A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce of 3,000 firms found that nine out of 10 respondents thought school leavers were not ready for employment, and more than half (54%) said the same issues applied to graduates. One of the main objectives of further education is to prepare students for specific vocations. This is best achieved by providing students with practical skills and real-life scenarios which helps them to embark on a successful career when they leave education. This is the aim of Reading Studio of Dramatic Art, a unique new vocational theatre school which is a partnership between Reading College and Reading Rep.
Two years ago I set up Reading Rep Theatre. The mission was to revitalise the cultural landscape of Reading and the surrounding area through high class productions and transformative education and outreach programmes. I wanted to create a regional theatre with a national reputation, which also trained the theatre artists of the future through a symbiotic relationship with the professional company. In the US they use the analogy of a hospital. How can you train a doctor without letting them work in a hospital? I believe the same can be said for the theatre. Learning how to act is a practical process that can’t just be taught in a classroom.
It’s not about getting young people into education, it’s also about developing the skills that will give them an advantage when heading into the job market. The skills that don’t just satisfy the college curriculum, but translate directly into the work environment.
Before establishing Reading Rep I studied theatre in America. I did this because their model of training theatre artists is different to the UK. Many of their leading theatres are tied directly with the professional training schools; you work with the people that are currently practicing in the industry. I came back to the UK with a vision to establish this model in the UK.
Reading Studio, however, is more than a theatre, and more than a training school. It is a cultural hub for the wider community. Reading Rep and Reading Studio work in partnership with a number of organisations in and around the south east; from the University to local primary schools, from community centres to charities fighting to end disadvantage. The arts are thriving in and around Reading and Reading Studio aims to galvanise the arts community and create something that is truly unique for the Thames Valley.
Our offering is unique because it is designed in collaboration with Reading College and therefore places enterprise and employability at its core. Students are taught by a combination of experienced professional teachers and artists. This enriches their experience and provides the perfect platform and practical skills necessary to move easily into the vocation of their choice. The new Studio operates on a model similar to the US. Students take classes with experienced academic teachers in the mornings focussing on voice, movement and acting. This ensures that our learners have the qualifications necessary to move forward. The intensive programme, however, is much more than the qualification. In the afternoon they immediately put their theory into practice by working alongside Reading Rep. Our experienced professional staff directs a number of performances with the students, offer work placements and internships, as well as the chance to understand what it means to actually work behind the scenes in the industry. It is a truly unique offering which I am incredibly excited to be a part of.
At Reading Studio, like Reading College, our goal is to help students ‘go further’. This can only be achieved by working with the professionals who do this day-in and day-out. I studied in the US at Harvard University and the American Rep Theatre. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the leading theatre artists in world theatre. This is what inspired me to create the model, and I am sure Reading Studio can have the same impact on our students.
Paul Stacey is artistic director at the Reading Rep Theatre & Reading Studio of Dramatic ArtRecommend0 recommendationsPublished in