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BA Acting and Community Theatre

Southend Campus
  • Intensive acting skill training by leading UK and international faculty
  • Theatre making and creating skills
  • Professional industry community placement during study

If you believe that theatre is for all and you want to use the power of drama to influence the world, our BA Acting and Community Theatre is a dynamic, practical and professionally orientated course that provides a complete training for careers in participatory theatre in the wider community.

Alongside becoming a professional performer, you develop vital skills for contemporary community practice. This includes workshop facilitation and leadership, project management, as well as musical, technical, video and web-based experience, which you gain through working on projects with local communities and external partners.

Your first year focuses on introductory acting, voice, articulation, singing and movement. You explore individual creativity and responsiveness to other actors, as well as learning how to engage and collaborate with a range of different community groups. In addition you will:

  • Develop skills in observation and self-assessment
  • Create individual character studies
  • Learn to re-create through reflection, research and improvisation
  • Participate productively in shared group experience and larger community based projects

Your first year culminates in a unique Living History Project, in which you research, identify with and experience the lives of others through different periods of conflict.


Introduction to acting theory, methods and practice: development from self to character

This compulsory first year acting module provides an initial training in acting theory, method and practice based on the uniqueness of the individual and the ability to change, adapt, extend, perceive, accept and reject.

Students move through self-study to look outside themselves, approaching firstly improvised situations and then scripted text in imaginative and collaborative ways. By the end of the course you will know how to start work on a play and will have begun collaborative text work. You are able to begin to create a character from a text and to start the process of creating the world of the play.

Verbatim theatre and contemporary scene study

For this compulsory first year acting module students work in small groups to study scenes from a contemporary play, learning how to divide a scene into units of action, how to discover objectives for a character and use the text to discover information – about the play, its themes and characters.

You workshop scenes in your groups, practising your learning from the early part of the course. By the end of this block of work you will be able to find a character’s through line and recreate work achieved during the rehearsal process.

Actor and text

This compulsory first year acting module provides opportunities for students to apply the introductory learning of Introduction to Acting Theory, Method and Practice to more demanding textual and acting challenges.

You continue to advance your actor training through a focussed approach to the theatre of a particular period. Work on this course will be informed by your learning on Contextual Studies.

The work of this module progresses into second year when it informs and supports the acting/voice project in Acting Techniques and Styles.

Improvised living history

This compulsory first year acting module provides you with opportunities to play out the life of a character under simulated rather than ‘staged’ conditions in order to understand more fully the true meaning of the character’s experience and emotional depths.


No module information currently available.


This compulsory full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules.

The work begins in Term One with an introduction to basic anatomy. You begin the work of developing suppleness and stamina. Techniques for the release of emotion in movement will be introduced.

In Term Two you develop balance, co-ordinations and rhythm, linking movement and dance with acting. You learn a range of styles and carriage.

The work of the final term covers preparation for physical demands and the extension of physical and dance vocabulary.

Music and singing

This compulsory full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules.

Contextual studies and community studies

Actors spend their entire careers speaking other people’s words and trying to imagine how other people think. Contextual Studies is intended to help students to observe, to make rational sense of their observations and to put their own ideas into their own words as part of seminar discussion and in writing. The arts administration component introduces students to the principles of community theatre and the way companies work in the community.

Term One

  • Context
  • Introduction to learning resources
  • Introduction to Personal Development Journal (PDJ)
  • Theatre history from its earliest forms.
  • Ritual and Medieval
  • Critical examination and discussion of a range of early theatrical texts eg. mystery and morality plays, mummers
  • Arts Administration
  • Exploring models of Community and Community Theatre
  • the role of participatory theatre in society
  • introduction to cultural policy at local, county and regional levels
  • Arts Council England and UK: setting and implementing cultural policy
  • Current policy initiatives e.g. the Leadership Programme, Creative Partnerships, National Lottery, their impact and their ideological and cultural assumptions
  • How projects are organised and funded

Term Two

  • Context
  • The structures and conventions of essay-writing
  • Theatre history from medieval to Elizabethan periods
  • Reading and analysing texts – eg early Elizabethan texts
  • Connecting to the life and times from which scripts have arisen.
  • Structures and conventions of plays and theatre in medieval and Elizabethan periods
  • Arts Administration
  • Sample case studies of community arts organisations and the influence of cultural policy

Term Three

  • 16th and 17th century theatre history
  • Play texts of the Jacobean period
  • Researching societies from which plays have arisen
  • Preparation for Improvised Living History Project (EA114).

Your second year provides key practical and public experience. This includes working in partnership with practicing professionals to create theatre based on the stories of local people alongside a range of other opportunities:

  • Collaborate with young people to make new dramatic works
  • Create and edit your own videos
  • Develop workshop facilitation and leadership skills
  • Learn clowning, puppetry and circus skills
  • Managing our annual Southend Street Theatre Festival

You also undertake an internship with a professional company, which enhances your practical understanding of the community theatre industry and helps you to forge useful links for your future.


Applied theatre skills I: consulting the community

In this compulsory second year module you begin to develop relationships with key local organisations and to explore the different influences and contexts that form the cultural landscape of communities.

The module is project-based and encourages you to engage with your local communities in Southend, Loughton and the wider south east England region. You gain experience of working with and for a range of people from the very young to very senior citizens, to create and present community theatre.

Projects draw on observation and narrative, exploring and referring to local histories and identities. Performances take place in a range of environments such as on campus, in studios, care homes, public libraries or outdoors.

Term One


The first project in the module is designed to introduce students to the techniques of reminiscence with older people.

  • Community consultation
  • Principles of reminiscence
  • Participant centred approach
  • Interview techniques
  • Working with elderly people
  • Verbatim theatre techniques
  • Researching oral history
  • Devising theatre from memories
  • Workshop Facilitation

In this project you develop skills in facilitating drama-based workshops with a group in the community. You gain knowledge of and be able to apply techniques to engage participants in theatre-making.

  • Theatre Games
  • Group dynamics
  • Theatre of the oppressed
  • Forum theatre
  • Playback theatre
  • Workshop preparation and planning
  • Delivery of a series of workshops in the community
  • Reflection and critical analysis of a series of drama workshops

Term Two

Theatre-In-Education (TIE)

This project offers students an opportunity to write for theatre, in consultation with a group of school-aged children, to develop a play for a short tour of schools.

  • Advanced processes of consultation
  • Primary research
  • Learning through theatre
  • Advanced understanding of scene and performance structure
  • Extended character research and development
  • Considerations for small scale touring theatre
  • Workshop development for use with scripted material
Applied theatre skills II: developing the community

This compulsory second year module has a focus on community development, and you have opportunities to investigate equality of opportunity and community cultural development as you engage with communities in Southend, Loughton and the wider south east England region.

You extend your experience of creating theatre in a range of forms, styles and performance environments. You explore a variety of approaches to physical theatre, object manipulation and outdoor performance, extending your technical and acting skills to apply to the demanding environments of street theatre. The work of this module culminates in the creation of Pandemonium – a street theatre festival for the people of Southend.

Term Two

Young Audiences

This project develops students skill in non-verbal performance, emphasising skills such as physical theatre, mime, puppetry and object manipulation. Students will also explore soundscape and sound design in developing a performance for a suitable audience such as work for Early Years.

  • Storytheatre
  • Physical theatre
  • Theatre for children
  • Theatre for early years
  • Puppet making and puppet and object manipulation
  • Devising physical theatre
  • Rehearsal and performance

Term Three

Commedia and Street Theatre

This project investigates celebratory theatre through carnival, commedia and street theatre. Students will have the opportunity to develop and perform in a street theatre festival.

  • Commedia dell’ Arte
  • Clowning and circus
  • Techniques of carnival and procession
  • Invisible theatre and gorilla theatre
  • Street theatre case studies
  • Street theatre audiences
  • Rehearsal and performance of a street theatre festival
Community theatre arts management

In this compulsory second year module you examine a range of community theatre contexts of arts management. You explore the structure and management of small-scale community and voluntary sector arts organisations, and community and education departments within large organisations.

The module includes preparation for work placements assessed in the final year. By the end of the module you are prepared to learn and begin to apply arts administration skills in a professional company context.

Aspects of event management and production management are explored. This may include such aspects as marketing, databases, budgets, liaison with agencies, licensing, risk assessment, audience management and other aspects of health and safety, along with scheduling and logistics.

The structure and purpose of organisations involved in community theatre: community, voluntary, public and relevant departments under the umbrella of larger organisations.

Case studies in organisational structure of small to medium-sized arts organisations and departments:

  • Management structures, organisational roles, project roles
  • Involvement of administrative support through the life of a project
  • Relationship of artistic and production goals of a project
  • Placement of a company through its philosophy and organisational style
  • Databases, budgets and the use of Excel
  • Cultural policy development, its underlying assumptions and its influence on arts organisations
  • How projects are funded
  • Case studies of management in community arts organisations
  • Basic arts administration skills
  • CV preparation and presentation, interview and self-presentation skills applicable to:
  • An independent, freelance artist
  • A small-scale performing arts organisation
  • Community/Education departments within large organisations

In preparation for entry to your final professional preparation year, you learn how to explore avenues to approaching companies who employ performers in the community theatre sector and recognise your transferable skills from non-theatrical employment.

You meet guest lecturers from organisations in the community theatre sector, initiating the establishment of networks with arts practitioners in Southend, London and the South East England region. You undertake research to identify opportunities for their final work placements and investigate organisations:

  • Philosophy
  • Style
  • Working practices
  • Level of activity in the community sector
  • Culture and management
  • Funding

You may undertake initial observation visits to potential work placement providers. Event management will be explored in the context of the annual street theatre event. You undertake production roles, focusing on:

  • Liaison with agencies an licensing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Liaison and engagement of the community
  • Risk assessment, audience management and other aspects of Health and Safety
  • Scheduling and logistics
  • The definition and functions of key role in production management

You consider issues of scale, visibility, sightlines, audibility and accessibility in outdoor performance and explore approaches to capturing and sustaining the audiences’ attention outdoors. Students will learn how to encourage and manage audience participation through the design of outdoor performance.


Technical theatre skills

The emphasis in this module is on developing design concepts and technical expertise for mounting small-scale community theatre, and developing technical skill in video documentary. You explore case studies of design for performance in the community. You are encouraged to make use of found materials and low-budget solutions suitable for small-scale touring and work in community settings.

You gain an understanding of the technical, legal and health and safety issues of performance in a range of scales and settings. You learn to carry out established risk assessment procedures and to propose appropriate solutions to health and safety issues.

Term One

You begin the work of the module with a technical induction into the use of video recording equipment to prepare you for documentation of major projects. Toward the end of term one you shoot material for a short documentary video with a group within the community. You are encouraged to consider issues of design and realisation for your projects within specific ‘givens’ of space, text, budget, timescales and portability. Small-scale practical exercises are undertaken in design, visualisation, presentation and realisation of costume, props and set, including design sketches.

Term Two

You focus on costume design and making, and undertake an individual costume design project with a showing of the work. You engage with managing, making and sourcing props, and mask and puppet making. Basic carpentry skills are covered and applied to a relevant construction task.

Introduction to offline editing of video will lead to students editing a short scene.

You have opportunities to consult with staff on designs for set, costumes and props for project work, applying skills as they are developed.

Term Three

You consider the legal and licensing requirements for performances in community settings including working outdoors:

  • The definition and functions of key roles in production management
  • Insurance: public liability, performers and venue personnel
  • Licensing procedures, fire regulations
  • Health & safety issues, particularly for outdoor performance
  • Risk assessment

Project management – you contribute to the production management and as production crew of your street theatre festival. You also execute a practical project in the form of research, design and construction of an appropriate costume/head-dress for an outdoor performance.

You consider issues of scale, visibility, sightlines, audibility and accessibility in outdoor performance and explore approaches to capturing and sustaining an audience’s attention outdoors. You learn how to encourage participation through the design of outdoor performance.

Special performance skills

The work of this module provides a training in voice, music movement and any other skills required for performance in community settings. You explore techniques of physical theatre and extended vocal work. You expand your understanding of dance and movement vocabulary including popular and culturally diverse dance forms.

The work of this module provides you with an overview of the music appropriate to contemporary and historical contexts of your acting projects. You are able to apply standard body and vocal warm-ups and take active responsibility for identifying and remedying areas of personal weakness in performance. Contemporary theatre practices extend your understanding of physicality, voice, movement and characterisation in relation to community theatre.

You undertake a series of intensive workshops with visiting practitioners active in the contemporary theatre profession to stimulate fresh responses to space, place and identity.

The work of the module is completed by providing you with opportunities to develop a range of skills in samba, street music-making and circus in support of the outdoor project being developed in Applied Theatre Skills II. You learn how to perform percussion improvisations using junk and found instruments to create outdoor processional spectacles. You explore a range of carnival traditions and learn to make appropriate choices for your use in practical projects.

You build on the skills developed in the first year to extend your technique in movement, voice and music. You are offered challenges and opportunities which can develop your competency to industry entry level. As well as developing the skills required of performers in community theatre, you develop specific skills related to your projects such as period dance or song, song writing and playing samba instruments.

New skills are introduced in combat (to foundation level) and circus skills. You develop one circus skill to performance level competence.

Contextual studies

This is a compulsory full-year module explores the role of the arts in the public realm and introduces the wider history and context of community theatre in the UK and Europe.

It draws on the development of ideas of ‘popular theatre’, including theories of carnival, spectacle and community empowerment, with examples from a range of cultural contexts and practices. You also explore theories of representation including semiotics, drawing on visual, aural and popular culture

You critically analyse performances, lectures and classes you have attended, drawing on appropriate technical and theoretical vocabulary. They learn to locate performance practice within a social and cultural framework.

Term One

  • Theories of culture, community and identity
  • Community and Education
  • The work of Paolo Freire – oppression or empowerment?
  • Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed
  • Forum/Participatory theatre and activism

Term Two

  • Introducing Semiotics
  • Analysing Popular Culture
  • Theories of Representation
  • Semiotics and Theatre
  • Analysing Performance
  • Open/Closed Performance
  • Feedback, questionnaires and assessing success in learning through the arts

Term Three

  • Commedia dell’arte
  • Vaudeville and Music Hall
  • Bakhtin’s theory of Carnival
  • Defining the Popular – Theories of High and Low Art
  • Brecht and Political Theatre
  • Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop
  • Invisible Theatre

Your third year involves extensive work with communities and professionals to help you make a seamless transition into professional life. Projects include:

  • Facilitating theatre projects within health, justice and social services settings
  • Developing a political theatre project
  • Organising a site-specific performance
  • Creating your own community play
  • Developing skills in production, marketing and evaluation

The year culminates with students showcasing their graduation projects to theatre companies and industry professionals.


Applied theatre skills III: wellbeing, social care and criminal justice

No module information currently available.

Applied theatre skills IV: specific and web based historical/political projects

The work of this compulsory module complements the simultaneous work of Applied Skills III module. This module explores site-specific, issue-based and socio-political theatre. It explores citizenship, the inter-relationship of performance environment, form and content, the notion of community-based media and theatre for development.

You develop a performance in an identified community setting with local historical or social significance. The performance draws on advanced technical resources in performance and production.

You explore theatre as propaganda, consultation and persuasion. Provocative texts designed to stimulate debate and interactive techniques designed to promote participation and enquiry, may be be used to illustrate this theatrical form. The role of theatre in development, regeneration and conflict resolution are examined. You apply these approaches to research and development of a theatre performance.

Advanced techniques in recording and editing of video and audio documentary and performance are applied to develop a project of contemporary community media. Technical skill in web design are developed.

Term One

Site Specific Project

  • Methods of devising in response to historical or social artefact
  • Recognition of the theatrical potential in factual material
  • Economical and effective and innovative research methods
  • Drawing out theatrical potential of a site
  • Further development of relevant technical and performance skills
  • Influence of historical/social events on sense of place in the community
  • Audience management for promenade

Term Two

Community Media Project

  • Further development of editing techniques
  • Application of video and audio skills to community media
  • Field recording and studio editing for sound
  • Theatre for development
  • Introduction to web design
  • Production development and rehearsal
  • Application of performance skills
  • Ethical, legal and aesthetic choice involved in represention of the community
  • Socio-political theatre
  • Approaches to contemporary socio-political theatre
  • Sensitive primary research with community members
  • Application of verbatim techniques to devising
  • Advanced devising for a theatre environment
  • Community and cultural consultation
Arts administration and professional development

In this module you undertake a placement for a minimum of one day per week over fifteen weeks with a local or regional arts organisation of other user/provider of applied theatre.

The work may be ‘blocked’ into a total of three weeks’ work or a combination of days and weeks by negotiation with the tutor and placement provider. Potential work placement providers include arts organisations, schools hospitals and social care or youth work settings.

After an initial induction you are expected to:

  • take some responsibility for an aspect of the organisation’s work
  • forge effective working relationships
  • understand the organisations business practices
  • develop appropriate practical and administrative skills in relation to the placement

You are supported in their placements by the module tutor and a designated work placement supervisor within the organisation. You undertake 15 days work placement during the summer vacation between second and final years or other non-teaching periods as negotiated with the course leader.

You critically examine the working practices of the organisations and companies with which you have a work placement. You further explore issues in current arts management, funding and arts development.

You extend your arts administration knowledge in funding sources, developing a pitch and completing an application. Production management is advanced to consider planning, prioritising of areas and time lines.

The work of this professional preparation module includes lectures with key industry bodies and personal management sessions.

Term One

  • Arts funding: public funding, corporate sponsorship, charitable sources
  • Funding from community sectors: health, social services, regeneration, education, heritage
  • Share knowledge from placements
  • Funding application process
  • Budget terminology and structure
  • Draft a pre-application in small groups
  • Defend the pre-application
  • Draft full application for funding from a chosen source
  • Reflect on the process

Term Two

  • Review elements of production management
  • Venue / site – licenses, contract, limitations. stakeholders, indirect costs
  • Timeline for instigation. development and completion of elements
  • Budgets
  • Costume, set and sound design planning
  • Technical plan
  • Crew requirements, advisors and specialists
  • Marketing, ticketing and community liaison
  • Communication and transport

Term Three

  • Actors Equity and Spotlight
  • Creating a limited liability company
  • Establishing a new community theatre company
  • Roles within large established companies
  • Career pathways
Contextual studies

No module information currently available.

Community project

No module information currently available.

Application requirements

All students on the BA Acting and Community Theatre course are required to undertake an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check because you will come into contact with children and/or vulnerable adults through a work placement undertaken as part of your course. DBS checks must be completed prior to commencement of the relevant work placement or activity.

You are required to declare a criminal record at the time of applying for the course and/or prior to completing a DBS check application. A student with a DBS disclosure certificate containing details of a criminal record will be referred to the University’s DBS Review Panel who will determine whether or not the student can be admitted to the course or permitted to continue on the course.

After East 15

Since the course was established in 2005, our graduates have worked as actors, project leaders and facilitators in communities all over the world. Several companies formed by graduates are now well established, respected and funded in an increasingly competitive industry.