Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
The myth that musical theatre actors cannot act is alive and well. Director, musician and lecturer Dr Zachary Dunbar asserts that the industry frequently chooses between actors who cannot sing or singers who cannot act (2016, 71). Popular blogger WestEndProducer purports that the musical theatre ‘twirley’ is often considered as a jack of all trades but a master of none (2017). In conservatoire style training, could traditional triple-threat skill-focused courses include more holistic educative approaches that integrate the three disciplines of acting, singing and dancing and, longer-term, contribute to dispelling the aforementioned myth? Whilst this question cannot be answered without the passing of time, contemporary conservatoire-based training seems to be moving in the right direction with classes in scene-to-song and acting-through-song. In a new Musical Theatre course at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), we have also adopted several other integratory methods to promote more authenticity from our students during performance. These include firstly embedding discipline-specific content within classes that are not normally associated with that discipline, secondly students writing original music theatre works and finally enabling them to monologue the music, not just the lyrics. This last technique is an acting, not a singing, tool that enables students to rigorously explore what is being said (the verbal text), as much as how it is being said (the musical text).
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