Archive for October, 2020

ArtsEd graduate success at The Oliviers & Black British Theatre Awards 2020

Posted on: October 27th, 2020 by ArtsEd Admin

Sunday 25 October was a night dedicated to celebrating the theatre industry both at The Black British Theatre Awards (Sky Arts) and The Olivier Awards (ITV). ArtsEd had several alumni nominated and is thrilled that two came away with winner’s trophies on the night! ArtsEd proudly sponsor the BBTA’s Mentorship Programme, an emerging scheme focussed on introducing young, black people to the theatre industry where they may not otherwise have access.

ArtsEd Musical Theatre alumna, Miriam-Teak Lee was awarded Best Actress in a Musical at both The Black British Theatre Awards and The Olivier Awards for her performance in Max Martin’s new musical, &Juliet. Miriam’s award sees her triple-crowned in 2020 as she won the WhatsOnStage award for Best Actress in a Musical in the spring.

ArtsEd Acting graduate, Rachel Nwokoro was awarded the Disability Champion Award at the Black British Theatre Awards – only one month after her win at The Stage Debut Awards for Best Performer in a Play for her performance in Little Baby Jesus at Orange Tree Theatre.

Delighted by her win at the Olivier Awards, Miriam-Teak said:

“This is absolutely incredible! My mum always said to me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it […] so I hope I can inspire children who want to get into this business, knowing they can do anything.”

Rachel gave an emotional speech at the Black British Theatre Awards, declaring repeatedly: “They can’t stop us!”, which received a standing ovation. She said:

“Thank you for all this divine love, visibility and recognition. It’s honestly such a welcome gift at a time of such fear and false scarcity… Bring on the ABUNDANCE my loves.”

ArtsEd graduates Jac Yarrow (Musical Theatre) and Zizi Strallen (Day School) were also nominated at The Oliviers for Best Actor and Actress in a Musical in a Musical respectively for their leading roles in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Mary Poppins.

Renowned lyricist, Don Black, an ArtsEd Associate Artist, received the Special Award for his outstanding contribution to theatre and was interviewed for the television broadcast with ArtsEd President, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Congratulations to all nominees and winners!

PHOTOS: Miriam-Teak Lee (pictured left) and Rachel Nwokoro. Photo credit: The Black British Theatre Awards.

Julie Spencer Speaks out on Actor Training

Posted on: October 14th, 2020 by ArtsEd Admin

Julie Spencer, Director of the School of Acting at ArtsEd featured in two articles this week discussing the evolution of drama training and the drive for change, especially in regard to representation in conservatoires.

Bush Theatre held a conversation with Julie on their platform ‘Bush Green’, where Julie spoke about her experiences as a black woman in the arts, and how she has developed the acting courses at ArtsEd to better reflect the cohort of students:

“[The biggest change I’ve made is] being a woman, and Black, and just being here. I also think broadening the curriculum so that students can learn through their own lens shows you how extraordinary, young Black and Brown students are. They have been learning through someone else’s lens all this time and they’re still succeeding, they’re still willing. But they’re still learning through someone else’s lens. That takes so much time and energy and resilience to be able to do that. My thing is about learning through your own lens. You cannot learn through a 40-year-old white man’s lens, which is what people have been doing.”

This was shortly followed by an article in The Stage by Lyn Gardener, discussing how drama schools should go about adapting with the times, gathering opinions from across the sector. Julie stands proudly on the side of change:

“Actor training can’t remain static. If you have different students in the room, you have to respond to that. It’s about widening the canon and the curriculum, not losing rigour, […] when you shift privilege, there are always people who complain something is being lost”.

Photo: Julie Spencer with Acting students. Credit: Robin Savage

ArtsEd Remembers Brian E. Cook

Posted on: October 5th, 2020 by ArtsEd Admin

No one could have predicted the pivotal role Brian E. Cook would play in ArtsEd’s history, particularly following his first encounter with the school. Stepping in to cover a handful of drama classes for a friend in 1966, Brian felt that the actor training lacked focus and depth, particularly compared to the dance provision at the time. Much to his surprise, just one year later, he was asked to help set up ArtsEd’s first dedicated drama course to address these very observations.  A mutual agreement was made that Brian would be given two years to get the course established, and he in turn would guarantee the same. Brian ended up staying for ten years, creating a renowned drama training programme and lasting legacy.

Alongside Lisle Jones and Hilary Wood, Brian launched the drama course in September 1968. Calling on his experience and contacts as an actor and director, Brian brought in tutors and guest directors from the industry, an important aspect of the training that continues today. Having previously worked with Brian Way, Founder of Theatre Centre and pioneer of Theatre in Education, Brian was amongst the first to provide students with the opportunity to explore this work and perform in local schools. He led the team during the school’s move to the old Cripplegate Institute at the Barbican in 1969, which would become known as Golden Lane House. It was here that Brian helped to cement the course’s future by securing course validation from the Department of Education. This recognition was critical in providing vital access to tuition fee funding for a number of students and it wasn’t long before funding was made available to all students, thanks to further accreditation through the Conference of Drama Schools, also established by Brian.

In just a few short years under Brian’s leadership, graduates of the newly formed drama course were entering the industry and securing professional work, despite the tough competition at the time…

“In view of Equity’s report in 1970 that more people are being trained for the theatre than the profession can absorb, it is encouraging that few of the drama students have found difficulty in obtaining employment.” Mr V.B.V Powell, Secretary to the Arts Educational Trust, May 1972

In 1976, Brian and Bridget Crowley (Head of Dance) saw a missed opportunity in drama school training and created what’s believed to be the first dedicated musical theatre course, restructuring what was known at the time as the mixed ‘Fifty Fifty’ course. This musical theatre course would grow into the internationally renowned training that we are known for today, thanks in part to Brian’s role in clarifying and strengthening the school’s offering of dedicated courses.

In 1978 Brian left ArtsEd to take his place at theological college and train as a Priest. Even after his departure, the legacy of his work lived on and he remained connected to ArtsEd for many years through Yvette his wife, who also taught on the drama and musical theatre courses.

Brian E. Cook will be remembered as an important and influential figure in ArtsEd’s 100 year history. He helped lay the foundations for the school as we now know it and left a lasting impact on those who were fortunate enough to be taught by him.

With thanks to Yvette Byrne and Bridget Crowley

Picture: Hilary Wood, Bernard Douglas, Brian Cook, Yvette Byrne, Lisle Jones at ArtsEd’s Campbell-Orde Memorial Lecture, 1974

For further reading, please enjoy Francis Wright’s blog on ‘As You Like It’ and the ArtsEd Class of 1976.

BA Acting student, Chris Coleman (CJ Coleman) wins Sir John Gielgud Award

Posted on: October 1st, 2020 by ArtsEd Admin

Congratulations to Chris Coleman (stage name: CJ Coleman) who is in the final year of his BA Acting degree at ArtsEd, and is the recent recipient of a Sir John Gielgud Bursary Award!  

Just twenty-two bursaries are awarded annually by the Sir John Gielgud Charitable Trust, to talented students at leading drama schools around the UK.  The funds provided help students in their final year, easing the challenging transition from drama training to life as a working actor. 

Chris developed his passion for acting at Durham School, where he was awarded a Drama Scholarship. He expanded his skills at Northern Star Theatre Arts in Sunderland. Chris began his time at ArtsEd on their Foundation Acting course, successfully moving onto the three-year degree course in 2018.  

Throughout his time at ArtsEd, Chris has proved his dedication and strong work ethic, which has been recognised by his colleagues and teachers. The Director of the School of Acting, Julie Spencer said:  

“Chris is so deserving of the Sir John Gielgud Award and is an exemplary student. Congratulations from The School of Acting team for his achievement!”  

Over the last couple of years, drama training has been accused of being elitist and financially inaccessible.  Julie Spencer is committed to ensuring that talent, not money, is the key criteria to accessing ArtsEd’s industry leading training.  She said: 

“If you’re good enough to be here, if you have the potential we’re looking for, I’ll move mountains to make it happen. We offer places based on ability, not bank balance. Our regional auditions demonstrate my commitment to removing as many barriers as possible for those who want to pursue an acting career. 

Thrilled with the awardChris said:  

“To win this award is such a privilege, I cannot express my gratitude enough not only to the Trust for awarding it to me, but also to ArtsEd for nominating me for it. It is a real honour and one that fills me with pride!  

It’s truly mind-boggling to think that I’m now in my third and final year of the course, and my fourth year of being at ArtsEd including the Foundation Acting course. I have deeply cherished my time at the school, where I have made friendships for life. The school has not only developed my skills as a performerbut as a person as well – and for that I am so grateful. It has been an incredible journeyand I am so excited to see what this next year has in store for all of us!” 

Geri Feeney, Principal of Northern Star Theatre Arts, is thrilled that Chris has received such a significant award, and recalls fondly his time at the Sunderland school: 

Chris trained at Northern Star when he was younger, and it was clear from our first meeting that he possessed a real flair and natural talent for acting. We are all incredibly proud of his achievements and look forward to following his career.”