Bristol Old Vic and Theatre School reinstate historic partnership through graduate prize
Bristol Old Vic today announced the reinstating of a graduate award given in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. The Patrons' Prize will be an annual prize awarded to two outstanding graduate actors, inviting them to join the Bristol Old Vic company for a six month contract and guaranteeing them the invaluable experience of working in a professional theatre.
The Patrons' Prize marks the reigniting of an historic relationship between the two Bristol organisations. Until the late 1980s, many students would be employed by Bristol Old Vic after graduating as a natural progression of their training. Previous Theatre School alumni who began their professional careers at Bristol Old Vic include Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeremy Irons, Tim Pigott-Smith, Samantha Bond and Amanda Redman.
In the 1980s, this tradition was continued by the Chesterton Award, offering two contracts per year to Theatre School graduates. Recipients included Pippa Haywood, Louise Plowright and Olivier Award-winner Adrian Scarborough, but the award collapsed for lack of funds.
Speaking at the press night of the Theatre School's graduate production, The Good Soul of Szechuan, artistic director Tom Morris and Theatre School principal Paul Rummer announced the first recipients of the prize as Isaac Stanmore and Emily May Smith. The graduates will perform in the opening production of the season, Wild Oats, as well as the devised satire, Does My Society Look Big in This? and the Christmas show, Peter Pan.
This prize is just the beginning of a much wider collaboration between the school and the theatre, and comes at a time when major figures across the industry, from RSC Director Michael Boyd, to RADA Director Ed Kemp are reassessing the relationship between theatres and drama schools. Morris and Rummer celebrated the new partnership in a joint statement:
"We will be collaborating more closely on productions and co-productions, inviting our directors to explore staging ideas and developing scripts in student workshops, evolving elements of the curriculum in relation to the practice we are discovering in the shows we make, creating work placements for students in every discipline and looking to recruit generations of graduates into every part of our organisation. The opportunity for gifted graduates to develop their professional practice within our theatre seems to make perfect sense for both the theatre and the school.
"Of course, this is nothing new. We are simply rediscovering the system within which drama schools were invented. Bristol Old Vic Theatre School began as a fully integrated department of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company in 1946 just as RADA was created as an integral part of Herbert Beerbohm Tree's company at His Majesty's Theatre in 1904. But we detect that a tide is turning in other theatres and drama schools to look again at the value of this integrated model. "
Start-up funding for the scheme is provided by the joint Patrons of Bristol Old Vic Theatre and School. Further fundraising to allow it to be awarded annually is underway. To find out how to support it contact: email@example.com
What is the use of a prize like this?
"During our three years as students at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, the sublimely beautiful Theatre Royal glowed in the night, within our reach yet just beyond it. For my first year as a professional actor it was my home."
"I left Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1979 and was extremely fortunate to be asked to join the Bristol Old Vic Company in my last term. I stayed for a year and the actors leading in those productions included such luminaries as Simon Callow, Julie Walters, Prunella Scales and many, many more. I learnt an amazing amount just by watching and supporting them. I hope these two young people coming out of drama school today have just such an amazing experience."
"The relationship between the school and the theatre is profoundly valuable. It's how I started, at the same time as Jeremy Irons and the late Simon Cadell. It serves both the theatre and the young professional and I am thrilled that Tom Morris is starting it up again!"
"As a graduating actor the trepidation of taking your first steps in the profession can be really daunting. For me, to continue learning and experimenting in a known environment with a host of generous actors, directors, and theatre professionals on so many different styles of production, and for a whole season, was the best start I could have wished for."
"I can't imagine a better start to a young actor's career than this kind of opportunity. It's so wonderful that the Theatre School and Bristol Old Vic are working together in this way once again. It was a dream for me and I wish Emily and Isaac every success."
"I am so glad the close connection between the Theatre School and Bristol Old Vic, which is unique in the British Isles, is being resurrected as the opportunity for the two students is quite simply invaluable. Without that opportunity, my career would have been very different."
"For a theatre like ours to be able to collaborate with a world-class drama school is a fantastic opportunity and we are thrilled to announce that these two prize contracts will herald a much wider partnership which could transform our theatre and the school over the next 5-10 years."
Tom Morris, Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic
"It really is exciting times for Bristol Old Vic and the Theatre School is delighted to be playing its part. Our congratulations go to Emily and Isaac in being selected as the two acting graduates to join the company in the new autumn run of plays."
Paul Rummer, Principal, Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company
"The closer that we in profession can work with the theatre schools the better. You can't make good art without learning at the same time, and the rigours of training should not be dropped after graduation."
Michael Boyd, Artistic Director, RSC
"This is a really important step towards re-integrating the profession with training. I hugely applaud the Bristol Old Vic's collective initiative in getting this underway, and I hope it encourages other theatres and theatre schools to follow Bristol's lead and seek out similar collaborations."
Edward Kemp, Director of RADA
"I am really looking forward to starting rehearsals and the coming six months. To be able to spend time on that stage; honing my skills, learning from those around me and working with some exceptional people is a fantastic opportunity. I feel incredibly honoured."
Isaac Stanmore, 2012 Patrons' Prize winner
"I am delighted to be awarded the opportunity of working at Bristol Old Vic because it is a theatre very close to my heart. I am especially thrilled to continue learning under directors such as Tom Morris and Sally Cookson, for I have long admired their uniquely playful and imaginative productions."
Emily May Smith, 2012 Patrons' Prize winner
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Opened in 1946 by Laurence Olivier as the training arm of the Bristol Old Vic company, it started life in rooms above a vegetable warehouse near Bristol Old Vic's stage door. It was affectionately then known as the "fruit school" due to its proximity to the fruit and vegetable markets which surrounded the theatre. It moved to its present base at the top of Pembroke Road, by the Downs, in 1954 and now operates out of two further sites - former BBC recording studios in Clifton village and large scenic workshops in Bedminster.
In the early years, the school and the theatre were completely integrated, with students taking part in every aspect of the theatre's productions. John Dalby wrote the score to Hugh Hunt's Legendary A Midsummer Night's Dream as a 19-year old student of the school in 1949, and students provided memorable crowd scenes right back to a riotous Julius Caesar in 1950.
Graduates include: Daniel Day-Lewis, Samantha Bond, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Stephanie Cole, Pete Postlethwaite, Sir Patrick Stewart, Amanda Redman, Miranda Richardson, Alex Jennings, Tim Pigott-Smith, Greta Scacchi - as well as the next Artistic Director of the RSC - Greg Doran.
The School is now the premier drama school in the South West offering conservatoire-level training for students seeking professional careers as actors or in production and technical area of the theatre, TV, film and radio industry. Its reputation and graduates are respected nationally and internationally.
The School is proud to be a part of the exciting cultural life of Bristol - last year's productions in six Bristol theatres and on tour to schools and across the West Country, with over 200 public performances. Current shows are taking place at Bristol Old Vic, and the Tobacco Factory, and with an exhibition shortly to open at the RWA.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School Alumni who began their careers at Bristol Old Vic include:
Malcolm Sinclair (head of Equity)
Past Recipients of the Chesterton Award:
For further information, please contact: Kate Morley at DDA Blueprint 07970 465 648 / firstname.lastname@example.org
or Amanda Adams at Bristol Old Vic 0117 9494901 / email@example.com
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