Students Staff

21 January 2015

First East 15 Acting School graduate unveils blue plaque

East 15 Acting School has celebrated the awarding of a Blue Plaque to commemorate the centenary of Joan Littlewood, the theatre director who was the inspiration behind the school, and its original director, Margaret Walker.

The plaque was unveiled by Loughton Mayor, Cllr Sharon Weston, and Philip Hedley CBE. The event followed a talk by Philip Hedley, in East 15’s Corbett Theatre, on working with Joan Littlewood, the history behind Theatre Royal Stratford East and the founding of the School.

Philip was able to talk with some authority on the subject: not only from the perspective of his work with Joan as her assistant, and his subsequent 25 year tenure as Artistic Director of the theatre itself, but also as a member of the first graduate year of students from East 15.

The foundations of East 15 Acting School lay in the work of Joan Littlewood’s legendary Theatre Workshop, who made their home at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, East London, and so, from the theatre’s postcode, gave the school its name.

Theatre Workshop transformed the face of British theatre with a revolutionary approach to stagecraft, most especially with the use of the system devised by Stanislavski.

In 1961, Theatre Workshop member Margaret Walker, was tasked with establishing a theatre school that would carry forward these principles and, as would be proven, created a centre of training often regarded to be as diverse and innovative as the Theatre Workshop itself. Theatre Workshop’s head of movement, Jean Newlove, also made a substantial contribution to East 15’s early development.

Over its 54 year history, East 15 has trained some 6,000 actors, directors, technical and production graduates who have gone on to work in theatre, film, TV and music.

In 2000, East 15 became part of the University of Essex and Philip Hedley’s talk, followed this week by another from celebrated Littlewood researcher and biographer, Professor Nadine Holdsworth, both also form part of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the University.

East 15 has created courses that cover many specialisms. Students have won a clutch of awards at International Festivals from Edinburgh to Adelaide.

International students have returned home to set up theatre companies from Poland to Palestine and the strategic partnerships the School has developed range from Universities in Moscow and Shanghai to Shakespeare’s Globe.

The School is also accredited by Drama UK and remains the only non-USA school in the world to be awarded full membership of the American URTA organisation.

Now boasting some 11 undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Acting, Directing, and Stage and Production Management, the School is spread across two campuses. While the original site has been retained at Hatfields, the Queen Anne dower house set in 10 acres of park land in Loughton and home to the Corbett Theatre, 2011 saw the School acquire and refurbish a huge Victorian gothic church in Southend-on Sea which now also houses their second theatre, the Clifftown.

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