Forging the stars of tomorrow: Preston drama school making triple threats since 1994
Make-believe is something you grow out of, we're told. The days of charging around outside with a knobbly tree branch playing the role of Excalibur, legs scraped by brambles and clothes painted with grass-stains, fade quickly these days, with imaginary realms replaced by digital ones.
The Players Drama School is in the business of make-believe. For 25 years, the school has offered what is - for young people in the 21st century - fast-becoming a unique space to be completely creative and lose themselves in pure imaginative pursuits. Drama is vulnerable and raw, expressive and brave, and Players is dedicated to showing children and teenagers its virtues.
Players was established by actor and coach, Deborah-Ann Carter, in 1994. "With just £30, I managed to buy enough masks for Greek Theatre and flyers for advertising," said Deborah-Ann. "All I needed was the pupils. The anticipation, waiting to see who would come and if indeed would they come... No sooner had I got out of the car, I was met by eager faces."
Twenty-six passionate children turned up on that day in May. By the end of the year it was 100, and there were another 200 names on the waiting list. Players was born.
Providing students with a fully-rounded education in the fluid world of thespianism, Players' workshops cover the core elements of acting, singing, and dancing. Their teachers - singing coach Lucy McHale, acting coach Rebecca Gregson, and dancing coach Sian Davis, as well as Deborah-Ann - equip young people with a wide range of skills not only applicable to their success on stage, but which invariably improve their confidence and social skills as well.
Catering for budding actors from four to 16, Players is based at the Preston Playhouse and specialises in adding a 21st century slant to the teaching of the ancient core pillars of performance. Equally as welcoming to those stricken with butterflies in the stomach as to those champing at the bit, the school is kindling a fire under the North West's actors of tomorrow.
"Our staying-power is driven by a pure love for the school and pupils that take part," said Deborah-Ann, who as a child growing up in California developed a passion for expression and adventure whilst exploring the state's famed wilderness. "For 25 years, Players has given students the opportunity to experience and fall in love with drama.
"Our success story is not complete without the many who have passed through the theatre doors and they have not been forgotten," she added. "There are many memories made and cherished - we are forever grateful to parents who trusted in us to grow their children in this magical environment called theatre."
Born to British parents Brian and Brenda, Deborah-Ann spent time in both the UK and the US whilst growing up, enrolling in theatre training at Preston Playhouse for a time. Eventually working in TV, film, and commercials across the pond, she also worked on the West End and as a BBC child acting coach.
Both Lucy and Rebecca are themselves former Players alumnus, going off to complete their studies in music and performing arts respectively before returning to the school in order to guide the next generation. "I love that the arts allow both myself and the children to create, imagine, and perform - this is a vital part of growing and learning," said Rebecca. "I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Players: 14 years ago I first stepped foot through the theatre doors and I hope to for many, many more."
The saying 'choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life' rings true at Players. "Quite simply, we are passionate about the school and our craft," said Deborah- Ann.
"Perhaps that's why we’ve been running for 25 years."