Academy Diaries – Part II: It’s All Class…

So a few weeks in and I had made friends with most of the class and we were all in a routine and had a sense of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. I also had a pretty good feel for each class and totally see the benefit. It didn’t take long to become consumed by the course.

So, as I mentioned before classes were broken up into various subjects; Acting, Movement, Speech, Voice and two elective, I picked Improvisation and Auditioning for Camera.

The elective courses were great because they provided a bit of variety to compare with other classmates, but the one problem was they were only once a week, which wasn’t really enough.

Joel Brady, who has a reoccurring role on Law and Order as well as Boardwalk Empire, taught my Acting for Camera class. This class was similar to the courses that I completed at NIDA except he really focused on the audition process and what techniques are used to give a successful audition. You can tell he knows what he’s doing because he loves his work, he knows the names of a lot of casting directors and he shares many personal stories about the huge amount of auditions he has completed. I quite enjoyed this class as it seemed quite familiar. We started off our first lesson with a cold read (Reading from a script we’ve just received) and then the lessons progressed to a prepared audition. I did alright with my scene, I just had to work on focusing my sight-lines, I found this difficult because there is only one person reading the lines whereas my scene had 4 different characters who needed different sight-lines.

I really enjoyed my Improvisation class. Our teacher, Jody Wood is definitely one of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever met. The way he talks about acting and the importance of improv in performance is inspiring. After coaching the kids back home I was very excited to get up and have a go. We start each class with a warm-up game and a round of “Yes and…” Which is essentially the foundation of Improv – accepting offers and building on them. This class definitely has the most enthusiasm, almost too much, but I think I’ve managed to convince them that I’m funny…

For Voice class we had Jenn Smolos who has done copious amounts of study on performance and how our voice works. Jenn and our pianist Christopher have mainly been focusing on breathing and the ability to tell a story and create character through song. Our assignment for the course will be to pick a song we want to sing and get to a stage where we’re telling a story confidently in front of people. I decided to sing “Put on a Happy Face” from the musical Bye Bye Birdie! Why is it that when we sing in the shower you can don’t give a shit about how you sound and you sound alright? The first time I sang my song it was pretty crap and Jenn said “Yeah…you were only showing us 30% of what you can do”… she was right. So I was able to give it another go and made it sound half-decent, well I think anyway. Now I feel a little bit more comfortable singing in front of a group of people and the key is really just to focus on the story and take a spoon full of cement and harden up and just do it.

Now one of the classes I enjoyed the most was Speech with Lester Shane where we focused on speaking clearly and developing what the call a “General American” accent. “General American” is an American accent where you can’t really tell what region you’re from, this makes it easier to make minor adjustments when you have to be more specific. Lester is so good when it comes to this, there was a Melbournian girl in the class named Ella and he was able to tell the different regions in Australia we were from. So the sessions began with an assessment of our speech and I mainly need to work on my breathing and posture while delivering dialogue and as Lester says I need to “Breathe from my balls”. When it came to the second assessment though where we just had to deliver one phrase in general American I did quite well.

We had movement with Shelia Bandyopadhyay, I don’t know how to say her last name… so we just called her “Shelia”. Now I covered a lot about movement in my last entry, as this was the class where there was a huge focus on warm-up. But in movement our goal was to be comfortable within our bodies so that we can execute control and really express the truth of a scene or character through our bodies. Shelia was really in touch with her body and how it works. We then focused on the school of Laban Movement where movement can be characterised as one of eight: Dab, Glide, Flick, Float, Wring, Slash, Press or Punch. I found this really useful when it comes to characterisation as well as discovering what movement style I struggle with- Wring, which is a combination of sustained, heavy and indirect movement.

Now I also had Acting class to but I’ll save that for Part III as I will cover everything I learnt about scene work and the approach to acting.

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