"I want to go on the stage!"
How often one hears that cry, but usually she who utters it has no idea how to set about it. She is anxious to enter Theatre-land, but cannot find the door thereto.
It is generally conceded nowadays that in no profession, be it commercial or artistic, can anyone succeed without some special training or apprenticeship. Even a heaven-sent genius - and they are rare enough - must learn the technique of his trade. And the stage is no different from any other profession, though often stage-struck girls think they have only to walk on to the boards of a theatre and they will be able to act. Per-haps they have had little amateur experience - often this has all to be unlearnt - and kind friends in the front rows have beamed and applauded, and hailed the tyro as a budding Sarah Bernhardt. But the theatrical manager is made of very different stuff from those well-meaning friends.
A group of instructors and students of the Academy of Dramatic Art. 62. Cower Street. London. The aim of the college is to equip thoroughly the aspirant to the stage
At the opening of the Academy of Dramatic Art, Miss Ellen Terry, who was herself "a child of the stage," said: "Those who are gifted with the power to act can, and must, be taught. We claim for acting that it is an art . . . but our art, like any other,cannot be practised without a training." Miss Winifred Emery recently said: "To the girl who has dramatic capabilities and intends to adopt the stage, not as an amusement, but as a serious career, I say, go in for a proper training." An axiom of the profession often quoted is "acting cannot be taught," but this, contradictory as it may seem, only means that the inspiration, the spirit, the genius of acting cannot be taught, and this applies to any art. The divine spark cannot be implanted by any number of teachers.
A school such as the Academy of Dramatic Art, situated at 62, Gower Street, W.c., right in the heart of London, does not claim to be anything more than a sort of turnstile through which an aspirant after stage honours would do well to pass. To have graduated in such an academy and won a certificate of merit, awarded for general industry and distinguished merit by the examiners, proclaims that she has at least learnt the technique of her art. And, says a well-known critic, "the value of even the most highly developed intuitive acting must be enhanced by the addition of technical skill."
Let us enter the doors of No. 62, and examine the workings of this school of acting. There we meet its very able and genial administrator, Mr. Kenneth Barnes, a brother of those two distinguished actresses, the Misses Violet and Irene Vanbrugh. One cannot but be struck from the outset by the common-sense and business-like way he talks of the stage as a profession. There are no alluring and vague prospects offered to intending pupils. In novelettes, the beautiful heroine has only to step in front of the footlights after having recited a little in private, and her fame and fortune are made! But Mr. Barnes soon disperses any of these wonderful dreams. He says: "Work, work," and yet again, "work."
Before a girl can enter the academy, she must first pass an entrance examination, which is held before the beginning of each term. The examination consists of the recitation by the candidate of one of several passages chosen by the examiners, which is given her to study beforehand. Although this test is not a mountain of difficulty, it demands a certain amount of aptitude for stage work on the part of the candidate, and the passages are chosen from, say, Shakespeare and such a play as "Caste" (Polly Eccles was recently given - 1910) in order that she may have the opportunity for the display of some emotional power. The examiners are quick to detect latent ability and promise, and, provided they are there, the candidate finds herself enrolled as a student. If there is promise, if there are possibilities, the academy undertakes to bring them to fruition. The entrance fee for this examination is one guinea. The year is divided into three terms of eleven weeks each, the first term from about January 15 to March 31; the second, May 1 to July 15; the third, October 1 to December 15; and students can enter at the beginning of any one of these terms.
The fees for the full course are twelve guineas a term, payable at the commencement of each term. But provision is now being made for those with exceptional talent who are not well blessed with this world's goods. So long as the council shall order, a scholarship is awarded at the end of each term to the student who, during his or her first term, shall be considered to have shown the most marked ability and general industry in all the branches of work. This scholarship provides for free tuition for three terms. To be continued.
A trying ordeal. The candidate for admission must recite a passage, previously studied, which has been chosen by the examiners