Differences between U.S. and UK drama schools?
As acting is something that captivates the world-over, acting in English is something that is incredibly useful to a performer – and what is for sure, is that Britain and America have institutions that are renowned throughout the world. American acting schools and UK drama schools offer vocational training that holds the industry in expectation over the talent that they’ll produce this year. But, what is the training provided by each nation? and the differences between the two?
The answers you seek are out there and both hold their merits.
So, let’s find out briefly.
History & Style
Understanding the history of both nations is key to the fundamentals of their acting training as well. The U.S.A is a relatively new nation on the world stage (compared with European counter-parts) and structures its training around the screen and reflects their film orientated society. Britain by comparison, is a much older nation, and its history is guarded in the works of Shakespeare and acting for the stage. These are two completely different beasts and it might be wise checking in with yourself which path you feel more suited to travel down. Acting for the stage require technique, discipline, mental-strength and honing of skills needed to perform the same show 9 times a week.
Screen acting is subtler, nuanced, “real” and impromptu. The character that emerges on screen is real and has had a life before the camera started pointing at them. The idea of ‘method-acting’ and a character driven focus to performing becomes more important for the screen, as opposed to breath-technique and projection. Therefore, American acting and their institute of acting are often looking for ‘you.’ The real ‘you’, that is vulnerable and open to different emotional attitudes. Britain has a famous reputation for their actors transforming into other people – in the same vein, they’ll need to expose themselves emotionally whilst training, in order to portray a character with the same depth.
At the same time, they’ll have their technique predetermined for stage work; which is transferable from the stage to screen. You could argue that when training for the screen, it limits you in what you can perform genuinely and with the right dramatic poise. The American actor must use his artistic instincts to create a character on the fly and ‘in the moment’. British actors ground themselves in the different aspects of training (Voice, Movement, Devising etc.) and work to turn that into a suitable performance.
The differences match the nations in how they’re viewed around the world stereotypically. Britain has the tiquette and is uptight about expressing their work (The lines are learnt and it’s very serious how they go about it). America is a bit more chilled out and let’s their unconscious mind work (mystical moments appear on screen in the moment.)
In the States, drama training does not come in the form of a conservatoires system like it does in the UK. These drama schools and universities there are generally affiliated to a college’s (if you’re going to use their colloquialisms) drama department. This is in no-way a lack of professional, formalised and respected training. New York has produced some of the most spectacular actors ever to be seen. Britain on the other hand, is steeped in a tradition of conservatoires and remains so to this day. The reputation of the Conservatoires from other home nations (like, Wales & Scotland) remain towards the top of any drama schools leader board.
How Many Years is Acting School?
This could be put into the system category, but it’s more to do with how the different nations approach training. American acting institutes insist on a 4-year programme within the school, before encouraging you to continue training wherever you settle whilst looking for work. Then you could pursue a masters training programme for the same length of time - in the same group as the undergraduates.
Britain has a different approach whereby your 3-year intensive course will prepare you for the ‘business’ across multiple disciplines; allowing you, in theory, to grapple with work straight away. You can also go on to take a master’s degree with an extra 1-year training in a specific genre of studies (classical acting, script writing, etc.). All this can add to your employability and allow you to branch out into other areas surrounding the arts.
Saying all this, there is a uniting factor from both nations. They produce incredible artists with an ambition to create work that will speak to people for generations. Culture is sparked from New York to London drama schools, from California to South Glamorgan, and the catalyst for theatre and film being transferred to life are the actors.