“Acting isn’t about me, It’s about you.”
If you follow any of my posts here on OneOfUs, it will come as no surprise to hear that I love Theatre. As both an actor and director, the theatre is where I have spent most of my time. A good few years ago, I studied English and film at university; I hated it. I found it difficult to integrate into university life and I engage with the course. After three (and a bit) years and mounting financial difficulties I decided to leave before it got worse. I was the ultimate deserter.
Since then I had been working as an actor, director and freelance drama facilitator to various degrees of success. But it always bothered me that I didn’t get the chance to go to drama school and academically study the craft. This year, I began a course at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which aims to transition people, from all walks of life, into drama school. Now that I have taken a foot back onto the academic path, it got me thinking about the process of drama school, the training and the mystery that surrounds it. I imagined there were plenty of folks who would be interested in finding out what kind of things an actor training actually does.
I attend the university part time, each week for a full day on Sundays and as part of the personal development I need to get down the weeks training, what I did, what I learned and how I can carry it forward and I thought sharing that process with you would be both beneficial for me but also for those interested in the mystery of the actor. So, here we go – week one.
The Royal Conservatoire resides in Glasgow, however, I do not. Therefore, it means a two hour bus journey before class each week. Worse still, here, the first bus (to get to the bus station) is at 8.15 and the bus to Glasgow is at 8.45, so safe to say it’s pretty tight! It doesn’t help that since I hit around 23 I’ve had pretty bad migraines with one of the triggers being extensive travel.
The building itself was pretty quiet. I had visited a couple times before this (an audition a few years ago, the Transitions audition itself, the welcome day) but never had I been within when it was so quiet, so empty. I was the first of my too be classmates to arrive, which didn’t help resolve any kind of nerves and expectations I had. Ultimately, they arrived and immediately we collectively struck up a bond. Interestingly, we were all varied in age and experience which allowed it to not feel like classroom situation.
The day featured a lot of house keeping and touring but, I did get my hands on a fabulous new student card.
With all that out of the way, it was time to simply get to know each other a little better. Why we were there, what experiences had brought us there, what we hoped to achieve and so on. This exercise was extremely simple, yet endlessly interesting; in a pair, we each discussed these often personal things and then shared them to the class. This was a very important lesson in acting – It’s not about me, it’s about you, the other.
We were introduced, or perhaps teased to the techniques of Nadine George. A celebrated voice and performance artist who’s techniques are the standard at the University. Her essay, My Life With Voice is extremely interesting and I highly recommend it. Voice Studio International explain that;
It has taken Nadine 30 years of teaching the voice to reach the level and quality of work which she now teaches today. Nadine has created a practical technique that can be used internationally by actors, voice teachers, directors and anyone wishing to develop their true voice. The work is unique, using the sung sound and linking this directly to the body and to work with text.
We began to experiment with breath to make noise. It sounds silly but we underestimate how much we can communicate simply with breath and the ‘sounds’ we can produce with it. As a chorus, lying on the floor we used breath once more to create a harmony of noise. There is no set rule here and we are encouraged to take permission to begin when we want, do what we want and explore how we want to explore. It’s entirely liberating.
This week, I took away the power of purpose.Each exercise has a purpose not only within the moment but a purpose for long term development and it can often be unclear what that is and it is my responsibility to discover it. Purpose is very important for an actor, everything we do from a simple gesture to how a line is delivered must have purpose to it. If there is no purpose, then why is there at all?
Since around 2007, when I began thinking seriously about acting, I have had one, hidden dream – To play the Doctor. I joke about it, becoming the first Ginger Doctor (he’s always wanted that right?) and it was born from my great respect for the show and the challenge it offers an actor; freedom, versatility, challenge. It’s hard to escape the notion, especially studying in the same building as David Tennant.
So the first week came to a close and it was back to normal life. Here’s to week 2!