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Auditions now open at the National Theatre Drama School, Melbourne

Richard Watts

Based in Melbourne, the National Theatre Drama School’s Advanced Diploma in Acting develops students’ unique selves.
Auditions now open at the National Theatre Drama School, Melbourne

A scene from National Theatre Drama School's recent third year production of Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman. Photo by Sarah Walker.

The National Theatre Drama School is one of the oldest institutions of its type in the country and offers a range of well-respected, full-time and part-time courses. Among them is the three-year, full time Advanced Diploma in Acting, which prepares students for professional careers as performers and performance makers in theatre, film, television and new media.

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Auditions for the 2018 intake for the Advanced Diploma in Acting are now open, with applications closing in January.

Trent Baker, Director of Drama at the National Theatre Drama School, said the course is designed to strengthen actors’ existing skills.   

‘My belief is that you can’t actually teach anyone to act – all you can teach them is the skills that make acting easier. So we find people who have the talent, the aptitude, the ability to be directed, to learn and then we give them skills that make it easier to do that,’ he said.

He also stressed that the School is focused on building the individual strengths of every actor who passes through its doors.

‘I ultimately believe that maybe actor training isn’t for every actor, but what I like about the National, what I’ve seen and would like to keep encouraging here is that we train individuals. We don’t train cookie-cutter students; there’s not a National Theatre Drama School flavour that we’re looking for. What we see is someone’s unique self and we foster that,’ Baker said.

Based at the National Theatre in St Kilda, which first opened its doors in 1921, students at the National Theatre Drama School have access to the Beaux Arts theatre itself, which seats 783 people, as well as the more intimate downstairs Studio theatre. The acting students also regularly perform on location as part of the film and television component of the course.

‘We don’t just try and put everything in the one studio, we take the students out to the location where the scene is set. And they also help each other on location, so if they’re not filming their scene on a particular day they’re a runner or a gaffer, that sort of thing … which helps them appreciate other people’s work, what other people’s jobs entail and how difficult they are,’ Baker said.

Learn more about the National Theatre Drama School’s Advanced Diploma in Acting

Like Baker, who has over 20 years’ experience as a professional actor and director, the staff at the National are all seasoned industry professionals.

‘We hire working practitioners – all of our staff are currently working professionally in the industry,’ Baker said.

‘The teachers here aren’t people who have settled into a position that’s easy – they also work. They know the risks, they know the artistic life.’

Training by seasoned professionals results in well-rounded students who can hit the ground running when they graduate.

‘We put a heavy emphasis on self-devised work. In second and third year they spent a lot of time producing their own work artistically but also producing it for public performance. And in the third year, under the auspices of Shane Savage, they produce, they market, they do the financing, they do everything on the production – so they get to learn all the roles, not just the performance roles,’ Baker said.

‘They get a well-rounded education ... the students don’t come out thinking, “Oh we’re just performers” – they can actually make their own work. And even if they weren’t directing or doing the finances, they’ve watched the other students do it and they’ve learned from that as well.’

Students at the National Theatre Drama School come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and nationalities.

‘We’ve got a bit of a mix, which I love. There’s also a mix of ages. Our second year ranges from early 20s to late 30s, but predominantly the ages are around 18 to 24. And we obviously accept people from all over the country and also from New Zealand as well … I’m really keen to further the remit that we’re called the National Theatre Drama School, not the Melbourne Theatre Drama School,’ Baker said.

Auditions for the National Theatre Drama School Advanced Diploma in Acting are now open, with the course commencing in February 2018. Visit www.drama.nationaltheatre.org.au for details.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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