Oh What A Year

I like to spend the last few days of December figuring out what I want to achieve in the next year, but I also like to take some time to go over everything that I have accomplished over the past 12 months. Every time I do this, I realize that even if I am not where I planned to be, I am still leagues further than I was. And especially this year, even if everything on the outside had stayed the same, I have not. I understand a lot more about myself, my comfort zone is huge compared to what it was, and I actually feel ready for all of the things I have been saying that I wanted. Which I did, but sometimes things happen for a reason, and I’m starting to feel like lately, everything that has been happening has been leading up to where I am now, as well as where I am heading.

I am going to start off with the numbers and work accomplishments, because they are more concrete than what comes after. I had 39 auditions this year, broken down into 22 self tapes, 15 in person and 1 callback. Which I booked 🙂 These gave me 66 days on various sets, of which 35 were background, but 30 were speaking days, where I had a part and got to live the life of someone who is not me. The last day was as a PA/ Dog wrangler, so probably doesn’t count, but I do always say that there is nowhere else I’d rather be than on set, in any capacity. And I mean it. Ca Arrivera Jamais Icitte, Over Easy, The Cohort, Talion’s Law, Augustine, Another 10 Minutes, Overexposed, D33P W3B, The House They Used To Live In, Dick, Follow, Girl on the Run, and so many others. I can’t wait until I spend more days on set than off!

I surpassed my goal for Networking, with more than 40 events, mixers, award shows, film fests, screenings, book signings, wrap suppers, brunches and coffee dates with other actors, or people somehow involved in the acting industry. The best part, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is that networking has become less of a chore to get myself out there and more of an opportunity to hang out with friends I haven’t seen in a while, or to meet amazing people I admire (or will soon come to).

I got to be a reader for all kinds of really cool projects, with incredible actors, exploring a multitude of characters. I even directed a few sessions, which was really different and harder than it looks. One of these projects keeps bringing me back for table reads and stuff on set, which just blows my mind that I get to be a part of it. Another one I was actually cast in, then slightly heartbroken when my scene was cut, but I still absolutely love the story as well as everyone involved, and can’t wait to see how it all turns out. In addition to my job as a reader, I got to read for a project in pre-production that I am involved with, for a bunch of friends (and new acquaintances) as part of my self tape promise, and for my very own project.

In April, after years of being too afraid to, we shot The Anniversary, a short that I wrote. It was a bit terrifying, yes, but nothing like I thought it would be. It was exhilarating and emotional and a lot of work, but something I can’t wait to do again and again. I learnt so much about scriptwriting, finding a crew, casting a project, shot lists…and I still have so much more to learn, which I will, a little more with every new project I start. Which will hopefully be often. I also want to learn more about post production, so that I can maybe do some of it on my own, and so I will have a better answer when people ask me what I want (most of the time, it was “I don’t know, what do you think?”) Every time I bring it up, I have to thank everyone who gave (or are still giving) their time and energy to help me make this dream a reality. I am eternally grateful.

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In addition to the amazing classes with Suzanna (where I used accents, attempted commercials, played drunk, comedy, cried, flirted and kissed people), I tried my hand at Meisner (which is scary for me, because you can’t learn your lines and hide behind your preparedness), took a Chi Energy Workshop, a singing lesson, the Centaur Chekhov scene study and audited classes in Toronto. I volunteered for Comic Con, which was a lot of fun, and since I was mostly manning the microphone in the large halls, I got to listen to all of the panels and basically got mini masterclasses from incredible actors. My roommate also tried to start an Actor’s Meet Up, where we get together and run scenes as a super cool way of networking, but since 3 of the 4 attendees now live in Toronto, it looks like someone else will have to take over? And it isn’t really an acting class, but I am definitely proud of the fact that I passed both my non-restricted and restricted firearm safety courses. In theory, this means I can buy and own certain guns, but I am more interested in what it can mean on sets.

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I participated in 3 table reads, one for the English translation of Antoine’s Cow, one for Montreal Girls, a movie in pre-production, and more recently an excerpt of a sci-fi film for Toronto Cold Reads, which I will definitely be returning to in the New Year. The stage has become a lot less scary for me, not just through my time at LAMDA and with these ventures, but from all the time I spent ‘stage managingLeave The Therapy Take The Cannoli. I still can’t really call myself a stage manager, but it was a pleasure helping them out and being a part of that famiglia.

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Over the summer, I got some insight into how a friend creates his shot lists by helping out for one. His method involves a lot more people than the sheets of paper I’ve seen others use, but it also gives you the opportunity to actually test out the lighting and angles and distances. Ideally, it would be how I would like to create the shot list on my next project. This was not my only time posing for a camera though, as I participated in prop photos for a friend’s short (they’re amazing, but I’m not allowed to share yet), had the privilege of being photographed by Owain Thomas, photographer and friend extraordinaire, and recently got more shots with a new production company.

I made a multitude of discoveries and worked on myself and my materials through Bonnie Gillespie’s Get in Gear for The Next Tier (and the free end of year one as well), and plan to revisit the wealth of knowledge after rereading her book, Self Management for Actors in the New Year.

On a personal level…I can’t even begin to explain the journey I took over the past year. As a writer and an actor, I often list a lack of life experiences as something that is holding me back, and while I probably only caught up on a fraction of what I have been missing out on, I have discovered so much about myself.

It started out with little things in class, like holding someone’s hands for an extended period of time, slow dancing with strangers, accepting compliments and not so pleasant truths in Meisner (over and over again).

Then everything came together when I spent a lot of days on a set this summer. I was doing background, but I went with the intention of meeting people and being…memorable? I’m used to going on set and remembering everyone’s name, but they mostly won’t remember mine. Which is sometimes because they have a bad memory, sometimes because I didn’t say much, and sometimes I literally just overheard someone else using their name and remembered it. This time, I was determined to actually talk to people, get to know them…be the me I am always too afraid of being, because I’m worried people won’t like me. When I say things happen for a reason, part of me is okay with not being ACTRA yet, because this was the kind of set that I probably wouldn’t have been on if I was a union member, and if I hadn’t been there…I can’t be certain, but I don’t think I would be living in Toronto right now, and my comfort zone would be substantially smaller. It was the little things, like people using my name, or coming over to greet me in the mornings, but it made me feel special and like people actually enjoyed talking to me, and my company, which isn’t always the case. I would show up at our call time, which would be incredibly early, with a smile, so excited to be there and to see what the day would bring. I went in knowing a lot of people, but I left knowing the name of almost every extra on set, a lot of the crew, stunt people…even some of the cast. I became a lot closer to people I had just known in passing before then, and also made some new friends, whose support and advice mean the world to me.

It was through this experience that I met someone who broke down walls I didn’t even know I had, completely overwhelmed my comfort zone and taught me so much. About life, relationships, love, heartbreak, but mostly, about myself. About the kind of person I am (how she’s pretty awesome and I shouldn’t be afraid to share her), how much I can handle (way more than I would have thought), how much I am willing to give (everything, so I should be careful), but also what I want, and the things I don’t want to compromise on. We are still friends, and even now, I don’t regret a single thing. Because of the lessons and the experiences, yes, but also for the way it made me feel. Confident. Desirable. Needed. Wanted. Enough.

After this, I was brave enough to post an entry about an experience I had in the past where I learnt to stand up for myself, that I was afraid of sharing, but felt I needed to. I was confident enough with myself to do background in a bikini, and a revealing bathing suit, which would have (and still) terrified me, but I did it. Then I went so far as to sign on for a shoot where I got held captive in my bra and underwear, which was so far out of my comfort zone, but now it’s done, so the comfort zone is bigger. And I’m not going to say there’s a link with what I lived this summer, but I am now able to cry. Which was holding me back acting-wise, but also in life. I felt so closed off when all the women in my family were crying, and I just sat there, dry-eyed, not really feeling it. I still probably can’t just cry on cue, but I have been able to cry in scenarios at McGill, in class, on set, in auditions, in rehearsals, and most importantly, in my life. My cousin recently said yes to the dress, and my aunt’s tears led to everyone else in the room crying as well. I was about to argue when my cousin pointed this out, because I was so used to being unaffected, but there I was, crying along with them. Happy tears. Silly tears. But I wasn’t closing myself off anymore.

Probably the biggest change was me moving to Toronto in November. Having never lived away from home for more than a few months at a time, this was pretty huge for me, and my family, but like I said in the beginning of this post…I was ready. Or at least I am now. Looking back, it wasn’t the year I joined the union, and my career didn’t explode, but I still think I was right when I said 2017 was my year. Because now that I know I’m enough, it’ll be a lot easier to convince the rest of the world.

I hope your year brought you more joy than sadness, more accomplishments than defeats, but most of all, I hope next year knocks this one out of the park. For all of us.

“Everything happens kind of the way it’s supposed to happen, and we just watch it unfold. And you can’t control it. Looking back, you can’t say ‘I should’ve…’ You didn’t, and had you, the outcome would have been different.”

-Rick Rubin

The Last Classes

This week was the end of our regular classes at LAMDA. We still have rehearsals, our Tragedies  and a final movement project on the last day, but our class groups and regularly scheduled classes are all over. This semester is truly coming to an end….
Monday was pretty intense, with some people having to present in every single class. Luckily, all I had to worry about in voice was circles of attention, and watching other people do their monologues.
In Debbie’s class, we presented our duologues, with Lucy and I going first (because I asked, I always ask now). It went pretty well, except for a moment near the end, when I completely forgot the wording of one of my lines. Instead of panicking as I might have done, I took a breath, in character, recovered my line, and said it like it was Emilia who was trying to find the best word to convey her meaning, as opposed to me as the actress trying to remember my line. I am not sure how it looked to the audience, but Debbie seemed proud of me. She told me that I was staying truthful, but expanding. And that she can see how I have been inching out of my comfort zone, slowly, but the next step is to throw myself into it and see if I can occupy that comfortably. I will work on that, Debbie!
Our last class of the day was Stage Combat, where we were told to find a scene to do our fight to. Sydney and I were incredibly excited about this, because we chose to write a scene from Harry Potter quotes. So, we tailored what we were saying to the fight that we already knew, using insults and taunting from the books, as well as spells for a lot of the sword thrusts. It was awesome, and we got some laughs. A really nice last class, where we were even given chocolate 🙂
After our normal day of classes, we had a run through of our RP scenes. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone else perform, and I now have a list of plays I need to read. It was also really nerve-wracking when Kailea and I realized that another group was doing the exact same scene as us.
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On Tuesday, we had rehearsals, with Stevie in the morning, and then Rodney in the afternoon. I know pretty much all of my lines for the play, I just have trouble getting them out in front of other people. Luckily, I used my cue cards as a prop, so I didn’t feel entirely vulnerable and without a safety line, but I also did not look down at them. So, it was a success 🙂 However, what I had believed to be a kind of lament, is actually Flavius venting out his frustrations. To help me get there, Rodney had me try to deliver my lines to the other people in rehearsal, while they walked around, purposely ignoring me and refusing to make eye contact. I think it will be really helpful for playing this scene, as well as to bring me into the right place for the next scene, which gets pretty emotional.
Tuesday is also when there were bombings in Belgium, which was our Easter vacation destination. I spent a lot of my break between rehearsals trying to cancel the trip and figure out what we would do. Then I saw the pictures, while trying to find out if it would be feasible for us to just go anyway, and it put everything into perspective. It is horrifying and heartbreaking and I am so grateful that we weren’t there when it happened. My thoughts are with everyone affected.
Tuesday night, our program had tickets to go see Winter’s Tale at the Globe Theater, which was really nice, especially since I was not familiar with the play, and only knew Carolyn’s monologues from it. Also, in case you are equally as unfamiliar, it in no way follows the plot of the Colin Farrell movie of the same title.
Wednesday morning we had our last singing class, where Gary told me I have a pleasant voice that is lovely to listen to when I am getting the notes. It is more than I could have hoped for as far as praise in this class goes, so I am really proud of myself. And Kailea is too. She has also agreed to come and sing to my children once I have some, so I think this was a very successful course.
We also had our last Alexander class, and historical dance, which I find really sad. I absolutely loved learning those dances, and worry my family won’t want to dance them with me at our next family function.
Wednesday Afternoon was the showing of our RP scenes, the moment of truth as to whether we had learnt something in Stevie’s class. Debbie also came and watched, which was lovely. I got all dressed up, which made me more nervous before we started, but made me feel more playful once we had. Stevie had given us 3 words that we were saying wrong that we needed to fix (I believe it is what we were being graded on) and I am pretty sure I got moment, and dog, and at least half of my ‘was’s. In the end, it was a lot of fun, and I am really glad we get to keep working with Stevie in rehearsals 🙂
We ended about an hour early, so Kailea, Vany, Wala, Molly and I went to the Yardbird for supper, where I got to try the proper mac and cheese, which was just what I needed to congratulate myself on a day well done. I came home and worked on the scenes for Thursday’s rehearsal, since it was the big one.
On Thursday, we were with Rodney all day. I was called for 2 scenes, the one with Adelaide where I finally make her understand that she is broke (as Timon), and the one after, where she sends us off. I had adjusted my thinking for the scene after notes Rodney had given for the other scene on Tuesday, but my original thought was more what we needed. I have to work a lot on being grounded and speaking from the heart, not the head this weekend, because not only do I kind of have a meltdown, I also need to cry. Which terrifies me more than anything, but I do feel like I am getting there. It kind of builds with each scene, and hopefully, once I am grounded and no longer going to  my head, it will all come together. Otherwise I will bring a needle on stage with me me and poke myself or something 😉
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Molly and I weren’t called after lunch, so we went to afternoon tea at the Delaunay, then wandered around before going to see People, Places and Things. I was mostly going just to be sociable and so she wouldn’t go alone, but it was actually really riveting. The character was a mess but I cared so much about her, and there is a point in the second half, after which I could not stop crying. And, judging by the sniffles and how readily Molly took the tissue I offered her, I was far from being the only one. I wouldn’t recommend it for a happy, fun night at the theatre (although there were quite a lot of laughs) but I really suggest seeing it.

 “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Songs and Sweet Airs

This was the name of our singing concert that we had on Wednesday, but I will start with the beginning of the week 🙂
On Monday, the beginning of our voice class was spent embodying the images in our speeches, which really tests how well you understand what you’re saying, before I got to watch others perform their monologues. We also watched the last monologues in Debbie’s class, and rehearsed a bit for our duologues. Lucy and I are doing a scene with Emilia and Desdemona from Othello. It seems that almost all of my roles here at LAMDA are servants of some kind, but luckily, most of them have a lot more, and some strength, to them.


On Tuesday, our first day of rehearsals since being cast, I was not called once, so I had the day off. I took advantage of my day by going to the Natural History, Science and Victoria & Albert Museums, Kensington Palace, and the Peter Pan statue. I also got to see what the Portobello Road Market looks like on a weekday, and spent a lot of time learning lines, and reading the 3 Tragedies that the people in my program will be performing (Julius Caesar, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida).
On Wednesday, we chose our songs and worked on them in class, before Alexander and Historical Dance. We were only 12 in class, so we learnt Grimstock, which is done in groups of 6. Sydney was my partner, and for possibly the first time this semester, I really felt like I had it, not just the steps, but even the doubles. It was a really good class 🙂
At lunch, Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Rogue One, etc.) came and gave a talk about working in the industry and so on. He had some really insightful things to say, not only about the business, but about how he goes about preparing for auditions and roles. I now have 3 pages of his wisdom in my notebook.
Then, Wednesday Afternoon was Songs and Sweet Airs, where we each had to present a song to the other students in the program, as well as a few members of faculty. I know that I am getting better at the singing, but I am still not good, and most of the people there wouldn’t know how much I have improved, they will only see how much I am lacking. I compared the nerves I had to going on stage to perform when you haven’t learnt any of your lines. Still, when Gary, our singing teacher, told me my song would be at the beginning of the afternoon, because they were going chronologically, I said I was actually hoping to go first.
And I did. I chose the first song I learnt here, Oft Have I Sighed, and Gary had Noam sit on a chair on stage with me, completely ignoring me. It was a brilliant idea, because it fueled the emotions and made it about more than just me singing in front of an audience, it was about telling a story. I have really supportive friends who told me it was the best they have heard me sing yet, but either way, I got up there and I faced my fears and sang 🙂
I rewarded myself that evening by making a whole lot of mac and cheese to savor while working on lines. I continued running them the next day on my way to rehearsals, where I was called for the first session, as well as the last, leaving a huge gap in between. The first session was with Stevie, for voice, on a scene I do with Adelaide, where I have to make her understand that she is broke and in debt. It is interesting to be her steward in this after being her maid in The Rivals, but I enjoy working with her, and this part should be challenging, but fun. Especially since I have to reconfigure the way that I talk.

Once we finished, I went straight to St Paul’s Cathedral so I could go see the views from the Galleries of the dome. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside the Cathedral, but it is absolutely stunning. The murals and the architecture and…if it were appropriate, I would lay on the floor in the middle of the dome, prop my head up and just spend the day looking up at the ceiling.

Next, I headed to Somerset House and the British Museum (Mummies! Rosetta stone!) before going back to prepare for the last session of the day, which was with Rodney. I definitely felt the pressure of my first rehearsal with him. Not because he is scary in any way, but because he is the head of drama school and so knowledgeable and interesting and awesome, which makes him sort of intimidating. Almost everyone else in the scene ended up on the grass with me beforehand and we rehearsed and talked about the play and rehearsals and I felt a pang of not really wanting this to end.
I didn’t really get any notes after doing the scene, even though I accidentally repeated the same line twice before apologizing and saying the appropriate one. Still, it was really interesting to watch the scene come to life with the other actors. Rodney suggested we not spend every day watching the rehearsals, as there is a whole world out there, as well as lines to learn and character work to do, but I definitely enjoy watching the others work 🙂 And, we were four of us walking home together, instead of just me by my lonesome!
On Friday, Kailea and I finally got to get Stevie’s feedback on our RP scene from Closer. The more we run lines or rehearse, the more I feel like I don’t actually have the accent down at all, so it was nice to hear Stevie say that we were really good, and to know that most of the notes he gave were on words that I wasn’t convinced were right either.
In Debbie’s class, we just rehearsed our duologues, so Lucy and I did warmups and then worked on blocking and figuring out our scene. We agreed to meet over the weekend, as soon as Chelsea would be gone. It helps to have something to keep your mind off stuff like that 😉
For our last movement class (because the final project/performance thing on the last day doesn’t count) we had to talk passionately about food, which made our mouths water and stomachs grumble, before some people did some mask work. Sydney chose me as the Beauty to her monkey beast, so now I can die happy.
Friday night, I left school and had supper at Dishoom with Chelsea, before a weekend of very little work, but lots of exploring a different side of London 😉
 

“I am devilishly afraid, that’s certain; but… I’ll sing, that I may seem valiant.”

-John Dryden

 
 

Meetups, lines and movies

I have some lines to memorize, some scene work to do and should probably be getting to bed to prepare for my early start tomorrow, but instead, I am writing this post to let you know what has been going on with me. Selfless determination or semi-productive procrastination, you be the judge.
In acting/ text, we are working on points of concentration. For instance, we had to do simple tasks, but Debbie would come and whisper some kind of information to us. Sometimes it was environmental, like the time of day, the weather and general atmosphere of where you are. Other times, it was more emotional, like she would tell you a secret or an event that had recently happened, that you would inevitably think about. As an audience member, you have no idea what the person was just told, but you see the change happen immediately, in the person’s whole body, not just their faces. On Friday, we took it one step further, where we were having decision-making discussions instead of silently folding laundry or something. My scene partner and I chose a really serious topic, which I hadn’t really been taking all that seriously at the beginning. I was seeing it more as an improv exercise, which isn’t real. Once Debbie gave me my point of concentration though, for some reason, everything became so much more real, and the stakes were so high. I can’t go through everything that happened, and I don’t want to incriminate myself, but let’s just say that if you threaten my family and then you disappear, I maybe did it.
In stage combat, we added to the choreography we already started learning, but I really have to work on not cheating (in addition to the steps and the moves and everything else). You see, when I am supposed to be aiming for my opponent’s arm pit, I like to aim for somewhere off to the side and above their shoulder, where there is no chance of them even accidentally being hit by me. I need to try to actually aim for the arm pit though, so the person can know where I am trying to attack them, and will be able to defend themselves properly either against mistakes, or if they have a partner who actually does it right and aims for the targeted spot.
I have also been enjoying our rehearsals. We were emailed a schedule, so although we all come in for a company warm up in the morning, we aren’t all there for the entire day, depending on which plays we are in. When I first got the schedule, I started thinking of afternoon teas I could have, going home early…I was excited. In the end, I didn’t reserve for any teas, which is good, because I realized that the exciting part isn’t having breaks and free time. The exciting part is getting to run lines with the other members of my ensemble, working on characters and accents. I was happiest being there and working, even when I was sent out of the circle so I would be forced to project my voice better, or when I was just whispering the lines to someone for another scene.
Our movement teacher asked us how our time here at LAMDA is going, and I didn’t quite know how to explain it, but…all of this is new to me. School has always been sitting at a desk and reading textbooks or getting lectures. As long as you remembered what you were told and gave the answers they wanted, you got good grades. Here, we sit on floors before walking and running around rooms. We spend hours warming up. We play games. Teachers don’t want to give you answers, or tell you things, they want you to discover them on your own. Homework is never something concrete like read these pages or do this exercise; it is trying to learn the lines of at least 5 different characters and also doing all kinds of scene work. I have never been so immersed in acting, or constantly doing things that scare me. Some things scare me less now, but when I am told I will have to recite a monologue in front of the class or do scenes in a bunch of accents that aren’t my own, I no longer stress out. I am still terrified, but I take a deep breath, and then I get to work. Sometimes, I even volunteer 😉 I hope so badly that I am growing as a person and as an actor through all of this, and that I don’t lose it all once I go home.
In singing, I knew all the words and could tell when the song was being played in the wrong key for me, but I am still not so great at the singing part. Still, instead of shying away as I would love to do, or giving up when he told me to enunciate my words more clearly, I pushed harder, singing louder and not caring when I obviously wasn’t in tune or doing it in the way I was supposed to. I had given myself the personal goal of not letting my feelings towards my performance dictate how I sang (as in JUST EFFING DO IT!) and I did. Unfortunately (or I should say fortunately, since I do want to improve), my teacher has decided that I have a lot more voice hidden inside and he is determined to find it. I would love for him to find it as well, I am just slightly apprehensive about the journey it might take for me to find this voice that everyone is convinced I have. (not as in an amazing singing voice, I don’t think, but as in a louder, confident voice. The kind you use when you actually want to be heard)
This week was really busy as far as non-school things go. On Tuesday I went out for Pancake Day, then on Wednesday we had a masterclass with Alex Waldmann, so I went to see In The Night Time (Before The Sun Rises) at the GATE Theatre , before a showing of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Both were amazing. The play was funny and sad and happy and had beautiful performances by both of the actors. It felt real and human, even as it veered off into clearly imagined circumstances. I’m really sad I missed the talk back, but P&P&Z kept me and Molly laughing for almost 2 hours. I think it’s because I love Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen, as well as the zombie genre, but I was so excited all throughout the movie. It was like I was torn between asking myself who in the world greenlit this project, and anxiously awaiting what I knew was coming next, since I am very familiar with the original plot. It kind of combined a lot of the things that I love in movies, and I thought it would have been amazing to be in it.
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On Thursday, there was a blogger’s meetup. You see, before coming to London for a semester, I searched for as many blogs about living in London that I could find, especially from LAMDA students, and North Americans. I also really wanted an idea of lifestyle blogs, for the pictures, recommendations and inspiration for my own blog. It was then that I stumbled upon Aspiring Kennedy. At first, I just read the blogs about places I wanted to go to, but then I read everything. And I was so excited to see that she organizes meetups, but it didn’t seem like they had been happening in a really long time. I was trying to build up the courage to email her and ask about it when she announced a meetup within really easy walking distance from where I’m staying. My nerves throughout the day had me coming up with excuses that I could use to leave early, because I had no idea what I would talk to a bunch of strangers about for 2 hours. Would they all have awesome blogs and judge me when they read mine? A lot of my fears seem so ridiculous in retrospect, but at the time I thought that the worst that could happen was pretty big. As it turns out, some of them had blogs and some of them were just new to London and read her blog like I do. Not only was everyone super nice, but they actually seemed to care about the answer when they asked a question. I have a tendency to put popular people (like actors, bloggers and prom queens) on pedestals, and assume they are above me (which I know is ridiculous) but even Lauren was so welcoming and sweet. I did check my watch a few times in the beginning, but then all of a sudden there was only 10 minutes left and we were still in the middle of our conversation. It was a really lovely evening and I am really happy that I went, and that I spoke up sometimes and wasn’t just a wallflower observing, as I  often tend to be.
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On Friday, I went to the LAMDA Improv Semi-finals, which were absolutely hilarious, and I am in awe of all of their singing abilities (as in being able to not only sing opera and other genres, but also making up the entire song on the spot, based on a topic we give them). Then I went to see LAMDA’s Fiddler on the Roof, which also featured some excellent singing. Having actually talked to some of the cast, either at Sleazy or when the Student Union put us in touch with other foreign students, kind of made it even more incredible, to see what they can do, and the difference from who they are offstage.
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Finally, today I went for lunch with Molly at Nando’s, which is clearly a staple here in London, and then we saw Deadpool. Definitely not a kids’ movie, but I did spend a whole lot of time laughing. It was really interesting how they would break the fourth wall, and also make fun of themselves (either the character, or the actor playing them). I especially enjoyed the opening credits 😉
 

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

-Neil Gaiman

 

My fifth week at LAMDA :)

So maybe it wasn’t the best idea to sign up for a semester highly focused on Shakespeare when I have no idea what iambic pentameter is. In my defense, I have been very vocal about letting everyone know that I am completely at a loss when it comes to this concept. This week, I found out that everyone assumed I had learnt it and just didn’t really get it, as opposed to: I went to French school and we never learnt Shakespeare or Iambic Pentameter! Luckily George made it a learning exercise by having students explain to me, then the exercise for them to get a better understanding of it introduced me to it, and now I finally understand what iambic pentameter is. Which might seem like a really small accomplishment, but I feel like so many things make so much more sense to me now.
In stage combat, we started using the sword and dagger, which is an arm workout and a half. The teacher himself came over to be my partner for a while until he was sure I had every part right, which was scary, but fun. My normal partner lets me get away with things, but he did not.
Singing really wasn’t good this week. I can blame it on being busy or not knowing how the song goes, but the truth is that I just didn’t put in the effort. Knowing that I struggle more than the others in singing should make me ensure that every other part that I can control (the words and the character) are flawless, which they were not this week. On the bright side, I never want to feel that guilty and slightly ashamed again, so I am pretty sure I will know all my songs backwards and forwards from now on.
Dance class was fun, as always, although I am realizing that I am really not as great as I thought I was at remembering the steps. I either need to write them down or practice between classes, especially since we might be getting another social dance night before the official dance night with the entire school. I say another, because on Tuesday, all of the semester students, as well as everyone in the first year of the 3 year acting program gathered to dance together. Some dances I knew, others I thought I did and clearly didn’t, but whether I was flawless in my steps or absolutely going the wrong way, I had a fabulous time 🙂
We got a masterclass on the painted men and women of the restoration period, including a demonstration on one of the guys in our class. It was hilarious, not just seeing it on someone I know, but imagining that this is how people tried to look during that period, and how they kept wearing the lead based makeup, caking it on heavier to hide the signs that it was killing them instead of stopping…
On Friday, I realized that it was a week since I had started standing in the superhero pose instead of with my arms crossed, and tried to see if I noticed a difference. More due to this knowledge than to my standing position, I found myself spending the day volunteering for things and going up first even when I really didn’t want to. This let me find out that I have a lot of difficulty with the ‘lot’ sound in RP, although Molly told me that when I stood in the middle of the circle and said my lines (the thing I went up first for) it was the loudest and clearest she had heard me speak since she met me. As for the rest of the day, we played games and put up a scene in Acting with Nick, who was replacing Debbie, before I wore a mask and tried to show the class a forest. Still really don’t get the concept, because of all of the contradictions, but apparently I really smile a lot when I watch an imaginary butterfly fly.
As for rehearsals, this was our first week with Robert, working on Comedies of Manner. These have been my most physical days, where we spend hours doing warm-ups, which involve lots of bouncing and swinging our arms. Everything has a point, and I can feel the difference after we do them, but it’s crazy for someone like me, who is used to school being sitting at a desk taking notes, to spend so much time working with my body, which is usually what makes me more self-conscious than anything else. It was always physical activity, and then speaking in public that terrified me the most in school. I absolutely loved everything written. So this reversal is interesting, and really good for me, but also something I am having to get used to.
We have already been cast in our smaller scenes, as well as in the big, ensemble scenes. In the first one, I play Lucy in the Rivals. I had wanted to be one of the young lovers, but ended up with the maid, which might be why I didn’t find the time to work on it as much as I should have before Thursday. It was when we did the reading that I regretted not reading the full play and doing more character work. All I could see was that she was the maid, and kept leaving the scene, which really shouldn’t have bothered me even if all I had was one line, because we are working on building an ensemble here. Thursday I realized that even though she is of a lower class than the other characters, and does frequently leave the scene, she is also a really interesting character, who definitely plays a role in the story, even if you don’t always see it, and she even has a monologue at the end of the scene. They say there are no small parts, only small actors, and I don’t want to be a small actor. Especially when I have a role like Lucy to work on. So I have spent a lot of my weekend reading plays and doing research and getting to know Lucy.
The first time we read the scene, I did it with my novice version of RP, since some of my text was written in a way that implies an accent, but no one else used an accent, so I stopped. I kind of regret that, looking back, because I shouldn’t let what others do affect me, but it did. On Thursday, there were a few of us using the accent, and Robert asked some of the people who weren’t using it to try. So, next time, even if I am alone, if I want to use an accent and it works with the scene, I will.
As for the non class-related stuff, I went to see 3 LAMDA shows this week. The Wild Duck and No Quarter I had never heard of before and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress I did a scene from for my first Tom Todoroff workshop. Not to mention that all of the semester students did the background voices for it. I found myself judging the acting more than just whether or not I liked the play (which is what I usually do), probably because these are students studying at the school I am also studying at. All in all, the plays were amazing, the casts were incredibly talented, and I smile every time I run into them in the hallways at school 😉


Then, this weekend, in honor of Nutella Day, I had a Strawberry, Banana and Nutella Crepe at Portobello Road Market. I also gave up on trying to stumble upon the filming locations from Notting Hill and finally looked them up, before hunting them down. Here are the door to Will’s apartment, the bookstore that inspired the Travel Book Shop from the movie, as well as the location they used for filming. I did not, however, run into Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts.

 

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

JEDI – Just Effing Do It

This week was really interesting as far as classes were concerned. Mostly because I learnt a valuable lesson. Or at least put it into practice. Thanks to Bonnie Gillespie for the awesome acronym 😉
You see, I truly embraced the concept of not hesitating and just doing it, even if I’m not ready and even if it scares me. Actually, especially if it scares me. On Monday, we were working on qualities, and one of the activities was a staple of drama schools, where you pretend to be an inanimate object. In this case, leaves. I was in a group of 4, but all the other groups had 3, so I figured I would go last and probably not do it as long as everyone else, which was great, because I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy being a leaf while my teammates were the wind blowing me around. Instead, once everyone else had gone through it in their tiny groups, I had to be one leaf in the middle of the entire class. All because I didn’t just do it from the get go.
I was also really scared about stage combat, because I didn’t understand how the attack worked, but I went to class early and practiced with a friend and the teacher is not only not as intimidating as he was in my mind, he was actually incredibly nice and helpful. Plus, armed with the knowledge that it was okay if I didn’t get it from the get go, I really enjoyed class, and learning a slightly more difficult routine 🙂
For our rehearsal days, we were supposed to get cast, but instead, we chose who we wanted to play on Tuesday. I had absolutely no idea who to choose, because the only scene that interested me was the one between the princess and her lady, where they are talking in french about the English words for certain body parts. It is such an odd scene, and not in verse, or even in English. Since I am here to challenge myself and to learn, when a group was looking for a French King, I volunteered. It slightly broke my heart when the teacher asked someone else to do the french scene, because I so wanted to do it, but I was also really proud of myself. I have a scene in verse, with 2 kind of speeches, lots of imagery and the Shakespearean kind of writing that scares me and I want to learn how to do. Plus, another group wanted to do the same scene but didn’t have a French King, so without having to learn any extra lines, I get to do two scenes 🙂
Keeping in line with my newly found ‘Just Effing Do It’ or JEDI mantra, I literally jumped up to present some of the research I did on my character, even though I was terrified because I thought my answers were terrible and wasn’t really sure of any of it. I just decided that I had to put myself out there, and just fail better next time.
On Thursday, which was supposed to be our first day or rehearsals, our director was sick, so we were left unsupervised. Or at least without a teacher for most of the day. I only mention it because had this been high school or even university, I would have gone home and taken advantage of an unexpected day off. As it was, we did what we had done on the previous days when the director was there. Yes, we did mostly play games, but we were still learning stuff, and I was so impressed that we all were so much more interested in learning than in having the day off. We did go to lunch at Speedy’s (from Sherlock) slightly earlier than our normal lunch break, but in less than an hour we were back to work. And I don’t think we even took our morning and afternoon breaks.
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Another thing I learnt on Thursday is that knowing your lines is not at all the same thing as being able to speak them. If you sat me down with a pen and paper, I could have written down my lines, but when we went through the scene, it was like I didn’t know a word of it. So, if you hear someone talking to herself in verse about the English bringing war on us…that would be me, trying to get used to speaking like that.
Wednesday was really strange for me. Because I have recently discovered that I can’t sing. Or at least not in the classical way I am supposed to be singing here. Failing and looking (sounding) bad in front of others are things that absolutely terrify me, but I went for it anyway. I could hear myself, and knew it sounded nothing like how it was supposed to sound, but I kept on pushing through. Had this been karaoke, I would have died of embarrassment and walked off and hid under a rock somewhere, but I gave it my all. This might not have been a good thing for the people listening to me, but I showed the teacher that I was willing to work and fail and hopefully get better. I am trying to make up for lack of talent with preparation, just like I make up for not knowing Shakespeare by knowing history. Sometimes.
On Friday, we had our first taste of RP, which was awesome. We learnt all about the letter R, then did a little activity with a script to put it into practice. Reading it and speaking in RP in front of people, even if it was just a few words, was so much fun 🙂
Another really interesting thing about this week, other than my JEDI lesson, is that Debbie saw right through me. A lot of time I would do the activity and not really understand it, but I tried and that’s what counts, right? Only she saw through one of my defenses. I keep mentioning how I use my knowledge of history to cover for not knowing Shakespeare’s history plays, but I also use academics and reasoning and stuff like that as a kind of shield. She mentioned it in passing on Thursday, but on Friday she really put the nail on it. We were doing an activity that was probably supposed to be instinctual, and when she asked how I was getting along, I told her I was just going over the text to make sure it works. You see, I was using my research and such to make sure I was right or that something would work before I tried it out. I was judging things based on whether or not they worked, instead of noticing what they do and what’s interesting about them. She had a little conversation with me about it, and I think she left thinking it all went over my head, but really, I was so happy that she wasn’t going to let me go through these 14 weeks without learning everything they could teach me. It obviously scares me to take away that safety blanket, and to not know, or to experience things in a way I don’t normally do, but I am also grateful. Because now I have a better chance of growing and getting a whole lot more out of this semester. Part of me would love to stay off in corner and pass under the radar, but I’m pretty sure that’s the fear talking. And I don’t want my fear to hold me back. I want to face it and come out stronger.
Our last class was movement theater, where I am pretty sure I was out of my comfort zone from the second we stood up, but I also think I love this class. I did things like being led around the room and running around with my eyes closed. And most of the time, although I was scared, I trusted that I was going to be okay, and was able to actually enjoy it.
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I finished off the week having supper with friends. I can’t believe it has already been 3 weeks!
 

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.”

-W. Clement Stone