Kids - is Stagecoach any good

  • Rohan Nosworthy

    Actor

    I'm looking for a decent drama school for my 7 year old - however I don't want him to end up doing nothing but "teeth, tits & bums" musicals.

    Rather to teach him to express himself creatively; with honesty, eloquence, and with passion.

    I'm looking at "Stagecoach" at the moment.

    Is it a good school to prepare him for a drama scholarship in private upper school?

    Are there any better ones?

    • 15th Feb 2011
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  • User Deleted

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    I can't tell you about Stagecoach as I was only ever with rival groups. As a child, I was with a youth company who didn't do lessons like I think Stagecoach do but instead put on shows three times a year. I found lots of pretentiousness and precociousness, and would suggest groups like these only if you want to prepare him for the harsh realities of performing. It will, however, also give a great deal of confidence and professionalism.

    Personally, although I have a feeling some CCPers may think otherwise, my best grounding in acting was gained when I performed with local amateur companies. I found it very beneficial working amongst not only children but adults as well- I liked being treated like an adult and an individual and not like one of "the younger group" or "(pink/gold/mice/leper) group" (I found lots of youth groups tend to put kids in groups for ease of direction and organisation).

    My local arts centre has a performing school where you can do classes in a variety of subjects and you can also join a showteam. Maybe something like that would be useful?

    Good luck to you both!

    Rachel

    • 14th Feb 2011
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    I went to Stagecoach when I was younger and I really enjoyed it. I credit it with my great increase in confidence from a shy mousy preteen to a confident and expressive young person. The lessons and shows were performative but a lot of people there went because it teaches lots of great life skills - confidence, working in groups, speaking in public, co-ordination etc. It was at Stagecoach though that I developed my love of performing and realised that it was what I wanted to do with my life. It is not a cheap option but I think it is great!

    I was able to go along for a couple of weeks as a taster before committing to a full term. This might be an option worth exploring.

    Hope that helps,

    Fay

    • 14th Feb 2011
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Hi Rozza,

    As with the other respondents, I don't have a direct answer to the question as such, though I believe Stagecoach have an ever growing reputation, and attending some 'taster' sessions might well be a good idea (I also know that many 'Stagecoach' tutors these days are themselves professional actors, and would, I hope, be instilling skills that are drawn direct from their own extensive experience of theatre work).

    What I can also recall and comment on is my own experience acting when younger. I know that enrolling a child in structured classes does have the most widespread applications - and will teach general skills such as sociability, self-confidence, discipline and developing of the imagination - with the carrot held out of putting much of this into practice in performances before mainly invited audiences at the end of teaching blocks. The classes can also be taken year by year, ensuring that the growth of the child within the structured community can be nurtured.

    With that said, I only very rarely attended workshops and classes of this sort in my youth. As with Rachel, I worked mainly in amateur theatre. It is true that mentioning amateur work on CCP sometimes appears to elicit a horrified response from the 'professionals', but I honestly believe in this case, there is no issue at all - are there *any*, and I mean *any*, currently working actors on this site, barring those who 'fell into the profession', who were brought up in it, or who were being sold by their parents as 'child stars' first, who *didn't* get their initial taste for acting in an amateur production of some description (be this at school, at university or amongst a group of local players)? It is certainly true that working on amateur productions taught me everything initially about stage work.

    Whilst amateur playing can seem, to the seasoned professional, petty, hammy and overly obvious, to a child or teenager, it seems like performing an actual production to an actual outside audience, who are coming to see it, not principally to show support, but mainly in the hope that it will entertain them - and it takes on a corresponding amount of importance as a result. Amateur acting in my youth taught me how to learn a script, how to ready myself for cues, how to look after a costume, how to cope with an audience. It taught me about the importance of discipline in a rehearsal, and the importance of being able to find your place amongst the rest of a wider cast. I remember developing the technique of crafting a character biography as a tool for myself to help me 'get into' character years before I was told this was actually a widely practiced 'Method' Technique. Doing this type of theatre was a wonderful grounding in everything needed to become a professional later. But I would agree that this sort of baptism of fire might not be the ideal starting point for a child who's only seven at the moment, and may need to build confidence. It's something that can become wonderful once you're into your early teens.

    Finally, I suppose it's worth commenting on the fact that most drama courses at schools will have a sizeable theoretic component, as well as a practical side, and getting a grounding in those perspectives from a 'Stagecoach' session, or even an amateur production, is less likely. With that said, anything that starts to encourage a youthful enthusiasm for finding out more about plays, visiting the theatre and so on, is great for establishing the sorts of basics that can be later drawn upon in a school situation. Sometimes, the first useful step is to interest, and excite, a child in the stories concerned, rather than worrying about the complexities of the text. Shakespeare, to take the obvious example, told amazing stories - and you can still be fascinated by the colourful tales, and dynamic characters, without being able to quite yet understand the language, as I was when I was young.

    I hope those thoughts aren't totally worthless to ponder on

    Lee.

    • 14th Feb 2011
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  • User Deleted

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    Hi there

    I have 2 friends who had chindren at stage coach and they both took them out of the classes. One of my friends is also an actress and she thought that the class sizes were ridiculous and the acting was way to basic and general, and no proper technique was being taught., even at age 12 most of the acting classes were game based .. She now has her child in a saturday class at Sylvia Young I believe. And my other friend took her daughter out, who is 8 because she just didn't think she was progressing. I believe Barbara speake school is very good and she also has an agency connected with the school but it obviously depends on where your based.

    I don't know much personally about stage coach but from what I've heard ( and I may be completely dis agreed with) that stage coach is more of a hobby school rather than a professional stage school, that's just through feen back I have had from friends, but there are lots of good stage schools out there.

    I hope this helps you and good luck xxx

    • 15th Feb 2011
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    Hello! As an ex-teacher in both the state and private sector I think it very much depends what the school is looking for when they come to select their scholars. Most schools are not fooled by "coached" acting, but rather want to see a demonstration of natural acting ability, an intelligent approach to text and general suitability to the feel and work ethic of the school. I imagine you're thinking of the change at age 11? (Although some private schools change over at 13, too)? My son is currently on an academic scholarship at a private school and he's been advise to apply for a Drama scholarship to the sister Senior school. But I won't be paying for any coaching (couldn't afford it anyway!!) for him and he's never had a drama lesson in his life. So I really wouldn't worry too much about coaching, unless the school you are interested in has a very strong leaning towards coached children. There's a lot of pressure on parents, but most schools are very canny at spotting the natural talent over the tutored talent. Hope this helps! :)

    • 15th Feb 2011
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  • Kim Wright

    Actor

    I run a theatre school in Burgess Hill with a fellow actor friend of mine.

    Take a look at the website- www.jktheatrearts.co.uk

    • 15th Feb 2011
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  • Hannibal Latuff

    Actor

    Hi,

    Stagecoach works pretty much as a franchise. In my experience, the management for each branch have a lot of leeway, so it can be that some are really good and others not so much. My local one changed management and you could immediately tell the difference (in thi case, for worse). What really worried me was the number of children who had been there for 5 plus years being put at very similar level to new starters. It did not seem logical. Kids tend to love it but if you are really serious about them doing it in the long run, I would consider others options.

    Good luck.

    • 15th Feb 2011
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Yes, very interesting to get the insight of people who know a little more about the actual tendencies implcit within a tutored drama environment than I do. In many ways, what they are saying, though, confirms what I assumed. In essence, I suspect what you are looking for comes down to what your child is actually interested in achieving - by the sound of things, if you are hoping to instill greater values of self-confidence and determination in general, then I am sure that enrolling in a drama class of one sort or another is perfectly viable. If the child is looking to actually learn a little technique and the practicalities of being an actor, then I think the only way to achieve this (before enrolling at a dedicated stage school, at least!) is working in amateur theatre productions as part of a wider group (though as I said in the last post, I do think this is a tough option for a child of 7 - I found it quite intimidating at times, when I was considerably older - 11 or 12...though it was wonderfully exciting as well, of course).

    If it is a question of finding training in order that a scholarship can be won more convincingly in the long term, I tend to agree with the other respondents - the assumption at this sort of age is generally that natural talent shines through and there is minimal expectation that a child will have been trained before application, and the coaching that is liable to be offered by classes will hardly be comprehensive, anyway.

    I assume that your situation is that your child has shown an early interest in drama, and you would like to try and ensure they continue to pursue it, which would ultimately require a scholarship. I don't imagine anything bad can come of enrolling them on courses that hone their discipline and common work ethic further and generate greater confidence and certainty when they perform, provided that you have ensured, as Hannibal suggested, that the teacher concerned is up to snuff. After all, that is really why people at a later age go to drama school, and practice how to channel their energy into its most productive uses in performance; a confident actor (at whatever age) is always a more convincing actor. Still, at the end of the day, it will, indeed, be the child's own inspiration, love for acting and imagination that will probably impress a scholarship panel more than anything else, and that is not something that a class can teach; it is something that is inherent.

    • 15th Feb 2011
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  • Ceejay Sargent

    Actor

    Hi i started my daughter at our local stage coach but took her out after a few weeks i wasn't very impressed the teacher was a trained dance teacher so the acting was rather basic to say the least, and classes were HUGE so children got very little one-on-one instruction, my understanding is that anyone can buy into the franchise so who you get in quality as the teachers can vary hugely from school to school.

    However i am now looking into the Pauline Quirke Academy who dont allow just anyone to buy a franchise you have to go through a fairly vigorous interview and prove that you have the right experience to run an academy so the teachers should be better quality, maybe look at one of those if they have one in your area?

    hope that helps

    • 15th Feb 2011
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    I have the idea that Stagecoach is more for fun, gaining confidence and enjoyment which is great if that is what you are looking for in a school. My son attends Jackie Palmer in High Wycombe were lessons are given both in dance, acting, and singing. It is strictly run and high standards of behaviour, dress and commitment to the arts is expected. They also have a wonderful productive agency who find a lot of good television and film roles for the children attending.

    • 15th Feb 2011
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