Interview: Andrew Hearle and Luke McMahon on taking StageMilk’s online drama school global

Originally an Australian theatre review site, StageMilk has now become one of the world’s largest acting websites. Its founders, WAAPA graduates Andrew Hearle and Luke McMahon have now added an online drama school to the site’s offering- one that is now attracting the attention of actors from all over the world.

We caught up with the boys to chat about the new offering, and what it hopes to provide to the international acting community!

You started StageMilk back in 2010, how did it all come about? And how did it progress from simply a theatre review site to one of the largest acting websites in the world!

To be honest we just wanted free tickets to the theatre! We started to compile scenes and monologues for actors to use while training. When we were studying we were constantly asked to prepare monologues for class. The only problem? All the existing websites were really hard to navigate and were full of advertising.  Obviously other people had similar issues because the site grew really quickly. Once we had a few thousand visitors each month we thought reviews might be worth exploring. And honestly, our main goal with the reviews was to get free tickets to the theatre! A ticket to a main stage play is a little out of the price range of a couple of impoverished students. Since then we have stepped away from reviews towards blog content and other resources. Being an actor and a reviewer is a dangerous game.

What do you tend to see are the most popular parts of the StageMilk website? Is there one particular resource that tends to draw the biggest response?

Our most popular articles are our monologue pages, acting games, and our pages related to pursuing a career as an actor.  The main reason our readers come to the site though is our honesty.  We are all about being transparent and offering practical, accessible information for early career actors.  Our broad categories are how to act and  how to be an actor.  The craft and technique related to acting, and how to approach the acting industry. We don’t pretend to know it all. We just share our thoughts and experiences as young actors who are in the game right now.

You’ve now developed StageMilk one step further with your new Drama School! What has the response been like so far?

The response has been incredible! It’s amazing how many people want to know more about acting, but for one reason or another haven’t given it a go! We have had mums and dads, Americans and Brits, people with disability, and people with English as a second language. We’re really proud of our achievements so far. Convincing people that you can learn acting online is the hard part. That’s why we made the course so practical. It’s not just sitting in front of the computer. Students have to actually do the work. Warm ups, practical acting exercises, and scene work which they submit via video. When they send in scenes and monologues we give them personalised feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, and why. It’s working. We’re stoked.

What sets StageMilk apart from all the other courses out there, whether they be online offline short or long?  

Our goal with the drama school was to create a course that was online, practical, accessible, and affordable. Acting training is becoming elitist and we don’t like it. Short courses and masterclasses are just fundraisers for the school or individual that runs them. We believe that if someone wants to try acting then they should be able to regardless of their age, location, ability, looks, or financial situation.

Most other online courses are passive. The student has no interaction with their instructor. Our students get personalised feedback specific to their work.

We think that learning how to act is about developing a foundation in technique and then gaining experience. StageMilk Drama School is that foundation. We set our students up with everything they need to know  to get out there and give acting a go. Whether that’s as a hobby or career.

You were both students of WAAPA. From your time there and from developing StageMilk what do you think is the most important factor for a drama school or syllabus to cover?

I think WAAPA gave us a great foundation in acting. Being able to pick apart any script and have a toolbox to approach any scene or monologue is invaluable. Most drama schools still lack education when it comes to the reality of being an actor. Dealing with finances, rejection, and other issues relating to the lifestyle of being an actor.

Luke, you mentioned that although strange, “acting is easy”. Surely it’s not all that easy though (haha)- as you also say, it’s all about the preparation, experience, perseverance and good luck. Who would you recommend to sign up for StageMilk, and what else should they be doing towards pursuing their acting dreams?

The fundamentals aren’t complex to understand, though they can take years to feel natural. Concepts like “getting to the end of a line” or “connecting with the other actor” can be learnt in minutes, but they take time to really sink in. The course is largely aimed at early career actors, those who love acting but haven’t done any formal training. That being said, even for very experienced actors the course is valuable. We learnt so much making the course and we recommend it to anyone who’s feeling stuck in their acting career.

And finally, what’s up next for StageMilk?

More of the same! We want to help as many actors as we can. We recently reached 1 million actors and now we want to do that every year. There is so much bad advice out there and we’d love to use our platform to help actors in a positive way.

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