Are Drama Schools a Waste of Money?

Are Drama Schools a Waste of Money?

The debate regarding whether or not to enroll in drama school is one faced by countless people planning to pursue a career in acting. On the one hand, drama school can offer an array of knowledge and experience that can benefit someone hoping to break onto the stage. On the other hand, drama school is expensive and some argue not necessary in order to succeed in that line of work. However, despite the tempting argument to the contrary, drama schools are indeed an asset to those who chose to take the leap.

Formal training is an important part of the growing and maturing process for anyone pursuing a career in drama, or any field for that matter. What formal training provides is a set of skills, techniques, and knowledge that are unique to that discipline which in turn help those studying perfect their craft even more. Additionally, “training gives you the time and space to experiment – to fail, and work out why,” as contributor Nick Asbury points out. Another asset formal training provides is networking opportunities. Agents use the major drama schools as filter system where they are able to scout out talent and put them directly in front of casting directors.

Granted, drama schools are a costly endeavor, “Student loans are available for all undergraduate courses, and drama schools are no more expensive than any other form of higher education,” as director of the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art (Rada) Edward Kemp points out.

Arguments against the pursuit of drama school point out the large expense versus the actual skill gained. Paul Roseby, who has headed the National Youth Theatre since 2004 shared,  “Drama schools are incredibly expensive and the majority of actors don’t need three years’ training. They need various modular courses every so often to go to. But they don’t need three years. You don’t need to learn how to act, you need to learn how to sell yourself. You can either act or you can’t.” He went on to comment, “Finding out whether you can act at that stage of your career is a waste of money; if you need to improve your vocal technique, or market yourself to get a film audition, you can learn those things on a modular basis. It doesn’t need three years. You learn whether you cut the mustard by being in front of an audience.”

In my opinion, whether it is drama or another pursuit, formal training is essential. Knowing how to sell yourself means nothing if you do not know how to act, and drama school helps to ensure that acting talent is refined and polished so it can be used in the pursuit a career. Rada director Edward Kemp adds in response to Roseby’s claims, “If Paul Roseby wishes to defend the arts from being seen as ‘soft skills’, it is strange that he chooses to attack precisely the institutions which have spent many decades bringing rigour and expertise to the training of actors and theatre technicians.” Drama schools were created with the intention of helping aspiring actors develop their skill and talent so that they can excel in their career. Making the very schools that have aided some of the greats seem insignificant in the learning process is naïve and unfair.

Any person who wishes to excel in their field pursues further technical training. Doctors go to medical school, lawyers go to law school, and actors go to drama school. While there are people who have excelled in the field without the advanced technical training, those who have pursued further training can boast about having a level of understanding and a set of experiences that bettered them personally and professionally; and what can be better than that?

Author: Diamond Grant