Introducing our new ALRA North BA Acting Course Leader: Yusuf Khamisa
Photo credit (left): Shay McNab. Photo credit (right): Yusuf on Directing Cush Jumbo's 'The Accordion Shop' at the National Theatre
Yusuf Khamisa is the new BA Acting Course Leader at ALRA North. We asked him a few questions about his past experiences as both a tutor and a performer to get to know him.
Tell us about your experience teaching at other drama schools. What are your highlights?
I have spent the last 4 years working at ArtsEd in London. During my time there I got to work with some really amazing teachers who taught me a lot, in particular Gareth Farr who was the director of the school of acting and Gavin Fowler. Their emphasis on creating a professional and safe working environment to support the needs of the student and nurture talent is something I have embedded into my own practise.
The thing that I have taken most pride in - the biggest highlight - has been seeing the incredible progress the students make as they grow into professional actors. The greatest reward is tuning into Netflix or booking theatre tickets to see your students doing what they love.
Which was your favourite show to perform in and your favourite show to direct, and why?
The show I enjoyed most as an actor was Territory by Reuben Johnston. I performed in this play both at Edinburgh Fringe festival and on national tour not long after I left drama school. Reuben is not only a fantastic playwright, but also a very good friend. The play touches on my own lived experience of growing up in a working class Northern town, and really taught me the importance of the narrative in effecting an audience and making them question issues within society. The real highlight was being able to perform this at the Lowry theatre in my hometown of Salford.
The show I enjoyed directing the most was The Accordion Shop by Cush Jumbo at the National Theatre London as part of the NT Connections. It was incredible to share this inspiring experience with a group of young aspiring actors, giving them the opportunity to perform on the Olivier stage at such a young age. It is such a special space to work in and everyone from backstage staff to front of house are amazing. Cush wrote such an important play that allowed young actors to voice their frustrations and anger at a political system that wasn’t taking them seriously. I’m really passionate about writing that has a strong message and is politically challenging.
How has your own acting experience informed your teaching?
My experience as an actor has undoubtedly shaped the way I approach my teaching, particularly my experiences around my identity and race. I have trained, worked and taught in this industry and have felt and understood what it’s like to be a minority and to be type cast. My teaching challenges these ideas and constructs and works to break down barriers and create an inclusive environment for everyone to be able work without fear.
Do you remember a specific teacher from your own training who inspired you?
I have been lucky enough to have several teachers over the years who have inspired me, not just as a performer and teacher, but also personally; in particular, Gary Willis who introduced to me the idea of drama school. Coming from a council estate in Salford, this was not something that I would have naturally aspired to. Gary raised my aspirations, supporting me as a mentor and teacher. I was lucky enough to work with him many years later in a teaching capacity. The importance of teaching with passion and understanding the effect you can have on an individual is what makes this profession so amazing.
What is your vision for the ALRA BA (Hons) Acting course?
My vision is to promote a course that is inclusive, contemporary and future-proof; to create actors who can work in any capacity with compassion, integrity and respect, to work in a 21st century way that incorporates and respects the old whilst fully embracing the new, to decolonise the curriculum and diversify the training, and most of all… to work with the next generation of artists.
I am also the Outreach and Development Liaison at the Iris Theatre Covent Garden. I believe in nurturing new talent and helping break down barriers that society has put in the way for some young people. I am constantly working with industry to ensure that my practise is as relevant as possible in order to foster these ideas with the actors I work with.