May 27, 2024

Summer Schools Make a Difference

Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain, highlights the transformative power of residential summer schools. These immersive experiences allow young people to step away from their daily routines and engage deeply in creative pursuits. At Theatretrain's summer school, participants form lasting friendships, hone their talents, and discover new dimensions of themselves through intensive workshops and collaborative activities.

Residential Summer Schools are fantastic places to learn. For many years Robert and I taught at Stagewise a summer school for young people in Ireland and later we taught at an adult version as well. The thing about summer schools is that for a week you give up your normal life and live in a bubble. You meet new people and old friends; you eat together and you work together every day doing something you enjoy and it’s fun.

You probably stay up too late talking and as the days go by it catches up with you. The interesting thing is that you keep going because it’s fun and it becomes something you have to do – you can’t let the group down.

By midweek you are exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. At this point, you get real benefits from the event. When you are tired your guard is down and you lose that need to keep up appearances and that is when you are open to giving your all in singing and dancing or acting. It’s a bit of a paradox but often when you are tired you push yourself to do your best work.

When I was leading the Italia Conti degree acting course a Russian Director asked me if we could rehearse through the night. He said the students were complacent and not giving their all – they hadn’t got under the skin of their characters. The Academy agreed as long as I was there to keep an eye on things. These were 20–21-year-olds. Sure enough, around 3.30 am some of the students became very ratty and argumentative and suddenly their work was alive, sharp and very focused – and so much better.

We don’t ask younger students to do that but the principle of summer school is the same – when you break your usual way of doing things it can be so beneficial. And there’s another thing that I have noticed over the years. If you look at the students towards the end of the week you will see that their pupils have become dilated – it’s a mixture of excitement and tiredness but it’s like someone has switched a light on in their head. For some people it can be transformative, they understand things differently.

Then of course they go home and fall fast asleep to catch up but when they wake up, they miss the people, the timetable, the social interaction and wish they were still there. Life returns to normal but they take away important things about themselves and the work.

How lovely to have time out of your life to pursue something you love.

Theatretrain’s annual residential summer school is in its 17th year at the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich. It has West End Masterclasses, Props Making, Comedy Workshops, Musical Theatre but also swimming, team games, evening games, a quiz night, an awards ceremony, and a party with fancy dress all culminating in an end-of-week show for parents and family. This year’s event is from the 29th July to the 4th August. For more information contact nrsa@theatretrain.co.uk

Theatretrain, a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 4-18, specialises in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, and resilience. If you know a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our performing arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.

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