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Hi everyone,


I'm going to study Fashion Design in an uni in Taiwan (where I live, it's an island near China) this September. However, what I really want to do is Costume Design, which, unfortunately, one can't find any course related to in Taiwan.

Going into RADA is one of my dreams, even though the tuition for international students in UK is truly unfriendly high.


I read the entry requirements on the website, they suggest people who have no prior qualifications and little previous experience to look at the two year foundation degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management.

Actually, I'm quite interested in both Costume Design and Set Design. Other things, such as Stage Management and Stage Electrics/Lighting Design, interest me, too, though they won't be my first choice.

The two year foundation degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management looks fabulous to me, and I'll be more than happy to have a chance working in different areas in the theatre.



So here are the questions... (finally!)



1. When should I apply for the foundation course (that would be more practical)?

"Candidates should already have had some practical experience at school, college, amateur or professional level and be able to talk enthusiastically about this in interview." - from the website.


I'm currently an apprentice in a professional dancing group (Taipei Dance Circle), though I don't get paid so it might sound more like volunteer.

For those who have no idea about the culture environment in Taiwan, I might need to tell you (pretty sadly) that in Taiwan, we don't really value performance art, we don't have the market for it, and we don't have the kind of theatres you European and American have.

We got extremely limited budgets, every performance we made looks like a Mission Impossible. I leave home at 7:00 in the morning and am back at midnight (12:30). 5 days a week.

I help setting the stage and, well, a lot of things. You might be curious as to why I didn't go for an apprenticeship in some place that has more things to do with costume, well, that's because we don't have it in Taiwan...

Most of the costume designer went to main land China, they only come to Taiwan for short-term cases. Almost every troupe in Taiwan is in the same condition.


So, I got very little experience (almost sounds like none), had never really worked with Costume Designers, Set Designers or Electrics/Lighting Designers. And I doubt I ever will in Taiwan.

All I got is, I think I could say so, the enthusiasm for performing art (about management and technology). I love art and literature, which end up becoming two of the main reasons I love drama.

I like the feeling of working hard (on something I like, even sometimes on something not), of working with people, of the sense of achievement I get every time we finish a Mission Impossible.

But, I have nearly NO technical skill. I had some clothing lessons before and would get more in uni, yet I don't think it would be adequate if I don't finish the uni, which is exactly my intention. (You can't really expect one to study Clothing Design in Taiwan...)


I'm also learning German now, there's a 'Hochschule' (not sure how to translate it) for Theatre and Costume Design that I'm quite interested in. Though the reason I look for schools in Germany is because the tuition is almost non-existent...

However, my German is horrible (I've only learned it for a year) and I doubt I'll be able to write anything remotely adequate as an essay in German, not to mention pass an interview talking in German.

And I really don't fancy studying 2 years in UK after 5 years study in Germany (if this is really the case, I'll apply for the 2 year postgraduate course).

It's not actually about wasting time, it's about money instead.



So, two options (I could think of) here:


a) Finish 1~3 years of uni (in Taiwan) then apply for the foundation course. (But I'll still be lack of practical experience.)

b) Go study in German, then after a year or two, apply for the foundation course/postgraduate course (not sure). (If I get into a school in Germany, I won't finish my uni in Taiwan.)


Option B sounds more sensible, the only question is I don't trust my ability to get a place in a German school...


Any other options you could think of? Or maybe someone who could talk me off this ridiculous dream?


2. Language Issue.

"Candidates must have complete fluency in the English language." - from the website.


As a Chinese, my mother tongue is Chinese.

My English reading and listening are adequate (I think), since I read a lot and have translated quite a few fan-fictions from English into Chinese, and I enjoy watching English chat show/talk show.

Provided people don't speak with an accent too strong, I'm able to understand quite a lot. (There's a time I was talking with a Romanian in English, and it often felt like he's speaking Romaian...)


However, my English writing and speaking... that's say, can absolutely not be called "with complete fluency".

I plan to contact with my English teacher (a Canadian, native English speaker) this summer (I stopped my English lessons about 5 years ago, I'm now 18 years old), and to ask him whether there would be a chance for me to have English speaking lessons with him or not.


I wonder does one really need to have complete fluency in the English language to get into RADA (for Technical Theatre, not Acting, of course)?

I know it would be tough for someone who don't to study/work there, but I believe one would improve handsomely after spending some times there. I for one have never been to any English-speaking country so...



3. Interview.


I saw the procedure of the interview for the foundation course in Technical Theatre & Stage Management in RADA here, just a few hours ago. (Sorry I forgot the name of the one who provide the information, but nevertheless, thank you very much!)

Yet I still have no idea about what they ask. I mean, do they ask professional questions? I know we aren't be expected to answer all professional questions but still... and I'm afraid I won't be able to answer any.


Even if I finish a year or two of my uni in Taiwan, I still won't be able to answer questions related to anything but cloth. And it would just be 'cloth', not 'costume' and definitely not practical.

If I finish the 5 years (or less) study in Germany (provided I'm lucky enough to survive), and then go apply for the postgraduate course, I'll more likely be able to answer some professional answers, though maybe still be lack of experience.

But then I'll have to spend much more money... and it really is too much.



Oh my, I got a lot of questions (and wrote quite a lot of nonsenses)... thank you all to read it through.


Please give me your thoughts on the things I wrote above and/or some advices.

Any kind of comments is appriciated. Huge thanks!

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An important question you should be asking yourself is whether you can make a full time career out of this. If the answer is not absolutely YES, then you should consider choosing a more viable career that has elements of what you aspire to do, then follow a side career in costuming like you already are.


All the theatre education organisations are profit motivated companies. It's part of their business to sell expensive training and push other associated courses. In most instances the only significant thing you'll get from training with them is the prestige of their name. Just because they are a high profile educational establishment doesn't mean that they will give the best training in your chosen area.


Most traditional costumers either learned their trade while working in theatre, or also did local textile courses to get a greater understanding of fabrics and techniques.


Your English seems very good from what you've written. I think you could learn a lot just by joining costuming mailing lists or forums and getting involved in discussions on them.

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I have more questions than answers, I am sorry, Alice.

Firstly if NTU is the local Uni with Drama and Theatre is that not a possibility? I see they only take 40 students a year but they are the only ones I can find in Taiwan.


If all the costume people come in from the mainland, why not study there? Guangzhou not only has the incredible University Mega City but probably the highest concentration of performance art troupes in the world.


Can the Taiwan Ministry of Culture provide sponsorship and advice on overseas study? The principals of Taipei Dance Circle apparently studied in the US so might be the first people to ask advice from. They also do good work and since they make decisions on costume designer hire know a little about the background to these people.


All I can suggest is that you go where work, education and opportunity all come together and Guangzhou seems an obvious possibility. Their International Schools could even give you the chance to brush up on your spoken English and/or German.


Finally since Clive has broken the secrecy, when my step-daughter decided to enter this business I did my best to dissuade her before creating any opportunities. She did succeed and after work at record companies and with biggish rock bands ended up in film and TV associated with an Oscar winner.


She is now in the Air Force, the chance of a home and family beat glamour in the end. This is not a career of choice, if you do not absolutely HAVE to do it then you haven't got the drive to survive. Even some that have it decide that other things in life are more important.

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I think the first thing you need to establish is where you want to study. - Forget about which place you will study at..


Remember that Technical Theatre courses are not Costume Design. - In fact the amount of costume work done on these courses is very little.

Many aspiring costume designers study specific costume design courses such as the BA Costume for Performance course at London College of Fashion.. Of course on these courses you need to be 100% sure that you want to go in to that career. To me you sounded most sure on costume design and possible set design. I don't see much benefit for you completing a Technical Theatre and Stage Management course.


You will get a great mix of peoples own opinions in reply to your post. Only you know what you want to do, and how you want to get there..


Whatever you choose will not disadvantage you, there are endless entry paths in to the arts. It will take lots of determination and work, but it is worth it if your heart wants it.



I have just done the london interview circuit for a Technical Theatre course and will be joining the FD Technical Theatre and Stage Management course at RADA this September, message me if you want any opinions on that course (though I can only comment on the interview process at the moment) or any other of the London drama academies.

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Most traditional costumers either learned their trade while working in theatre, or also did local textile courses to get a greater understanding of fabrics and techniques.



My experience of interviewing and employing dozens of wardrobe staff at a regional rep was that most of them had been through some form of specialised course such as those offered by Liverpool College (no longer running), Royal Welsh, Wimbledon, Bournemouth etc.

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