Originally published in The Stage, February 2016
If you work with young people in the performing arts, the most common question you get asked is: “How do I get into drama school?” The second most common question is: “What do I do if I don’t get a place at drama school?”
It’s long been known that drama schools, unlike standard universities, tend to favour slightly older students. This isn’t always the case these days, but there can still be a gap between school and drama school, and it leaves many students wondering: what now?
In recent years, drama schools have started promoting foundation courses to those not initially successful, and this can seem like a fantastic option for a young actor – something that gives them a year-long taster of the drama school experience. But the thing about many foundation courses is that they are incredibly expensive. You’ll be looking to raise more than £10,000 before you even get on to a three-year course. Foundation courses are also extremely variable in the quality of tuition, and even established and respected drama schools don’t always provide the same level of tuition on a foundation. Whatever you do, if you go down the foundation route, check out the course properly and don’t rely on the good name of the school in question.
For those who can’t afford a foundation course (which is probably most of us), it poses a problem. Most young actors want to keep acting, and also want some guidance and training to help them get in to drama school.
My answer is to look to your local youth theatre. It used to be the case that youth theatres catered only for very young children or teens, and that by the age of 18 you’d have outgrown the programme of work. These days, ‘youth’ means anyone under the age of 25, and accordingly youth theatres have increased both the age and ambition of their programmes.