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Drama Studio London has a reputation for excellent vocational and highly selective and prestigious full-time 1 and 2 Year Diploma programmes in Professional Acting that are validated by Trinity College London (although Drama Studio London also offers a BA (Hons) in Acting and short courses and Summer Schools for actors of all levels from beginners to professional actors). Students on the highly selective full-time Professional Acting Diplomas at Drama Studio London are classically trained. Teaching is by the profession, for the profession.
What makes DSL unique over the other accredited FDS drama schools in the UK, such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), is that DSL is based in a Victorian house (as opposed to modern buildings that some of the other leading British drama schools occupy) and is known for having a 'family feel' with a unique tutorial system (similar to the system at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge) to guide and support each student individually. Drama Studio London is also the only Drama School in the UK to be owned by those who teach and direct there. In April 2014, the Managing Director decided to arrange a management buyout. 16 members of staff bought the school, which meant that DSL is the only drama school in Britain that is owned by the staff. As reported by The National Student, at DSL 'you’re taught by our head of movement or our head of voice, any of the heads, when you’re taught by the heads you know (who) you’re being taught by – they have an invested interest in this place being great. It’s worked out well.' DSL also holds a more extensive and longer audition process where every applicant gets at least 3 hours of workshops and auditions, and those who are recalled get 6 hours. Each person gets detailed feedback whether they are offered a place or not.
The school was founded in 1966 by Peter Layton out of the need for a new, more realistic approach to actor training that took account of the professional requirements and demands of the theatre for which the students were being prepared.
DSL is uniquely known out of all of the FDS drama schools in the UK for offering excellent, industry-recognised and highly selective full-time training for 1 and 2 Year Diplomas in Professional Acting, validated by Trinity College London, from which many highly successful British and American actors have graduated from over the decades, including Academy Award-nominated actress Emily Watson and Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker, as well as a BA (Hons) in Professional Acting validated by De Montfort University. Students on the 1 and 2 Year Diplomas also have the option to top up to a degree with Middlesex University. In addition, DSL offers a series of short courses, masterclasses and summer courses for a range of standards and ages. These attract students from around the world, from beginners to professionals. Students on the full-time selective diplomas for professional acting regularly win highly competitive competitions, such as the BBC Carleton Hobbes Competition, for which only selected students of the twenty accredited drama schools in the UK may enter.
Friends of DSL (founded in 1995), under the Presidency of Dame Judi Dench, was established in order to help provide scholarships for future students. Dench continues to support DSL to in order to select and train highly successful actors and actresses.
Students on the full-time selective diplomas for professional acting regularly win highly competitive competitions, such as the BBC Carleton Hobbes Competition, for which only selected students of the twenty accredited drama schools in the UK may enter. In 2016, The Stage reported that students from Drama Studio London and Rose Bruford College won the prestigious Scottish Daily Mail's £10,000 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Drama Award.
Like any of the nineteen other highly selective accredited drama schools of the Federation of Drama Schools in the United Kingdom, DSL has a rigorous audition and interview procedure and the school looks for very particular attributes within their students. Drama Studio London holds an extensive and long audition process where every applicant gets at least 3 hours of workshops and auditions, and those who are recalled get 6 hours. Each person gets detailed feedback whether they are offered a place or not. Students who are offered a place are hand-picked by the staff and heads of DSL (co-owners of the school), who base their decisions on whether an applicant has talent, no matter how raw or rough that talent is, a real passion and a willingness to accept that they can be taught things. Applicants are also judged on their individual interviews and their ability to work in a group ensemble. During the auditions, applicants must successfully performs at least one classical monologue (such as a play by William Shakespeare) and one modern monologue. They must also successfully complete workshops where they must participate in various movement, voice, sight-reading, improvisation and group ensemble exercises. Successful first-round applicants are subsequently invited for recall auditions, after which members of staff and the heads of DSL hand-pick applicants who will eventually receive offers to be classically trained in acting as part of the selective full-time Diplomas in Professional Acting, validated by Trinity College London.