Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Guest Blog: Rachel Creaser – Performing arts opportunities for all

Pursuing your dream is never an easy feat, and forging a career as a performer in the arts is most certainly a path fraught with obstacles. But it’s important to remember that the arts are for all – regardless of your background. 

It’s hard to have missed news stories in recent months which have highlighted the lack of actors entering the industry from less-privileged backgrounds: The Stage reported in May this year that ‘Only 10% of actors are working class’; and comments from industry professionals such as BBC casting director Julia Crampsie have revealed: ‘I go into drama schools every year, and it’s getting less diverse.’ 

Drama training is important if you’re serious about entering the world of performing arts. Not only does it equip you with the required skills to thrive in the industry, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet and work with potential future collaborators from all different walks of life. 

Drama school training is a huge commitment – both in terms of time and expense. In recent years, due to the instability of the economy, young people from less-privileged backgrounds have been priced out of drama training. Although Drama UK – responsible for accrediting UK drama schools – denies this, with their research statistics suggesting up to 46% of students during the past 10 years are from broad socio-economic backgrounds. But it wouldn’t be entirely unfair to say that some talented performers from low-income families may have decided to pursue a more financially stable and reliable career path. 

The antidote to situations such as these – where young people feel unable to pursue careers in the performing arts because it isn’t financially viable or they haven’t had the opportunities that others do – is the creation of pathways. More initiatives are needed where young people can enter creative industries through schemes that have first-class tuition, but not at a first-class price. 

The Pauline Quirke Academy, known for its UK-wide academies which provide performing arts training for ages 4 to 18, is launching PQA Plus – specially tailored performing arts tuition for young people aged up to 25. Students of PQA Plus will receive advanced-level workshops in acting, singing, dance, and they’ll undertake specialist masterclasses, working with visiting industry guests such as leading choreographers, directors, vocal coaches, and will have opportunities to learn about techniques in stage combat and special FX make-up, and have Q&A sessions with professional actors. 

The end of each term will culminate in an in-house performance or a showcase to invited guests and industry professionals, and there is also the opportunity for PQA Plus students to take Trinity College London exams in Acting and Musical Theatre.

Moving with developments in the industry, appreciating how much of an actor’s work can be screen based, PQA Plus will also provide training in filmmaking, looking at everything from camera shots, editing and white counts, to how to tell a story for the screen. Special industry guests will visit PQA Plus sessions to impart their advice and knowledge to students. 

Entering the theatre industry as a professional can be daunting – there’s a whole world to adjust to: agents, headshots, showreels, auditions. As well as providing advanced tuition for performance, PQA Plus also offers the opportunity to get a head start in this area too: PQA Plus members will prepare for vocational training with classes dedicated to audition technique and advice on how to select the right repertoire; have their headshots taken by leading London headshot photographer, John Clark; have the opportunity to be represented by PQA’s young performers’ agency Q-management; and will feature in an original film, receiving a DVD showreel to take away. 

PQA Plus also offers an opportunity to people who weren’t perhaps able to study drama or theatre at higher education level, or those who hadn’t considered it as a viable vocation until they were a bit further down the line. With the demise of rep theatre, there are fewer places where young actors can learn from those with a bit more experience than them. PQA Plus aims to create an ensemble feel, true to the industry experience. 

These classes, taking place once a week on a weekday evening from 6pm to 9pm to fit within a busy working schedule (school or otherwise), will cost £8 per hour – a manageable amount to pay monthly for quality teaching and a diverse range of opportunities. 

For those daunted by traditional pathways into drama training or the performing arts industry, there is an alternative. PQA Plus can provide you with the skills and experience enabling you to go into auditions and interviews for prestigious leading drama schools or shows, feeling prepared and confident – knowing you are giving your best and doing yourself, and your talent, justice. Succeeding in the performing arts industry requires perseverance and commitment to lifelong development as an actor where you’ll continue to add to your craft, and joining something like PQA Plus would be a great first step on your journey. 

Rachel Creaser

PQA Plus will run trial classes for aspiring professionals up to the age of 25 in January 2016, and the initiative is due to be rolled out across the UK from September 2016. To register for an audition in High Wycombe or Watford, please visit Stay up-to-date on Twitter and Facebook.

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