Turning (in)to the Triple Threat
: An Auto/Ethnographic Journey through Pedagogy, Discourse, Documentation and Embodied Experience in ArtsEd's Musical Theatre Training Process

  • Janine Esther Diamond

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


To become a successful, professional triple threat practitioner is the ambition of many young musical theatre performers. Vocational musical theatre training and, more specifically, triple threat training programmes promise the possibility of achieving this aim. However, despite this centrality to the ambitions of trainees, the process of training the triple threat and the training experience have been mostly overlooked by scholars. Employing an interdisciplinary methodology and a crystallized framework (Ellingson, 2009), I synthesise ethnography, autoethnography and practice as research to present an extended case study of the BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course at ArtsEd, London. This approach allows me to build on existing scholarly depictions of the triple threat, addressing the significance of training as an intensive process of enculturation and drawing important conclusions about what I call the ‘performer-training-industry loop’.

Chapter 1 considers the conceptualisation of the triple threat and distinguishes the triple threat performer and triple threat training, evidencing a lack of specificity in how the term is defined. The triple threat performer, and their training, are considered under three conceptual themes: stigmatisation; separation; and discourse. Chapter 2 explores how the ArtsEd training culture forms and is formed by its intense sensorial environment which conditions the trainee in preparation for the musical theatre industry. I analyse particularities of the sonic and visual environment before delineating prominent sociocultural and sensory norms to develop a sensory profile for the ArtsEd BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course. Chapter 3 considers how creativity functions in the triple threat training process. I explore how the inception of the megamusical can be recognised to have impacted the performer’s practice, giving rise to the problematic, exclusionary term of the ‘creative’, before discussing dimensions of training through which creativity can be realised. Examining training ethics, Chapter 4 considers the high stakes nature of the audition process and how this is reflected in training through the trainee’s embodiment of aesthetic labour and vulnerability, before evidencing a pedagogical paradigm shift at ArtsEd stimulating a more holistic approach. Positioned alongside the four chapters, connecting past and present training experiences, the multigenre, multimedia Curated Interfaces punctuate the thesis. Using multiple modes of representation, I aim to enable a deeper understanding of the complexities of the performer’s labour and the training process in context, drawing conclusions not only about training’s formative effects but as to how this thesis might function as an archival document which contributes to musical theatre training histories.
Date of Award11 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorCatherine E Hindson (Supervisor) & Adrian Curtin (Supervisor)

Cite this