Free Training Opportunities for Actors


As well as a precarious way to make a living, training to become a skilled and well-crafted actor does not come cheap. We’ve compiled a list of some great cost-free opportunities to help fledgling actors get their foot in the proverbial door.

Also watch out for Mark Summers’ Masterclass – coming soon!

1.  British Theatre Academy

Offering classes and opportunities to perform, this Isleworth stage school operates in a similar way to the big-name franchises – except that participating under-23s pay nothing.

BTA stages shows in the West End and elsewhere with large, rotating casts. The shows more or less break even so that costs are covered although it’s founder, Chandler-Garcia takes no salary. He jokes: ‘My husband pays the bills.’

Last summer, BTA’s version of The Secret Garden, which ran at Ambassadors Theatre, was impressive. It featured 359 children and young actors in different cast teams. At present, around 10% of Chandler-Garcia’s participants go on to vocational training; he hopes to increase that.

2.  National Youth Theatre Rep Company

Every year, the National Youth Theatre recruits 15 of its members, aged 18-25, to form a repertory training company. The scheme is now in its fifth year. Actors learn through classes and rehearsals. Then they mount a West End season of contrasting plays – usually three – that run through the autumn. The recent 2016 season comprised Romeo and Juliet, Pigeon English and DNA.

By the end of the year, every participant can expect to be signed to a reputable agent and most get plenty of work thereafter.

Sope Dirisu

Sope Dirisu

Sope Dirisu, currently appearing in ITV’s The Halcyon, is a graduate of this system. Every member of the company is bursary supported and no one pays any fees. So if you’re in your teens, join NYT if you possibly can to ensure that you’re eligible to audition for the rep company later. Also free is NYT’s Playing Up programme for people aged 19-24 who are not in employment, education or training.

3. Surviving Actors

Aimed at actors who need help with staying afloat, Surviving Actors is a careers fair that offers lots of money-saving ideas including information about top-up training opportunities. The event itself – lots of people, including training organisations of various sorts, to network with and talk to – is a form of training. Admission is free but you need to register in advance.

At the same time, there is a comprehensive programme of seminars and workshops modestly priced at £6 per session. These also need to be pre-booked.

4. The Stage Scholarships

Every year, The Stage supports scholarships in training organisations of all sorts from part-time opportunities for children at schools such as Razzamataz and Pauline Quirke Academy to full-time vocational training at, for example, Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company. Full-time children’s schools such as Barbara Speake, (where Mark Summers trained) and Sylvia Young are also members of the scheme. It adds up to more than £500,000 worth of free training every year.

In 2016 alone, these scholarships funded or part-funded 139 children and young people aged from six to 23.

5. Masterclass

Theatre Royal Haymarket’s well-established Masterclass programme offers free fortnightly training sessions to young actors. Most are led by well known, successful performers, directors, producers, designers and playwrights keen to give their time and share their expertise with people at the beginning of their careers.

Recent Masterclass workshop leaders have included Joanna Lumley, Bradley Cooper, Lenny Henry, Elaine Paige, Indhu Rubasingham, Patrick Stewart, Ewan McGregor, Sheridan Smith and Lucy Kirkwood.

Sheridan Smith

Sheridan Smith

6. Auditions as training

Good drama schools offer applicants a whole day’s attendance, including workshops and advice, to every auditionee. Nearly all charge an audition fee – however, in effect that is just the cost of applying. The training a seasoned auditionee can pick up along the way is a bonus.

Sensible applicants find out what’s on offer at the audition and exploit this – what you learn at audition 1 may help you a lot at audition 2. Look out for schools such as the Musical Theatre Academy (winner of The Stage’s school of the year award in 2012 and currently shortlisted for the same award in 2017), which gives auditionees a whole day and feedback as opposed to some other schools, which dismiss unsuccessful applicants in just a few minutes.

7. Youth Theatre and Young Companies nationwide

Many venues run youth theatres and young companies – in London, that includes Lyric Hammersmith, Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Tricycle and the Unicorn. Outside London, check out York Theatre Royal. As well as, the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.

Usually, there is a modest charge for most participants, but there are often bursaries to support the less well-off and free activities. London’s Theatre Centre, for example, is running a project called Our Place – weekly free workshops for 12-21 year-olds in the Old Street area that will lead to a devised show at Shoreditch Town Hall on March 7,9 and 11.

Nottingham Actors Centre offers free training to 16-25 year-olds for a minimum of two hours on a weeknight.

8. John Thaw Initiative – opportunity to showcase your own writing & performance

The Actors Centre announced the second season of its John Thaw Initiative, running from April to June, which will showcase works in development from actors, focusing specifically on mental health.

For the first time, the Actors Centre will be opening the initiative for public submissions, meaning any actor can apply whether or not they are a member of the centre.

Alongside the season, the centre will also run workshops around industry specific mental health issues.

Joel Fisher, creative producer at TAC says: ‘We as an industry should be so proud of the strides we have taken to break the taboo surrounding mental health in the past few years but until we completely normalise the conversation the work is not yet done.’

‘By framing an entire season around the discussion, we aim to take us that one step closer in the best way we know how, by exploring the issues through the lens of theatre.’

In the meantime, actors can apply to show their new work as part of the mental health season from February 6, with the deadline for submissions at midday February 23.

John Thaw

John Thaw

9. Late lucky break

Training in a mainstream drama school – one of the best known 20 or so at least – usually costs around £9,000 per year, plus subsistence. However, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to start repaying your student loan until you’re earning £21,000 a year. Realistically, for many actors that could be a long time in the future (the debt is cancelled after 30 years).

So, in theory, you could graduate at 21 and get your late lucky break at age 52. All without having to pay for your training. Obviously that isn’t the route most would choose, but it might help to keep things in perspective. However some well known actors got their breaks late, including Ricky Tomlinson.

Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson


By Clea Myers @camtweak

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