2041, PN2061, LB2300
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