Today, the BBC has launched a new training programme which will focus on working with disabled actors currently in the industry, as well as finding new up-and-coming talent.
The participants of the scheme, which is called 'Class Act: a nationwide search and skill factory', will be tutored in auditioning, camera technique, business and acting skills, and script and character work. They will also be given the chance to work with directors on material for use in their showreel. The workshop will last three days, and give actors the opportunity to build contacts within the industry. The residential training scheme will be held in London from 2nd to 4th October this year.
Controller of BBC Comedy commissioning, Shane Allen, said increasing the number of disabled actors represented in comedy programmes is "crucial" and this new training scheme is the "most focused and practical way" to nurture new talents. The BBC’s target for disabled people within the organisation is 8% of all staff by 2020, including 8% of all screen talent.
Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama said the actors will be provided with the "finest training the BBC has to offer", while Alison Walsh, the pan-BBC disability lead, said: "Although this scheme doesn’t guarantee work, it will provide training opportunities and exposure for new talent". To apply, prospective actors should register their interest by visiting this website.
There are schemes for disabled actors in the theatre community. Theatre company Graeae focuses on working with D/deaf and disabled actors, and tour productions around the UK. They run bespoke programmes which explore the themes of their current productions. For their latest production, Reasons To Be Cheerful, they are inviting songwriters to record their own protest songs to take on the show’s nationwide tour. More information here, and Reasons To Be Cheerful comes to London at Theatre Royal Stratford East in October. Company Ramps on the Moon focus on integrating disabled and non-disabled actors in their productions. Their last production, The Who’s Tommy, also ran at TRSE in June.
Mind the Gap run a performance academy in London which for people who want to develop a career in theatre by developing skills in acting, dance and music. The academy is run on a full-time for three years, or on a one year, part-time basis, and the company also run a summer school. Mind the Gap alumni have gone on to appear in The Bill, Casualty, Doctors and Coronation Street. Find out more here.
Central School of Speech and Drama have run a diploma for learning disabled adults in the past. The one-year Performance Making Diploma was a part-time, daytime evening and weekend course that developed skills in devised theatre. The course ran in 2016, and it is hoped they school will be able to run the course again in the future. Register your interest here. The course was deliviered with theatre company Access All Areas, who continue to run workshops for adults actors with learning disabilities in London.
Photo credits: Richard III (left) by Nobby Clark, Unreachable (right) by Matt Humphery