Subjects and Careers


There’s no one way to become an actor—whether a performer ends up on stage, on an acclaimed television show or in film, there are many paths an actor can take. It can be a challenging career with little security, short term work and it is highly competitive. Students must be physically and mentally fit and possess the determination to keep going, even when things are tough as the benefits can be great. Professional training is essential – the performer needs discipline and stamina; they need to understand and to be able to interpret text; they need to be able to use their body and voice effectively; they need imagination and intellect and they need to understand how to promote themselves in a professional manner. These are skills that will be taught and developed at drama school.

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Musical Theatre

From glitzy musicals on a West End Stage to Christmas pantomimes there is no denying the thrilling experience of watching a live performance, brought to life by talented performers. It is a rewarding career, however becoming a Musical Theatre professional is hard work and the career itself can be tough and involves rejection, frustration and low wages. Musical Theatre programmes are very intense both physically and mentally with students in classes for at least 30 hours a week. Students are expected to sing, dance and act to a high standard and training is rigorous. FDS Schools have a proven track record in delivering high standards of training that prepare students for the a career in Musical Theatre world and have graduates in top West End shows and other productions all over the world.

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The director is the key artistic coordinating role in the development of a project: collaborating with actors, designers, technical teams, producers, playwrights, choreographers and others to achieve its final realisation.

Directors work in all live and recorded media, and the role can change with the medium. For live performance, the director is often central to the conception of a project, and is the key artistic coordinating role in its development: collaborating with actors, designers, technical teams, producers, playwrights, choreographers and many others to achieve its final realisation. In theatre, directors may work as freelance, assistant, associate or artistic directors who are responsible for the artistic leadership of a company, companies can be based at a theatre, or touring to various venues, or even targeting audiences in prisons or schools or festivals. Opportunities for short and long-term employment in established companies are fiercely competitive; in the early stages of their career many directors assist more experienced directors or set up their own un-funded companies to produce work on the fringe. Several FDS schools offer post-graduate training in directing for the stage or live performance, sharing a focused environment with training actors, designers and technicians.

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Production and Technical Theatre

Technical Theatre is a hugely exciting and growing area of the industry. Not only is digital technology revolutionising film and music recording – it is also changing live performance. All of the skills that can be learnt at one of the FDS Schools are transferable to any aspect of the entertainment industry, from theatre to TV, events and film.

Stage management: Stage Managers are the driving force behind a production, co-ordinating all aspects of the production through rehearsals and then running the performance. The roles require the individual to have strong communication skills, initiative, sensitivity and great diplomacy. Attention to detail and accuracy are also necessary. Working extremely closely with the performers and director, the stage management team are involved in the creation and running of a production from the first day of rehearsals to the final performance. Stage Management is the first rung on the ladder that can lead to greater responsibilities as a Production Manager and Producer of events.

Lighting: The visual images created on stage are an integral part of any live performance and the lighting not only illuminates the set but can also create mood and atmosphere. As a designer, lighting operator and technical manager there are plenty of opportunities for working across all production forms. The work is very creative but also requires a substantial amount of technical knowledge. Lighting professionals have a major role in shaping the development of theatre and television as lighting technology is constantly evolving. All of the drama schools have a wide range of equipment, including some of the latest technology, and some of the schools offer specialised courses.

Sound: Sound has a substantial role to play in creating mood and atmosphere by the application and creation of sound effects and in musical theatre, there is also the need for amplification. The technology in sound is developing faster than any other department and is branching off into new areas of digital and live arts events. There are two main roles in this discipline: designers and technicians. Swiftly changing digital technology means that this may often be the same person. Both roles require a detailed knowledge and understanding of the equipment involved as well as a sensitivity towards the needs of the production. As well as having a good ear, good people skills are needed in this area as sound technicians work in close contact performers.

Construction: The role of the construction department is to build sets and other scenic elements of a production. They work with many different materials and use a wide range of tools and construction techniques. Aside from the physical aspects of the job a ‘carpenter’ needs to be creative, and often work through challenging problems. They may manage budgets and need to be flexible in their approach to the work. ‘Scenic arts’ include scene painting, prop-making, costume production, wardrobe management and anything else that involves executing design and physical construction. It is one of the areas in technical theatre where there is a shortage of people and so the employment levels are high.

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Design: Performance design and creative realisation

Design offers a range of careers which include theatre and set design, theatre construction, prop making, costume design and digital and video technology. Most schools will integrate design and realisation throughout their technical and production courses, but there are also areas for specialisation. There are careers which require an understanding across all the areas of performance practice, creative producing, production and event management. In all these areas students will acquire the relevant craft, as well as skills in budgeting, research, problem-solving and versatility.There is constant demand for professionals with these skills, although the competition is higher in some of the other technical areas. Many FDS schools have specialised design programmes, while others include it as part of the core training.

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Some FDS Schools offer specialised programmes in the study and practice of the spoken voice. Voice graduates can go on to work in numerous fields including voice artists for radio, audio books, animations; voice and/or dialect coaches; voice directors for theatre productions; voice teachers within schools; voice and presentation skills coaches for non-performers. These courses will look at anatomy and physiology, phonetics and how to maintain a healthy voice.

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Actor Musician

Although this is viewed as a relatively new area in performance, the actor musician – an actor that can also play an instrument on stage - dates back centuries. Actor Musicianship programmes offer distinctive and practical training for actors who have musical skills. Actor Musicians are currently in high demand in the industry. Music and acting work well together because both are telling a story and music helps to enhance the story and bring it to life. Actor-musicianship can be challenging because you transition playing an instrument in character, moving and even dancing whilst playing your instrument and playing your instrument as a member of the chorus. These courses requires a level of musicianship and theory which will be specified by the school.

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Movement and Dance

Careers in movement can be very varied, as can the FDS dance and movement programmes on offer. Many of those entering this sector may start their careers as performers and then move into other areas. As well as a career in dance performance there are non-performance areas that may be of interest including choreography, combat direction, stunt work, movement direction, producing, project management, arts management or teaching dance. In addition to dance classes students will also study the theory of dance and movement including the impact of gender, society and disability and looking at how movement and dance can bring people together to promote inclusion. Students may also explore different cultural perspectives of dance and movement.

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Making Performance

Making performance is a broad and incredibly exciting sector. Performing is not the only route into a career in the arts and there are many other creative routes including producing and creating original theatre, devising and collaborative practice; writing plays and screenplays; events management; arts management; creating theatre for schools or people with disabilities. Programmes in Theatre practice give students an understanding of what theatre is, covering a broad set of topics that may include studying international and cross cultural practices, musical theatre creation; theories of performance; play writing; theatre design and choreography. This provides students with a solid grounding in theory and practice that will enable them to pursue their desired career path within the industry.

Applied theatre/drama is a hugely growing area where a student will learn to use drama as a way to help people explore and understand their feelings and behaviours, and find ways to bring about improvements in their lives. Applied theatre embraces a wide range of theatre practices that aim to provoke or shape social change, including: theatre in education, theatre for development, youth theatre, disability theatre, museum theatre, reminiscence theatre and prison theatre. Drama therapists work with people who are facing mental or physical health problems or behavioural issues, or who have autism, dementia or a learning difficulty.

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Performance and education / training

These programmes are usually for graduates that wish to gain or enhance a qualification in education or teaching. They provide an opportunity for practising artists and teachers in a performing arts education context to upgrade their teaching qualifications and obtain a higher level qualification in learning and teaching that have been designed to develop teaching skills for the performing arts.

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