TCD unveils plan to set up academy for dramatic arts


IRELAND IS to have a new academy for dramatic arts at Trinity College Dublin.

Advanced plans for the academy were unveiled yesterday at the university’s public theatre, two years after the university controversially ended its degree in acting studies.

The academy is being established in collaboration with the Cathal Ryan Trust and with the involvement of the internationally renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in London.

The new academy, which has been in planning for over a year, will involve high-standard professional education and training for actors, directors, designers, playwrights, stage managers and technicians, with courses designed in Trinity’s school of drama, film and music by Prof Brian Singleton, in association with Rada.

It is expected that the academy will have close involvement with theatre companies and theatre professionals.

Previous graduates of TCD have included actors Dominic West (who plays Jimmy McNulty in The Wire); Declan Conlon; Cathy Belton; Tom Vaughan Lawlor (who later went to Rada); Hilda Fay; Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars); Ruth Negga, Alan Leech (The Tudors) and Rory Keenan (The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger, On Home Ground).

After bruising publicity over the cancellation of its acting degree course, Trinity established a forum on actor training, chaired by Nicholas Grene, to look at undergraduate actor training.

The forum’s main recommendation – a national academy for all the dramatic arts linked to a university – has now come to pass.

Speaking at the announcement yesterday, Prof Singleton, who has played a key role in bringing together TCD, Rada and the Cathal Ryan Trust, said that he was delighted to go public after “the intensity and secrecy” of the past year.

He said that the new academy would “emulate Rada in its philosophy of training, in its courses and in its ambition”.

Danielle Ryan, a Rada graduate and daughter of the late Cathal Ryan, who died in 2007 and was the son of entrepreneur Tony Ryan, said the Cathal Ryan Trust was supporting the academy on a variety of levels.

These include: engaging Rada for five years in course design, student and staff selection; funding the refurbishment of the academy building in the Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus at Grand Canal Dock – which will include a state-of-the-art theatre – via an enabling fund to support additional projects and to “sprinkle a little bit of magic”.

“My late father and I had many discussions about creating a drama academy in Ireland. The trust and Trinity share a common passion to create a training academy that will have a world-class reputation in the dramatic arts,” said Ms Ryan.

At the announcement, where TCD provost Dr John Hegarty and Rada director Edward Kemp also spoke, there was warm applause from the assembled theatre professionals and academics.

Details were unavailable yesterday on the final budget, which involves the building provided by TCD and refurbished by the trust.

Rada was founded 105 years ago and enjoys an illustrious reputation.

It has trained some of the world’s best-known actors, including Irish actors Fiona Shaw, Lorcan Cranitch, Ciarán Hinds and Kenneth Branagh.

The academy’s courses, which will have Higher Education Authority support, are: a three-year bachelor’s degree in acting; a two-year higher diploma in stage management and technical theatre, a masters in fine art and a one-year course in directing, design and playwriting.