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Monday, 24 February 2014 12:50

On Acting and Teaching

english coryWritten by Cory English

Cory teaches Dance classes and works as a Tutor at Drama Studio London. He graduated from Drama Studio London in 1999 and he's gone on to perform lead roles in a variety of well-known musicals including Guys and Dolls, Chicago and The Producers at The West End and on Broadway. He can currently be found in Urinetown at The West End.

People talk about the stress of juggling their time, when it comes to busy modern life. But ever since I can remember I have always loved it. As a kid I got a rush from being able to sprint from my ballet class to my basketball games, still wearing my white tights and burgundy leg warmers, or taking piano lessons dressed in my American football uniform. Saving up to get myself from rural upstate New York down to the Big Apple saw me do a slew of random jobs: selling seafood door to door, scrubbing the local diner chain's floors at night, working at my then girlfriend's father's farm market (he appointed me Head of Lettuce – his joke, not mine) and offering McSmiles to McDonald's customers. And alongside all of these jobs, I have always taught. 

I've found it a great balance to my passion for performing. As I see it, there's no better way to hone your own craft and technique than by learning from your students - their triumphs and their challenges. When I find myself in a position to offer advice to a student, I am also qualifying those thoughts to myself. 

At the moment I am a personal tutor for 12 students on the one year program. The students are in the Shakespeare block, which can have many challenges. I am available to them if they need an ear or some advice. At the same time my days are filled with long technical rehearsals of Urinetown, at the St James theatre. It's a show I have long anticipated being part of and relish the chance to join a production from its very beginning. The creative process has been arduous, compelling and some of the most satisfying I've had, since maybe my own time, as a student, at DSL. 

In fact in that mid rehearsal slump, when my creative juices felt like they may fail, it was the memories of my more challenging times as a student that saw me through. At that very same time, one of my tutorial students called me with much similar challenges, to the ones I was facing at work. I sat talking on the phone, realizing that all the suggestions I was offering were ones I needed to heed myself. The parallels I have always felt, between performance and teaching, once again, so very evident. 

It makes the scheduling a headache I imagine, to roster teachers who are working professionals to teach at a drama school, but I know that I am a much better teacher when I am working on a show at the same time. The creativity from both fields stimulates the other. I can feed my own professional experiences into my classes; whether its something from the show the night before, a rehearsal, a fellow actor's story or the way my director passed on a note. It's an invaluable source for the students, because they can learn so much from an actor who is putting into practice, each night after class, everything he is trying to pass on. I try to be blunt in my honesty, open about my successes and failures, my career's highs and lows - no better way for the students to learn about the business, than from teachers who can truly tell it first hand. 

My students' passion, energy and openness fuels my own, and serves as a profound reminder that to be the best actor and teacher I can be, I must not lose my sense of play. Having the opportunity to be part of the DSL team allows me to do just that.