Professor He Yan, Dean of Acting Department, leads a group to UK for study of UK’s approach of theatre actor training

30 November 2017

From 21 to 26 November 2017, Professor He Yan, Dean of Acting Department, Shanghai Theatre Academy, visited the United Kingdom for a five-day teaching-centric study tour, leading a group of five from the Acting Department, Academic Affairs Office and Graduate School. In that duration, the group visited the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and got in touch with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Accompanied by Professor Michael Earley, former Principal of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, the group visited the Shakespeare’s Global Theatre and the modern art gallery, Tate Modern.

Accredited by Drama UK, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance is a leading drama school in the UK and supplies talents of performing arts to the entertainment industry in London’s West End year in and year out. Founded in 1950, the college enjoys a long history and issued its first degree in acting in 1976. The study group was invited by Ms Niamh Dowling, Principle of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and was warmly received by Professor Michael Earley, former principal of the college, and the responsible people from various functions of the college. Professor Michael Earley spoke highly about the recent STA International Forum on Actor Training and Education, stating that the forum has been a forerunner and explorer in focusing on matters at forefront internationally, discussing interdisciplinary integration and promoting reform in education and it has not only strengthened the academic exchange in the contemporary performing disciplines of the world, but also shown STA’s unique perspective on the reform of actor training and education. Jeremy Harrison who is the director for the acting and postgraduate programs of the college provided an introduction about the training scheme and curriculum system of the college’s three-year undergraduate program in acting as well as the education system of the British Commonwealth countries. The college’s curriculum system for the acting program mainly consists of three parts, i.e. voice, movement and acting. The voice course mainly uses the methods of Linklater and Fitzmaurice and is divided into different stages of training. The movement course mainly uses the methods and techniques of Jacques Lecoq and Alexander. The acting course mainly follows the methods of Stanislavski, Meisner and Grotowski in the teaching. It was a pleasure to note that all this fit well with the current direction of reform adopted by STA’s Acting Department. Then, the study group observed the Jacques Lecoq physical training class of the first year students and the practice production “Shortsighted” of the third year students. The study group also visited the Stanislavski Centre of the college. Professor Paul Fryer, Head of the Centre, kindly invited Professor He Yan and a couple of other teachers of STA to participate in the international academic conference on Stanislavski which will be held next year at the University of California.

(Prof He Yan presenting STA flag to Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance)

Located in London, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is recognized as one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world. Founded in 1904, it is also the oldest drama school in the UK. RADA provides basic actor training and opportunities of professional practice to its students for their entry into the music and theatre industry. Each year, RADA holds more than 300 public performances, including concerts, recitals, operas, musical plays and a series of productions of dramatic art.

The study group met with Mr Edward Kemp, Director of RADA and briefed him on the first STA International Forum on Actor Training and Education recently organized by STA’s Acting Department which received high praise from Mr Kemp. At the same time, Professor He Yan extended the invitation for Mr Kemp to participate in the next STA International Forum on Actor Training and Education. Mr Kemp accepted the invitation with great pleasure and expressed his willingness to visit Shanghai and visit STA. In the evening of the day, at the invitation of Mr Kemp, the study group watched two performances that Mr Kemp had directed personally, namely, “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Something Unspoken”. After the performances, Mr Kemp made a brief introduction and experience sharing of the creation process, and Professor He Yan spoke highly about RADA’s teaching standards. Both agreed to further strengthen the ties and reached a consensus on moving forward with the next stage of cooperation between the two schools.

The five-day study tour not only promoted STA’s exchange and interaction with Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but also enabled the communication with another top tier acting school of the UK, i.e. the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, on exchange and cooperation-related matters, which will be followed up in the next step.

(Prof Michael Earley, former principal of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance (left one) and Mr Edward Kamp, Director of Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (left two) with Professor He Yan, Dean of STA Acting Department and Ms Xiao Ying, Deputy Dean of STA Acting Department)

Through the interactive exchange with the high level art schools of the UK, the study group obtained more direct understanding and appreciation of actor training and education in the UK and found that the scientific nature and diversity of their actor training and education are worth of referencing and learning in our practice. At the same time, the study group also found that in its comprehensive teaching reform, the Acting Department of STA has a lot in common with these UK schools in terms of education concept, talent cultivation, curriculum system, discipline construction and introduction of international courses. This has further strengthened our faith and courage in carrying out the education and teaching reform.

The visits to UK drama schools and discussions of the findings will help us further defined our correct positioning of running the school, promote the strategic plan for innovation-driven development of teaching reform, and open up a new dimension in which reform strengthens cognition, diversification promotes creation and breadth of mid leads the future. The Acting Department of STA will take the “Peak and Plateau” initiative as the opportunity, give play to the platform's cluster advantage to engage in resource integration, interaction and sharing, and strive to build a world-class base for actor training and education.