Currently, it may seem strange to think about the future and to plan for life after university, but it’s important to remember that this will all end eventually, and there are still future possibilities for those who want to work in the arts after they graduate. One of the things people will tell you when you say you want to work in theatre is how competitive it is to get in to, and while this is sadly true, here are some different pathways to help you get started if you are looking at this career after university.
There is a wealth of information online about drama schools, and this can seem overwhelming when you are trying to find the course most suited to you. There are many institutions in the UK which concentrate on theatre and the performing arts, some of the most prestigious being RADA, Bristol Old Vic, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Guildhall (which is coincidentally also where my mum went). They all offer BA and MA courses in acting, and many also have a shorter or preliminary acting course, entry for all is based on an audition.
Guildhall is also known for the strength of their musical training including opera, while RADA focuses more exclusively on performance, and Bristol Old Vic offers the most impressive array of production courses for both BAs and MAs. Although they might seem similar at first glance, they all specialise in something slightly different and run varying courses, especially aside from acting, so it is worth looking closely at their respective websites if you are interested.
Working in theatre doesn’t always have to be acting focused, however, and BAs in areas such as costume design, stage management, production lighting/technology are also offered, and more occasionally things like drama writing and scenic design can be studied. These practical courses are useful for acquiring the experience required for the respective roles, and a specialist qualification is frequently listed as a job requirement when applying for jobs in these areas.
There is also an option of going to a non-theatre focused university which offers a relevant course (they are often cheaper and easier to get on to). Lots of different universities offer drama-related courses, including York St Johns, the University of East Anglia and Lancaster University, just to name a few. Sometimes these courses are more academic and less practical, but this is not always the case and it is often indicated by the title (i.e. ‘theatre studies’). Lancaster University are third in the The Times University Guide for drama, and they offer a ‘Drama, Theatre and Performance’ BA which they claim combines the practical and academic.
Obviously, as with any creative job, experience and evidence of involvement is also really important. This could be simply being involved with student theatre at Durham, or helping out local amateur theatre groups which is also a great way to try different roles and see if you like it, before the commitment (and money) required for the university courses.
Many local theatres offer some kind of work experience, but it also worth looking out on the RSC and National Theatre websites, as they get funding to do some kind of outreach and training programmes. They usually have a variety of apprenticeships, placements and jobs on their website, but they have both obviously suspended all recruitment at the moment because of the coronavirus. Although there is limited information available currently, last year there was an opportunity to apply for a six-month placement with the RSC, as a graduate scheme, which would be worth looking out for in case it returns again after the theatres are back open.
Finally, if you are not sure which job you are interested in pursuing, I would definitely recommend the National Theatre’s YouTube channel as it is actually really helpful and interesting. It breaks down lots of different roles and explains what it involves and what is required, so you decide what is right for you.
Image: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay