Interview with Kevin Dowsett – Theatretrain

An Interview with Kevin Dowsett, Founder of TheatreTrain The Importance of training in the arts

To watch the interview please click here

What motivated you to start up a Youth Theatre?

Well actually we are not a Youth Theatre, we are a training organisation, aimed at young people aged 6-18 years. What motivated me was that I thought it could be done better. There is a tradition of examination, a way of doing things such as speech therapy, and my background: National Youth Theatre, ensemble theatre, people working together as a company and making great theatre, I thought this was the best way to create training that crossed over between classroom and production.

Why would you encourage young people to train in the arts?

I would encourage everybody to have some understanding of the arts, because it makes you a better person.  You find out things about yourself, you’re developing your imagination, your developing your confidence and really you are understanding that you live in a world, and the world isn’t a place only about you, it’s about other people. What’s fantastic about the world we live in is that it’s full of stories, and learning how to communicate a story to somebody else is a fantastic device for learning the discipline of being a human being.

How old do you have to be to start training?

I don’t think you are ready really until the age of 6. Before you go to school, play is an essential part of how human beings understand themselves, but to understand and work in the theatre, you really have to be able to interact with other people. I’d say most people under the age of 6 do not have the social skills, so from the age of 6 onwards you are ready to work with other people, and the group context is everything. It’s how you work with other people that counts.

What can I expect from training in the arts?

There should be a balance when training in performing arts, between learning how to develop your own skills and also how to work in the group context. The way I would say is best, would be to have classes, but also to have performances, so it’s quite important for me, that there is a link between the two. So things that you learn week by week on your own skills are then put into a performance and learning how to work an audience, which is a very important skill to have.

How does developing your skills in a performance help develop you as a person in the real world?

There have been even scientific measurements about how for instance special awareness can develop your brain and make you better at mathematics and science, but for me this is less important than getting in touch with your feelings and your emotions. There is a whole aspect about us, about been in somebody else’s shoes, when your becoming a character or presenting a performance, you have to live in a slightly different world, a world of the imagination and you have to make the audience believe in you, so you have to believe in yourself. I was once in a performance myself, where they did some scientific research, it was in the Tower of London and as actors we engaged with young people and talked to them about the gun powder plot. They went back years later and found that the people who undergone the work with us, remembered it longer because it was attached to an emotion when they learned it. This indicates to me that emotions are a very important part of the experience and when you think about it, most of our learning isn’t done on an emotional level.

Do you notice a change in people, from when they start training to when they finish?

Yes I do, most people when they start training are crossed, their body language is crossed, and over a period of time, we can teach them to what we call ‘own the space’, that is to be on the stage and be comfortable in their own skin. That’s quite an advance and you can measure that.  Over a period of time you can actually teach them that it’s ok, you don’t actually have to hide away, you can be safe here and I think that’s a really good thing for them.

Do you have any success stories from TheatreTrain?

It’s very hard to measure, we get a lot of contact from people who say years later that I’m now at University or Drama School and I value the work that I did. We also get a lot of parents that have said their children are more confident and well rounded after doing this work.  More importantly we get simple things like on YouTube clips where people add things, and for me that’s a really important part of somebody’s life, to be in a one off event that really changes them and at the end of the day education is about changing people’s understanding, and that’s what we’re trying to do, in the same way a performer does with their audience.

Do you have any advice for young actors, who are interested in theatre?

Get out there and get as much experience of performance as you can. Go for everything you can find, because if your that enthusiastic and have the energy to do it, then get as much experience of standing in front of an audience and carry on as much as you can.