This week we talked to the Director of the MA Text and Performance at Birkbeck University, Fintan Walsh, about what the degree offers and how CPT is involved.
1) Could you tell us more about the MA Text and Performance degree?
The MA Text and Performance degree has been in existence for decades, always changing and evolving, drawing students from around the world. But its consistent and unique focus has been exploring the relationship between text and performance, via a combination of theatre practice and academic study. Many MA degrees focus on either theory or practice, but our degree uniquely focuses on both and their dynamic relationship.
2) Who is the degree for?
We welcome applicants from all educational and career backgrounds, and have had actors, directors, writers, dramaturgs, architects, lawyers, teachers and scientists take our course. If there is a unifying experience that brings these people to us, it is that they want an MA that offers them broad teaching in the practical and academic study of theatre and performance, with opportunities for specialization in writing, dramaturgy, theatre-making or academia. Because we are based in Bloomsbury, students also want to experience theatre study and attendance in central London, and to take advantage of the guest artist workshops and cultural experiences that can only be scheduled here. Birkbeck's ethos is to widen participation in education, so even if you doubt your qualifications or readiness to study, you should just get in touch. Our experienced tutors will often see something in you that you may not yet see in yourself.
3) How will this degree help artists develop their career?
Our graduates have gone on to do wonderful things, working at the highest levels of the arts sector and academia, and sometimes in adjacent fields. They are uniquely trained in both academic and practice-based approaches to theatre and performance, which means that they develop a broad range of subject-specific skills, as well as an array of transferable skills suited to any workplace, including analytical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration and cooperation. We also offer students numerous opportunities to work with professional artists, most recently including Dickie Beau, who students always find inspiring. Institutions such as Camden People's Theatre have also been incredibly helpful in guiding students to build their careers following graduation. Indeed, several dissertation projects have been produced in expanded form at Camden People's Theatre and other theatres. MA Text and Performance students also benefit from joining Birkbeck Theatre Alumni network, which includes an annual talk/workshop by our graduates, and a peer-support network.
4) How is Birkbeck collaborating with Camden People's Theatre on the MA Text and Performance?
We are delighted to work with our neighbour Camden People's Theatre in the delivery of MA Text and Performance, because its expertise will ensure students get the kind of exposure to professional theatre and performance that they want and need. Camden People's Theatre's focus has always been on working with emerging artists to make experimental, radical practice, that is mindful of urgent social issues, so it is the perfect fit for the ethos of our degree and indeed Birkbeck. Camden People's Theatre will deliver one module on Collaborative Theatre Making which will offer our students the opportunity to experience the practices and processes of a professional theatre. The theatre will also offer masterclasses with its personnel, so that students develop a deep knowledge of a professional theatre's operation. And we are thrilled that those students making live performance will have their work staged in Camden People's Theatre in summer term. This means that before they even graduate, MA Text and Performance students will have enjoyed the advantage of presenting their work in one of the city's most exciting professional theatres.