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What would you like a Theatre training school to provide?

(17 Posts)
birdsong1 Sun 16-Jun-13 14:51:18

I am in the process of developing a new Saturday morning Theatre training school for children between the ages of 8 and 18. And I want to know what you would like me to provide for your children.

Let me explain a little of where this idea has come from.

I run an Opera Company which helps emerging artists at the beginning of their careers by offering training and performance opportunities and we want to extend what we do to the wider community to help engender a love of opera not just for future audiences but also to find the opera stars of the future.

I am an opera singer myself and I became interested in Opera at the age of 14 when I sang with my county youth choir in performances of Aida. Opera was always something - until then - that I had thought of as stuffy and boring BUT being on stage surrounded by amazing music and working with professional singers was a complete eye opener. Without that experience I would not have had such an amazing career and life in opera.

I want to give today's generation the same opportunity.

Children nowadays don't get such amazing opportunities as I had and the consequences are numerous:-
Those who can sing arrive at Conservatoires with little or no stage experience - meaning that they have no foundation for the demands of the career.
Many children who could have a career in opera are not recognised as having the required talent.
Opera audiences are diminishing because it is deemed as elitist.
And basically Opera is not seen as "cool" by young people.

Without exposure to the genre from the performance aspect, young people are being denied the joy and thrill that opera could give them.

So what we are proposing is 30 Saturday morning sessions across the school year working on every aspect of performance with a two week summer school culminating with performances in a major theatre.

I would really appreciate your ideas on what you would like us to provide during those weekly sessions.
Thank you.

cory Sun 16-Jun-13 16:40:08

Is this going to be specifically about opera or will it cover other aspects, with opera as one element? Will it be selection by audition? How inclusive will you be of e.g. SN? Will the 8yos and the 18yos be taught together? How much commitment will you expect in terms of coming to class every week?

The answers to those questions will probably determine what you are realistically able to do.

I would expect some training in physical theatre, some voice work, some games. And given the current great interest in musicals among young people, that is probably a good way into opera, just showing young people that they are pretty much the same thing and anyone who can enjoy the one can enjoy the other.

1805 Sun 16-Jun-13 19:34:00


So, are you aiming at children intending to make a career of it, or more of a fun give-everybody-a-go type of sessions?

I would want the latter, and for kids to experience a live band/orchestra/ensemble and mics, lights etc.

I would want a friendly environment, especially for the little ones, growing more technical and demanding fro the older children.

Theatre schools round us provide singing, drama, dance, working with cameras, full shows to live music, casting agency, comedy, festival performances, workshops with touring productions, and probably more! Kids pick the aspects they like and chose that particular school. (Or just follow their friends).

Maybe provide trips to local performances to widen the children's experiences.

Good luck.

Theas18 Sun 16-Jun-13 22:34:09

What I'd look for?

Inclusion- boys as well as girls, SEN as well as mainstream (maybe some kids might have to bring a parent?). Groupings on ability not age and fluid. The " ballet class treadmill" seemed very strictly you started with a group of your peers and the whole class did the exam and moved on together. No accommodation for not doing exams and just having fun etc

Teach them to speak as well as sing to an audience- that's a hugely useful life skill.

Above all fun!

birdsong1 Mon 17-Jun-13 10:27:34

Thank you so much Theas18
We will be taking boys as well as girls - though from past experience I expect more girls to apply sad
Our inclusion policy will be very broad and as long as we have the right level of support we will be able to include SEN students.
I take your point on the groupings being fluid - not bound to age groups - and I will put that to the team.
Speaking to an audience will most definitely be included smile
Thank you so much for your input xxxx

birdsong1 Mon 17-Jun-13 10:43:32

Thank you Cory,
We will be dealing with every aspect of performance with a bias towards opera but certainly not exclusively so as you so rightly say - opera and musicals are basically the same thing - telling a story through song.
We are going to hold a free taster session in July to let the children and parents know what to expect and for us to establish the general level of ability - we are not going to audition as such.
There will be sessions when the whole company are working together, some in which we will split the students into age groups, some in which the groups will be split on ability levels.
We will expect complete commitment as this will be a very tightly composed course working towards small performances - showings - every five weeks - building towards the final performances next summer.
There are so many aspects of performance and disciplines to cover and we will certainly be dealing with physical theatre, vocal work as well as devising their own work both spoken and sung and yes we will be using games throughout the course.
Thank you so much for such positive and helpful input xxx

birdsong1 Mon 17-Jun-13 10:53:16

Thank you 1805,
This is certainly not just for those hoping to have a career - we want to enthuse the younger generation and in the process perhaps there will be some who find they have the aptitude to continue their studies and eventually follow a career in opera - but that would be a great spin off rather than our aim.
They will be performing with a professional orchestra in a fully staged professional production in a major theatre - complete with lights, costumes etc - everything you would expect from a professional production and we will probably invite some professional opera singers to perform with them in their final shows next summer - but we won't be using mics smile
All the things you mention are certainly things that we would hope to include = perhaps not the casting agency though smile BUT as a professional opera company, we might well be able to offer some of our students the opportunity to perform with us - depending on the piece.
We will be working in partnership with their local theatre and we are in negotiation with them for ticket deals for our students and their families.
And yes, a trip to a London Theatre is certainly not out of the question.

Thank you so much for your brilliant input.

qme Mon 17-Jun-13 10:55:39

My kids go to a music theater school run by their singing teacher.
She also organises an amazing summer workshop where at the end of 10 day non-residential 9:30-5pm marathon (mon-sat, sun off, mon-thurs - performances on thurs and fri with recording on friday) they perform children's (so it's shorter) versions of a musical chosen by their teacher

I think if you add such opportunity - it will make the whole experience different to everyone - they design props, make them, do all the set setting including cabling etc, operate light, misc (they have backstage crew)
there's live music backup - keyboard and percussion instruments, other instruments will be added depending on availability of musicians this year

last year they were showing Beauty and the Beast, this year - 13

they always have much more participants for this workshop than the term time school (I would say 2x the number)

obviously many of the kids are having singing lessons with that teacher, but that isn't how they are being chosen, it isn't guaranteed smile

I would love my kids to try opera singing - so if you are in SW London - please let me know when you are opening.

birdsong1 Mon 17-Jun-13 19:14:06

Hi qme.
Actually our usual home is in SW London but this pilot scheme is opening in Bury St Edmunds - BUT if it is successful we will be opening more around the country - including London smile

We will definitely be including lots of performance opportunities including a professional production with our own orchestra in The Apex theatre in Bury in summer 2014 and the children will hopefully be very hands on in every aspect of the final shows.
I'm not sure if I can give out info here which might smack of advertising but I will certainly keep you informed when our London centre opens.
I can say that it will be called Co-Oper8 run by Co-Opera Co. - so perhaps keep an eye out for that on Google smile

Thank you so much for your brilliant response xxx

Sparklymommy Mon 17-Jun-13 19:18:23

As the mother of a 10 year old dd who loves singing classical music I think this is a great idea. As someone living in the sw I am a little envious about it being London based!

cory Tue 18-Jun-13 10:11:19

I too think it sounds like a great idea.

Dunlurking Wed 19-Jun-13 15:43:12

birdsong1 I really like your idea, but I wonder how successful you will be attracting children if you emphasize the opera too strongly from the outset/

We are at the wrong end of the country to benefit from your excellent idea, (and my dd and ds are very happy with their part time performing arts school), but just to let you know they learnt the attractions opera only relatively late in their training experiences, when they got chances to sing and be extras in a touring company's productions of Aida, Carmen and Tosca, through Stagecoach (which they are no longer attend). They found singing with an orchestra, i.e. live music was hugely exciting and rewarding. My son actually got to sing the Shepherd Boy's solo in Tosca, and my daughter has gone on to sing in a junior section of The National Youth Choir. But neither would have thought opera or classical singing was for them, or tried it, without starting with musicals and then being recruited to singing in these operas.

I wish dd and ds could have opportunities to sing in some sort of youth opera company now, but they would only do so if it worked alongside their current performing arts school, and they could continue to perform musicals as well. I hope our experiences are helpful, and I wish you luck. Is there a National Youth Opera Company? Or the equivalent? Something that could be done in holiday courses much like National Youth Choir or English Youth Ballet? That would work better for children like mine. Like qme's description of her children's holiday workshop, which sounds brilliant.

Dunlurking Wed 19-Jun-13 15:44:58

Sorry for the typos and various missing words blush - rushing to finish before school gets out!

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 19-Jun-13 17:41:57

Very similar feelings (and experiences) to dunlurkin. Dd has also performed in Aida, Carmen & Tosca via Stagecoach

Dh is a classically trained singer but even he has moved across to MT

Dd is about to leave Stagecoach to attend full time performing arts school. She currently does impro, devising, script work, physical theatre, scriptwriting and lots of drama games and imaginative stuff alongside voice work, breathing, floor work etc.

birdsong1 Wed 19-Jun-13 18:31:20

Hi Dunlurking. Sparklymommy and Picturesinthefirelight - what brilliant nicknames smile
I absolutely agree - we will be working on every element of performance using a variety of genres - their final performance at the end of the two week summer course will be an opera with our own orchestra and professional opera singers taking some of the roles BUT across the year we will include everything from MT, straight plays, solo work, small ensembles, their own devised pieces, right through to the fully staged opera - anything that will engage, enlighten and excite them.
Being an opera company we will also be looking at involving them in our own productions too.
And Sparklymommy, this is certainly something which we hope to roll out throughout the UK - once this pilot scheme has proved itself. Where in the SW are you ???

birdsong1 Wed 19-Jun-13 20:08:52

A thought ............Dunlurking, Picturesinthefirelight, cory, Sparklymommy, qme, Theas18, 1805, we have a new production of Madama Butterfly opening in Bury St Edmunds in July and then going to the Hackney Empire in September - then a couple of performances on tour in October.
We need a small child to play the son - supposed to be just 3 years old but we are thinking more like 5 or 6 - but small.
Rehearsals will be in London.
If any of you out there have a small DD or DS who might like to star in an opera - no singing or even speaking -just "being" - could you get in touch with me please? KF at
Thanks x

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 19-Jun-13 20:13:12

Think Ellen Kent use a 5-6 year old to play younger too.

Do you want an oriental child. We're not in the area but I know a few who are.

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