Lots of young people coming out of Year 12 think of NIDA as “the dream” - the only place to go to become an actor.
For many, it’s the only drama school they’ve heard of (or rather, it’s the only drama school their school careers adviser has heard of and told them about).
Careers advisers are very important assets in our education system and have to be across many industries and options to cater to the wide variety of student interests in their school. But they won’t always know all the routes available to you to enter the entertainment industry.
Over the years, we at Perform Australia have had many wonderful conversations with careers advisers who are delighted to discover that our training facility exists and offers important courses to local students.
So as it happens, NIDA is not the only route. In fact, it's just one of several good drama schools in Australia - and there are actually a number to choose from.
You may have heard of ‘the big three’ - the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), and the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), offering Bachelor-level courses in acting and musical theatre.
But there is a way to access similar training and tap into the ethos of these schools without even stepping foot on their campuses.
There are numerous other drama schools in Australia, of which Perform Australia is one, offering actor training programs.
And if you look at the staff of these schools, you’ll find that graduates from the ‘big three’ are dotted throughout Australia’s acting studios.
Those staff, usually practising theatre and film professionals, who trained at the 'big three' institutions, bring their knowledge to schools like ours, right around the country.
That means that the important elements of classical training from these schools are passed on again and again in different ways.
So do you need to go to NIDA to become an actor?
No, you don’t. But when you’re looking at which school to apply for, why not check out its staff and see who’s on board to train you? You may be pleasantly surprised.
The truth is that there are many, many successful professional actors, musical theatre performers, directors, writers and producers who did not train at NIDA. Or WAAPA. Or VCA.
There are all kinds of people working in the industry from all different backgrounds, and who trained in all different countries.
In fact, if you want a more personal, individual approach to actor training, you’re better to go to a smaller school where you’ll get more attention.
Perform Australia is proud of the diversity of education represented by its staff, who have trained in a range of institutions in Australia and internationally.
All those flavours come together in our actor training programs, forming a wonderful feast for our students, exposing them to a joyous range of acting techniques and traditions to use in their careers.
But if you do want to get into one of the big schools, it pays to do a shorter course at Perform Australia, such as theCertificate IV In Acting.
Many people audition for NIDA without any prior training.
But if you do have prior training, straight away you're ahead of the pack.
Graduates of our courses have been well prepared to audition for NIDA, WAAPA and VCA, and we have former students who have been accepted into all of them, as well as other universities around Australia.
Even so, some of our graduates have gone straight to industry. Perform Australia graduates have won paid professional acting work in films, stage shows, voiceovers, corporate videos, modelling contracts, and many other opportunities here in Canberra, interstate and even internationally. Some of them have even won awards. Numerous graduates have agency representation.
So don’t overlook your local drama school. It may have something truly special to offer.
About the Author
Elizabeth Avery Scott is the CEO of Perform Australia. She has assisted many young (and not-so-young) actors in getting their careers started.