Welcome to The Working Action Group
The Working Action Group is a creative research community - and a pioneering new acting studio - led by Dr Benjamin Askew.
Through our flagship #ACTforActing project, we aim to refresh and revitalise psychological approaches to character
and place psychoeducation and care for well-being at the heart of an actor's training.
Our work is about bringing the psychology of acting, and of actor training, into the twenty-first century. Using a contemporary, evidence-based model (Acceptance and Commitment Training), we aim to support the development of psychological flexibility in the actor, promote a wider culture of compassion and self-care within the sector, and develop new tools and techniques for the interpretation of dramatic characters.
Our regular members and collaborators are engaged in an ongoing programme of creative research projects and workshops. Through these, we share discoveries, develop new techniques, and put our ideas into practice. Participation in our research workshops is always free of charge. If you would like to be a part of this process, you can start by getting in touch or joining one of our introductory #ACTforActing courses.
We run #ACTforActing sessions both online and in-person. These range from introductory workshops to in-depth courses and ongoing classes. We also design and deliver bespoke workshops and training programmes for drama schools and theatre organisations. We strive to make our training affordable and accessible, and frequently offer free online workshops for young actors and recent graduates.
Ben also provides one-to-one acting coaching, with sessions tailored to the needs of the individual actor. His teaching specialisms include Stanislavsky techniques, text analysis, Movement Psychology, and (of course) #ACTforActing. In order to make these sessions as accessible as possible, he offers discounted rates for drama school applicants, recent graduates, and regular members of The Working Action Group.
The method Ben has introduced is such a fulfilling way to approach acting and I would highly recommend it to anyone... I think it really represents the direction in which acting training and methodology should proceed."
#ACTforActing Course Participant
Towards a training that doesn't exist...
There was a joke told about my old drama school (not a very funny joke, admittedly) that it tried to train actors for a theatre that didn't exist.
It was meant as a criticism. The idea was that the philosophy of the school, its relentless focus on time-consuming process and its lofty notions of the actor as an artist could never be reconciled to the realities of the profession.
Maybe there was some truth in that. As a student, however, I thought about it differently. After all, wasn't training actors for a theatre that didn't exist the best possible justification for training them in the first place? Surely, that was the point! We weren't training to 'serve the industry' as it was, we wanted to play a part in shaping it!
Years later, when I returned to the school as a teacher, I would offer this joke to my own students as a form of provocation - an invitation to be ambitious, to think for themselves, to explore their own artistic values, to get to the guts of what something might be about, and to use our sessions, not simply to recreate the theatre they had seen, but to create in our classroom the theatre they wanted to see.
In response, they produced projects that were bold and imaginative, searingly insightful, frequently surprising and occasionally calamitous, but that - far more importantly - always seemed to spring from their desire to create work that mattered to them.
Those responses inspired me then and they continue to inspire me now, when, as it happens, my old school, Drama Centre London, is in the process of closing down.
Its influence will live on, but that particular form of training nearly no longer exists. Perhaps it has had its time and perhaps the theatre it aimed to encourage never truly came into existence.
That shouldn't stop us from trying. But we might have to be willing to try something a little bit different.
Now, more than ever, theatre needs change. Theatre is changing, and the way we train actors will have to change as well.
But, in my opinion, training should be a catalyst for change, not merely a reaction to it.
I think we need a kinder and more compassionate form of training that is inclusive and accessible and that prioritises the well-being of everyone involved. We need a training that seeks excellence through the empowerment of artists and that supports and promotes new ways of exploring who we are as human beings and examining why it is that we do what we do.
Whether through evolution or revolution, we need a training that can move us beyond the theatre of the present and transform our relationship to the theatre of the past.
Needless to say, I don't have all the answers. It may well be that I'm not even be asking the right questions. But The Working Action Group represents a sincere attempt to bring such training to life, to create a space for those whose ideas will determine the future of our craft, and to do what I can to help them on their journey.
It's been a pleasure and a privilege to spend the past year working with talented and committed young artists to develop this group and our #ACTforActing project, which I believe has the potential to make a meaningful difference to our profession.
Let's see where it takes us from here.
The hope is that by approaching our work with openness, curiosity and an insatiable appetite for learning, we can keep ourselves - and each other - always moving in the direction of a theatre that doesn't exist.
Founder and Director of The Working Action Group.