Academy Diaries – Part I: Breathe

Five weeks ago I walked through the doors of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts not really knowing what to expect and unbeknown to be the life-enriching experience I was going to have and the amazing people I would meet. I first found out about The Academy online and let me tell you there are a lot of people willing to take your money for acting classes, but the fact that The Academy has been around for 130 years had me convinced that it was a credible place to study and I wasn’t wrong.

The building itself is heritage listed and has so much character itself. Above the classy lobby there are creaky floorboards, staircases that lead to nowhere and stairs leading to single rooms and what seems to be an endless amount of photos of alumni. It gives off a very Hogwarts vibe – charm and prestige with a lot of history. But amongst all of this there are three decent theatres where some of our Acting classes took place.

My classes were broken up into various subjects; Acting, Movement, Speech, Voice and two elective, I picked Improvisation and Auditioning for Camera (more on these in Part II) . I was placed into “Section 1” which we found out was the “Mature” group – I think this is the first time I’ve ever been characterized as mature. This was proven to be true as the class was full of people who had all become professionals on their original paths. We had a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, a soap-opera star, a school principal, a very talented opera singer, a stunt man, a restaurateur, a personal trainer and so many more talented people; basically if we were stranded on a desert island I think we’d be ok. But we know a fair bit about each other as the first 30 minutes of every class has been taken up with “Getting to know you” exercises, which I can appreciate, being a teacher.

The quality of The Academy was proven from the beginning as my teachers promoted such competence and experience in the professional world of acting and they genuinely all wanted to be there and teach. The only problem was that the course seemed too short, I mean, these teachers seemed to be so smart that there was no way they could transfer all the knowledge in their head into ours in 5-weeks. They couldn’t, but I sure as hell got enough to broaden my understanding and refine my craft enough to ignite even more passion.

“Breathe”-  that is the foundation of all performance. Being in touch with your own body and your connection to how you breathe is how you establish control or as Sheila, my Movement teacher says, “Ease”. Breathing has been the constant across all my classes and I can’t emphasise enough how important a solid warm-up is before you work. I have found that not only the quality of work, but also my mind & body’s endurance have all improved with a solid warm-up. I haven’t had a backache for the past 5 weeks, I have had to do a lot of emotional engagement with myself, I have had to produce convincing relationships with people I barely know, I’ve been using my voice far more than I ever have as a teacher, I feel I have expanded all aspects of myself to new areas that I know wouldn’t have been possible without a proper warm-up. Our warm-up included breathing exercises, posture exercises, yoga and visualisation activities. 

I have only covered the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to share. come back and I’ll have Part II soon!

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