Sorcha Donaldson, Director of Acting School North, talks to Phil Matthews about the launch of the new actor training school in Leeds.
Congratulations on launching Acting School North.
Thank you Phil.
Tell us why you decided to open the school?
Acting Schools are a great British institution; they not only dot the greater London area profusely but are distributed across the United Kingdom. However, since Leeds recently lost the legendary Bretton Hall, there have been no schools offering full-time courses in Yorkshire, which otherwise has a great cultural heritage.
In the golden days of acting, an actor emerging from any European school could hope for immediate opportunities in a repertory theatre. Work is something much more complex for British actors now.
Stanislavsky technique for text-based acting, we feel, has been very much a closed book in many British schools for the last few years. Certainly there are many teachers who practice innovative strategies based on the original concepts as presented in the books (by Stanislavsky) we all know. However, in Russia, acting technique has greatly moved forward since Stanislavsky's times and is now more than technique comparable to that with which Russian athletes, visual artists, dancers and musicians are trained and which enables them to soundly triumph in their respective fields. We want to make this knowledge accessible to British students on a wider scale.
In the golden days of acting, an actor emerging from any European school could hope for immediate opportunities in a repertory theatre. Work is something much more complex for British actors now. Having analyzed the situation we believe we have come up with a very good model to prepare our students for the professional milieu. Unfortunately, mastering acting technique, even the best available, is not enough to maintain continuous employment.
What is the concept and ethos of the school?
We teach acting for live and recorded media using a technique learned by Rogelio Nevares (pictured above) in Russia and developed in his eight years as acting teacher in the United Kingdom to suit the needs of British actors.
It is an approach to teaching Stanislavski technique rid of mysticism and unnecessary intellectualization; it explains great acting and how to achieve it in the simplest possible terms and through the most fun and engaging activities. It strives to present acting as something anyone can do because everybody already knows how to do it.
What sort of training will ASN provide?
Acting School North offers an intensive, one-year full-time course characterized by continuous exposure of student work to public audiences. Parallel, full-day workshops during each term will cover the professional side of being an actor. Ancillary subjects such as Voice, Movement, Dance and Singing are of course an indispensable part of the programme however closely subject to the aims of acting technique delivery.
You're planning to produce professional theatre Fringe productions during the year. How involved will the students be with this?
It is our plan that the professional practice provision revolves around the Fringe productions, which the students will be guided to create and manage on their own, to be presented in one or more of the many Fringe festivals in the country.
What type of student are you looking for?
It used to be said of actors working with Stanislavsky that they looked like anything but actors. I wish the same will be said of our actors. We need our actors to be people, ordinary persons, able to remain people when playing characters from different times and places, on stage and in front of a camera.
Running a professional career as an actor also requires you to become focused and organized
We need people who are curious and observant of how human beings behave and want this to colour the work they do as actors.
However, although this technique does not require extraordinary personal traits or prior knowledge, it requires the ability to work long and hard. Running a professional career as an actor also requires you to become focused and organized and we want our students to be able to develop these qualities whilst training with us, for their own benefit.
Are you still auditioning for entry this year?
Yes, we are still auditioning and would like to encourage anyone who has dreamt of becoming an actor to audition for us and to do it soon as we wouldn't like anyone to be left out of our course which begins mid-October.
For more information, visit www.actingschoolnorth.co.uk