Sunday, September 27, 2009


Someone, I won’t say who, sent an email asking why I didn’t get my blog posting up sooner. Well, I’ll tell you; I was very busy Sunday doing absolutely NOTHING! That’s right m’ dears, I am finished with all the course requirements for my Masters of Arts in Classical and Contemporary Text at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Hooray!!!!!

Last week was dedicated to writing the five final papers for the course that were due on Friday the 25th of September; the last day of the term. I was glued to the computer all week. It was worth it though because I was pleased with the final products. I hope the committee is pleased as well! Our assignments will be reviewed by a committee of academics who will hopefully approve the work and grant us the credits we need to obtain the degree. Graduation isn’t until November so they have allotted time for these reviews to take place. The papers were summative statements regarding the final modules and the course as a whole and we also turned in our research projects.

What a week! What a year!! I have, of course, been in reflection for the past week but I know the full impact of this experience will take time to comprehend. There were many challenges and many benefits. One would expect a combination of goods and bads when embarking on a journey such as this. I have grown as a person and as an artist. I have been introduced to a plethora of exceptional people, companies and subjects and learned new techniques that I can add to my actor’s toolkit. I have lived and studied abroad learning firsthand about Scottish culture, British culture and European culture. It has indeed been an eventful year.

As for the future; mine is wide open. I’m going to stay in the UK for a while and take advantage of the post-study visa offered to the Americans upon approval of our degree. Until I secure this new visa I will be residing under my student visa. Therefore, there will be a short delay before I can start to seek out work as a performer. I cannot be employed as such on my student visa and can only work a limited number of hours. When the committee has finished their review and if the results are positive, I can then apply for the two year post-study work visa. So in the meantime, I will be looking for part time employment and will continue to work on some writing projects I am keen to develop.

Next week some of our class will be meeting some of the new class. I have met some incoming students already at various events and through emails. Thursday the faculty has arranged a meet and greet for whoever is available. I plan on attending. If we can be ambassadors to those who follow us, the inaugural year, then I am happy to offer my assistance. I’ll try not to scare them too much!

Until next week…
Take care!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preparations and Celebrations

Today is a day for celebrating! Last night was the last performance of our final shows for the MA CCT course at the RSAMD. I came back from Edinburgh at around 10:30pm and arrived to find my new neighborhood erupting with activity. Turns out moonrise last night brought Eid ul-Fitr or Eid for short. Eid celebrates the end of Ramadan for Muslims. Ramadan is a month of fasting and reflection where Islamic practitioners refrain from eating during daylight hours and Eid is the festival that marks the end of that period of devotion. It is a bit like Lent on the Christian calendar. As many in my local community are of South Asian decent, Islam is one of the major religions practiced in the area. The celebrations continue today and when I went to the grocery store I saw the streets are filled with people blowing party horns, children playing and silly string decorates parked cars and some people too! Everyone is dressed in their best clothes and the women and girls glitter in gorgeous salwar kameezes (a style of garment traditional in South Asia) rich in color and they are bejeweled in sparkling ornamentation from head to toe. Stunning!

The shows went well. On Thursday night I finally saw the other two offerings my classmates have been working on all this time. I thoroughly enjoyed their work and am intrigued with the stories. I can’t wait to see how these scripts develop and find out what happens! One in particular called ‘The Fever Dream: Southside’ by Douglas Maxwell is set on the Southside of Glasgow where I am making my new home. It was engaging to hear references to places to which I have recently been introduced and am looking forward to getting to know better. The future for these plays is bright and it was an honor to be a part of their beginnings.

I thought I would delve into what it was like for us before the shows each night. The shows started at 7:30pm or in the case of the Tron in Glasgow, 7:45. Fridays we were the second show to go on, around 8:45 or 9pm and Saturdays we were the first. The cast was allowed into the performances space for a warm up between 6 and 6:20 depending on the night. Each of us would have some time to do whatever we needed to do for ourselves. My standard practice is to start with some light yoga and other stretches. After I feel physically warmed up I move into a vocal warm up. This involves breathing exercises working the breathing mechanisms and focusing on breath control. Then I make some noise. I loosen up my lips and other facial muscles. I do some tongue twisters. I speak a little Shakespeare while focusing on the placement of the voice and breath support and I do the most annoying thing in the world, called “the siren”. This is what it says it is. I run up and down the scale of my voice by making and holding a siren sound at its height. I try to only do this twice because it is so loud and obnoxious. That is pretty much my individual pre-show warm up. It may vary a bit from show to show depending on what is required of me. After we all finished our own routine we came together and ran through a group warm up. This kind of thing varies from show to show, cast to cast. Sometimes there is no group warm up in a production but, with ‘Ashes Blood’ we had a standard practice. First was the number game. We would huddle together and try to count to 21 and then back down. The trick with this game is to not have people speak the same number at the same time. It is about group awareness. It’s about feeling the vibe of the group and learning to listen to each other even before anything is expressed vocally. Next we’d shake and stretch all the parts of our bodies to work out any kinks and get the things moving. Then we played a couple of games for energy and focus. In both Zip Zap and Red Ball, Blue Ball the players have to pay attention to each other and be ready to receive the zip or zap or the ball and then pass it on. After this preparation we usually retired to the dressing rooms to apply make-up and get into costumes and do a line run. The line run was a speed run. In a speed run we say the lines of the show and pick up our cues as fast and as accurate as possible. This warms up the text, gets us focused and energizes the piece. Then, show time! So there’s a little backstage tour for you from the actor’s perspective. Each production brings a different pre-show situation but most of the time there is an opportunity for some kind of warm up and it is most helpful for getting the mind and body ready for the performance.

This week we are all in solitarily mode as we work on our papers. I have about 11,000 words to write over the course of five papers and it’s all due on Friday at noon. The papers include summaries of the work on these shows, our staged reading at the Fringe, our viewing of shows at the Fringe, our discussions with the various professionals, our research projects and a summary of the whole year. It is a lot but it will be good reflection. However, with the deadline looming nigh, I’m going to sign off now and get busy!

When next I write, this whole thing will be over! Can you believe it?!?!
See you next week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lovin’ London

Well, I’m back in Glasgow after a fabulous trip to London. We went to present our shows to the good people of Southern England. The shows went well enough I think. My first night on was Friday and the cast felt particularly pleased with our delivery. Both nights I had friends from the Moscow Art Theatre School in the audience which made it all the more exciting for me. In the summer of 2008 I spent six weeks in Cambridge, Massachusetts just outside of Boston participating in an amazing actor training program taught by master teachers from the Moscow Art Theatre School and there I met Hayley Anne, Emma and Germaine, all of whom came to support me this past weekend. Hayley Anne is on a Masters course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Emma is a native of the London area and Germaine just arrived to a post-graduate course at the London Academy of Music and Drama. Thanks for coming guys!! Love ya!!

Performing was only a fraction of the way I spent my time in London. Wednesday I went to Camden Town. Camden is a very unique area of London. It kind of reminds me of the East Village in New York. Camden is famous for Camden Market; an outdoor market where vendors sell their goods from stalls. Camden also has loads of other markets and areas filled with vendor stalls and booths as well as a large assortment of shops and food stands. If you are looking for funky gifts, imports from around the world, handmade jewelry, goth or hippie clothing, you have a good chance of finding it in Camden. I found the most amazing natural food/vegetarian restaurant right alongside the canal in Camden. The place is called the inSpiral Lounge. The food delighted my taste buds and the staff was the friendliest, most helpful bunch I have ever met. Go, eat and enjoy the guilt free yumminess!!

Thursday I went to the Royal Academy of Arts to view the J.W. Waterhouse exhibit. I have always been drawn to Waterhouse’s work but knew very little about him until my visit to the gallery. Waterhouse was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter who lived between 1849 and 1917 and was admitted to the Royal Academy of Art in 1871. He is known for taking his subjects from myths, legends and literature. Some of his favorites were female characters from Greek mythology, Arthurian legends and Shakespeare’s plays.

After my dose of art I needed my retail release and headed to Harrods. I love Harrods. There is nothing on Earth like the Food Halls in Harrods. I was able to pick up nearly a lifetime supply of my beloved rose tea and those amazing dates I mentioned last week. Oh yeah. Delicious.

Thursday night I was not needed on stage so I went to see some other people work. I went to the West End Musical ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’. Oh what fun! I adore the movie and had high hopes that the stage version would be just as entertaining. I was not disappointed. It paid homage to the film whilst creating a blissful experience of its own merit. The costumes, the set and the over the top characters made for a fabulous spectacle. The only thing serious about this piece of theatre was the seriously big budget they must have to put on the glitz and glam of that magnitude every night. If you are looking for something profound go somewhere else but if you are looking for ridiculous merriment in glorious Technicolor check out the party on stage at the Palace Theatre in the form of ‘Priscilla’. I loved every second of it!!

Friday I went to Covent Garden and Chinatown. Covent Garden has yet another market should you want to spend more money. I ran across a quartet of string players cranking out some classics with a whole lot of personality and an ice sculpture of the London skyline on display and melting in the afternoon sun. Then I meandered over to Chinatown for lunch. A red bean bun and veggie Lo Mein made for a tasty yet inexpensive meal. Then Back to Covent Garden to meet up with the aforementioned Emma. On the way I popped in to St. Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s Church is known as the Actors’ Church and inside are memorials to Charlie Chaplin, Vivien Leigh and many more notable performers and artists. Emma arrived and we sipped Starbucks and played catch up until I had to head back to the hotel to prep for my show. She collected Hayley Anne and all of us had a lovely visit after my performance. Good Friday.

Saturday I relaxed at our hotel in Hampstead until our show. Afterwards I caught up with Germaine. Then Sunday I boarded a train back to Glasgow. Overall it was a wonderful week. There were a few moments of stress surrounding the show but all and all, a fantastic trip. Now into the final stretch of the course! Many of my classmates seem a bit concerned about all the writing we have to finish. It is a lot and we are doing the shows right now which could lead to anxiety for people. I feel pretty comfortable with what needs to be finished but then, I enjoy writing. The shows are there (they'd better be, we’ve done four already!) so, I don’t think we need to be worried about them. I am looking forward to completing the final requirements and treading a new path into the future. We’re nearly there guys! Nearly there!

This week we play Edinburgh and that’s it. I will only be working with the group three more times. One tech rehearsal and two shows! Wow! The rest of the time I’m on my own to write the papers. Two weeks left in this our fourth and final term! I am so excited!

Below you can check out some photos I took in London and I’ll report next week on our Edinburgh run.
Take care!!

The famous Camden Market

Plenty to purchase in Camden Town.

Hungry? Veggie-licious inSpiral Lounge! Check out their website:

Waterfront shopping along the canal in Camden.

J.W. Waterhouse at the Royal Academy of Arts

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre

London iced at Covent Garden

Gateway to Chinatown

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sold Out Shows and Leaving for London

Monday. Yes, I know. Last night was the first in my new digs and I don’t have my internet set up just yet. So today we are coming to you live from the RSAMD computer lab!!

Thursday our final shows opened here in Glasgow. Because the three shows are on a rotation I had the night off. Therefore, I attempted to go and see my classmates present their work but alas, to no avail. SOLD OUT!! I missed the shows yes, but this is GOOD!! Very good that people want to see them! I’ll have a few more chances, but that being said, I should make a reservation just in case our luck continues! Friday and Saturday were also sold out so, those of you wanting to see the shows in London or Edinburgh may want to act accordingly.

Friday was opening night of my show, ‘Ashes Blood’ by David Harrower. We were pleased with our performance as were the director, playwright and attending faculty. The audience seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Saturday was the end of the Glasgow run and now we are off to London.

London. Most of us are taking the train tomorrow afternoon. We have the same schedule at the Hampstead Theatre as we did here in Glasgow at the Tron. I’ll be on Friday and Saturday nights and some time on Wednesday we will have a technical rehearsal to set the lights et al. in the new space. I’m in debate about how to spend the rest of my time in London. There are always shows to see and I think I may have to go back to Harrods to restock on rose tea and the most amazing dates I’ve ever had. Then, on Sunday, back to Glasgow and a short rest before the the final curtain comes down in Edinburgh the following weekend.

And that’s all folks! We are nearly at the end. Post Edinburgh there will of course be a mad rush to finish the five writing assignments due before the end of term but then, afterwards we will be turned out into the big bad world. Well, I’ve been there before but this time I will be in Scotland. I will be finding my feet and establishing my life here in this country. I am still learning how things work here and the cultural differences. I am American and sometimes painfully aware of it but, it’s exciting and challenging. I reflect how long it took me to settle into the New York way of life when I first moved there. It will take time. More than a year, most definitely but, what a glorious opportunity with all there is to experience.

Okay, next week it may be Monday before I post again as I will be traveling on Sunday but, I’ll let you know how it goes in London.
Take care my friends!