Susan Elkin, The Stage’s Education and Training Editor, was asked so often whether drama school was a necessity that she wrote an article arguing why the widely-held misconception of “if you can act or sing, surely you can just stand up and do it” was palpably misguided.
“Debunking attitudes like that is probably one of the most important things I do as The Stage’s Education and Training Editor. After all, however great your footballing potential, you wouldn’t expect to walk in off the streets and immediately play for Manchester United. It takes years of training to achieve the right skills. And you never stop learning. Exactly the same principle applies to performing on stage or screen.”
She goes onto mention how young people often cite actors such as Sheridan Smith as examples of actresses who have been successful without training. However, as Elkin states: “Smith studied singing, dancing and acting part time for many years in her native Lincolnshire and trained extensively in her teens with National Youth Music Theatre. Untrained she clearly was not.”
There are indeed respected actors who haven’t gone to an established drama school. However, many started early and were trained on the job. This was often supplemented by sessions on set with acting coaches. Elkin invites her readers to “take the three leads in the Harry Potter films: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. For nearly 10 years and seven films, starting when they were barely out of primary school, they were trained on set which included many systematic, carefully thought out classes to develop the necessary voice, movement and acting skills. And the same applied to the many other children involved. Those films were, effectively, their training provider.”
Attending a drama school is not the only form of training potential actors can receive. There are amdram productions, schemes such as the National Youth Theatre, joining a theatre company and also training privately with professionals established in the acting profession. Audition Doctor is one such example. Audition Doctor works with many students too young for drama school entry (minimum age is 18). This is an increasingly popular method of giving younger people access to focused quality training.
Elkin is one well-schooled in the requirements of the profession, writing extensively on the ever- changing landscape of drama schools and the wider industry. As she so staunchly says: “No one…makes it in this competitive industry without training at all”, which is an indicator that it makes no sense to hang onto delusions that you will be the exception any longer. It is in your best interests to ensure that you have the tools to not just survive, but also achieve the ambitions you have for yourself as an actor. However pretentious it sounds, this does require a commitment to the art of acting. Like all forms of art, talent only reaches its full potential with the back-up of hard graft and practice. Audition Doctor is an ideal place to begin.