I brought my computer with me to New York, with full intentions of blogging every few days, or at least once or twice. As you can see, this didn’t happen, but a whole lot did.
I got to the Big Apple last Sunday, with hours before I was supposed to rehearse with my scene partner, so I decided to roam around the city. I knew generally which direction Central Park was in from my hotel, so I just set off and found myself in the middle of Times Square. I walked through it to get to Central Park, where I sort of got lost before re-emerging on 72nd street, and then walked to Serendipity. I love the movie, and my school trips had never really allowed for exploring, so I was anxious to try it out. It’s a good thing I researched the address and knew it was there, because I don’t see how anyone would know that this place
It was a very interesting decor, and the ice cream was delicious! As were the cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery 🙂
After gallivanting around, I finally made my way back to my hotel to meet Tori, my scene partner, and to rehearse. I was super nervous, and ready to be intimidated, but she turned out to be absolutely incredible, and one of the people I will miss the most from this trip. We went over the scene, discussed it, blocked it and decided to meet again after seeing what kind of a couch the studio would offer us.
Monday was the first day of the intensive, and we started out with a bit of improv, probably because it is a good way to loosen everyone up, and to work in teams.
Next we had Stage Combat, where we learnt how to throw a punch, and the technique behind stage fights, though I am still waiting to be able to try it out. I am also really excited to start the stunt class up again in September 🙂
I had been a bit skeptical about Masks, but it was interesting to watch other people interact while their faces were half hidden behind masks. One of them even got a lot of us to maybe not cry, but definitely tear up.
Our first day finished with Tom’s Monday Night class in New York. It is a lot like the intensives we have in Montreal, but these people meet on a weekly basis. As always, extremely fun to watch, and I got home with pages of notes from Tom.
On Tuesday, we had our first voice class. I am trying hard to work on my voice, so I listened and later took notes, feeling bad that I have only had one class with Julia so far. A lot of it was more related to movement and sounds than actual speech.
Next we had our second Masks class. Only a few people had worked the day before, so it was the rest of our turns. I just grabbed whatever mask from the table, and was kind of disappointed I got an ugly looking one. It didn’t really help when Kathleen, our teacher, had me emulate buck teeth and stick my chest out as part of the body that went with the mask. While the others went up, I tried to think of what my name would be, why my teeth were like that and I walked funny. We were doing simulations of phone call job interviews, and I had it all rehearsed until a few minutes before I went up, I decided not to make a backstory, to just go up there and be in the moment, and see where it takes me. It wasn’t until then that I understood the magic of masks. I must have looked so strange up there, but I wasn’t paying attention, I was in the moment with the teacher, answering her questions and becoming the mask…sort of. It was an odd, yet very interesting experience, that I would not mind trying again 🙂
Our last class was Chekhov, so I assumed we would be reading plays or something. I could not be more wrong. Anton Chekhov was indeed a playwright, whose work I am beginning to discover, but this class was named after Michael Chekhov, and focused on movement and connecting to your body and emotions and…I am not exactly sure how I would describe it, but it was incredibly freeing, and I indulged in my love of ballet.
After classes were done, Tori and I went back to my hotel room to rehearse with the clothes and knowing what the stage and couch looked like. Then we headed back to the studio for a comedy show that we had been invited to. Isaac was the only other member of our group who was there, but it was a really funny show, and I had a great night 🙂
Wednesday was our first day with Tom. Tori and I had been discussing how we wanted to go on Wednesday so we wouldn’t have to stress about it for the rest of the week, and our wish came true in that we were asked to go first on Wednesday. Slightly more nerve-wracking than I had been hoping for, but it went really well, even though we had to ask two guys to carry our couch up and we broke one of our wine glasses. I have pages and pages of notes from it, and no matter how hard you work on a scene, Tom always finds ways for you to go deeper, or do more things. It is terrifying and exhilarating up there, and this time I truly felt vulnerable. I think every time I go to one of Tom’s workshops, I subconsciously do a scene that forces me to work on something that scares me. Whether it is cursing or being loud or provocative or completely vulnerable in front of the audience, Tom helps me work through these fears in a safe environment where I don’t feel any judgment. I still definitely need to work on my voice and on sharing myself more with the audience (as well as a lot of other things), but when Julia told me I have to figure out if I want to be heard, the answer is that yes, I definitely do.
Afterwards, many people came up and said how brave I was, and Tom referred back to us, saying we took direction well, and that I do have the voice, I am just afraid to use it. He recommended making a list of things you are afraid of, and crossing them off one by one. It seems crazy and terrifying, but I definitely plan on doing this.
When our day was done, a bunch of us went to get frozen yogurt before going to the Music Box to see Pippin. Everyone was really excited, and I enjoy seeing shows, but I had no idea what it was about. I don’t know much about musicals or Broadway plays, but it was a wonderful performance.
Afterwards, we had a talk-back with the cast. I assumed the main actors wouldn’t be there, so I went and sat down to listen to the stage manager say that he would answer questions until the cast came out. I was certainly not expecting the first one to show up to be Matt (this is how he introduced himself, and henceforth, I will refer to him as such) who plays Pippin, the titular character. One by one, all of the main actors came out to talk to us and answer our questions, each with a smile as if they didn’t have somewhere they would rather be.
Tori and I ventured to Times Square for some pictures, then as soon as I got home, I bought Matt’s CD. It is more broadway than radio, but they were pretty good songs to have in my head for the next few days 🙂
We started off our day with a sing along to Adele, with Grace on the piano. It was a lot of fun before we went to our actual first class, which was Voice. It was a different teacher, and we did a lot more sounds, and she gave us a sheet with exercises we could do on our own.
I got my first taste of Alexander technique, and discovered that I must be very open, because my mouth always is, when everyone else seems to have theirs clenched shut. Unfortunately, my knees are always locked, which may be contributing to my falling arches, since they didn’t hurt so much when I was making the effort to slightly bend my knees.
Our last class of the day was Viewpoints, which like most of our classes, consisted of using our bodies, connecting to them and with them…We did a lot of poses and had a lot of fun.
Tori and I had decided to go see a play Thursday night, and were welcomed with a torrential downpour that soaked us to the bone, and killed her cellphone. We were completely under-dressed (I was wearing yoga pants) and sopping, but Trip to Bountiful was a truly touching performance (even though Tom had shared the ending with us at the last Montreal intensive).
Our last day of classes had Voice, then Alexander before finishing off as we started, with Improv. It was really interesting to see how everyone had grown and opened up. Remembering what people had done the first day, compared to who they are or what they were doing today was truly phenomenal.
I was going to head back to my hotel, but then it started to rain, and I really wanted to see First Date, as Zachary Levi has been tweeting about it for ages, so I went and got tickets to go to the show. It was amazing! Opening Night had been the day before, so it was new, and oh so good. I have now seen 6 Broadway shows in New York, and it is my absolute favorite. It was funny and sweet and made me wish I could sing and dance so I could be up there. First Impressions, Bail Out Call and so many other of their songs are still in my head today.
Our second day with Tom was like most days with him. We saw some amazing performances that improved exponentially through his guidance, and got pages of life lessons and acting notes to treasure. We also got to see what some of the others in our group were capable of, and some of the breakthroughs were truly heartbreaking and amazing.
We had a guest speaker, whose name didn’t really ring a bell, but then she started talking about her book. Mari Lyn Henry wrote How To Be A Working Actor, which I read and got so much information from last year. We only got an hour with her, but she answered a lot of questions and made some extremely valid points.
Afterwards, Allie, Tori and I had to go buy our tickets for Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike, before we were supposed to meet up with Blanca to go see it.
The show was hilarious, and for the first time with all of these shows, I saw a part that I believed I could maybe play. I have always been sure that I wanted to be on TV and in movies, because I can’t really sing or dance, and my voice would not be heard in the second row. But one of the parts in this play didn’t involve dancing or singing, and if I just work really hard on sharing my voice, I could probably play it.
Allie’s mom met us after, and while we were waiting around, we saw the cast from the play leaving through a side door, signing autographs for those who stuck around. We immediately rushed over and got to talk to Julie White and David Hyde Pierce, to tell them how much we loved their performances and were reminded that they are human, though they may look like so much more when they’re on stage or TV.
Pippin was across the street, and the cast wasn’t out yet, so we went and waited in that line too, where we got to chat with a chicken, and see Matt again. Allie’s mom was our photographer, taking us with all of these amazing actors, and then she also got a few of us freaking out/fangirl-ing afterwards.
Our last day was made more emotional by the fact that at the end of it, we would all have to say goodbye. I am so happy and touched to have met all of these incredible actors and people. You go to these week long intensives knowing it is unlikely you will keep in touch, but wanting so badly to.
I can’t be sure exactly when it happened, but at some point during the trip, I decided I want to go to the conservatory next year. I want to know more about Broadway and see more amazing shows. I want to have a community of actors to come home to and feel safe with. And even more surprisingly, I want to be on plays and perhaps even Broadway. I have always wanted to do films and television, but I now have a newfound love for musical theater. I still love L.A. and all it has to offer, but I now see exactly what Tom sees in New York. At the end of the goodbye party, Tori and I went to tell him that we would be joining the conservatory next September. It is a big step and a very long commitment, with loads of preparation beforehand, but at least I won’t be sitting back and waiting for auditions and meetings to pan out, I will be actively pursuing my dream.
And I don’t want to sound celebrity obsessed, but there is definitely something to be said about how approachable they are in New York. Zachary Levi came out after his performance and signed everyone’s Playbill, then stayed there who knows how long so that everyone who waited could have their picture taken with him. And he didn’t act tired or seem to care how late he was staying. He brought music and danced with us, talked to us, and earnestly seemed to appreciate each and every one of us being there. A guy after me told him something I couldn’t hear, and Zachary replied with “I’m just a regular guy with a really amazing job.” I love that he loved performing and coming out and sharing that with us.
It was an incredible trip that has made me re-evaluate my life and hopes and dreams, which is scary, but it also gave me the support of some amazing new friends who will be going on the journey with me.
“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”