New two-year acting intensive offers affordable fast-track to industry

The National Drama School’s Advanced Diploma of Acting has reduced fees by a third by concentrating the course into a two-year intensive.

Designed to ensure actor training remains accessible while maintaining professional rigour, the Advanced Diploma of Acting at The National Drama School will now be offered as a two-year intensive.

Previously run over three years, the compacted course is a direct response to the cost of living crisis affecting Australia. The intense nature of the new course also better reflects the intensive work modes of stage and screen practices.

‘With the current cost of living increases, it’s becoming so much more challenging for students to study for extended periods of time. And I’ve seen this firsthand with our students – the amount of time people have to spend working to support themselves while studying is quite intense,’ says Dr Jo Loth, Director of Drama at The National.

Developed through extended consultation with previous alumni, The National’s Advanced Diploma of Acting will henceforth consist of two intensive years at a more affordable rate.

‘It is now effectively two-thirds of the former cost, so we’ve actually cut the course fees significantly,’ Loth explains.

No aspect of the Diploma has been sacrificed, she adds, and students will still benefit from the same collegiate and supportive atmosphere that has always been a trademark of The National.

‘For the first year it’s four days a week over our eight-week terms … and then second year is where it gets really intensive, where you’ll go five days a week full-time, with some evenings and weekends for filming or performances’.

In their first year, students will work in small classes on some of the fundamentals of their craft, undertaking training in acting, voice, movement and performance making.

‘We don’t have any major showcase performances in the first year – it’s a time for people to learn in a safe and supportive environment – to transform themselves and discover an authentic connection with the craft,’ Loth tells ArtsHub.

‘We achieve this through the acting techniques of Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov, the movement techniques of Feldenkrais, contact improvisation and the Suzuki actor training method. These techniques develop physical sensitivity, and precision and power. Working with Linklater voice training, which is my passion, students extend their vocal range and expression, and connect with their impulses.’

Throughout the first year students develop writing and performance making skills, concluding with a self-devised solo performance.

A performance of ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Advanced Diploma of Acting students at The National. Photo: Sarah Walker.

Students commence second year focusing on their screen acting skills (including self-tapes and filming their professional show reels) as well a deep dive into Shakespearean performance.

‘That’s when they get to really engage with heightened performance text to enhance and refine their stage performance skills. Then, in term three, we do a showcase performance on The National Theatre mainstage working with a leading industry director. From my point of view, this is a really important part of our course: that we have industry practitioners coming in to direct our students in their final year – and this is where they learn how to move from student to professional actor.’

The second year concludes with a group-devised performance staged at an external venue, again helping students gain valuable real-world experience.

‘We are creating entrepreneurial artists who are ready to audition for standard acting roles, but they also can take the initiative to develop and produce their own work,’ Loth says.

At every stage, the Advanced Diploma of Acting at The National Drama School is designed with student welfare in mind.

‘We strive to create a safe, supportive environment for students, so that they can connect with their ensemble and allow themselves to be vulnerable. Because I believe that that’s what powerful acting is based on – that ability to be vulnerable, to share part of yourself. And so it’s really exciting to be able to help create that environment for students and then see them able to share that aspect of themselves in the rehearsal space, and then to take that into the professional arena.’

Auditions for the 2024 intake for the new, two-year intensive Advanced Diploma of Acting will be held at The National Drama School Studios, St Kilda on Sunday 1 October and Monday 4 December. Learn more about the course structure and register now for auditions.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts