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A drama school, stage school or theatre school is an undergraduate and/or graduate school or department at a college or university; or a free-standing institution (such as the Drama section at the Juilliard School); which specializes in the pre-professional training in drama and theatre arts, such as acting, design and technical theatre, arts administration, and related subjects. If the drama school is part of a degree-granting institution, undergraduates typically take a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or, occasionally, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Design. Graduate students may take a Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Fine Arts, Doctor of Arts, Doctor of Fine Arts, or Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Entry and application process
Entry to drama school is usually through a competitive audition process. Some schools make this a two-stage process. Places on an acting course are limited (usually well below 100) so those who fare best at the audition are selected. Most academies state that applicants must be over 18 years of age. Auditions usually involve the performance of monologues and group workshops, and may also include a singing activity. This varies from academy to academy. If this is the case for an acting degree, the school looks more at how an applicant can put character into the song rather than how well they can sing. For a musical theatre degree, the emphasis is on showing one's talent as a singer. Most colleges offer callback auditions, often in several stages, in which students being considered for entry onto a course are brought back to audition again, demonstrating their talents further. It is also possible to get into a drama school by previous grades. Some auditioners may be under 18.
The courses offered by drama schools focus on practical courses, rather than theoretical classes. Their aim is to train students as professional actors for stage (theatre or musical theatre) and camera-based work (film and television shows). Students are required to be enthusiastic and motivated in order to meet the demands of the program. At the beginning of the final year (usually the third), most drama schools stage a series of performances throughout the academic year to which agents and casting directors are invited. This helps to build the future of the graduates and serves as a showcase of what the students can do.
In 1833 the actress Frances Maria Kelly managed the Royal Strand Theatre where she funded and operated a dramatic school, the earliest record of a drama school in England. In the UK The Conference of Drama Schools comprises Britain’s 22 leading Drama Schools. CDS exists in order to strengthen the voice of the member schools, to set and maintain the highest standards of training within the vocational drama sector, and to make it easier for prospective students to understand the range of courses on offer and the application process. Founded in 1969, the 22 member schools offer courses in Acting, Musical Theatre, Directing and Technical Theatre training. Graduates of CDS courses are currently working on stage, in front of the camera and behind the scenes in theatres and studios across Britain. In September 2016, Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre opened in Birmingham. Offering West End quality training in Musical Theatre to students aged 18+, and with the same or better opportunities as many London drama schools, they offer a regional option for prospective drama school students. In 2012 it was merged with the National Council for Drama Training to create a single national authority Drama UK responsible for both the provision of Drama Training and accreditation of official courses. In 2017 Drama UK was replaced by the Federation of Drama Schools.
In the UK, funding varies from drama school to drama school. Historically drama schools were not part of the mainstream academic system, and therefore were not funded on the same basis as universities. Some drama schools are now part of a university, such as Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which is part of the City University of London, and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, which is part of the University of Manchester, and these tend to charge similar tuition fees to universities. Student loans, drama awards and scholarships may help to provide students with their funding. The most prominent funding scheme for performing arts education in the UK are the Dance and Drama Awards. This is a government scheme which subsidises the training offered at a selection of the leading performing arts schools in the fields of dance, drama, musical theatre and stage management.
A number of third level institutions provide courses in Drama and Theatre Studies, including Trinity College, Dublin, NUI Maynooth, and Dublin City University. A decision by Trinity in Jan 2007 to drop its BA in Acting Studies for cost reasons met with disappointment from the theatre sector. A Forum for Acting Training was convened with leading professionals from the industry who recommended in a report published 27 May 2008, that an Academy for Dramatic Arts, independent of a University, but with third level accreditation should be created. The report was submitted to the Irish Government. On 1 August 2008, The Irish Times reported that a RADA graduate, Danielle Ryan, granddaughter of the late Tony Ryan who founded Ryanair, had announced plans to develop an Irish Academy of Dramatic Arts part-funded from a Trust created by her late father, Captain Cathal Ryan.
This plan went ahead and the academy, known as The Lir, opened in September 2011. The Lir is part of Trinity College and is situated in the Grand Canal Dock area. It is officially associated with RADA.
- Burwick, Frederick (2015). British Drama of the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 46.
- Prospectus from TCD Drama Dept, TCD
- Prospectus from NUIM English Dept Dramatherapy Course
- Trinity News report http://www.trinitynews.ie/articles.php?tn=1&issue=2&id=215[permanent dead link] website
- Forum on Acting Training Report, May 2008, Forum Report[permanent dead link]
- Gerry Smyth, Irish Times, 1 August 2008 Acting academy to include theatre
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