Recent graduate Janeel Brown initially applied to study Computer Science at BCU, before he realised that he could use his passion and his performance background to make a difference in society, by switching to a place on RBC’s Applied Theatre course during clearing.
Prior to discovering the Applied Theatre course, I was in a tough situation where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after finishing my acting diploma at college. Pursuing a career solely in acting didn’t seem feasible at the time, and so I decided to enrol onto the Computer Science degree at BCU. I instantly regretted this decision as my heart wasn’t passionate about the course, and it was at this point that I found the Applied Theatre course. It seemed relatively small in comparison to the Acting degree at the conservatoire, but its broad content seemed perfect for me. The idea of being able to use drama as a tool to educate and have a positive impact on a variety of different communities is what drew me to apply to the course last minute through clearing.
Since then I haven’t looked back! Completing a degree in Applied Theatre has definitely developed my confidence and leadership skills. When I joined the course I dreaded the idea of leading and taking control of a workshop for a group of people, however I found that the course tutors will never throw you in at the deep end, and are patient in guiding you through the steps and vital stages to become a good facilitator; even for students who are slightly more reserved or introverted like myself.
Applied Theatre graduates can have an impact on society in many different contexts. Usually during the devising process of an Applied Theatre performance you’ll find that the story is created in a way that sheds some light on a societal issue that people need to be educated on; something that needs to be addressed and changed for the better. These performances might be in front of an audience who have the power to make a difference to that issue (for example, taking a performance about homelessness to local council leaders and MPs). Following the experience, it is common practice for audience members, communities and theatre makers to have discussions around the societal problem in question, and attempt to find solutions. Drama is also often used as a rehabilitative tool to reintegrate certain communities, such as offenders, into society, or to allow people to process and overcome traumatic experiences; so there is a lot of scope for graduates to use Applied Theatre as a tool to have a real impact on society.
During my third year, we were fortunate enough to be able to do our final performances within a physical space off-campus with a limited audience. The lecturers and tutors on the course have done an amazing job of adapting the assessment specifications to fit with the government Covid-19 guidelines. Facilitating workshops were often done through Zoom, and it was great that we were still able to get that all-important practical experience, rather than practical elements being replaced by written work.
The tutors on the course have always been there to support me. At the beginning of this year, I found it very difficult to complete my dissertation due to the pandemic affecting my mental health, and the tutors were always there on stand-by to support me whether it be via email or going out of their way to give me a video call.
In September I am taking a short course with the University of Oxford in social entrepreneurship; I’d like to learn how to come up with business solutions to eliminate societal issues, in particular homelessness. Eventually I would love to get the opportunity to get a permanent full-time role with the Birmingham REP in their Learning & Participation Department, maybe as an Education Officer. Then further down the line I would love to begin to produce my own community projects, focusing on youth development. I would also love to continue studying a postgraduate level later down the line, focusing on either creative producing or directing for stage and screen.
I would advise that prospective students should be willing to get themselves involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible in order to succeed in Applied Theatre. The nature of the Applied Theatre industry requires you to network through conversations, be willing to volunteer for community projects, participate in workshops, and then eventually you will get to a stage where you will be offered paid work. The degree does hold a lot of weight, especially in Birmingham – every theatre company knows about the course – however, employers are more interested in the experience you gain from the course and elsewhere rather than the grades you achieve. Take each assessment as a lesson on how to improve for future practice rather than dwelling over the mistakes. In addition, I would say to not be afraid to ask for support from the tutors; they have your best interests at heart and will always be willing to support your progress.