With the abundant supply of talent shows now on air, it seems that performers of all persuasions and abilities – whether singers, dancers, actors or musicians – have numerous avenues of getting themselves into the spotlight. This doesn’t always result in quality acts, unfortunately. However, there is an alternative for those who are serious about fine-tuning their craft – study it at postgraduate level.
Those with an interest in establishing a career in theatre have plenty of options available to them. The MA in Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway (one year full time, two years part time), for instance, aims to strike a balance between performance and theory, so that students will have good opportunities to succeed onstage or in a more ‘behind-the-scenes’ capacity.
‘Students follow two core courses that are balanced between practice and theory,’ explains lecturer Dr Patrick Lonergan. ‘They then choose from a range of options, in such areas as playwriting, dramatic history, theatre marketing and ensemble performance.’
However, this is not to suggest a clear and permanent schism between subjects dealing with ‘performance’ and those concerned more with ‘theory’. The theoretical topics can still be hugely beneficial to students who wish to pursue a stage career, while the performance modules can also assist those who will ultimately perform a more administrative role after graduating.
‘The non-performance-based modules provide students with skills in essay-writing, research, archival work, and so on,’ Dr Lonergan explains. ‘While these skills broaden students’ employment options, they also benefit those wishing to build a career in performance – since actors must also write analytically about their work, and research characters. Similarly, students who have taken courses in performance find that doing so improves their skills in areas such as public speaking and presentation. This benefits them in careers in business and the public service.’
Armed with such a well-rounded skill set, graduates of the programme need not worry about career restrictions. Indeed, their opportunities go well beyond just treading the boards.
‘There are a range of options available to students,’ Dr Lonergan states. ‘Some have gone on to further study, taking PhDs, and ultimately finding work as university lecturers. Others have taken up – or returned to – teaching posts at primary and post-primary level. Some have published theatre reviews in publications like The Irish Times and the Irish Theatre Magazine.’
Similar high-quality programmes are available from a range of colleges nationwide. Among the options are the Gaiety School of Acting’s MA in Theatre and Production (one year full time), Trinity College Dublin’s MPhil in Theatre and Performance (one year full time), and UCC’s MA in Drama and Theatre (also one year full time). For those who may feel a bit more at home giving direction rather than receiving it, UCD offers an MA in Directing for Theatre (one year full time, two years part time). Candidates for this unique course should have an honours-level primary degree in a related subject or relevant experience in theatre and performance. Note that all applicants for the programme will be asked to attend an interview as part of the selection process.
Though some Drama programmes include modules on dance, those who wish to specialise in this area might also consider enrolling on a dedicated Dance programme. The University of Limerick provides one such option through its MA in Dance Performance (one year full time). The course features independent Traditional Irish and Contemporary Dance streams, although there is some interactivity between the two genres thanks to shared workshops, seminars and electives. Though candidates are expected to hold at least a second-class honours primary degree in a related discipline, the practical nature of the course also means that an interview is mandatory, and an audition and/or portfolio of audio/written work may also be requested.
The University of Limerick is also home to several postgraduate music courses, including the MA in Community Music. The course is aimed at musicians who already have a level of self-expressive skill and who wish to develop their talents while developing the abilities they will need to facilitate the expressive work of others. Alternatively, the MA in Classical String Performance provides students with advanced classical tuition in instruments such as the violin, viola, cello and double bass, as well as coaching in the repertoire of chamber music and string chamber orchestra. The programme also welcomes applications from pianists who particularly wish to engage with string chamber music repertoire.
NUI Maynooth is another university renowned for its provision of music education at postgraduate level. The continual growth and position of information technology in music production has been recognised by the college with the inclusion of a MA in Computer Music, which explores the musical applications of technology. The aforementioned advantages of combining performance with academic training can be pursued in the musical arena with the MA in Performance & Musicology, where students improve their performance while conducting musicological, compositional and technological research. All participants take part in a public recital at the end of the course.
Other postgraduate music programmes with a strong emphasis on performance are available from DIT, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Cork IT, and Dundalk IT.
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