Whatage are the students at the academy? Some are as young as eleven, but it is best for a girl to start under the age of twenty, preferably, says Mr. Barnes-between the age of sixteen and seventeen. Those past their 'teens need not think themselves beyond the pale, especially if they have special talent, but in all professions it is as well to get the drudgery over as soon as possible.
To mention only a few of the staff of instructors is to inspire confidence. Such names as Mr. Ben Webster, Mr. J. Fisher White, Mr. A. E. George, Miss Gertrude Burnett, Miss Elsie Chester, Mr. Louis d'egville (dancing), M. Felix Bertrand (fencing) are so well known that they speak for themselves. The number of pupils averages a little under a hundred, and they are divided into seven classes of twelve or fourteen each, so that large, unwieldy classes are avoided, and it is possible for everyone to get individual attention and care. The students are divided into sections, called A, B, C, and the Final School, and they are classed according to their progress. The course of study includes voice production, the art of expression-delsarte system (a series of exercises whereby the body is trained to express adequately the emotions of the mind), acting class, dancing, deportment, and fencing. A student who shows a marked preference for musical comedy or comic opera would receive special tuition in dancing, but no musical training is given.
The Final School may be reached in a student's fourth term (in special cases she may arrive in her third term), and there are such very exceptional advantages attached to it that a student would be very ill-advised to leave before she had passed through it. The Final School classes are held on the stage of a regular theatre, and several performances are given during the term. The advantages of this are obvious. The actress is able " to let herself go," and has every opportunity of displaying talent.
In addition, certain specially chosen students periodically take part in a public performance at some West End theatre.
What sort of plays are studied? Every kind and description, from wordless pantomime to Greek tragedy. For example, in the term beginning on May 30, 1910, and ending July 15, the Final School rehearsed and performed the following plays-viz., "The Dove Uncaged," "A Doll's House," "Barbara," "The Case of Rebellious Susan," "Strife" (Act 2), "The Worth of a Man," "Caste" (Act 3), "Case for Eviction," and "The Death of Tintagiles and Hippolytus." The student in her final stages often does an eight hours' work-day and more, so that she is well qualified to stand the strain of regular rehearsals for a public production.
Besides the regular staff of instructors, the pupils are often visited and rehearsed by some of the very distinguished associates who take a personal interest in the welfare of the school. Such men as Sir Arthur Pinero, Dion Boucicault, Granville Barker, Sir John Hare, and Lyall Swete, have rehearsed the students several times.
The management of the school is now vested in a council comprising Sir Squire Bancroft (president), Sir John Hare, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (who originally founded it), Mr. George Alexander, Mr. Forbes Robertson, Mr. Cyril Maude, Mr. Arthur Bourchier, Sir Arthur Pinero, Mr. J. M. Barrie, Sir William S. Gilbert, Mr. Edward Terry, and Mr. E. S. Willard.
There are also numerous prizes offered to incite and encourage the students. The most coveted is the gold medal which is annually awarded to the most distinguished pupil. Several of its recipients in the past have already made a name for themselves on the stage, such as Mr. Reginald Owen, Mr. Charles Maude, Miss Mary Barton, Miss Athene Seyler, Miss Laura Cowie, etc.
Included in the course of instruction are special lectures on the history of the drama, Shakespeare, the art of the stage, etc., by well-known authorities, and there are also classes for the study of French plays.
The Academy does not guarantee an engagement after the full course of tuition has been taken, but it gives its pupils every assistance, and in many cases is instrumental in finding them openings. Managers are quick to recognise the value of such a school, and requisition Mr. Barnes to send them his pupils for small parts, understudies, or " walk-ons."
Other advantages are enjoyed by the students, such as the use of a theatrical library, and, owing to the kindness of the honorary physicians to the academy, students are able, by means of a letter of introduction from the administrator, to consult them without the payment of a professional fee. To the struggling would-be actress this is a boon. Light luncheons, teas, etc., are supplied at as nearly as possible cost price by the housekeeper, but no arrangement is made for the lodging of students.
As all roads lead to Rome, so there are several ways of approaching the stage, but the Academy of Dramatic Art seems to be one of the most direct. In some way or another, the girl who wants to go on the stage must be trained. At the Academy she is spurred on by competition, and is taught the value of co-operation, without which her talent is not marketable, for an actress does not stand by herself alone-she is only one of a company.