A Unique Training System

What follows is a memo sent by Maggie Bury (Walker) to Joan Littlewood & Gerry Raffles in the Summer of 61.

It is the first ever ‘official’ document created by the founder of east 15 Acting School – or so she told me.

It might be of interest to anybody who went to East 15 Acting School and has wondered about the lineage of the school.

Maggie Bury Walker was a fourteen year veteran of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. When Joan left the company headed for foreign parts in 1961, Maggie decided (with help from her Theatre Workshop friends) to carry on exploring the working practices they’d developed during their time with the company.

Here are the words from that founding memo:

Summer 1961

RE School
From Maggie to Joan & Gerry

Theatre Royal School: Stratford East.

Project: To open a Theatre Royal School in October 1961, this school is to give full-time tuition to a limited number of students (suggest 24) over a period of two years.

Premises: Classes to be held at the Theatre Royal, Stratford. It is hoped to locate alternative premises.

Classes: To include study of acting methods, history of the theatre, dance movement & history of the dance, speech training and fencing, in a general course to prepare the student for work on the stage. The course to include the production of at least three plays a year, to be given in the first instance, a sunday night preview to the Theatre Royal Club. At the end of the Autumn Term it is hoped to arrange a tour of of the schools of the area with a Christmas play, and during the Spring and Summer Terms to tour “TWELFTH NIGHT”

Academic Year: Three Terms in the year, ending in first and second year examinations. Students who do not reach the required standards , will be advised to leave. Prospective students to be auditioned during the first week of September.

Fees: £40 a Term. Fees to be paid in advance at the beginning of each term, and notice in writing of the proposed withdrawal of a student should be sent to the Secretary at least 14 days before the last day of the current term.

Auditions: Will be held at the Theatre Royal, Stratford during the first week of September. The entrance fee is 10/- and this should be sent, together with a letter of application, to Mrs B. Murphy, the secretary, Theatre Royal School, Theatre royal, stratford, E.15. Candidates will be asked to perform a set piece, to improvise round a set theme, and to perform a piece of their own choice, not more than five minutes in length.

Maggie Bury

In the years that followed, the school further explored the methods and practices of Theatre Workshop as well as adding the techniques of a vast array of experimental, radical directors to its canon.

Maggie was principal of the this unique actor training experiment for the best part of four decades – others have taken the wheel in the years since, however, the roots of the place lie firmly in the working practices and in the spirit of the Theatre Workshop ensemble. 

A documentary about the life and contribution of Maggie Bury Walker

Published by

Free For All

I find myself constantly inspired by the work & legacy of Joan Littlewood. All the best people have an MI5 file!

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