Wednesday, December 31

Last night there was a dress run for Imaginary Invalid, and it was unbelievably cool to watch. The set and costumes are incredible. Seriously. Wow.

Everything is looking really great. Now that they're actually on the set, some of the blocking and choreography has changed. I took notes during the run. I hope I caught everything.

The first preview is tonight, the second preview is tomorrow, and the show officially opens on Friday. EEK!


Tuesday, December 30

I got together with 5 of the other Imaginary Invalid understudies a couple of days ago, and we tried to run the show ourselves (with various people filling in for the missing cast members). And I realized just how bad of a job I've done with memorizing these lines.

I thought I had things down pretty well because I can mouth the words along with the actress during the scene. But once I'm actually on my feet and trying to remember the cues myself? I'm a big old mess.

So yesterday I sat down and started trying to use my NORMAL method of line memorization (which involves writing down the first letter of every word... It's a method I made up for myself, and I've been told that it looks like hieroglyphics or something to other people). Then I got together with Two-Shots-Up to run our scenes, and I'm already doing significantly better (which is good, as the show opens in a few days!).

Tonight is a dress run, so I'm going to attend that to really solidify the blocking in my mind. Hopefully everything will go well.

I called a bunch of florists this weekend to try to locate a floral designer to shadow, but I got a bunch of answering machines (it turns out, a lot of florists take a few days off after Christmas... And a lot of Florida florists are closed on Sundays for some reason. And the one florist I actually got a hold of gave me a flat out "no") But I have a little more time for that, so I'm not freaking out yet. I'm sure I'll be able to find people to observe.


Saturday, December 27

I finally saw This Wonderful Life last Sunday, and I was so very glad I did. I don't know the movie It's a Wonderful Life (which it's based on... but it's a one-man play), but I loved it anyway. I spoke with the actor (or should I call him "the cast"?), and he told me that he added eight pages of dialogue to the script. It was really delightful. And it really put me in a holiday spirit.

I went home for a few days (which caused me to miss three rehearsals for Winter's Tale and two for Imaginary Invalid), but I am now back and rehearsing again.

The version of The Imaginary Invalid that we're doing is sort of a musical. I mean, it's not the sort of musical where characters periodically break out into song while acting... But the prologue and epilogue are song/dance numbers, and there are also small pieces at the end of Act I and at the beginning of Act II.

The composer has come into town for the production, and today the actors recorded the chorus parts of the numbers so that they can be piped into the theatre over speakers to make the sound larger.

They needed an additional female for the recording, so I volunteered and went into the sound recording studio along with the actresses playing BĂ©line and Angelique. I was completely nervous about it at first, as I haven't had any actual music rehearsals... I have the sheet music, but I've really just picked it up from listening during the rehearsals. But it went well! And I get a kick out of the fact that my voice is going to be in that show now, even though I'm not.

Tonight they're doing a full run of Winter's Tale, which I'm excited for. Paulina (the character I'm understudying) is only in the serious parts of the show, so I haven't really gotten to see the lighter parts (Act IV in Bohemia) yet. This production takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, so I've heard that the Bohemia section has some really great dancing and music. I'm SO looking forward to it.


Saturday, December 20

Yesterday several of us were called in to the Scene Shop at 9:30am. Being a 1st-year means getting to help with load-ins for shows. So we loaded in the set for the 2nd-year class production of Blur by Melanie Marnich. Fortunately, it didn't take all that long.

This morning we finally had our readthrough for The Winter's Tale. Reading Paulina was really fun. She's a powerful lady. There are still SO MANY PARTS of that play that I haven't fully memorized the text on, which is scary... But I'm sure I'll get it once I put my full focus on it (lately I've been concentrating on my Imaginary Invalid lines, as it opens in two weeks).

I went to Winter's Tale rehearsal in the afternoon, and they did a run of their Act I (which is Shakespeare's Act I, Act II, and Act III). It went pretty well. And I only had to change a small amount of the blocking that I'd already written down. So that's good.

Tonight I've got Box Office duties for This Wonderful Life, then an Imaginary Invalid rehearsal, and then the closing party for Barnum.

It's crazy how much theatre has all been going on at once here. The 2nd-years are rehearsing Blur. The Repretory theatre is rehearsing Inventing Van Gogh, The Winter's Tale, and The Imaginary Invalid (all of which open in January). Barnum is running in the main theatre, and This Wonderful Life is running in the Historic theatre. I don't think I've ever been around this much theatre in my life. It's extraordinary. :)


Advice for Grad School Hopefuls

Hello readers, lurkers, and stumblers!

I get a lot of emails from people who are auditioning for grad schools (especially lately... 'tis the season!), so I thought I'd post some advice here.

I did URTAs twice (in 2006 and 2008 -- and I was moved past the screening round both times, and got a handful of callbacks both times), so I understand them pretty well. I did NOT do any private auditions, so I can't advise well on them, but many of my classmates did. If you have questions on private auditions or specific programs, you can email them to me, and I'll forward them to my classmates.

URTAs are cost-effective, and a great way to get seen by a lot of schools (IF you make it past the screening round). But don't put all your eggs in the URTAs basket. I did, and it worked for me... but I was LUCKY. I happened to get a callback -- and then an offer -- from the school of my dreams. Don't leave it up to chance like I did. Set up private auditions with the schools that you want to see you (both URTAs schools and non-URTAs schools).

While you're at URTAs (especially if you don't get past the screening round, as you'll have more time), try to find out what other non-URTA schools are holding auditions in the same hotel (or a nearby one) that you might be able to walk into while you're there. (And have a checkbook ready, because every one of those will have a separate fee.)

Advice on the audition process...

- Be very, very confident with your pieces. Show them to everyone you know, just so that you're comfortable doing them in front of an audience at the drop of a hat. Also, sometimes you'll get useful feedback from unexpected sources. (I got a really useful piece of feedback from a maid at the hotel I was staying at who knew nothing about theatre, because she told me that she was confused by something I said. Because of that, I changed the moment for the sake of clarity.)

- Have your pieces contrast. Not only in style, but also in movement and voice. You want to show as much of yourself as possible.

- Make sure your "additional pieces" are well-rehearsed, just in case you're asked to whip them out in a callback.

- Make sure you're consistently under the time limit by a decent amount (at LEAST 10 seconds. 15-20 if you can) so that you won't freak out and rush. And also so that you won't get cut off (because they WILL cut you off -- no matter how brilliant you are -- and that looks sloppy and unprofessional).

- Give an accurate representation of yourself. Don't just do pieces because you think they're impressive. Do material that you really connect with, and that shows who you are as an artist. Be authentic to who you are.

- ETA: Avoid pieces that require dialects. 95% of the time, they're a bad idea. People watching you start paying more attention to the dialect than to anything else you're doing acting-wise, which means they're not really getting a sense of who you are. Additionally, if you aren't perfect at it, they will notice, and it will work against you. Spare yourself the headache. Do pieces that are in Standard American or General American. If you grew up with a regional dialect (e.g. you're from South Boston), then you might feel comfortable using that dialect... I personally wouldn't advise against the dialect if that's your situation, but I'm also not a professor, so use your best judgement.

- Have a headshot that looks like you, and doesn't look like it was taken by your friend while you were sitting on a couch in a greenroom. (NOTE: It seems like most people are getting color headshots these days instead of the traditional black and white, but either one is fine. Mine are in color.)

- And most importantly, KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. There is a danger with URTAs of only liking a school because they like you. One of my friends got only one callback, and suddenly acted like that school was her dream school, even though it wasn't right for her at all. Another friend went to the first school she got an offer from, and ended up dropping out at the end of her first year. And don't be seduced by school names (like "Yale" or "Juilliard"); pay attention to what training you'll be receiving, and if it's what you want. Going to grad school isn't as important as going to the RIGHT grad school for YOU.

It's not a bad idea to write a statement of purpose BEFORE going to auditions. You're going to need it anyway if you get into any schools, and it'll help you sort out why you really want to be there.

Things to consider about grad schools:

- Do you want to teach? (If you want to teach at a college-level in the future, being at a grad program where you teach might be a good idea. If that doesn't interest you, you might prefer a conservatory with no teaching involved.)

- Do you want only stage training, or do you also want on-camera training? (One of the schools that called me back had a full year devoted to on-camera work.)

- Are you looking for a program (like mine) where you won't have to pay tuition? Or are you willing to be knee-deep in tuition (and possibly loans and debt) to go to a school with name like "NYU" or "Yale"?

- Do you want to be able to get experience with an Equity company?

- Do you want to have a showcase (in NYC or LA) upon graduation?

- Do you want to be Equity eligible upon graduation? (Not a lot of programs offer this -- mine does -- but I've heard that some people are turned off by programs where you get a card)

- Do you want a program that focuses on new works? Or community-based theatre? Or theatre for social change?

- Do you want a program that will also train you in writing or directing?

- Do you want a program that focuses on classics/Shakespeare?

- Do you want training in Alexander/Feldenkrais/Viewpoints/Michael Chekov/Stanislavski/Demidov/Linklater/Fitzmaurice/Adler/Laban/etc.? (In other words, if there's a specific discipline that you want to learn, know what it is and look at programs that offer it)

- Would you benefit from a program that specializes in multi-cultural theatre? (And do you want to learn things like Noh and Kabuki?)

- Do you want the opportunity to study abroad?

- Do you want a program that is specific to certain disciplines, or do want a little bit of everything (survey style courses and workshops)?

That's all stuff that you need to answer for yourself BEFORE you go to URTAs (or private auditions). That way, if you get callbacks, you'll really be able to process what the schools are telling you. That said, GO to all the callbacks. A program might not sound like your perfect match on paper, but you might really connect with the recruiters/professors. And they might be able to better explain things that you were shaky on (I didn't understand the relationship my program had with donors in the community until I asked about it).

If you do not get past the screening round, don't give up. Go to the one-minute round, because I have more than one friend who got callbacks out of that.

In the case that you do get callbacks...

Questions that you might want to ask schools:

- Is the second year a continuation of the first year, or are you learning completely different things? (Some schools build in your training, and some give you alternative forms of training)

- Do grad students get preference in casting over undergrad students? (Or are they in separate shows?)

- Is there an opportunity to take classes in other departments at the university (such as music or dance)?

- What do students typically do in the summers?

- What do students do upon graduation? How many students actually act vs. teach or do other things?

- How often are students cut from the program?

- If there is a Showcase, do ALL students get to perform in it? (I came across a school that had 10 students in their 3rd-year class, but only 4 of them performed in the showcase because they were "the best representation of the program")

- What is their retention rate? (In other words, do students drop out often?)

- Will you need a vehicle to get around? (because if you need one and don't have one, it's a PAIN)

- What are the surrounding areas like?

- How much does the community support the theatre?

Questions that you should be prepared to answer:

- Why do you want to go to grad school? (Remember, you should NOT be going because you want an MFA. An MFA is a piece of paper. If you want to go to grad school make sure it's because of the training involved.)

- What do you do that ISN'T theatre-related? (Because they want you to be an interesting, well-rounded person.)

- What do you want to do after grad school?

- What are you reading right now/What was the last thing you read?

- What have you been doing so far to make yourself a better actor?

- Who are you? (It's so vague and awkward to answer, but they're trying to figure out who you are as a person, not just as an artist. After all, by choosing you, a grad school is essentially asking to marry you... at least for the next few years).

- What is your favorite play?

- What is your dream role? (I think they ask this because they think it helps them figure out how you see yourself as an actor.)

In callbacks/interviews, don't just sit there smiling and nodding to whatever they're saying. You don't need to be a "yes-man". Part of the callback is them figuring out who you are, which they won't be able to do if you're trying too hard to be the person that they want. Besides, while they're interviewing you, you're also interviewing them. You need to make sure that you understand exactly what the program is so that you can make an informed decision (because it's an important one).

Make sure you keep up your communication with the school afterward. If nothing else, send an email the next day thanking them for meeting with you. If you're interested in the school, send them a couple of questions via email (see list above for ideas). That let's them know that you're seriously considering them, and keeps you in their minds.

Once you're considering a program, keep doing your homework:

- Google all the professors to see what kinds of training they have, and what their specialties are.

- Try to determine what professional connections you might get the benefit of from that program.

- Ask the school to provide you contact information for a current student (so you can ask what the training is like) and a former student (so you can ask how the training benefited them).

- ETA: When talking to a current student, you might want to ask: how realistic is the course load; how often do they feel burnt out (and they might answer "I'm burnt out right now", because recruitment happens around that part of the year); how do they manage financially; do they have a vehicle; do they have roommates; etc. (i.e. ask all the day-to-day kinds of things that a student would know, but that are hard for professors/administrators to answer honestly)

- Read ALL the information that they've given you (that's how I found out that one school that called me back set each student up with a nutritionist and a personal trainer -- somehow that hadn't come up in the callback).

- Find every nook and cranny in their websites (which will probably help you ask more program-specific questions, which are more helpful than generic ones anyway.)

- If at all possible, visit the school. You won't truly know what the program is until you can sit in on some classes and see it in action.

Although even by visiting a school (and reading this blog), you won't fully understand what grad school is. Someone once said to me that trying to explain grad school is like trying to explain being pregnant. I can tell you all about my experiences, and you'll think you understand, but you won't really get it until you experience it for yourself.

If you have any other questions, feel free to write me. I didn't have a lot of resources when I was auditioning for grad schools, so I'm happy to be a resource to other actors now. :) angelaacts(at)gmail.com

All good things,


P.S. My program: no tuition, performance-based stipend (no teaching required, but there will be an opportunity for some students to teach), 6 weeks of study in London (summer after the 2nd year), Equity eligibility upon graduation, and a full year of performing with the Equity theatre here as part of the Rep company. We get hand-to-hand stage combat certification, as well as skill-specific workshops in things like Capoeira, Musical Theatre, Roy Hart voice work, and on-camera training. At the end of the 3rd-year, there is a highly attended New York showcase. This program is in a completely separate city from the undergrad program, so all of our professors are fully focused on US, and the plays in the 2nd year are chosen with ONLY US in mind. If you want to know what school I'm attending so that you can set up a private audition (which I highly recommend), either write to me or do a little creative Google-ing. (hint: try my personal website.)

(I don’t mention the school by name on my blog to help preserve the anonymity of my classmates. Just because I’m a blogger and comfortable having my class experiences on the internet, doesn’t mean they should have to be subjected to the same type of exposure and search-ability.)


Thursday, December 18

I felt like I was getting down to the wire on my professional skills assignment, so I finally wrote to my Acting Professor a few days ago:

Okay, [Acting Professor]... I'm still not positive what I'm doing for professional skills assignment, so I thought I'd send you a list of the things I've thought up so far and see if any of them are bad ideas...

- Vacuum cleaner repair
- Floral arrangements
- Cupcake decoration (there's a place that sells just cupcakes... not sure if this is too similar to [All-The-Way], as last I heard she was considering a baker)
- Soap making (the only people I've found so far that do this would require me to drive pretty far, though)

I also found a couple in [town] who makes skin care products (like moisturizers and scrubs), and they really seem like ARTISTS, but I don't know if there is a repeatable skill involved yet.




I thought it was a pretty healthy list. I had a feeling he was going to cheer for vacuum cleaner repair... This is the response I got.

Hello Angela,

All variants you mentioned can work quite well. The one I would lean towards is floral arrangements. It will call for fine nuance in exercising the specificity of the skill, for (in theory) everyone can make a floral arrangement. A lot here will be resting on "how" and "a little bit". However, it is doable. Plus, considering that flowers are all about occasions (landmarks, events) in people's lives, you may be able to hit a deeper "theme" here. You see what I mean? And finally, among many florists you can observe in [town], sooner or later you will find an artist.

What do you think?


[Acting Professor]

So it looks like I'll be calling florists today.


I've been spending my days attending rehearsals for the shows I'm understudying as much as possible. I call the Actor Rehearsal Line every night, and showing up every time the actors I'm following are called (every time I'm able, that is... sometimes I have Box Office duty). There are pros and cons to doing this, which is why not all of my classmates are doing the same.

The Pros:
- I think I have more of an opportunity to observe the play. Not only the text and blocking, but also the atmosphere.
- It's helping me learn my lines more than drilling from a page would. I mouth the text as the actors say it, with my script on my lap.
- I write down the blocking as it happens (and as it changes... which is a lot for Imaginary Invalid). I think it's a more organic way of learning it than if I were to come in to watch after everything is fully blocked (especially because I get to here WHY the blocking is being set in certain ways).
- One of the shows I'm understudying is being directed by the Artistic Director of the Repretory theatre. The other is being directed by the head of my program (aka my Analysis Professor). I like to think that I'm making a good impression by being around.

The Cons:
- There's a LOT of sitting around involved. The rehearsals are moving very slowly, and it's often boring.
- A lot of times the actors are being called to be there, but aren't actually put to work for large periods of time. And if the actor I'm following isn't doing anything, then there's really nothing for me to do.
- Sometimes it's frustrating to write down all sorts of blocking, only to have it change the next day.
- There are a lot of other things I could be getting done in the hours (it was 8 hours yesterday) when I'm sitting in the rehearsal hall. (Like observing florists, for example.)

It's not required for me to be at rehearsals. All that's required is that I be ready to perform on opening night if the need should arise (although I've also heard of understudies having to stand in during tech and dress in the past).

Opening night for The Imaginary Invalid is January 2 (runs through March 1). Opening for The Winter's Tale is January 23 (runs through May 16).

So you see why I'm getting nervous. Especially because I'm missing three days of rehearsal (for both shows) next week by going to see my family for Christmas. (That's right... the actors in the shows, including the 3rd-Years, are pretty much stuck here for Christmas, New Years, and whatever other holiday should arise in the course of rehearsals. Just one more sacrifice we make in the name of theatre.)

Anyway, I'm going to go chant lines with myself for a bit before rehearsal. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, December 16

I'm stressed about my understudy whatnot...

The version of The Imaginary Invalid is basically a musical. I've mostly learned the choreography and music for the Prologue, and the choreography for the epilogue. But the lyrics for the Epilogue are in this weird fake Latin, and I haven't gotten far with that. I think I only have one scene really memorized.

This is scary. Why? Because this show opens January 2. And I have to be ready to go on Opening Night. And if I'm not, I could lose my Equity Membership Candidate points. EEK!

Especially scary: I'm going out of town for Christmas, and will be missing three days of rehearsal for BOTH shows that I'm understudying.

I don't have ANYTHING memorized for Winter's Tale yet. I've just written down blocking. It doesn't open until January 23, so I'm not as worried. And everything I say is in iambic pentameter, which is easier to memorize (for me) than normal text. So even though I have some chunks of text (including a really hardcore monologue), I'm not too worried on it... yet.


So I've decided that since my schoolmates' performances are already on YouTube, there's really no harm in linking to them.

Please keep in mind when viewing that this is a program for Acting, not for musical theatre. And while some of these people do have lovely voices, the majority of us are not singers. On top of that, we didn't work on the actual music at all. This workshop was not about trying to sing well; it was about trying to act well while having the distraction/obstacle/medium of music.

We also did not have blocking -- with the exception of Two-Shots-Up -- as we were going with whatever we felt in the moment. This explains, for example, why I look like such an idiot for the majority of my song... And why one of my schoolmates awesomely jumped on furniture, one took off a jacket, and one took off her shoes.

Many of my schoolmates were just as scared about this as I was. So in the fact that we all made it through without crying or fainting, I count us successful. I hope that you, dear readers, will do the same.

1st Years:
"Being Alive" from Company (D-Train)
"Cadillac Car" from Dreamgirls (Thrill)
"I Can't Do It Alone" from Chicago (Two-Shots-Up)
"Lonely Room" from Oklahoma! (O.D.)
"Maria" from West Side Story (Iceman)
"Quiet" from Foward: A New Musical (All-the-Way)
"Stranger to the Rain" from Children of Eden (Me)
"Stop and See Me" from Weird Romance (Wifey)
"Things Behind the Sun" by Nick Drake (Big Show)

2nd Years:
"A Call from the Vatican" from Nine
"Dawn's Song" from Not Exactly Romeo
"Don't Say Nothing Bad about My Dad" from The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World
"How Did I End up Here" from Romance, Romance
"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" by Elton John
"If I Didn't Believe in You" from The Last 5 Years
"I'm Not That Smart" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
"The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born
"My Dogs" from Elegies: A Song Cycle
"Stars and the Moon" from Songs for a New World


Saturday, December 13, Part II

Okay, so I feel weird about posting my schoolmates' videos here without their permission. But I'll post my own.

I warn you, I was really freaking nervous. And my body is doing all sorts of crazy and awkward things during this... But at least you can sort of see what I did.

So there you are.

I'm just proud of myself for getting through it without crying or having a total meltdown.

And for me, that's a sign of growth. :)


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."
~ Florence Foster Jenkins

Saturday, December 13

We had our Musical Theatre Showing today, and it was a smashing success!

No one freaked out, no one threw up (to my knowledge), no one broke out into uncontrollable tears (except during other people's sad songs... or occasionally tears of laughter). Everything went well.

I'm so proud of us.

I saw a couple of people taking video. If I can get my hands on any, I'll put them on the blog. For now, here's a photograph of the class of 2010, the class of 2011, David Brunetti, and Randy (our coach/accompanist).


Friday, December 12

Our Musical Theatre Workshop has pretty much ended. We have a Showing tomorrow morning, which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

Now that things have ended, it's easier to sum everything up. The songs that everyone ended up singing were:

"I'm Not That Smart" from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
"Dawn's Song" from Not Exactly Romeo
"Cadillac Car" from Dreamgirls (Thrill)
"Lonely Room" from Oklahoma! (O.D.)
"I Can't Do It Alone" from Chicago (Two-Shots-Up)
"Run Away with Me" from The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown (Killer)
"Quiet" from Foward: A New Musical (All-the-Way)
"Maria" from West Side Story (Iceman)
"My Dogs" from Elegies: A Song Cycle
"Things Behind the Sun" by Nick Drake (Big Show)
"How Did I End up Here" from Romance, Romance
"Stranger to the Rain" from Children of Eden (Me)
"Don't Say Nothing Bad about My Dad" from The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World
"Being Alive" from Company (D-Train)
"Stars and the Moon" from Songs for a New World
"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" by Elton John
"I'm Here" from The Color Purple
"Stop and See Me" from Weird Romance (Wifey)
"A Call from the Vatican" from Nine
"The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born
"If I Didn't Believe in You" from The Last 5 Years

(The songs that I didn't put a name after were done by 2nd-years, and one 3rd-year. This is the order we worked on them.)

The man we were working with is David Brunetti, and he's amazing. He got seriously incredible work out of us. Even (and perhaps especially) the people here who don't think of themselves as singers. If you're an actor thinking of auditioning for musical theatre, check out his book. I own it, and he details the same type of breakdown of songs that we do in his workshop.

I have pages upon pages of notes from the week, but I'll try to briefly explain what we did.

1. Mad, Sad, Glad, Scared, Lonely
David would ask you where YOU as a person were emotionally when you started, asking if you were "Mad, sad, glad, scared, or lonely?" You could answer with a combination (I believe I said very scared, with a dash of lonely). He'd then talk to you for awhile about your past with singing and musical theatre.

2. Recite the Monologue as a Text
Just say the words. Not acting them. Just reciting them from memory.

3. This Song Is About Me Doing _______.
Pinpoint what the song is about, in an active verb/phrase. Say "I" and "me" instead of "he/she, him/her".

4. Summarize in One Sentence
If the song was to be cut from the musical and replaced with one line of dialogue, what would that line be?

5. Whom Are You Speaking To?
Always have an acting partner. Even if you're talking to a different side of yourself. It makes the song more active if you have someone you're trying to affect in some way. Also look at the politics of the relationship. Who has the power?

6. If Things Go the Way I Hope They Go
Basically, this is nailing down your objective. If things go the way you hope they go after saying (well, singing) this, what will happen when you're done? What is your goal? Also figure out what will happen if you DON'T get what you want?

7. Opening Beat
What happened right before you started singing? What are you reacting to? Why do you start?

8. Setting
Where are you? When is it?

9. Character Adjustment
Is the character something that you can't do "as yourself"? Do you need to adjust physically, mentally, or emotionally to get there?

10. Monologue
Act the lyrics of the song as though they were a monologue.

11. Tactics
You might want to do the monologue again, making sure you're using different tactics to get what you want in the song. For example, don't just "demand". Try "pleading", "reasoning", "teasing", and "kidding".

12. Speak to the Rhythm
Add music underneath the text. With the accompaniment playing underneath you, perform the text to the rhythm of the song (including extending held notes) without using the melody.

13. Sing!
That's right. All that other stuff happens before you sing a note.

Anyway. It has been a wonderful experience. I think we've all grown this week.



Thursday, December 11

Today was a big day for the 1st-years. It was our first ever round of assessments.

Assessments happen at the end of the semester, for your first four semesters.

Basically, you walk into a room and sit at a table with your Analysis Professor (who is also the head of the program), your Acting Professor, your Voice Professor, your Movement Professor, your Tech supervisor, and the 2nd-year Acting Professor. Then they go around the table, reading written statements on how they think you've done over the course of the semester. They tell you positive things, as well as what you need to work on. Afterward, you get to keep a copy of their written statements.

Assessments are also the point in time where they notify you if you're being put on probation or released from the program.

I was probably more nervous going into it than I should have been. It ended up being fine. The only negatives mentioned were things that I was already aware of. Completely painless (unlike ripping off a band-aid, which ALWAYS hurts, no matter what school nurses say).

My favorite comment from my assessment was this one: "Angela is that rare actor who truly enjoys receiving notes and jumping in to implement them immediately."

I'm quite proud of that.

The 1st-years also had a meeting today with the head of the program. One of our classmates (The Pro) has decided to leave the program (he made his decision before assessments, not as a result of them). Therefore, the understudy and tech responsibilities that he had before are now going to be divvied up among us. I think I'm going to end up doing Costumes for Miss Julie now. (Which is fine with me... There are only three characters, so how hard could costumes be?)


Wednesday, December 10

Today was the day I finally sang in our musical theatre workshop. And I turned into a total basketcase as a result. I was weeping hysterically in front of all of the 1st AND 2nd years. Let's just say it was not my finest moment. But I survived. I guess that's all that matters.

I FINALLY got to go to a rehearsal for The Imaginary Invalid (which is good, since I'm understudying a main character and the show opens January 2). Unfortunately, I couldn't go to all of it, as I had Box Office duties. I feel a bit over-scheduled at the moment. I think it should get better next week after our workshop is over.

Our first semester assessments are tomorrow. I'm not really all that nervous. I think I know the things I'm doing well with and the things I need to work on. Hopefully I won't get any curve balls.


Monday, December 8

Man, I skip a couple of days with this thing, and suddenly there's SO MUCH TO WRITE!

Musical Theatre Workshop
Sunday was the first day of our David Brunetti musical theatre workshop. But in the interest of time (aka me being too busy to write about it at the moment), I'll go into depth with that later. Suffice it to say, it's awesome. He's really cool. People are doing great work. And I'm terrified to go.

At first, I thought it was being terrified of singing (as I've dealt with fears of that nature in the past). But no, my recent explorations into the world of karaoke have pretty much rid me of that. It's more that I'm afraid of doing things wrong. I'm afraid of not understanding what my song is, or not being able to get to the right place emotionally. And most of all, I'm afraid to do process-oriented work in front of the 2nd-years.

I mean, the 1st-years have all seen me struggle and fail. But the 2nd-years have only seen our products up to this point, not our processes. I'm afraid of having a really hard time with it, and having all these people look at me and think, "how the heck did she get in here?"

Silly and irrational, I know. But it's there.

I've seen two pieces of theatre in the last few days.

The first was Barnum, which was delightful. It was full of spectacle, and I made me feel positively joyful. There had not been nearly enough theatre of the musical variety in my life lately, and suddenly I'm being surrounded by it. And that's a lovely thing.

The second was Ladies First, which was a late-night put together by 5 of the girls in the 2nd-year class. They did a combination of scenes, monologues, and songs on the topic of the experience of being a woman. And it was stupendous. Even sitting in the back row of the theatre, they cut to my heart center so many times. It was beautiful. I look up to them so much, and am so inspired by the work that they've done.

I've been to a couple of rehearsals now, and I'm starting the memorization process. And I think everything's going to be okay. It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm not afraid of it.

I've been getting emails from people who are interested in the process of getting into grad school, the reasons for going to grad school, and so forth. And I'm so happy to help! By all means, send your questions my way. If I can't answer them, I'll forward them on to my classmates, and hopefully we'll be able to help. :) angelaacts(at)gmail.com



Quotations: Volume 15

Here are some of the educational, inspirational, and humorous quotations from my classes this week:

"You say it's beef, but that doesn't mean it is actually beef. Just like how we learned earlier that a baseball bat doesn't have to be in your hand." - Acting Professor, to O.D. and Two-Shots-Up about the "beef" they're cooking in their etude, referring to my etude with D-Train

"Is that a baseball bat in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" - Acting Professor

"That's what you get with [O.D.]. You record freedom, you get freedom." - Acting Professor

"Where you're getting is good. It's more about how one gets there." - Acting Professor

"Is there such a thing as milking the freedom? Were you milking the freedom today in some instances? I think maybe you were." - Acting Professor, to O.D. and Two-Shots-Up, after a VERY free etude

"Sometimes when you get technique, it's like a kid with a new toy. 'Look what I can do! Look how free I am! Look how long I can hold this pause!'" - Acting Professor

"Truth is contagious." - Acting Professor

"It's ribs, then belly. It can be quick, like 'ribs-belly'. But it cannot be 'belly, la, la, la, ribs.'" - Voice Professor

"It doesn't need to be exciting. It doesn't need to be artistically beautiful. It needs to be precise, technique-wise. There can be no approximating with technique." - Acting Professor

"I'm sorry to talk contrarily on the one thing we all agreed on." - O.D., to his Men of Tortuga group in Analysis class.

"I think they're fifteen minute timeslots. But now we're dealing with time, so I don't know... Time, dates... Anything with numbers, really." - Voice Professor, about our upcoming assessments

"Let's make a better semi-circle. This is a seagull." - Acting Professor

"Spontan-uity" - Acting Professor, saying "spontaneity" with his Russian accent

"It was the good kind of silence. It was the kind of silence that signals attention. Never be afraid of that, because it's the best kind of silence you can have." - Acting Professor, on how quiet the observers were during our Acting Showing

"'What a story! What a play' is the best compliment you can receive. Because it means they didn't see you acting." - Acting Professor

"When the compliments are about your technique, about what kind of actor you are, you're not doing your job. Tomorrow, they should be thinking about the characters and the story, not, 'The way he held that pause!'" - Acting Professor

Acting Professor: When you see a show, you have to think, "Today, I'm going to take it in first, and analyze it later."
Big Show: 'I'm going to be entertained.'

"You need 'artistic freedom'. Freedom on the theme of the scene. Artistic freedom is freedom with responsibility." - Acting Professor

(on the process of understudying)
"So to create a performance, the recipe is: my creative individuality, their creative individuality... Sex. And then something else is born." - Acting Professor

Saturday, December 6

The class of 2011 has successfully completed the first semester of grad school. And no one died. (Although a couple of us haven't mastered the concept of not blinking when photos are being taken.)

(Platform Row: All-The-Way, Wifey, The Pro, Iceman, D-Train.
Ground Row: Me, Killer, O.D., Two-Shots-Up, Thrill, Big Show.)

Well, I suppose I should play a bit of catch-up, after skipping the last couple of days...

So here's most of what happened Thursday and Friday...

Thursday we did Acting work in Movement class. We did scenes from the play that we used in our Showing (Late: A Cowboy Song by Sarah Ruhl) as though they were etudes. Our Movement professor did side-coaching and gave us feedback from a Movement perspective.

She told me I wasn't breathing (when I WAS! I swear!), which she amended to say that my breathing was too shallow. By the end, she said I was breathing lower. She also said that I have a tendency to lock my knees (I bad habit of mine both on and off stage). And that when I turn my head, I'm not letting my eyes and head go a different direction from my body (rather, I'm moving everything as one unit). I had no idea I was doing any of that... More to work on, I suppose.

She also warned D-Train and I of "rushing to touch" in our etudes. She said that sometimes, going straight to touching your partner is a sign of nervousness, and for some people it's a default (also known as a "habit" or a "crutch").

She told some of my classmates that they had too much tension. She said something about how a kinesthetic response to releasing tension can actually create impulses. It was interesting, but I'm not sure I understand how to apply it... But that's probably because I'm the opposite of tense...

In lieu of Friday's class, we all had private meetings with our professor to discuss our progress. She knows I'm working and appreciates my positivity in class, but she says my body needs a lot of work. Most people in my class need to loosen up, but I'm TOO loose (hence why I've never gotten a note about tension). She wants me to build muscle and have a better concept of where my arms and legs are in space.

I told her that the thing I think I need to work on the most is my endurance. I'm great at giving everything I have to an activity, but then I'm worn out after a very short period of time. She says we'll get there.

Thursday was spent preparing for Friday's exam. Our exam was on "sending and landing text". Basically, our professor walked around, put one hand on your side and one on your stomach, and had you recite the first part of "Twinkle Twinkle". I think my body has figured it out now, so hopefully I did alright.

The tests here are so strange, when you think about it. They're not things you study for, so much as they're things you TRAIN for. You rehearse. You practice. But study? Nope.

Over the break, we've been told to keep reviewing our consonants and continue to work on finding space in the back of the mouth.

On Friday, we spent the entire 3 hour class just talking. We discussed everything that happened in everyone's etudes during the showing. He said there were moments of "great artistic polarity". And I wrote down that he used the word "ascetic", though I can't recall why. He seemed proud of us. I was, too.

Then we discussed our assignments for over the break.

First of all, as always, we are expected to be doing our "scales" over break (15 minutes a day of Chekov exercises).

Our primary assignment is to observe a professional skill well enough that we could recreate it on stage. We have to find someone to observe who is "not just a craftsman, not just a master, but an ARTIST." Their job has to be their calling, and they have to treat it as an art. (Which would involve certain finesse and economy of movement that someone who just KNOWS HOW to do it wouldn't possess.)

The exercise is to develop our skill of handling props on stage.

In the past, other students have observed professions such as:
- baker
- barber
- costumer
- florist
- hair stylist
- instrument repairman
- make-up artist
- massuese
- mechanic
- pedicurist
- phlebotomist
- pizza maker
- sushi chef
- tattoo artist
- wig maker

Our professor's "dare" profession for us was surgeon (although the prospect of recreating that in class seemed complicated... All-The-Way suggested stitching up a banana).

Anyway, dear readers, if you have any suggestions on professional skills for me to observe, please let me know.

The other observation assignments don't have to be QUITE as well-prepared when we get back. One is to observe an animal (I guess I'll be going to the zoo...). The other is to observe an inanimate object (my first thought was a pair of scissors, but then I realized how complicated that might be physically).

Lastly, we've been told to pay attention to other actors (in television, film, and stage) as they deny impulses. It's not really a formal assignment. We're just supposed to notice how they WANT to do thing, but DO another (either because they've been directed that way, or because they're fighting against it).

On Thursday, we discussed Men of Tortuga by Jason Wells. It's an excellently written play, but I didn't really connect with it until we talked about it in class. It's a political thriller, about some men who have hired someone in order to assist them in killing a member of the opposition.

And Friday, I turned in my paper on Something You Did. It was about 6 pages (which is SHORT for that class... one of my group-mates wrote over 20), but I'm pretty confident that I said everything that I needed to say.

Really, I'm not worried. I don't care about grades here. I care about the education. The training. And as I know that I have the thought process right and care articulate it verbally, it doesn't matter all that much to me if I'm not as successful at it in writing.

My new assignment for Tech Crew is... Box Office. Which isn't really like Tech at all. I think I'm actually going to miss real tech. Oh well.

I had my first Box Office duties Friday night. I just had to go in and help at the Will-Call window for about an hour. I'm scheduled to do it again for tonight. Hopefully after that I'll be able to sneak in to the production of Barnum (starring Brad Oscar -- I keep passing him in the parking lot, which is vaguely surreal, as I've known who he was for awhile). I'm really excited to see it. The other show that the Rep is doing is This Wonderful Life (which is a one-man stage version of the movie It's a Wonderful Life). I'm pretty geeked to see that one as well.

My understudy work kicked in to high gear today. We had the first understudy read-through for The Imaginary Invalid in the morning. The understudy cast is me, Wifey, O.D., D-Train, Two-Shots-Up, Killer, The Pro, and two 3rd-Years. It was a lot of fun, actually. Director-A is the assistant director for that play, so she'll be in charge of the understudies.

I also attended 4 hours of an 8-hour rehearsal of The Winter's Tale today. Unfortunately, the character I'm understudying didn't have a ton to do in that rehearsal. I think she'll be on a bunch tonight, but I'll be in the Box Office. Oh well.

So now "break" begins. But is it really a break when I have plenty of responsibilities and just as crazy of a schedule as ever?


P.S. We had to take a goofy picture, too.


Thursday, December 4

I should be writing my paper on Something You Did for Analysis class, as it's due tomorrow. But I really need to get this out...

My class rocks.

We had our Acting Showing today, and it was sensational.

Our Acting Showing was sort of like an open class. My class sat in the front row, and there were several rows behind us filled with faculty, the entire 2nd-Year class, several 3rd-years (some of them had rehearsals for the Rep), donors, friends, and spouses (two of my classmates are married). In other words, a much larger crowd than we had at our Voice Showing or our Movement Showing (I suppose it makes sense that the Acting Showing would have the biggest draw for an Acting program). And instead of feeling nervous or judged, I felt like we had a room full of people loving us and supporting us. Even though the majority of the people in the room had never seen us act before, I felt safe; what a strange and wonderful experience.

We did our Scene Etudes in the order that the play presents them (even though we weren't working on them as a play... There is a LOT more in the play, and we're allowing every scene to be its own separate thing). My scenes were 2nd and 8th (of 8).

The etudes were wonderful. A couple of the etudes ran the best that I'd ever seen them. I cried three times just while watching my classmates (and do you know how many times I've seen these etudes? SO MANY. The fact that I cried today was HUGE).

Seriously, every single scene went well. And I think it really hit me today just how strong we are as a class. Every person in my class is undeniably talented and undoubtedly deserves to be here. Despite our rocky start, I think we're exactly where we need to be at this point in our training. And I can't tell you how thrilled I am that we have reached that goal.

I have hope that we can live up to the high standards that have been set by the incredible work of the 2nd and 3rd years. I believe that we will.

Both of the etudes I was in ran strongly today. My one with Thrill started from a more emotional place that we usually go from, but it worked. And my etude with D-Train somehow ended with me being the intimidating one (despite the fact that he was the one yielding a baseball bat at the onset... don't know how that happened exactly, but I'm confident that it was truthful).

I think there are three lessons that stand out to me from this semester of Acting class that brought us to this point:

1. I am.
Find the state of "I am" (meaning "I am [the character]", not just "I am playing [the character]")

2. Receive deeply.
Let in your partner deeply, and receive everything you can from them. Let them inform you of how you should be.

ETA: Let in your partner, the set, the architecture... EVERYTHING.

3. Full freedom.
Allow yourself full freedom to follow your impulses, and to let them inform your transformation.

I suppose those all seem either simplistic or vague if you're not actually in our class, but they're carved into my veins now. I've been writing "I am" and "Full freedom" on various parts of my body with pens for months now, trying to make sure that they're somehow ingrained in my soul. I need them to be a part of me, so that I can carry them with me into everything that I do on stage, long past being in this class. I want to apply them always and never let them become superficial statements. I feel in my heart that they are absolute truths.

Can I just say one more time how blessed I feel that my life has lead me to where I am now? Being in this program is the best thing that's ever happened to me as both an artist and a person.

And I feel honored to be a part of my class, because no matter how argumentative, defensive, or insane we all can sometimes become, we are equally as intelligent, driven, and talented. I appreciate every single one of them, and I'm glad that I get to work with them for the next 2.5 years.

Perhaps I should stop calling us a class and start calling us an ensemble. Because I think we might actually be one. At the very least, we're on the right track.

Go Team.


P.S. Yes, I realize that I just skipped over how my other classes today went entirely. But they seem comparatively inconsequential.


Wednesday, December 3

Aside from some confusion over the starting time, our Movement Showing went beautifully. Much better than I thought it would go, actually. Everything flowed well, and we worked together to get everything accomplished. I was pretty proud of us.

The 2nd-years showed the ballet work they've been doing, which I thought was awesome. It seemed like they had about 18,000 things to memorize. They demonstrated a bunch of bar work before moving into combinations. I leaned over to The Pro at one point and said, "Look! It's the future!" It's great to see what we're going to be doing a year from now. Makes me feel like there's a goal in sight.

Our Voice Professor came to class to observe our etudes and give out some vocal notes.

Both of my scenes went pretty well today, so I'm feeling confident going into our Acting Showing tomorrow. And we were told today that the Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre is going to be unable to attend, which relieves a bit of stress. Hopefully everything will go beautifully.

I left school today feeling good about things. I've made tremendous progress already, and I know I'm going to continue to bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever (yes, I just quoted "Edelweiss"... don't judge me). For the most part, I understand the technique and am able to apply it. I'm excited that my class is getting the opportunity to show people (aside from each other) what we can do. And I know we're going to rock it.



Tuesday, December 2

There were noticeable changes in our bodies after 5 days of no Movement class. Just 5 days! What's going to happen after winter break?

We stuck to alignment whatnot, even though our Movement Showing is tomorrow. I was glad, actually. It took my mind off the Showing for a bit.

Instead of having Voice today, we just had Acting twice, and our Voice Professor attended the session that's normally her time slot. She gave us notes on how we're using our voices in our etudes.

In my first etude, I went off-voice on a few lines. And, most of the time, I recognize that I'm doing it while I'm doing it. But it feels hard to correct it mid-line without it being wrong. Or without faking something or pushing.

In my second one, I was on-voice the whole time. So I know that I can do it... It's just a matter of putting it into action.

My scene with D-Train ended up strange but good today. Definitely not what the playwright intended, but fun. (I have to tell D-Train to put down the baseball bat he's threatening me with. But today he wasn't holding the baseball bat when we got to that line, so the lines turned into a sexual reference... Which was kind of awesome and hilarious, but bizarre).

I ended up crying in a totally weird part of my scene with Thrill. Not when I was telling him I was pregnant. Not when I was telling him a traumatic story. Not even when he told me he hated the baby name I loved. No, I started crying when he started proposing to me. And not joyful tears. Upset tears. God only knows why.

In a different run of my scene with Thrill, I didn't an impulse to hit him. I don't really understand where the line is drawn on violence in these etudes. Sometimes moving furniture is too violent, and other times wrestling someone to the ground isn't too violent. And because the violence is basically improvised (i.e. not traditional stage combat), it is potentially dangerous. I guess I'm afraid to try anything for fear that it's going to be too much (which is probably dumb, as I'm weak and would be unable to hurt anyone if I tried).

Town Hall
Today was the Town Hall meeting in which the Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre announced this season (the current one) to the community. All the conservatory students attended. The 3rd-years were introduced as part of the company. It was pretty great.

Again and again I find myself in awe of the fact that I'm here, and working at such an incredible program. The Town Hall meeting did that to me again today.

But I'm not going to lie, it also freaked me out a bit. I started mentally going to the dark place, thinking about what could happen in the next two years. What if I don't learn enough? What if I'm not good enough? What if I'm utterly un-castable? What if all the other girls in my class (who are unbelievably skilled) get incredible casting, leaving no roles for me?

Yes, I know it's far down the line. Yes, I know that I'm being insane. And yes, I know that I'm learning a lot (so, so, so much) and that I'm doing good work on a pretty consistent basis (I've improved a great deal, and I'm proud of that). But that doesn't stop the voices in my head.

Movement Showing is tomorrow. Acting Showing is Thursday. Assessment is the 11th. Maybe once those are out of the way, I'll stop freaking out.