Life Learning

Saturday 24 February 2018

From soaps to Shakespeare at Trinity's new acting academy

Danielle Ryan of the new Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art
Danielle Ryan of the new Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art

Danielle Ryan, grand-daughter of the late aviation entrepreneur Tony, is taking to the roads over the coming week hunting for Irish acting talent.

Danielle is the driving force behind the new Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art, which is due to open next autumn.

The new drama school at Trinity College has been inundated with applications from young actors since it announced it was opening its doors next year.

The 26-year-old daughter of Cathal Ryan (he died in 2007, just three months before her grandfather Tony) is putting her passion for acting to good use.

The building of the new school is being funded by the Cathal Ryan Trust.

As well as being attached to Trinity College, Lir will be linked with the prestigious London acting school RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art).

The London academy has produced such talents as Anthony Hopkins, Kenneth Branagh and Peter O'Toole (see panel).

Danielle is herself a graduate of RADA and came up with the idea for an Irish equivalent during discussions with her late father.

"We thought it was a great shame that there was no equivalent conservatoire in Ireland,'' says Danielle, who has appeared in several TV productions including The Tudors and Casualty.

"There is a lot of acting talent that is lost from Ireland because students go abroad to train, and many talented performers don't come back.''

As well as funding the new school through her family trust, Danielle is now playing an active role in finding young Irish talent across the country.

Over the coming weeks, Lir will be hold a series of question and answer sessions for aspiring actors as part of a roadshow. It is inviting young actors to come forward.

"We want to give actors of school-going age advice on the new academy, but we will also be giving advice on how to enter the industry and do auditions,'' says Danielle.

"There is a lot of talent out there, but some young actors need direction. It might be just basic tips about an audition, what they should perform and what they should wear.

"One piece of advice that I would give to young actors is to build up a knowledge of their profession. They should go and see productions and be aware of what is happening.''

Just 14 actors will be chosen for the first year of the course.

As well as an acting degree, Lir will offer courses in stage management and theatre technology dipomas, and Master of Fine Arts degrees in playwriting, directing and design.

Prof Brian Singleton, the first academic director of the Lir, said: "We expect that students for the acting degree will come from very diverse backgrounds and we will assess them on the basis of exceptional natural talent, not academic qualifications.

"We'll invite them to attend an audition in which we'll want them to present both a classical and contemporary piece, followed by a short interview.

"Those students who show natural talent and a potential for training will be invited to further rounds of auditions where they will be assessed as part of an ensemble".

The new acting school will be modelled on RADA, with the same intensity of activity. Students will attend for at least 36 hours every week.

So what does a course in acting consist of?

In the first year, students will learn acting techniques, including voice and movement training.

The second year is mostly project-based and by the final year, they will be showcasing their talents with many live performances.

"By the final year it will be extremely intense. Fourteen-hour days will not be unusual,'' says Danielle Ryan.

"It is a tough business, but we will not be just taking in students and sending them on their way when they graduate. We will take a strong interest in their careers and help them along the way.''

Danielle says she herself grew up in a theatrical environment.

"Members of my family encouraged me to take an interest in theatre, literature and the arts from a young age.''

The Ryans built a theatre in the grounds of her family home, Stacumny House in Co Kildare, and Danielle performed there in several productions from the age of 12.

Brian Singleton hopes that the new acting school will help to build up a pool of talent that will serve the theatre, TV and film industries.

"Experience from other academies suggest that graduates will not just become actors.

"There is a huge variety of opportunities for graduates of this type of course, from script-writing, TV and film production to radio work and developing video games.''

Irish Independent

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