As of last night - I have returned from my UK adventure! I'm jet-lagged as all hell, but full and happy and grateful for the best training experience of my life. So. There's that.
I'll start at the beginning. I spent my summer living here: (see to the right.) Essentially, I lived in a castle. More specifically, I lived at Magdalen College (pronounced "Maudlin"). I had classes 9 hours a day with the freaking greatest professors I've ever met.
The run-down: I studied Shakespeare with Zoe Waites. She is a magical nymph-goddess, who has acted many seasons with the RSC in Stratford. She played Juliet at age 22. Casual. We worked on all sorts of technical/texty stuff. Lots of work with regard to how to get inside the verse, how to respect it/not be constrained by it, how to be focused, open and professional in a rehearsal room, how to craft a character. We worked specifically on The Tempest and The Winter's Tale. I was cast as Hermione, and worked on scene 2.1. Got to march around with a 9-month pregnancy bump (i.e. a sack of salt in my gym shorts.) Loved. It.
I studied Modern with the inimitable Paola Dionisotti - another RSC veteran, and all around phenomenal woman and actress. Learned so much from her. Favorite quotables: "So much of acting is coated with a custard of emotion..." "Distill reality by playing an objective." "Shall we have the Spice Girls?" We did lots of vocal work, and she pressed us to be simple and unselfish in our approach to scene studies. We focused on scenes from David Grieg's Miniskirts in Kabul and Michael Gordon's Grace. I was cast as Ruth in Grace - the perpetually unhappy (but admirably fierce) lawyer and semi-fiance to Tom, the priest-to-be son of Grace, the ascerbic college professor/professional atheist. There were lots of tears, and there was lots of fun. Fun fact - I played a pregnant wife/girlfriend in both classes. Opposite the same boy. #coincidence?
I studied movement with Jackie Snow. Fun fact - she was head of "movement" direction for Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. As a bit of a klutz, I found this class EXTREMELY useful. Lots of work in getting centered and present in your body, in building an ensemble, in understanding and enlarging your own range of movement, and all that jazz. Not to mention - she got me into way better shape.
I studied voice with the lovely Adrew Wade and Robert Price. (Not pictures, alas.) Both were superb in their own right. I had little to no voice training up until this program....Feeling WAY better about all that now. Worked on resonance, enunciation, the relationship between body and voice, between emotion and voice, accents, Shakespearean text-work, and all that good stuff. Oh, and there was some tai chi thrown in there too.
Last (but not least), I had the opportunity to study audition technique with John Gorie. (also not pictured.) Worked through a contemporary monologue from Everything Will Be Different, a Lady Macbeth piece, and learned a new piece from William Congreve's Way of the World. Really grateful to have had the chance to hone in on a few specific monologues/the technical choices that lead to a good audition.
There were 88 students in the program on the whole - we were sorted into six different companies. My group (the O'Neill group) was comprised of 14 different students. I lucked out big-time. I couldn't have asked for a kinder, more well-rounded group of individuals with whom to study theatre. I learned something different from everyone. Hoping to cross paths with all of 'em again in the future!
In addition to the 9 hours of class a day, we had the benefit of a number of masterclasses/workshops. I was picked (randomly) to work with John Barton (!!!) in three masterclass sessions observed by the rest of the program. What a lucky break. Also got to participate (along with erryone else) in sessions led by Julian Glover, Brian Cox, Fiona Shaw, Henry Goodman, Deborah Warner and David Harewood. Just to name a few. Woah.
In my spare time, I wandered around Oxford, ate a lot of brunch, and saw some shows! I visited Stratford and paid homage at Shakespeare's grave. Also saw the RSC's Titus Andronicus and All's Well That Ends Well. Wowzers. Loved both. The Titus makes the cut of top ten things I've ever seen ever. Also adventured to London to see The Drowned Man - a new piece by the same folks who do Sleep No More in NYC. This one was based on Woyzeck. Way cool. We wandered around a mansion in relative silence for three hours, wearing masks, choosing who to follow/what strains of the story in which to invest.
Other than that...I wrote some pomes (check out How to Write About Oxford and Pinocchio) and learned a whole lot of Shakespeare. Also geared up for directing Midsummer and In Many Ways in the coming months. And read some of J.D. Salinger short stories. Also did some prep work for the thesis I'll be writing this fall. And took some pics. Check under Photography/recent captures. Meep!
Can't overstate how grateful I am for the truly wonderful experience in Oxford. Left the program a more informed, confident, driven, passionate and (hopefully!) skilled actor. Looking forward to auditioning soon as I'm back in the illadelph.
I return to Philly tomorrow! Wow. Wow.
In slightly other news -- my extremely talented older sister just released an EP! Check it out. Preview videos and Pre-order Page. I totally wrote the lyrics for one of the songs. She's fabulous, and the cd is ridiculous. Lyrical, lovely, pop-rock fusiony goodness.