Training for a career in theatre is often a really exciting experience - but it can also be daunting, particularly when figuring out how you’re going to pay for it all. Taking into consideration accommodation, materials, travel, and other living expenses, a three-year drama school course can be expensive. So where do you start looking for funding to help train towards a career in theatre and what types of funding are available?
A good place to start looking would be to check out Get Into Theatre’s Funding Opportunities. On this page, you can find a wide range of bursaries, awards, and scholarships for training across on and offstage roles - you can even filter them for targeted opportunities if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnically diverse background, from a low-income household or identify as D/deaf and/or disabled.
One of the things to consider is what type of training is best for you. This might be a three-year bachelor’s degree, or a shorter diploma or master’s programme at either a university or a specialist drama school. Other approaches include (but are definitely not limited to) apprenticeships and short-term or part-time programmes, courses, or qualifications. The type of training available might depend on what role you see yourself in - for example, there are technical theatre and stage management apprenticeships, but these are less common for Performers. You can find some of these training opportunities on Get Into Theatre here.
Unsure what area of theatre you’d enjoy? Check out this ‘complete list of jobs in the theatre industry’ for some ideas.
If you’re looking to train here in the UK, the government offers several loan schemes and awards to support training for a career in theatre. For most of these schemes, you must be a UK national (but eligibility may differ if you’re a student from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, or the Isle of Man).
Besides government programmes, there are also a number of organisations and charities around the UK offering financial support for theatre training. Here are some examples:
There are regularly new schemes and funding opportunities being created, and you might come across other organisations offering financial support - keep an eye out at your local arts venues and on social media, as organisations will often announce new programmes through these platforms.
Besides applying for funding from established organisations, you could also consider personal fundraising. This might include working part-time to save some money up or organising crowdfunding on a platform like GoFundMe. In the same vein, you could consider reaching out to friends and family to ask if they would consider pitching in to support your training endeavour.
The best thing you can do is to start thinking about funding as early as possible, once you decide where and how you want to train. Although securing funding for theatre training might be a daunting process, it’ll take one thing off your shoulders once you begin training and allow you to focus on getting the most out of your programme.
Written by Misha Mah
Misha Mah is an early-career Production Manager and Producer, with an interest in immersive work and live events. She is a graduate of the University of Birmingham’s BA Drama and Theatre Arts course, and will be commencing on the MA Stage & Production Management programme at the Guildford School of Acting this fall. She is currently the Social Media Manager for The SM NEST, the network for early-career stage managers.
Blog image: Shutterstock
Published: 1 December 2021
For many Theatremakers, a big career goal may be to have your own theatre company. While this might feel like a distant dream, something you’ll get to when you’re further into your career with a lot more experience, it doesn’t have to be.
Of course, you might want to start small - think fringe theatre rather than the West End - but if you have a strong idea for a company and believe it could fill a gap that no one else is covering, starting your own theatre company doesn’t have to be a dream you save for much later in your career.
So you’ve decided you’re ready to start a theatre company? Great! But where do you begin? What do you need to know from a legal perspective? How do you create a business plan? Where should you market your shows?
Artistic Directors of the Future has produced some really helpful videos as part of the Bite-size series that answer all of these questions and more. Keep reading to watch a sample of this series, or if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnically diverse background, you can become a member of Artistic Directors of the Future for free to access the series in full.
It’s really important to choose the right legal structure for your theatre company, otherwise it can end up preventing you from accessing the funding you need. Solicitor Keith Arrowsmith, who provides legal advice for individuals, organisations and funders in the creative sector, takes you through how to choose the right structure and where to start with making this key decision.
<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/477063894?h=61c6972ecc" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
You might want to also read: How to become a freelancer in theatre
Creating a business plan from scratch can feel like a very daunting task. Executive Director of Tamasha Valerie Synmoie breaks it down into what you might need for the first three years. Find out what a business plan is, why you need one, what to include, and where to look for further help.
<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/479861168?h=1f9462c98d" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Once you’ve set up your theatre company, how do you spread the word and encourage audiences to your shows? Courtney Glymph and Chris O’Gorman from YourStoryPR talk through the fundamentals of marketing and PR, including strategy, branding, media platforms and messaging.
<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/477070133?h=30ea239fe7" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
If you’re interested in theatre marketing, check out our blog post: What does a Theatre Marketer do?
When starting your theatre company, you will need to think about how to fund the company and its productions. Producer, Spoken Word Artist and Loop Vocalist Koko Brown shares some tips on how to navigate Arts Council England funding applications, from creating your account to setting a budget and writing your application.
<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/479847750?h=0bef986df8" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Published: 5 November 2021
Blog photo: Pexels
According to the Federation of Drama Schools, drama schools operate as non-profit organisations, which is why audition fees exist despite students paying to attend drama school each year, as this money goes towards the running of the school i.e. keeping the building safe and equipped with all the necessities, and paying teachers etc.
But we’re not here to talk about audition costs, we’re here to tell you about which drama schools offer free auditions.
As a way of making drama school more accessible for everyone, a large number of drama schools across the country have put a stop to audition fees and now offer auditions at no cost.
The following colleges are included in the Conservatoires for Dance and Drama (colleges for the study of classical music or other arts) and their key aim is “to increase and secure access to training for the most talented students regardless of their background.” They provide an audition and interview waiver scheme that was designed to ensure that financial barriers do not limit the ability of talented students applying to their schools.
Other drama schools who have abolished or reduced audition fees include…
Fourth Monkey made the decision to abolish audition fees in September 2019. This applies to all audition dates for 2020 intake across both courses offered by the school, consisting of their BA (Hons) Acting Two Year Accelerated Degree and the Year of the Monkey one year intensive training programme.
Sarah Frankcom recently became the new Director of London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and her first act as Director was to create a new audition process and audition fee structure, which saw the cost of first round auditions slashed for all applicants by 75%.
RCSSD offers free auditions for a large number of applicants. Applicants must meet the criteria to be eligible for a free audition. See if you meet the criteria here.
Rose Bruford doesn’t charge audition fees if your household income is under £25,000 per year, you are a recipient of benefits including disability benefits, you have care responsibilities or you can offer evidence of financial hardship. There are a number of other requirements that would make you eligible for a free audition which you can find here.
RWCMD offers audition fee waivers for applicants from low-income backgrounds. However, they are not able to refund accommodation or travel costs. Applicants for an audition fee waiver must be a current UK resident and meet one or more of the criteria which you can find here.
If you apply via the UCAS Conservatoires application there is a fee of £25, whereas the usual audition administration fee is £55 per course. Audition fee waivers are also available and offered to applicants who may face financial hardship. See if you meet the criteria here.
RADA has an application process for those from low-income households to apply for a free audition. Applicants must complete an application form specifying they are applying for a free audition.
Audition fees stand at £45, however Mountview offers a number of free auditions for students unable to afford the cost. Also, if you live in Southwark you are eligible to apply for one free audition for one of the Foundation, BA or MA Performance courses. See all information here.
The audition fee for ArtsEd is £45, however there is an Audition Fee Waiver Scheme in place as a means of encouraging applications from talented applicants who face financial barriers. Find out more about this here.
Guildhall is the latest performing arts school to slash their audition fees. They have reduced the audition fees for their acting courses by almost 50% in a move aimed at levelling the playing field for aspiring Performers and boosting diversity. They also offers fee waivers through a Supported Application Scheme.
Not only do The MTA offer free auditions but they only audition 15 people each day providing every individual with written feedback and a same day decision which will save them on the costs to return for a recall.
Published: 17 February 2020
For anyone who lives in Scotland or thinking about studying in Scotland this blog will tell you everything you need to know about the funding that is available.
In Scotland there are sixteen universities including the Open University, and an additional three institutions of higher education.
In a word, yes. But ONLY if you’re a student from Scotland or the EU.
Scottish university fees are covered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) which means you don’t have to pay anything towards your tuition.
If you’re a student from the rest of the UK or outside of the EU, you will have to pay up to £9,250 per year which is the cost to study in England, plus an additional year as degrees in Scotland take four years to complete as opposed to three years in England.
When you have a job, a small amount of your wages is automatically taken to pay back your student loan over a period of time. If you’re earning up £18,935 per year minimum, 9% of your annual income is paid back direct to the Student Loans Company (SLC). The more you earn the more you’ll pay towards repaying your student loan. You don’t need to worry about arranging this yourself, it is taken before you receive your monthly wages.
SAAS guidelines state: “You must be ordinarily resident in Scotland on the first day of the first academic year of the course.”
This doesn’t mean you can move to Scotland the day before your course begins. This means you must live in Scotland permanently full-time only leaving for holidays. However, there is no time frame on this!
|£0 - £20,999
|£21,000 - £23,999
|£24,000 - £33,999
Part-time students aren’t eligible for funding to cover living costs.
Published: 3 February 2020
Photo: Alex Brenner
Do you love being creative? Love designing or building sets? Love making things happen?
Fancy training for a job in film, TV or theatre? Then Open Door is here to help you get there.
Open Door is an 8-month part time and flexible intensive course designed to help young people take the next step in their career. Open Door works with people between the ages of 18-26 (Actors) and aged 17-26 (Behind the Scenes) who wish to pursue a career in theatre.
Open Door is a registered charity which has received multiple awards including being named as one of the top 100 change makers by The Big Issue (newspaper) and as ‘School of the Year’ by The Stage Awards.
Open Door know how difficult and expensive the process of applying for drama school can be. Open Door help young people by giving them the support they need to go to auditions feeling prepared, confident and without any worry of financial strain. And it’s all free!
Successful acting applicants will receive:
Successful behind the scenes applicants will receive:
- Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
- Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
- The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Including interview fee exemption whenever required
If you’re serious about a career in acting, behind the scenes or in production and you’d like to apply for Open Door, you must meet the following criteria.
If this seems like something you’d like to participate in and you meet the criteria, apply below.
Acting: Apply here
Behind the scenes: Apply here
“I honestly felt like a career in acting is hopeless where I live, but then I came to Open Door and I feel so motivated”-
Open Door participant 2018/19
“If not for Open Door I would not have been able to apply for any. It is so expensive I just wouldn’t be able to do it” -
Open Door participant 2018/19
“It made us feel like we belong in what we are going to do. We can go to these amazing places and see shows we like and we don’t like, it is inspiring and makes me think yeah I can do that”-
Open Door participant 2018/19
“Getting the free theatre tickets was amazing because it was for things I couldn’t normally afford to go to, with good seats. The quality of the work, seeing stuff you do and don’t like, it is so inspiring to be there”-
Open Door applicant 2018/19
Coming from a working class or low-income background can be challenging, especially in an industry that is highly competitive and in which many workers are employed on a freelance basis.
Working as a freelancer means that you will be working on contracts and there may be periods of time where you have gaps in between those contracts. For someone from a working class background, this can be a more challenging time compared to others as you may not have the financial support from family to help you through to your next contract. However, there are plenty of other jobs that many theatre industry professionals do in between their contracted theatre work to help pay their rent and bills.
Take a look at both blogs How to be a freelancer and What jobs do successful theatre industry professionals do in between theatre jobs to earn? to help understand how to financially support yourself through a career in theatre.
For many jobs in theatre, you do not need a degree and can work your way up the career ladder instead. However, if you want to study and learn new skills then there are plenty of funding and scholarships available for those from a low income household. Take a look at our list of funding opportunities here.
More recently there has been a rise in opportunities for cheaper theatre tickets. For example, Mousetrap Theatre Projects offers highly discounted tickets and the National Theatre has plenty of £15 tickets available for each show.
One organisation whose work you might want to follow is COMMON, the leading national arts organisation supporting the UK theatre industry to achieve greater intersectional class diversity. They aim to make theatre widely accessible to those from working and under-class backgrounds, whether they’re artists, audiences or communities, and strive for greater equality, inclusion and representation across the industry.
There is also Open Door, which offer the opportunity for mentoring advice and pay for audition fees for the top drama schools for those from low income backgrounds. Audition fees for drama schools are around £40 - £50 each, so it can become expensive if you apply for a few different schools. Open Door can take away that expense for successful applicants.
There are opportunities out there to help you get your foot in the door if you are from a working class background. It shouldn’t be something that hinders you from pursuing your dream career, it’s just knowing where to look to gain that support and Get into Theatre is the first stepping stone for letting you know about those opportunities.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Published: 04 March 2019