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How to give Students a Professional Production Experience whilst still teaching technique, and discovering strategies that can be used

Jonny Bussell



This paper aims to analyse strategies for enabling an environment for student productions that is as close to the professional world as possible, whilst ensuring the environment simultaneously allows students to learn and develop skills.


As an Acting Lecturer for the last seven years I have directed over twenty student productions.  The hope is always to create a professional production which also gives the students an exciting and fulfilling educational experience.  It is important that all students are part of a creative process where they have autonomy but also that the pressures of ‘getting a show on’ does not get in the way of their learning.   Issues that can arise when working with are students on productions are lack of skills, a lack of understanding of rehearsal etiquette, students’ fear of failure and also that students are able to be part of productions but aren’t developing their skills just regurgitating the same habits/issues.  The aim of this paper is to assess strategies and methods that can solve some of these problems.  This paper is a reflection on experiential research of directing Level 4 Acting students in two productions ‘Boy’ and ‘Buckets’ during the 2018/19 academic year at The Northern School of Art.  The following is will includes details of theoretical underpinning of the work undertaken during the process, reflective points from staff and students and concludes with findings from this practice-led research. 


Prior to beginning the rehearsal process students were working on their first module, Core Acting Skills 1, where they were introduced to foundation work looking at voice, physicality and characterisation. This module was used as opportunity to try to get all students to a certain level of understanding of the basics of Stanislavski and to foster a feeling of ensemble within the group.  This is achieved through regularly sharing work from an early stage and creating a safe environment where play is encouraged.  ‘Theatre must always retain its playful dimension’ (Lecoq, 2009, P68).  Although basic discipline is required with regards to punctuality and attendance, a lot of the Core Acting Skills module in the first few weeks of term is about eradicating ideas of right and wrong within the young actor’s mind.  This is done to encourage openness and help students get over a fear of failure that can plague young performers.  In my experience students who come straight from FE often struggle with experimentation and play as many A Levels and BTECs, on the whole but not all, can be prescriptive in content and outcomes.  Whereas the aim of the degree level study is to develop a deeper understanding and gain autonomy as a practitioner.


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