2018 saw the launch of our inaugural Summer School Weekend; a programme that gave 8 aspiring actors of South Asian descent a taste of drama school training. As part of our commitment to promote South Asian voices, the programme was designed to empower each actor with key skills needed to train at drama schools. With more and more organisations taking action for change within their community, we wanted to see how our Summer School programme impacted those involved.
Due to the low number of successful South Asian actors within the United Kingdom, the Arts aren’t always seen as a viable career path within the South Asian community. The impact of groups such as Act for Change, The Diversity School Initiative, Equity’s campaign: Play Fair, and the recent Andrew Loyd Weber Foundation report, highlighted the pressing need for greater support of BAME actors to undertake training. Many potential students from BAME backgrounds perceive drama schools as white, middle class and not for them. In order to challenge this perception we teamed up with Drama School London to create a programme for aspiring actors of South Asian descent.
Participants took part in acting classes which included voice and movement training. They were then directed in roles specifically for Asian actors in contemporary scenes by Kali Theatre practitioners from scripts commissioned by Kali. This provided a voice and representation for the actors that they seldom find elsewhere.
For many this was their first ever experience working with theatre professionals in an environment where being of South Asian descent was a shared commonality among everyone in the room. When asked if they felt that the Summer School created a comfortable and proactive environment for them to express themselves, participant Iman Boujelouah stated, “For sure. It was incredible to be in a room full of South Asian actors and amongst peers that understood what it feels like to be South Asian in an industry in which we are so underrepresented and typecasted!”
Accomplished and experienced actor Shireen Farkhoy, who last worked with Kali in a lead role in BITCHED, came along so participants could ask her questions about her experience working in the industry and voice their particular concerns. When we asked Syra Kingsley if her time at the Summer School and speaking with Shireen was useful, she said, “I felt that I wasn’t the odd one out for a change, both in terms of my age and ethnicity, even though I was considerably older than the other participants.” She continued, “I was so happy to find a theatre company for Asians and by Asians as there was nothing like that when I was younger and I did feel at times that I was excluded by a middle class predominantly white system.”
As the weekend wrapped up, we saw just how imperative programmes alike these are if we want to help pave the way for a future generation of BAME actors. Due to the positive response and success of the weekend, we want to run a week-long Summer School programme in 2019 in order to continue to make an impact within the South Asian community.
We will be fundraising throughout the year in order to make this goal come to fruition and you can play your part in donating here and support the growth of emerging actors of South Asian descent.