By Training, I Learned to Trust

Ally Rigby performing

Alexandra Rigby is a recent graduate of Atlantic Acting School’s Full-Time Conservatory program.

My time at Atlantic Acting School taught me many things, the most important of which was how to trust myself.

I arrived with a partial scholarship and as a grant recipient of the American Australian Association’s Dame Joan Sutherland Fund. I had made it through the application process and I was ready to continue pursuing my career. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had been acting since I was three years old and was full of love and enthusiasm for the craft but I was also filled with doubt.

No matter how much work I had done, the hours I invested into part-time training, I felt like an imposter. When people asked me what I did, I would hesitate to tell them I was an actor, because I didn’t believe it.

Atlantic’s program threw me into a rigorous schedule of training for two and a half years. It was such a gift to be able to completely immerse myself in my passions. Every day I would work on my voice, speech, physicality, listening skills and, of course, the Practical Aesthetics technique. It was not by any means an easy time, but it was everything I had wanted out of a program.

You’re in school officially from 9am – 5pm Monday – Thursday and then you’ve got all your time outside of that working on scenes and rehearsing. In my second year I remember arriving at school on a Saturday morning and greeting almost every other person in my ensemble who had also shown up to rehearse that day.

Atlantic was a full-time training ground. It was also a second home. In the classroom and in the halls I could be vulnerable, I could be brave, I could cry, or – as often happened in my case – laugh uncontrollably and my teachers and ensemble members would be right there beside me reminding me to trust the process.

As each semester went by I was able to prove to myself that this was exactly where I needed to be. There is such a joy to being “in training.” When people would ask me what I was up to, I would excitedly reply that I was an acting student and loved to watch as jaws dropped when I explained the time commitment involved. I was proud to be part of a community so dedicated to the craft.

By the time I graduated I could read the phonetic alphabet and apply it to learning any accent I chose. As an Australian, I made it my mission to perfect a standard American accent. I’ll often say to my friends, “Without Susan Finch I wouldn’t be able to work in this country.”

I think the reputation of a school is so largely based on the skill set of its teachers. I would not be the actor I am today without the passion of Anya Saffir (Chekhov/ Shakespeare), the frankness of Cynthia Silver (Performance Technique/Script Analysis), the commitment of Francine Zerfras (Voice) and Kelly Mauer (Suzuki/ Viewpoints) who time and time again showed up for us well beyond their paid working hours. I truly felt throughout my time that my teachers were investing in me not as a student, but as an artist.

Then, after what felt like both a lifetime and no time at all we were just a few weeks out from graduation and Cynthia, with a knowing smile, said to us in our Business of Acting Class:

“Okay… so, now it’s time…it is time to start calling yourself actors. You’re not students anymore, it’s not something you just do for fun on the side – you’re actors. You need to call yourself actors because you are.”

I was speechless. This was something I had always wanted to be able to say about myself. After years of doubt, I knew I could do it.

Since graduating, I’ve been in a short film and an ad. The theatre company we formed whilst in school, Bluebird Theatre Company, is performing a run of Mary Zimmerman’s The Secret in The Wings in March where I am using all my psychical and vocal skills to play the princess Allerleira. I’ve written a 90-minute play called Equilibrium, which will have a reading later this year, and a short film called “Cute.”  In April I will be playing Irene in the New York City Premiere of MEEK by Penelope Skinner alongside two fellow Atlantic Alumni Alice Corti and Carmo Bebiano, also directed by an Alumni who graduated two years earlier, Andie Lemus.

Atlantic is made complete by its community. Its sense of ensemble is drilled into us from day one.

“Look around you,” said Mary McCann, the Executive Director of the school on orientation day. “Look at the person to your right, look at the person to your left. Look around the room. These are the people who you’re going to be working with for the rest of your lives.”

She was not wrong; I am so thankful for my Atlantic community and I look forward to being a part of it for the rest of my career.

The note I got the most throughout my time at Atlantic was to trust myself. That when I trusted myself, my work was brilliant. It took a community and a couple of years but by the end of the program I had learned to do just that.

Now whenever people ask what I do I can proudly say, with no doubt in my mind:

“I am an actor.”