Tuesday, 29 September 2009

it actually is week 3 now!

oops i knew this would happen... been away a little. But I'm back so here is a brief update on some of the things I have learnt in the last 2 weeks...

Bearing in mind we work from 9am through till between 5 or 7pm with back to back lessons there is too much to report on everything individually but I want to 'home in' on a couple of stand out moments and thoughts:

Firstly in poetry (this is really NOT the subject I thought I would want to write about the most and we only have 1 hour of it a week so I don't know where this is coming from but here goes...) We had to bring in a poem that means something to us. These are then read and discussed - we look at the shape of the language and the ideas it presents us as well as how it presents them - but mostly we talk about the ideas and what it inspires in us.
I decided to bring in a hymn

O lord my God
When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hand has made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power thorughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My saviour God to thee
How great thou art, How great thou art

And when I think, that God, his son not sparing
Sent him to die
I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died, to take away my sin

Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee
How great thou art, How great thou art

When Christ shall come
with shouts of acclamation and take me home what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim
My god how Great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Savious God to thee
How great thou art, How great thou art

Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee
How great thou art, How great thou art

Although it felt like absolutely the right decision to have picked this, when it came to the moment of reading it in front of my new classmates I was suddenly petrified and rushed through it. We talked about it a bit and somehow Patsy drew out of me some passion for it and I talked about why it was important to me. She then went on to talk about; and this is whether you believe in Christianity or not; the image of a father giving up his son is a very powerful one.

In the midst of feeling nervous I managed to express that 'sings my soul' was spot on in expressing how over-awed I do feel about what I believe God has done for me... now in a drama school setting this is probably erring on the side of insane to talk about! However, the class were really supportive and when I read it through the second time, taking my time over the words and really meaning them I was over come and I was crying as I read it. This is not normal behaviour for me; I like to keep my cool and remain proffessional but this wasn't about 'delivering lines' it was about connecting to the text.
Patsy asked me if I knew that was going to happen to me - I answered no and I was thinking 'If I'd known that was going to happen to me I almost certainly wouldn't have read it the second time!!' The reason I wanted to write about that is because it has great significance for me. This is the second time at Guildhall (the 1st was during my recall audition) that I have felt the freedom and encouragement to actually connect with what I am saying on a level that creates a physical reaction. Now I'm not saying I want to be in tears for the rest of my career as I blindly 'mean everythiiiing I sayyyy' - I am just excited that at this point in my training I am being pushed to look at text so carefully, to dig deeper into how I relate to it and to express that freely.

This word 'connection' will come up a lot more in the future I think... the obsession is certainly continuing....

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Day 3.... feeling like week 3

We've started work in earnest... but its strange because if you asked me to describe what I've been doing all day it involved some of the following: standing, stretching, breathing, some game playing, the entire history of Kings and usurpers of the throne between Richard II and Richard III (you're talking 5omillion henrys and edwards) and looking after my fellow actors both physically in the rules of a game and intellectually when they were answering the question 'what is theatre?' There is no space for mocking people at Guildhall and I really believe in that and am glad its a strong philosophy. Everyone has turned up ready to work hard and having in many cases given up a great deal to take part in the course so what would be the point in us being cynical with each other? There's enough of that in every day life!
I can only focus on one tiny aspect of the day in this blog because too much goes on emotionally as I discover why I'm at drama school and just how much I have to learn and experience in these 3 years... I've picked another Patsy moment from today. We started poetry and THANK GOD it isn't the dry english lesson stuff (sorry mum) This is about poetry alive in every person. Patsy explained and we debated poems; at what point we might read or write a poem, when our words might need to be spot on in comfort or love and they are poetry, when those soldiers had to step out into the line of fire what poetry they had written that lay in their pockets...
The moment I want to share was just one that hit me today. Patsy talked about working with a very well known actor in New York on Shakespeare's King Lear. In the year preceding this production this actor had lost his wife, his daughter had been killed in an accident and his son had died too (I think this was a suicide but its neither here nor there). The man was very broken and had, needless to say, really been through it in an unimaginable way. Now, the word 'nothing' occurs many times over in King Lear. It is a theme. On the first day of rehearsals the actor said to Patsy 'You're not going to make me say 'nothing' are you?'...
He really knew what nothing was.
This struck me and had a huge impact on me because I felt in that moment the sheer power of meaning a word; knowing its meaning and saying it with meaning. I want to mean all the words I say on stage - not necessarily because I have been there but because I have taken the time to understand them, their weight, their impact and their power.
The obsession continues...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Day one: what was I so worried about?

First day at school. I can't remember my first 'first day at school' but if today was anything to go by I don't know how 5 year olds cope. I am exhausted!
My 26 and a bit year old body was wired today though. It feels like this is what I've been waiting for; what I've been made for. Starting drama school has been a long time coming for me. I've been a keen actress for as long as I can remember (plays in my parents living room and all) but this year for the first time I have felt confident enough to pursue it fully. I auditioned for 4 schools and knew when I stepped out of my first audition with Guildhall that it was very special. This blog is going to be difficult to write because there is a lot that you just can't put into words; how something makes you feel, what it is to need to do something... and for me: what happens in that moment as an actor when you 'get it'. Anyway in the audition with Guildhall I 'got it' and something clicked. I knew I would be pushed there and I chose the course because the teachers were incredible.
Day one has not been a disappointment on that account.
I can't say we 'did' much. You can't expect to come to drama school and do stuff all the time - its not about acting 24/7 - you could do that in any amateur company and be in play after play if you like. This is about taking the time to be very particular and very obsessed with your craft. A musician at Guildhall has probably already spent years learning and practicing their instrument. In the same way an actor needs time with their voice and their body (their 'instrument') and to make it as well oiled and ready as possible so as to be able to take on any job and complete it reliably and brilliantly.
For that reason I discovered today that we aren't technically allowed to take part in certain physical activities; especially those which risk injury so running, football and going to the gym are out of the equation (oh well no more hard core sessions on the weights for me then... darn)We're allowed a bit of swimming and salsa so every cloud and all that. No one is going to be following us round in case we decide to have a cheeky football match but we are encouraged not to take part in those sports which I found fascinating as it wouldn't have occurred to me just how much you need to take care of your body as an actor.
Patsy Rodenburg is our voice coach and she is nothing short of a genius. She is one of those women who spout non stop wisdom pearls so I won't go into listing them now but one thing which stuck with me today was when she pointed out that actors are almost impossible to live with because 'they're obsessed'. We are obsessed with improving ourselves and our work. And that is exactly what I'm doing at drama school. I'm going to be obsessed. I'm going to make sure I do obsess over the work and improving myself and it. I'm going to be a right geek about it all - because 15 hour days (which is what our movement teacher warned us was to come today) will need a very alert, ready 26 year old body in the room.
Let the obsession begin....