Scarborough theatre and university link up to provide unique acting degree

Coventry University's Scarborough campus
Coventry University's Scarborough campus

A unique degree in acting is to be introduced by Scarborough's Coventry University campus, in partnership with the town's Stephen Joseph Theatre.

The BA (Hons) Acting Degree, which is due to begin in September 2019, will train students in acting for stage, TV and radio as well as introducing them to various non-traditional techniques such as presenting, corporate role-play, vlogging and acting for gaming.

Paul Elsam, lead acting tutor at CU Scarborough; Kay Fraser, Interim Associate Pro Vice Chancellor of CU Scarborough; and Paul Robinson, Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

Paul Elsam, lead acting tutor at CU Scarborough; Kay Fraser, Interim Associate Pro Vice Chancellor of CU Scarborough; and Paul Robinson, Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

In a bid to champion access for all, the three-year course based in Scarborough will introduce a dynamic new auditioning process which will be free to prospective students, removing some of the early financial barriers experienced by prospective drama students.

The course curriculum will see students make regular visits to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, giving them the opportunity to gain experience of acting through masterclasses with Artistic Director Paul Robinson, associate directors and other freelance professionals.

They will also receive mentoring by SJT’s staff on the inner-workings of a regional theatre including marketing, producing, fundraising, and technical and stage management.

In the third year, students will have an opportunity to audition for the SJT and be part of a professional acting company.

Kay Fraser, Interim Associate Pro Vice Chancellor, said: “Our innovative new degree looks to break down the financial barriers and make acting courses accessible for a more diverse group of people.

“There has been much written about elitism in acting – be it real or perceived – but what we are offering will give students a training in the profession but also ensure there is more of a level playing field when it comes to earning a living in the industry.

“Our focus on delivering employability skills is at the heart of the course, and we want to train actors in the broadest possible skillset to market themselves as professionals and increase their chances of gaining a career after they graduate.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with SJT to design and deliver this course. The values of our organisations are really aligned when it comes to putting the student first.”

Paul Robinson, Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, said: “This exciting new course, with dynamic and free audition methods, is aimed at the non-traditional actor for whom access to training may have previously been prohibitive.

“There’s been much talk about making access to acting training more affordable but we still see drama schools charging an average of £60/£70, and often more, for auditions.

“Our course will see the first round of self-taped audition speeches – on, for instance, a smartphone – allowing us to keep the audition process manageable, free and appropriate by employing the contemporary digital techniques that are becoming more and more a part of our standard industry practice.

“While the acting and vocal training will be on a par with the best drama schools, there will also be training in radio and TV acting and presenting, corporate role-play, gaming, and even vlogging – all ways in which the contemporary actor can find employment.

“This will be a forward-thinking, relevant curriculum. We have designed the course to reflect the contemporary acting world, not a stuffy one from a bygone era. We know that access to formal training has been financially prohibitive for many people and that has resulted in an industry that does not necessarily reflect the socio-economic diversity of our country.

“If we are serious about the diversity of the voices in our sector, then we need to address this at the earliest possible opportunity. Our partnership with Coventry University is borne out of a set of shared values around diversity and inclusivity.

“We will ensure that students receive the best possible training and that they will get the chance to see their future industry in action.

“Access to a working producing theatre will provide a level of insight often missing in formal training, it will allow students to identify innovative routes into the profession and begin thinking about the shape of their careers earlier.”

For more information on the SJT/CU Scarborough BA (Hons) Acting, visit www.coventry.ac.uk/cus/acting