Volunteer content writer, Sameera Sood on inclusive training in the arts…

Evolving Theatre Traditions – Is it Enough To Just Have Traditional Performance Arts Training?

According to a recent TimeOut article, “London is bursting with plays and performances that defy stuffy conventions to offer you an experience that’s more like a real life adventure than an evening at the theatre.”

The relationship between the performer and spectator has changed over the years, with the audience now hungrier for an immersive experience, making it imperative for the performers to present new skills and leaving the audience bowled over!

An electrifying theatre act grips your sight from the moment you settle into your comfortable seat. As soon as the house lights dim and hush falls over the crowd, you submerge in the array of skills and talent. The performance – a perfect amalgamation of a variety of art forms, that leaves you spellbound and makes you realise you have just witnessed a new age of theatre.

Performing arts has come a long way over the last decade, moving beyond the walls of traditional theatre. Interactive theatre, immersive theatre, or site-specific theatre, call it whatever you want to – we cannot deny the indulging experience offered by these modern day acts. They include the audience in another world, unlike the yesteryear performances where the audience were merely passive bystanders. Theatre acts like Grimm Tales, Drowned Man, and other presentations from PunchDrunk, have raised the bars set for the performers and triggered the audience to ask for more. Finding work in the theatre and performing arts sector can seem impossibly competitive, without a variety of skills on hand, so much so that many potential actors give up their dreams before even trying. At the time everyone pushing performance to the limit and delivering much more than just a dialogue, it is enough to just have traditional performance arts training?

It is essential for aspirants to be trained in cross-cultural art forms, like puppetry, aerials, non western dance styles, sword-fighting etc., to carve a niche and emerge as a multi-threat, not just a traditional musical theatre artist. A well-planned training plays an important role in focusing the mind, strengthening voice, and loosening up the body of performers. While we have a long list of successful actors who made it on their own without a formal training, we cannot underestimate the fact that formal guidance helps young performers improve their skills and combine the theory with practise performance experience. Three years training of voice, body, mind and imagination, is an opportunity for potential artists to combine their creative talent with professional development skills needed to succeed in today’s diverse performing arts industry.

Expectations from audience have changed, making other performance skills vital part of theatre training than ever before. Art forms like opera, popular/ soul/ rock, jazz, ‘legit’ or classical singing, folk, ballet, puppetry, circus skills, sword fighting, South-Asian dance, and lots more are now equally important to deliver a convincing, moving, and exciting performance. Learning such art forms enables the actors to deliver an effortless performance, what is now expected by the modern audience, a masterpiece – every time they go on stage. Varied professional training teaches potential actors the ability to be versatile, a cut above the rest in auditions, and what casting directors are precisely looking for. Apart from this, performing arts trainings also focus on teaching the ability to cope with criticism and learn from it, time management, teamwork and collaboration, self awareness, adaptability and flexibility. Together the body and the voice are actor’s instrument, and professional training helps to fine-tune your instrument just like a classical pianist or a boxer, because you never know what will be next expected of you as a performer.

Wac Arts is one of the few arts organisations offering a truly multi-disciplinary performing arts programme across London. The Wac Arts Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre is a full-time comprehensive course that equips students with the artistic, technical and creative skills essential for a successful career in performing arts. The first of its kind in the UK, offering traditional, classical and contemporary training, this exciting programme also includes African, Asian, South American, Eastern and European performance techniques. We provide training in Sword Fighting, Puppetry, Mask, Bouffant, Physical Theatre, Aerials and Circus Skills, and teach different dance styles such as Street, Lindy Hop, Horton, Reggae Contemporary, and African Dance. Our students emerge as individual artists with the diverse skills needed for employment in today’s global industry across stage, television and film.

Fully accredited by Trinity College London, this is a full time, degree equivalent qualification. It is unique in that it gives equal weight to its training in drama, dance and singing and actively promotes non-western art forms. Our staff comprises a team of trained industry professionals who have years of hands-on experience in training entrants and would-be theatre artists looking for direction. Steve Medlin, the Head of Drama has spent years as a physical theatre professional and works professionally alongside teaching at Wac Arts. Steve holds rigorous expertise in choreographing, directing, training aspirants, and performing on stage, television, and films. He has worked with some of the leading brands – Warner Bros, SKY TV, Hewlett Packard, etc. – and has also collaborated with BBC TV Training for over a decade as a regular actor and teacher.

The in-depth knowledge about the theatre industry norms and trends helps Steve give students a chance to get real life industry experience even while studying. In recent years we’ve had workshops on audition training from the director of the West-End’s Lion King, visits from performers to explain the techniques at work in the trade and dance instruction from artists in the internationally renowned Zoo Nation. Professional dance companies like Uchenna, aerial companies, such as Scarabeaus and Upswing have collaborated with Wac Arts, to contribute towards our effort of polishing students’ skills and preparing them for versatile range of roles.

In 2014, Steve connected with Eclipse Theatre Company to watch the Diploma students in their big annual production Blues in the Night. Dawn Walton (Creative Director) and the Eclipse Theatre team joined hands with Wac Arts leading to the show Journeys Beyond (a musical play directed by Steve Medlin, devised and performed by Wac Arts Diploma students) being taken to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 – The Largest Arts Festival in the World! The show received a four star review in the Edinburgh spotlight, and led to many of the performers getting professional work off the back of it.

“Journeys Beyond shows exactly what can be achieved by performers who match highly skilled training with a real love of performance which emanates from their every look and move”
Danielle Farrow, The Edinburgh Spotlight

These collaborations ensure students are ready for the industry and have the required skill set in today’s performing arts landscape.

Wac Arts has gradually emerged as the hub of theatre talent. More than 80% of our diploma graduates currently have professional presentation, and 100% of them have achieved level 6 professional Diploma since 2009. Wac Arts will prepare you for the modern day industry and will lead you in the journey of becoming a skilled, diverse and exciting performer that you have always dreamed of. Come and meet Wac Arts team on one of our auditions days for professional training and precise guidance for career in performing arts.

Reach us at Diploma@WacArts.co.uk or call 020 7692 5838 to book a seat for auditions.