The Drama program at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) educates students to develop an artistic practice in the domain of the performing arts that is personal, driven by curiosity and guided by an enduring research attitude. The program encourages students to position themselves, both practically and discursively, in relation to contemporary developments in the performing arts, but also to experiment in a search for innovative contents and artistic forms. Collaboration and cross-pollination between artistic disciplines is therefore strongly encouraged. In this regard, the program benefits greatly from being embedded in a multidisciplinary school of arts. It aims to educate ‘autonomous dramatic artists’ rather than players who primarily execute the director’s vision. For that reason, students are not required to decide at the start of the program which forms of theatre or performance they want to make or which roles in the creative process they want to take up. There is no predetermined outcome to the program. Instead, during their training, students endeavor into different aspects of theatre and experiment with different forms and functions, so that they can gradually define their own personal (often heterogeneous) practice as performer, theatre maker, actor, writer, director, and so on.
The program consists of a three-year academic bachelor and a one-year academic master. It combines an intensive performance training in the studio, where basic performance skills are acquired, with theoretical classes and an artistic coaching that should lead to the development of an autonomous artistic practice. Performance training is the cornerstone of first two years of the bachelor program. Training as a performer in the studio and experiencing different kinds of approaches to performance (from corporeal practices to the performance of complex dramatic texts), yields insights and knowledge that will be essential for the realization of interesting work. Boundaries are revealed, tested, and pushed where possible; confidence is developed and fostered; intense shared experiences create strong ties. The focus is on learning through experience. Experimentation and failure are essential to this process. Backing the main studio work are speech, voice and physical training sessions that make use of such diverse methods as yoga and Alexander technique, and a thorough theoretical program that covers philosophy, psychology, theatre history, literature, and text and performance analysis.
Throughout the program, students are required to create their own work. Initially, in the first two years of the bachelor, they create short personal projects next to their training, presented to teachers and peers. From the third bachelor on, the program shifts from a process-oriented to a project-oriented approach, which will eventually result in an independently created artistic research project in the master. The transition is made during the third bachelor when students first participate in two or three projects supervised by invited artists from the professional performing arts field. Several artists with distinctive practices and different backgrounds – theatre makers, choreographers, actors, dansers, performance artists – are invited and students’ developing artistic identity is reflected in their choice of projects to immerse themselves in. In addition, they create their own project, solo or in collaboration, supervised by a team of coaches, which results in a public presentation. In the master, students outline their personal research questions and trajectory to create an autonomously developed graduation project, under the supervision of an artistic mentor and a theoretical mentor. Masterclasses taught by established artists pass on additional research and creation tools that further support this independent trajectory.
During the bachelor students are intensively guided in their artistic orientation. Alongside the training program and artistic projects, several classes focus on the critical reflection, contextualization and transmission (both verbally and through writing) of the students’ developing work by drawing on their experiences in the school and the overall cultural landscape of the contemporary (performing) arts. In the third bachelor students have various options to further hone specific interests through a Minor (i.e. a cluster of courses from other disciplines of the School of Arts, e.g. photography, installation Art, graphic design, etc.). The acquired bachelor competencies are developed more in depth in the master program where the interveawing of research and artistic practice are key. Theoretical seminars, internships, feedback and discussion session, the writing of a master thesis, excursions, meetings with artists and mentors further develop the young master students’ artistic and critical sensibilities. Bridges are built between the school and the professional field where the ‘master in drama’, as an independent young artist, will eventually be able to develop a form of dramatic art that raises questions, but also looks for answers, a form of drama that reflects on but also proposes innovative ways of engaging with a complex world.