By Andrea Solonge
ALIVE. That’s one word that almost barely yet solely encompasses the energy of New York. People say exactly what they’re thinking, millions of people are swarming from one place to another, the subway is bustling and everybody is walking with purpose.
The city itself was pulsing with what felt like a mutual heartbeat and if you could transcribe that heartbeat into words it would be saying: YES, GO & NOW in unison.
I know now why it’s called the city of dreams. It’s a place that simply exudes possibility.
I went into my scholarship at the Atlantic in July as the most astute version of myself. I was ready to learn. I was ready to try, and I was ready to fail (in the best way possible).
What I left with was a truly special bond between new, life-long friends across the world, an invigorated passion for acting, and a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.
The experience I had during the Atlantic‘s Summer Intensive was second to none. A testament to the school’s philosophies, embedded work ethic and my committed colleagues.
Heart-to-hearts, epiphanies, weddings (yes you read that correctly), infinite reading, Academy award-winning actor workshops (shout-out to F. Murray Abraham), awe-evoking performances… we lived and witnessed it all. I can’t sum up the time I had at Atlantic into one article, but I can leave you with a few nuggets of acting gold that I learnt over the Summer.
In all things we want to achieve in life – career wise, in our relationships and beyond – we must attempt with bravery. From rigorous or emotionally-challenging scenes, to honest communication with the people we love believe that it can be done and you are half way there.
The material I worked on at Atlantic was some of the toughest material I have ever worked on. From playwrights like Harold Pinter, Lynn Nottage and Tony Kushner I learnt that having the boldness to attempt and commit to choices with gusto led to new discoveries, undeniable impulses and an unspoken agreement with my scene partners to push the boundaries.
It was at Atlantic that I learnt if I was not brave in my everyday life I could not be brave in my work; as your mind-set will lay the groundwork for all things that we do.
Nothing will stop performance anxiety and nerves dead in their tracks like preparation will. I loved that in classes taught by Cynthia Silver and Anya Saffir, before performing each actor had to have read each play a minimum of twice.We would simply re-read and re-read our plays, each time picking up new clues and new information.
Think you know a narrative like the back of your hand? Read it again. Trust me. Preparation allows for freedom, so you can focus on being completely present and open with your scene partner.
When we work, we are using our heightened and most expressive selves, so the body mind and voice also need to be prepared accordingly.
There will always be an ensemble – your cast, crew, other actors – and they will always be a part of your journey. The energy you create from just being in a room will either support and uplift, or detract from anyone who is working. Everything is a collaborative effort. From the teacher who has taught the same class all day, the sound guy who has been holding the boom for 10 hours straight or the actors who are bringing their most vulnerable and open selves to the room, a certain level of respect for the work and all parties is needed to keep the machine running smoothly. Kelly Maurer ( Saratoga International Theater Institute founding member) sat us down for a story explaining that she couldn’t make her opening monologue in a theatre show work for weeks, but each rehearsal when the director spent hours with her, no one left the room – not even to go to the toilet. When she would look back at her cast, they were right there in the moment with her showing their unfaltering support, until she had worked it out.
Prior to commencing my journey at Atlantic I had a niggling voice at the back of my mind that told me that I either wasn’t enough or was always going to be too much. I left New York, understanding that who I am as an actor and as a person, will always be right.
Every day I was able to watch my colleagues and friends be completely raw and accessible which enabled them to unlock their full potential. I am now the sum of all of their lessons, triumphs and humanity.
Thank you to everyone who believed in me and made this possible: Melissa Bruder, Pearl Tan, the Equity Foundation’s Mary Cotter AKA superwoman, who has always been incredibly encouraging and uplifting, the Atlantic‘s Chris Booth, who none of this would be possible without. MEAA and the Equity Foundation; you change lives and pave the way in our industry for things to be better, along with the ENTIRE faculty at Atlantic NYC. Daniel Brown, Arlo Green, Krystal Brown, the Wall Family and every ensemble I was a part of, you are in my heart forever.
Lastly my mother Mireille, thank you for supporting me in all things – especially this crazy, delightful dream of mine.
Andrea Solonge is a Sydney-based actor, known for Lens (2017), White Teeth (2018), Girl, Interpreted (2019) and Oz Linked (2019). Andrea was chosen by an industry judging panel from more than 170 applicants to undertake the six-week Summer Intensive at the Atlantic School in New York City from July 2-August 11, 2019.