Anna McNamara is Director of Internationalisation, Partnerships and Outreach for GSA, previously having been Head of School (Interim), Director of Learning and Teaching and before that Director of Student Experience. She is currently working for the Surrey Institute of Education alongside her GSA role.
Anna has been awarded National Teaching Fellow (NTF) for her sector wide impact and innovation work, is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE (PFHEA) in recognition of her sustained record of effective strategic leadership and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). Anna is also recipient of the University of Surrey Vice Chancellor’s award for Teacher of the Year for her innovative work in creating online learning programmes of study and for elevating the student voice. She was named as a finalist for Creative Businesswoman in the Great British Businesswoman Awards 2023.
Anna has published and presented internationally on a range of subjects including leadership and management, crisis-management, acting pedagogies, disability access to the arts and gender empowerment and equity. Her international innovation and impact projects include her international Be the Change digital conference, and subsequent book Be the Change: Learning and Teaching for the Creative Industries, bringing together thirty five colleagues globally as co-authors. A further international collaborative project on actor training and leadership Actor Trainers on Acting: for the Twenty-First Century is due for publication by Routledge in 2024. Furthermore, an additional edited volume Inspire: Learning for Teaching in Higher Education is being published by Nova, also in 2024.
Nationally, her fully funded inclusion project supporting over 100 school children and teachers regionally focussed on supporting access for those from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the creative industries training sector, bringing the charity Get Into Theatre into partnership with the Federation of Drama Schools (FDS). This work was further developed through a fully funded partnership with the charity The Mousetrap Foundation through workshops with young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
As Director of Learning and Teaching for GSA, Anna oversaw school level curriculum redesign and academic periodic review, initiating school-wide steps to decolonise the conservatoire curriculum and formally embed inclusive practice within all programmes of study at GSA, including the formal incorporation of safe spaces and intimacy coordination across all programmes. She also oversaw the redevelopment of all physical and virtual teaching spaces and studios for the school. Anna led on the introduction of the school's mental health training and awareness initiatives with Mental Health England and created the GSA People’s Network initiative. This initiative actively sought to broaden and diversify GSA’s staff base, welcoming and encouraging applications from individuals who identify as part of or belonging to communities currently underrepresented in our workforce, as well as enabling formal opportunities for developmental placements, mentorships and internships across the school.
Whilst Director of Student Experience, Anna created the GSA Gillian Lynne Choreography Competition, the GSA Sir Richard Stilgoe Song Writing Competition and the GSA Morag Morris Spoken Word Competition, as well as initiating a formalised whole school student voice system.
An experienced programme leader, Anna has designed, written and created GSA's BA (Hons) Theatre, BA (Hons) Applied and Contemporary Theatre, MA Theatre and MFA Theatre programmes. She has taught on the Foundation Acting, Foundation Musical Theatre, BA Acting, BA Actor Musician, BA Applied and Contemporary Theatre, BA Dance, BA Musical Theatre, BA Theatre, BA Theatre and Performance, MA Creative Practices and Direction, MA Theatre, MFA Acting and MFA Musical Theatre programmes at GSA.
Anna has served on a number of committees at university and faculty level. At university level she has been a member of Senate, the Teaching Quality and Valuing Teaching working group, the Student Experience Subcommittee, the Student Success Subcommittee, the Quality and Standards Subcommittee, the Student Charter task and finish group, the Nudges Project task and finish group, the Quality Curriculum Management task and finish group, and the university Curriculum Design Review advisory groups for Wellbeing and for Assessment. At faculty level she has served on the FASS Executive Board, the FASS Learning and Teaching Committee/Education Forum, the FASS International Engagement Committee and the FASS Student & Staff Exchange Committee.
Anna has chaired numerous validation panels and been a panelist on periodic review and enhancement panels for programmes across the university and for other institutions nationally. She is also an experienced external examiner and external reviewer, having worked in a range of roles with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, University of the Arts Bournemouth, University Centre Colchester and Goldsmiths, University of London.
Beyond HE, Anna is a qualified school teacher holding Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and has worked in the state and independent sectors in mainstream and specialist school settings extensively, as well as teaching drama, dance and music in Spain, Italy, Germany and Greece. She has been an examiner for GCSE Drama, and a professional advisor for the Trinity College London examination performance syllabi.
Anna trained in Musical Theatre at the Guildford School of Acting before moving into teaching, gaining an MA in Education and a PhD in Contemporary Actor Training. As a performer she appeared professionally in numerous commercials, voiceovers, photographic shoots, pantomimes, concerts, cabarets and galas. As a freelance teacher, she worked with many drama schools, as well as part-time training providers prior to joining the GSA faculty in 2011. She has produced, directed, choreographed and provided movement direction professionally and enjoyed a long association with the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC).
University roles and responsibilities
- Director of Internationalisation, Partnerships and Outreach
04 AUG 2022
Teaching excellence at the University of Surrey brings double win at prestigious Advance HE awards
In the media
Postgraduate research supervision
Ruoyi Yan 颜若依, Teaching acting through song in the musical theatre conservatoire: An interdisciplinary and intercultural pedagogy
Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised
Wen-Chi Chu 朱雯琪, Body as Metaphor: Anthropology and Phenomenology of Non-Anatomical Body Movement in the British Context
As an award winning teacher, Anna has taught across all levels of education from primary school settings all the way through to PhD level, specialising in Acting, Performance, Theatre, Dance, Singing and Pedagogy.
At GSA she has taught on the Foundation Acting and Musical Theatre programmes, the BA (Hons) Acting, Actor-Musician, Applied and Contemporary Theatre, Dance, Musical Theatre, Theatre and Theatre and Performance programmes, as well as on the MA Theatre and MFA Acting and Musical Theatre programmes and is a supervisor for PhD Theatre and Dance candidates.
For the Surrey Institute of Education, Anna teaches on the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and the MA in Higher Education.
This book considers what change needs to look like within performance training and what we can do to create it. Each chapter captures insights from performing arts industry and educational experts, with reflections from high profile actors and practitioners. The focus is on action, not talk, seeking to provide those teaching, facilitating and leading performance training with ideas and practical steps to work differently, to create the change we want to see.
This book considers the training provider’s role in increasing representation and inclusivity, looking forward to a sustainable and resilient future. Whilst efforts to broaden access have had some success, for too long, people have felt excluded from audiences and from careers in the industry. Enabling future practitioners includes care of well-being, facilitating structured approaches to intimate scenes and adopting sustainable practices. International perspectives are captured to consider global systemic change, focussing on the core question: what next?
The impact of Covid-19 placed Higher Education leadership in a state of crisis management, where decision making had to be swift and impactful. This research draws on ethea of mindfulness, actor training techniques, referencing high-reliability organisations (HRO). Interviews conducted by the author with three leaders of actor training conservatoires in Higher Education institutions in Australia, the UK and the USA reflect on crisis management actions taken in response to the impact of Covid-19 on their sector, from which high-frequency words are identified and grouped thematically. Reflecting on these high-frequency words and the thematic grouping, a model of mindful leadership is proposed as a positive tool that may enable those in leadership to recognise and respond efficiently to wider structural frailties within Higher Education, with reference to the capacity of leaders to operate with increased mindfulness, enabling a more resilient organisation that unlocks the locus of control.
This research proposes a pedagogic practice to increase dynamic independent student participation and engagement through the lens of the flipped classroom, promoting the understanding of learning as a cyclical process of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. With recommendations that may support hybrid delivery of actor training delivered both face to face and via online platforms, this paper considers the student learning experience of approaching rehearsals when preparing for a role within the UK actor training conservatoire by applying an overview of the methodologies of two key practitioners to this framework. The publications in the English translation of the practitioners Stanislavski and Hagen have been used, to ensure that as authentic a voice as possible is examined.
This paper offers a perspective drawn from student staff partnership on accessibility in actor training and education as preparation for and in relation to the creative performance industries. Drawing from issues of representation, culture and identity are explored, and new aspirational models of access are identified, that may offer a new perspective for academics and practitioners working in actor training settings and conservatoires. In this paper, we strive to debate this new perspective through a collaborative student staff co-authorship, for both of whom access and identity are key aspects of their professional learning and teaching experiences.
The ability to readily access creative imagination is an essential tool for the actor. Games and playful approaches to learning are vital to enable the actors’ learning space in both traditional and non-traditional settings. Since 2020, the impact of Covid-19 has necessitated remote learning to facilitate drama and actor training and this has been a beneficial tool in ensuring the continuation of study and engagement. Whilst this utilisation of technology has undoubtedly brought much innovation, this study will consider what has been compromised or even lost in this transfer of activities in actor and drama training. Perspectives are drawn from a practitioner working in a UK based professional training conservatoire at Higher Education level and examines the compensatory allowances that may needed to be made in the creative training process moving beyond the global pandemic
This paper offers a perspective on ‘care’ as a component in the identity of successful university teachers. Previous work has described teaching in the ‘Salutogenic University’ as a Deleuzian assemblage. Three key lines of flight within this assemblage (care, pedagogic health and salutogenesis) are given further examination here. In combination they may offer a response to hegemonic neoliberal discourses that typically divert academics from enacting their professional values. A ‘triple point’ has been hypothesised, at which the three lines would be found to co-exist, without border or barriers. In this paper, we seek to uncover the nature of this triple point by conducting in-depth, reflective conversations with four academics for whom ‘care’ is seen as a central element of their professional identities.
This reflective paper considers the potential positive and facilitative role of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in the active learning environment, not just as a pedagogic tool to enhance and enable student reflection, but also as a method by which to develop engagement and understanding of learning content, through the case studies of undergraduate Acting students at the Guildford School of Acting.
In the post Me Too and Weinstein era the creative industries have a responsibility to re-examine its systems, structures and relationships. All too often training providers refer and defer to the industry as a fixed entity with demands, processes and requirements that are beyond the control of its most junior members. This session will detail how dynamic staff-student partnerships can aspire to create, enable, inspire and empower agents of change through the co-founding of a new ethos.
This conference presentation examined the theories of performance relating to the performer's communication skills of truth and communion with the audience.
How finding your own voice can support you as a teacher of oracy.
We consider the conservatoire’s role in increasing representation and inclusivity. For too long, people have felt excluded from audiences and from careers in the industry. Efforts to broaden access have had some success, but change is too slow.
In the post #MeToo era the creative industries have a responsibility to re-examine its systems, structures and relationships. Conservatoires have an opportunity to enable confident voices that will create and embody change through empowering the voices of both students and staff in wide and open dialogue about the challenges that face all of us in the creative industries. This discussion makes space to reflect upon the challenges that face students, teachers and leaders in the professional performer training sector, as well as individuals involved in theatre in any form from childhood drama classes to the professional creative performance industries. Key topics arising are the vital importance of achieving gender equity and representation in the performing arts across the amateur and professional sectors and for all age groups, calling for sustained, cumulative and impactful change.
This paper raises the question of what can those leading young people in educational creative and/or amateur opportunities learn from and apply following the recent advances in intimacy coordination in professional theatrical settings, led by intimacy coordinators and practitioners such Ita O’Brien et al (Brown, 2021), and cyclically, what can be gained from approaching professional theatrical intimacy through the lens of the creative young person. Often excluded from the current discussion and fora, youth and amateur student theatre performed in training and academic environments engages young people with text and materials that challenge and provoke through intimate exchanges. Although it is acknowledged that academic discourse on student theatre is limited, there have been pertinent strides in the identification of the importance of ensuring that the creative theatrical learning experiences for young people engaged in theatre endeavour is safe, equitable and empowering beyond the core essential safeguarding considerations. Similarly, little exists in the formal field of theatre literature on the growing discipline of intimacy and intimacy coordination in professional theatre. This presentation seeks to bridge the gap in the literature field by offering new knowledge that seeks to bring together the growing fields of intimacy coordination and empowered student performers.
In the post #MeToo era the creative industries have a responsibility to re-examine its systems, structures and relationships. Conservatoires have an opportunity to enable confident voices that will create and embody change through empowering the voices of both students and staff in wide and open dialogue about the challenges that face all of us in the creative industries. This chapter presents Anna McNamara, Professor, teacher, practitioner and interim Head of the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) in conversation with Lucy Kerbel, award-winning director, practitioner and founder of Tonic Theatre. The discussion makes space to reflect upon the challenges that face students, teachers and leaders in the professional performer training sector, as well as individuals involved in theatre in any form from childhood drama classes to the professional creative performance industries. Key topics arising from this chapter are the vital importance of achieving gender equity and representation in the performing arts across the amateur and professional sectors and for all age groups, calling for sustained, cumulative and impactful change.
Higher education in the Europe region is undergoing transition, and the region is preparing for further advancements. The QS Higher Ed Summit 2022 discusses the latest trends and opportunities in the regions. Unpacking several opportunities to build strong relationships and strategic partnerships, the three-day event tracks topics of Academic and Research Needs of Refugees, Social Justice and Misinformation, Rethinking the Business Model of Higher Education, Contributing to a Net-Zero World and Overcoming Crisis Blindness. The latter track considers how universities are juggling multiple crises simultaneously, focusing on: Identifying what are key factors influencing universities in prioritising one crisis over another and creating a roadmap for institutions to tackle crisis management without blindly following crisis “trends”.
This research examines the relationship between student, Higher Education (HE) institution and industry as future employer, proposing that the ethos of HE institutions must grow to reflect educational values that aspire to enable learners, teachers and leaders whilst connecting meaningfully with industry. Utilising the case study of a single vocational performer training provider at HE in the United Kingdom, the journey of establishing a common core of practices framed by Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) shared across all programmes is proposed here as a potential approach toward a forward thinking integrated curriculum that seeks to democratise the HE vocational learning environment, releasing traditionally held potentially oppressive and/or suppressive loci of control. The standpoint is offered that educators in partnership with industry must embody and model leadership that enables the practical and impactful examination and reimagining of vocational training that, whilst founded on tradition, truly reflects, and enables the possibilities and opportunities for current and future creative communities. This research reflects on a three-year institutional journey and identifies possible next steps for future development, action and change that holds relevance across the global HE sector.
This paper examines definitions of the lived experience through a literature review that focusses the lens on both Vygotsky’s and Stanislavski’s considerations of the lived experience, or in the original Russian perezhivanie. This literature review seeks to establish both the distinction between the use of the term by the practitioners in the context of their respective fields, as well as to present the links between the rendering of the theory of perezhivanie as relevant in a contemporary creative performer training learning environment. The etymology of the term perezhivanie is investigated and contextual historical readings of the term perezhivanie are presented, with connections made between the practice of the teacher in the learning environment of the actor and the teacher’s interaction with the lived experience of the student actor engaging in a creative process.
Actor Trainers on Acting: for the Twenty First Century is a comprehensive, diverse, global and forward-thinking examination of the craft of acting. For the first time, the theories, training exercises and aspirations of actor training are collated in a single volume written by a leading experts from across the world. The book reflects on the evolving relationship between actor training and the contemporary and future world and considers how directly actor training relates to the lived experience of the actor.
Examining the training provider’s role in increasing representation and inclusivity, looking forward to a sustainable and resilient future, this book considers what opportunities there are to be created within performance training and what we can do to enable them.
With the focus is on action, not talk, seeking to provide those teaching, facilitating and leading performance training with ideas and practical steps, this book will be invaluable to students, teachers, practitioners, and academics alike.
Inspire: Learning for Teaching in Higher Education considers the grand pedagogic challenges facing the Higher Education sector. Reflecting on innovative frameworks and exploring how they may be facilitated, each chapter platforms insights from educational experts. The focus is on action, seeking to provide those teaching, facilitating and leading in Higher Education with practical approaches to bring conceptual understanding to actuality. This book explores what innovation and change could look like within Higher Education, and what can be done to facilitate it.