Case study

Masters student — Ami Sayers

Ami is currently studying MA Actor Training and Coaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Learn more about her experience

What undergraduate degree did you study and where?

BA (hons) Drama and Literature at University of Essex 2001 to 2004, followed by professional actor training at Drama Studio London from 2004 to 2005.

Why did you decide to pursue a Masters at the Central School of Speech and Drama?

I had come to a point in my career where I really wanted to develop my skills as an acting teacher and have a deeper understanding of what I was doing in a classroom in order to develop my pedagogy.

Central was an obvious choice for many reasons, partly because I knew I wanted to study in London, partly because I have a number of friends who had completed Masters and PhD's at Central and spoke very highly of the institution, but also because the Actor Training and Coaching Masters is the only Masters of it's kind in the country and has an excellent reputation.

I also was drawn to the fact that it has a part-time route because I knew that I needed to continue working throughout my studies and this pathway allowed for that.

What was the application process like? Did you have to audition or complete an interview?

The application process felt very straightforward, but I think it is because I had such clarity about why I wanted to do the course.

I was made to feel very at ease during the audition day by Jess Hartley (course leader) and the two students who were on the course at the time and were present to support my audition and interview.

I was asked to prepare a short (20 minutes) teach. I was also interviewed by Jess who, although some of the questions were challenging, made me feel absolutely at ease and like she was on my side. Working with Jess and the two students on that day solidified the fact that I wanted to do this course. I came away with clarity that this was the right place and course for me and that I really wanted to work alongside these people because I knew I would be pushed and challenged in an incredibly supportive environment.

Did you take up your MA immediately after your first degree?

I graduated from my first degree in 2004 and I took up my place on the Masters in 2019, so 15 years had passed. In that time, I had worked as an actor, mostly in small scale theatre and touring work.

When I was in my early 30's I started to feel frustrated and wanted more out of my career. I began to teach acting and direct a little and I discovered how much I loved it. There was something about the connection between student actor and teacher that fascinated and inspired me. I wanted to understand it as best I could and that is why I chose to do the Masters at Central.

How are you funding your postgraduate study?

I chose the part-time route because I needed to continue to work throughout my studies to fund it and continue to pay rent etc in London. I also took out a postgraduate loan to pay the course fees.

Tell us a little bit about the course and what it involves.

There are workshops with practitioners at the top of their game on numerous different acting styles and techniques, classes in pedagogy and lab sessions where we come together as a group to share exercises and teach each other and receive feedback from practitioners and peers in order to continually develop our practice. I have learnt so much from my peers on this course.

There are numerous assessments that range in style from essays to portfolios and presentations and we are also assessed practically through observations. There is also the opportunity to observe teachers and practitioners at Central and other drama schools through the placements that are a large part of the course.

My Masters project is a portfolio. Over the course of the last two years, I have opened a new actor training school called All In Actors. It is a one-year, part-time course. I run the school alongside my business partner and Co-Principal and last year was our first intake of students. It was an incredibly successful year and my Masters project charts the journey of that year.

How well connected is the CSSD to the creative industries?

It is very well connected, and this is very important. I have worked with incredible practitioners throughout the two years, all of who have been wonderfully generous and open about their own practice. There are placements available at many of the top drama schools in the country and alongside directors at major theatres and theatre companies. I now have some teaching work at LAMDA because somebody who I was on the MA with is working there and has recommended me.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of further study?

I struggle to think of any disadvantages because it has absolutely been the right thing for me to do. Maybe not a disadvantage but something you have to be prepared for is the demands of postgraduate study. Whether you study part time or full time, you are constantly questioning, challenging, and destabilising your practice and therefore sometimes yourself. This can be tough and my tip for those considering any kind of postgraduate study is to make sure that you have a support network in place. This will naturally develop through the course, and the course team and fellow students have been infinitely supportive to me over the last two years but having people you can come home to or let loose with outside of your studies I think is equally as important.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

Continue to build All In Actors. As each new intake of students changes, we change. This is the most important thing to me, that we do not stay still that we continue to change as the students do and as their needs change and as the industry changes.

What tips would you give to others choosing a Masters degree?

Listen to your heart/gut and go for it. Do your research, visit the school if you can and meet some of the staff. Central offers many open evenings and taster sessions and Q&A's to allow you to do this and when you have done you research, you will know.

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