While updating my resume recently, I realized that one of my best assets as an actress, is that I have truly versatile training. I have started it when I was 16, and I’ve never stopped training. I guess you could say that I am an acting method gourmand. So I decided to write up on all the acting methods I’ve tried and how it helped shape my personal method.
(And make no mistake, I never intend to stop training and improving – this is simply an account of where I am today 🙂 )
I started off my official acting training as a teenager at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Aside from the fact that I was ecstatic to be in London without parental supervision, the training itself was a somewhat shocking experience. It was my first real encounter with the world of classical theater training, which included voice, speech, movement, dance and sonnet classes, as well as of course, scene work. And all in Shakespearean language. There’s no way of elegantly putting this… I sort of sucked. I had assumed that my natural inclination towards being on the stage and my musical training and concert experience would immediately translate into a performance worthy of Derek Jacobi. Yeah. That didn’t happen. But what being at RADA did teach me is absolute respect for the craft. The professors there taught with such zest and there was a special, sacred atmosphere on the campus. Like we were honoring all the predecessors who had left their mark on that institution. It was then that I realized two things: 1. being an actor is like being an athlete – it requires constant training, focus and dedication 2. above all, it requires that you love acting more than you love your ego, your free time and what people think of you. In other words, if it’s not a true calling, it’s probably not worth it.
Regardless of my beginning naivete, I had immersed myself fully in the training, and I walked out of RADA with a new awareness of my body and voice on stage, with skills to dissect and interpret a scene, and with determination to continue acting.
The following year I got accepted into the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb, Croatia, which was a real honor, since they only admit 12 students per year. I really honed my craft while in there, and developed my own acting method (which would later change, of course). The schedule was crazy at times – very often 7 days a week, 10 hour days, with rehearsals sometimes ending at 3 in the morning. And in the free time (what free time??!) the entire class would go out of school to work on professional plays.I loved it! We had movement training every morning (modern dance, Alexander technique, yoga and relaxation exercises, body part isolations, spatial awareness etc), followed by voice and speech (voice impostation, Michael Chekhov based exercises, different literary form readings etc.) and afternoons and evenings were reserved for rehearsals of whatever plays we were putting on at the time. It was mostly classical authors – Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, the Greeks, etc. The method was based on Stanislavski.
When your only job and focus for 3 years is to work on your instrument, you really come face to face with your blocks and fears and there’s no way around them. You gotta show up and search for answers through the mask of your character. I remember my Academy days as some of the most joyous in my life (although there would be days when I’d totally end up crying in the dressing room after a rehearsal 🙂 )
Then, when I was 21, I moved to New York to attend Lee Strasberg Institute.
I’d always been a film person, and I really wanted to develop camera skills. Which I did, by working with some really great professors who had real life experience (Milcho Manchevski was my favorite). Also, the Institute is the first place that introduced me to Method Acting. I emphasize introduced, because at the time I didn’t understand it at all and I absolutely hated it. I saw no point in performing private moment exercises and personal object exercises and asking myself about overall sensations. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I just wasn’t ready to actually bring in a real private moment in front of the class. I was doing really well, but still holding back. I knew how to go to a comfortable place of instant emotional response, I knew my triggers and I knew what the audience resonated with (to an extent). But I wasn’t ready to really risk it all and go full frontal (no pun intended) before the audience. Life is really ironic, because years later (as in now), Method Acting has become my primary acting method. But, I had to go through hard core life schooling to get to that point.
(to be continued ….)