Archive | October, 2011

Drama School fees: actors get the rawest deals

26 Oct

Is there anything more expensive than becoming an actor? Apart from getting a divorce, or having a baby?

Drama school fees are high, but since the economy crashed, paying the fees has become an even more potent way of suffering for your art.

Government arts funding has been slashed, university fees have rocketed. Who is getting the rawest deal? Those in the arts, going to university.

Many actors are declining to take much-anticipated gap years as those who defer entry to the following year will have to pay the new, higher fees.

Central School of Speech and Drama here answers some questions on fees for those starting in 2012.

Picture by Felixe, on Flickr, via a Creative Commons licence.

The upstart crow: why is Anonymous getting Shakespeare fans so hot and bothered?

26 Oct

Shakespeare sign

The new Roland Emmerich film, Anonymous, has reopened the perennial debate about whether Shakespeare’s plays were really written by  a Warwickshire-born actor with no university education. Emmerich’s film, written by John Orloff, subscribes to the well-worn “Oxfordian” conspiracy theory in which Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), was responsible for the canon.

Temperatures run high whenever Shakespearean authorship is called into question. Pub and road signs in Warwickshire (and even as far afield as Southport) referring to Shakespeare have been covered up in protest. The campaign serves as a reminder that this is not just an academic question: the revenues from tourism of Stratford’s theatres – not to mention museums, restaurants and pubs – depend on it.

Shakespeare remains a major driver of the arts economy in Britain, and a major employer of British actors. Next year, 50 arts organisations will take part in the World Shakespeare Festival (WSF), a central plank of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. But even in an ordinary week such as this one, London alone is playing host to productions of The Tempest, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “Complete Works”.

The Oxfordian theory was first proposed by the colourfully named J Thomas Looney. High-profile supporters of the theory today include actors Mark Rylance (former Artistic Director of the Globe) and Sir Derek Jacobi (who narrates Anonymous).

The theory’s detractors say it stems from snobbery. Stanley Wells, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, says: “They would like to feel that the author of these great works must have been a member of the aristocracy. It’s also often due to ignorance, the feeling that a man born in this town of Stratford couldn’t have had enough education to write those plays which is just not true.”

The Oxfordians doubt that these plays could have been written by a mere actor. But many who have worked closely with Shakespearean texts feel they must have been, that they show a deep knowledge of the actor’s craft.

What do you think?

Picture by Nelson Kuniyoshi, on Flickr, via a Creative Commons licence.