Thursday, 25 July 2013

Reflections from Home

3 months ago, I was sitting on a plane bound for the U.S. and going over everything I had experienced in London and around Europe for the 3 months prior.  While sleeping did take up the bulk of my journey home, I couldn't help but think about all of the new friends I had made and the wealth of knowledge that came with every class I took, every show I saw, and every city I visited.

     There was also a lot of fear that came along with all the fond memories. Would things be the same with all of my friends back home? Would I be able to keep and stay in contact with the new friends I had made? Would I miss London too much? Could I keep and practice all of the lessons I have learned?

     After being home for 3 months and being able to reflect on all of my experiences while abroad, a lot of my fears have been alleviated. I came back to the same friends that I remembered leaving before the semester.  I've been able to keep in touch with and even see some of the new friends I had made in London. And I have used the lessons I learned to book jobs and better myself as an artist. I do miss London a lot though. It's hard to not yearn for intensive theatre classes from 9-5 every day and the theatre culture that is ingrained into the city but I've managed to keep myself busy with auditions, work, rehearsals, and spending time with the friends that I missed.

     This is way overdue but l want to thank everyone who helped me with the costs of traveling and living in London, as well as all of my travels around Europe.

Thank you to:
The Velasco Family
The Encinas Family
Sarah and Sam Afifi
Laura Abad Santos and Tony Rogers
The Rocco Family
Marilou Reventar
The Echavez Family
Tony Mangle and Alex Mariquit
Jude Tan
Manny Caballero
Cristina Ramos
Erly de Vera
Matthew Maguire and the Fordham Theatre Department
Ellen Newman and the LDA Staff

Most of all I would like to thank the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, who provided the bulk of my funding for my tuition and travels. Without them I truly would not have been able to study abroad and I would like to encourage anyone thinking of studying abroad to visit their website because they are a valuable resource to any student who is thinking of following this path.

To those of you planning on studying abroad at the London Dramatic Academy or anywhere else in the world, I hope you found my blog useful, informative, and maybe entertaining at times. If you do go abroad, cherish the time you have there because it will truly change your life.

Thank you all again.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Final Showings

14 weeks have flown by. It seems like it was just days ago that we landed in London and were introduced to each other and to our teachers. To explain to you how much we've grown and learned over the past 3 1/2 months would be impossible. On Wednesday and Thursday, all of our hard work and persistence came to fruition in our showings for our acting and Shakespeare classes.

On Wednesday we came together as a class to put on a quintessentially British Comedy in Mixed Doubles, complete with tea and cake during intermission and a final waltz number to close out our program. The next day, we split into two groups to present Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure/Macbeth in the presence of our teachers and special guest Ben Wishaw. What transpired was a fantastic display of comedic and tragic talent.  There were so many surprises during both performances and we really just brought out the best in each other because of our incredible teachers and the camaraderie we've built together.

Despite all of the people and experiences I've missed in New York this past semester, I would not for one single second give up this experience in London. This program has quite literally changed my life. We are not coming back to New York as the same people. We've changed, grown, and expanded all for the better.

If anybody reading this blog, whether or not you study at Fordham, you should do everything you can to experience this program. It's extremely rigorous, demanding, and exhausting but all completely worth it. You will know by the end of these 14 weeks how much work and dedication it takes to sustain a career in this industry. And if you come to this program not liking Shakespeare, you will walk away from here with a brand new appreciation and outlook on the language and stories that Shakespeare has given us.

In short, get your asses to the London Dramatic Academy.


Monday, 25 March 2013

Playing with Swords

     Monday's at LDA are definitely our most taxing and physically tiring days of the week. Aside from our Physical Theatre class which Shea talked about last week, all of our physical classes are on monday which leave us physically exhausted come 5pm. But, no matter how tiring it is, I still look forward to our Stage Combat class every week with our instructor Gordon Kemp.
     The aim of the course is to understand and apply the principles of safety and performance in regards to unarmed and armed stage combat. Starting with unarmed techniques, we learned how to craft slaps, punches, chokes, and falls and make them appear dangerous to an audience while keeping us completely out of harms way. After a few weeks of that, we moved on to our rapiers. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't immediately become a child as soon as Gordon opened his crate of swords. Images of Jedi, pirates, and ninjas rushed through my head as soon as I picked up my sword.

     What followed was an extensive training program that culminated in a choreographed fight that looks like we're really trying to kill each other. But enough talking. I"ll let you guys be the judge while you watch mine and winter's final duel choreographed by Gordon Kemp.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Core Neutrality

     For the first half of our term here at LDA we had weekly physical theatre workshops inspired by the technique of Jacques Lecoq. We found layers of tension states in our bodies, inhabited the four elements and concluded with mask work. Working in neutral mask in particular proved to be extremely revealing and even personally enlightening. Before even seeing the masks our tutor Ally led us through a rigorous warm-up that forced us to take broad movements and internalize them. This made us all vibrate with physical and mental presence throughout our journey into a masked world. Upon Ally's presentation of the masks she split us off into small groups and gave us a set of seemingly simple instructions. She asked us to individually stand up, turn away from the group and put the mask on. After we were masked we were to lie down on the floor, "wake up," exist in a neutral yet present state in the space and then simply lie back down.
     I went first in my group and saw the room totally differently through the mask's eyes. Since we were striving for a state of neutrality I found myself keenly aware of every movement in my body. Through my sense of vulnerability in the mask I was also more aware of the sights, sounds and even smells in the room. We were advised to free ourselves of opinions about the process of waking up and the space we were in, stripping everything down to its most essential and basic state. After adjusting to the heightened state the mask gave me I was overwhelmed by a sense of calm that came from existing simply in neutrality.
     My group gave me feedback and noted that though they could see some of my typical "Shea" mannerisms I seemed to be in a more open and neutral state. It was fascinating watching my colleagues do the exercise after me, because I had a similar experience watching them. Our first few turns with the masks freed us of many physical habits, though our most engrained mannerisms still appeared at certain points. Ally reminded us that mannerisms aren't necessarily negative though, we just need to be aware of them so we can use them when they serve us and emit them when they aren't doing us any favors.
     After working in neutral mask I found that I am much more aware of how I use my body as an individual. Each time I put the mask on I found that I was able to ease deeper into total neutrality and access a profoundly human foundation. It proved to be a intensely resonant experience as an actor and person to travel inside to find a core neutrality.


Monday, 11 March 2013

London in the Fall

     With our semester half-way over, I wanted to take some time to push anybody who is on the fence about coming here to further your studies as an actor. The application deadline for Fall 2013 has been extended and instead of trying to block out all your classes for next semester, you should just come here and have that all done for you. The application process is very, very simple. Honestly, you just have to tell Matthew that you're actually interested in coming here and he'll get you set with all the paperwork that needs to be done. And for anyone who is worried about finances, all of your financial aid transfers over since the program is run by Fordham. If you need any additional aid, I strongly recommend applying for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship ( which helped me tremendously. Along with that scholarship, ISAP will let you know of all the others that you can apply for. 

     Also, performance majors don't have to audition for the program since we already auditioned for the Fordham program, so it's really not a whole lot of work.  Coming here in the fall, makes sure that you have all summer to prepare for your incredible study abroad experience and you'll have the chance to go to Munich for Octoberfest, so just do it! Then you get to come back to the US for the holiday season and then enjoy New York in the spring. You really have no reason not to come here. 

     In all seriousness, you all should jump at the chance to do this.  Chanelle, Anna, Shea, Winter, and I have learned and grown so much in the past 7 weeks and we still have 6 more to go. Ask any of them and they will insist that you come study here. If you have ANY questions, don't hesitate to email, facebook message, iMessage or whatever you can do to contact me and I will convince you to come here. Do it!


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ease and Efficiency

     Upon my first introduction to Alexander Technique I found the whole concept a little kooky and somewhat pointless, as many theatre techniques can appear at first.  The idea of the Alexander Technique at its core is described as a relaxation technique with aims to live and move with the utmost ease and efficiency.  Sounds great, but what does this have to do with acting? Yeah, the relaxation will help me accept and work through my habits, but how does this directly correlate? I had been to five personalized forty-minute Alexander sessions, each giving me tools to release the tension in my body through the power of thought. Not an easy task. Though these techniques were helpful and did make me feel better and more in control of my tension inducing habits, I had yet to understand how it would help my acting. It is not as if I can think about my head going forward and up while also trying to remember my blocking, saying my lines, and hoping its all manifesting in some sort of truth.
     Then, I had a small epiphany. In physical theatre class we began to dip into neutral mask work most famously emphasized in the work of Jacques Lecoq. In this technique one is required to put on a mask in an effort to find a neutral state from which the actor can create. This technique reveals the mind’s effect on the ways in which the body translates emotion. Keeping the face covered, it becomes powerless to aid transmitting emotion to the audience.  In doing an exercise called “The Farewell of all Farewells”, one is given a series of images connected to a physical action. Each action and image is propelled and inspired by breath. Though the face is covered, the body translates an emotional journey.  In doing this exercise, the imagination is key to produce truthful responses.  I went up in front of the class, put on my mask, which is always a bit jarring, then began to release into my breath and imagination.  By then end of my “Farewell” I had gone on an emotional journey through breath and imagination with my body emoting completely and freely. I realized it is this ability to release into the imagination to produce truthful and honest responses from the body that makes the Alexander Technique alive on stage. In further reading articles from my Alexander teachers, Dee, I came across a number of quotes that summed up this idea up perfectly. Funny how these pieces of literature and experiences all align and interconnect right when the mind is ready to truly understand them. Sweet Dee and I have been working on changing the conversation in my mind from one of self-doubt and questioning, to one of positivity and trust.  If Alexander aims to “to free the mind in order to release and develop the flow of the imagination”, the conversation in my mind would be completely engaged in the images of my imagination and the body, controlled by the mind, propelled into imaginative world through physicality. It is not something you always have to work or practice, but something the opening of the imagination naturally results in.  The head, body, and emotions are interrelated rather than compartmentalized. The relaxation of the body allows the actor to concentrate and receive the messages of their imagination, which will mentally and physically transform them. When tension creeps in it is usually due to fear or concern with the end product which shuts off the access to the imagination. When an actor tries to access the imagination in a high-tension state it becomes destructive physically and unsuccessful mentally. “The imagination is the gateway to the feelings”, and the trusting in the simplicity of the imagination through relaxation and ease of movement allows for the actor to readily and effortlessly access both the imagination, emotional center, and body.

     Now that I’ve either thoroughly bored you or weirded you out, I do think Alexander Technique should be part of the Fordham curriculum in some capacity. A master class only gives a small taste of the technique and does not lend us the daily tools one needs to ponder and experience the changes possible through Alexander. The technique directly speaks to Stanislavsky’s ‘creative state’ or the state of ‘I am’ accessible through the imagination. I feel our Stanislavsky based program would benefit its actors greatly if we could have more access to Alexander Technique outside the wildly expensive classes in the city. It has benefited me personally and professionally and I have only have about six classes, for 35 min each. The progress, if one is ready, is quick and though it may not outwardly manifest as readily as one would like, it will mentally. Alexander has worked to slowly change my perspective on acting, specifically in accessing the imagination and I feel privileged to have been able to explore the technique here in London with Sweet Dee.


Monday, 4 March 2013

Musings of a Fatty in London

     For those of you that know me well, you know how important good and delicious food is in my life.  To say that I just love eating would be an understatement, so when I heard multiple comments about the food in London not being so great, I was understandably worried. Would I have to eat fish and chips every day? Is the Indian food in London really that great? Could a traditional English breakfast outshine the likes of American breakfasts that I've grown accustomed to? What am I gonna do without regular trips to Burrito Box and Lucky's Burgers? These were some of the questions floating through my mind during the plane ride over here.
     I think I've mentioned in previous posts that were staying in the Richmond University dorms here in Kensington, which is no more than a 3 minute walk to LDA. Our location is almost as convenient as living in McMahon in terms of getting to classes. At Richmond, they offer us a meal plan to go along with the cafeteria with either 10 meals a week or 18. My biggest concern with the cafeteria was that it was run by none other than Sodexo (Everyone at Fordham knows why that font change was necessary). It was one of the hardest decisions to make because I didn't want to get stuck with Fordham Sodexo food for another semester especially since I flew 3000 miles away from the Ram Caf in the first place. But with prices in London being so high, I didn't really have much of a choice. Luckily, the people at Richmond offered us a free week of meals to try things out before we purchased a full meal plan.
     For the most part, I can't say that I regret the decision to purchase the smaller meal plan because the variety and quality of the food at this Sodexo establishment soars above what we were used to at Fordham. Here's a couple of the meals that we've had here:

     We also have access to a free espresso/coffee machine, unlimited tea, and a salad bar with a huge variety.

    And if you're looking for cheap eats outside of the caf there's a traditional Chinese food restaurant a couple blocks away, numerous places to get Fish and Chips, McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King too. You can also venture out into more central London to find a decent burrito at Chipotle if you're desperate. And yeah, Indian food here really is that great.
So if any of you do end up coming here and need to know places to eat for cheap, you know who you can ask.