It can often feel like the performing arts industry is impossible to break into — and that’s where All In Actors comes in. The training company, set up by Stephen Sobal and Ami Sayers, seeks to help aspiring performers unlock their potential. Actor D’Chanel Richards writes about her background and journey leading to All In.

As a black female artist born and bred in North London, I consider myself a confident actor and singer heavily influenced by my Jamaican heritage, carrying this proudly throughout all I do, and inspired heavily by the likes of Michaela Coel, Cynthia Erivo and Letitia Wright.

My love for performing began at the tender of six as part of a ballet troupe in Alexandra Palace. Throughout secondary and primary school my time was shared between participating in drama clubs and their annual productions, and leading and choreographing a weekly dance group. Outside of school I attended, and then later volunteered as a Mentor with, the theatre company Haringey Shed for five years. Haringey Shed helped mould my individuality into the person I identify as today; it was here that I first encountered a Shakespeare piece. When playing Ariel in The Tempest, I got my first electrifying thrill of performing on stage. It’s safe to say I have always been performance inclined, and have always enjoyed being the centre of attention in one way or another. I went on to study Drama at GCSE and A level, but having a keen interest in American Black History; I opted to pursue this at University instead. After completing two years of the course, I realised a keen interest wasn’t enough to motivate me to complete the course to its entirety, and this realisation drove me back to my passion of acting.

Although my family have always been very supportive of my decisions within the performing arts sector, there were multiple factors that were in favour of me studying American History as opposed to Drama/ Performing Arts. The first being that I fell out of love for the art studying while studying it at A level, as well an underlying insecurity within myself and abilities. The most hindering factor was as a result of the expectations within Caribbean culture to pursue an academic course. As a first-generation resident, the pursuit of fulfilling a ‘white collar’ job has always equated to success.  Perhaps this coincides with the lack of diverse representation on and off-stage. Yet, the industry is gradually recognising this gap and allowing room for the portrayal of various intersectionalities in society. 

I found All In Actors at what seemed like perfect timing. I had just completed a gap academic year at university and was very keen that my heart belonged in performing arts. I had just missed most on the deadlines for applying to any major acting schools, and wasn’t confident in my dormant talents. It wasn’t until September 2019, I participated in Theatre Peckham’s ‘Rye-Ting’ event as part of the acting team and was reminded just how much I enjoyed the art. On this occasion, aimless scrolling through Instagram worked in my favour, as this was how I discovered All In Actors. On the day of my online audition I was anxious and eager to perform as it was my ever official audition.  After presenting my monologue from Othello, Ami Sayers and Stephen Sobal (the co-founders of the All In Actors) made me feel comfortable as they gave me redirections and constructive feedback.

Much like every other first day of school, I was beyond nervous but optimistic about the new journey I was about to embark on. By the end of the week I had tackled my first ever clowning class, achieving class clown for being my true authentic self. This is truly my most proud moment thus far in the course. Both Ami and Stephen have created a comfortable and free-spirited space covering classes varying from acting, voice, movement and acting through song; I am so grateful to just be a part of the space trusting my impulses and embracing new emotions.

Applications for All In Actors open on the 23rd November. Visit the All In website for more details.