Perspective & Growth: Acting in the Age of Covid

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Current Atlantic student Ura Yoana Sánchez (Full-Time Conservatory Class of 2020) reflects on a recent Zoom acting experience,and how she has pivoted and grown as a performer through the tools afforded by Practical Aesthetics, the Atlantic Technique.

Watch her video testimonial (0:00 – 4:52), topped off by an August Wilson monologue session (4:53 8:53) led by Atlantic Acting School’s Artistic Director, Reggie D. White, at a recent Atlantic Theater Company #TechniqueTuesday event! A video transcript of Ura’s vlog can be found below.

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Ura Yoana Sánchez

is an Afro-Latina actress and writer currently residing in NYC. She is currently in her final semester at Atlantic Acting School Full Time Conservatory. She earned a BFA in Acting from Brooklyn College. Some of her works include the comedic play she co-wrote, “The Jedi Papi Chulo and The Power Pansa” which was first produced at The La Tea Theater and later at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. She also wrote and directed the family drama, “Sacred Spaces” which premiered to a full house at the ECC stage in Richmond Hill, NY. She went on to study film production after which she produced, wrote and directed the short film “SOMNIO”. She also acted in SOMNIO where she learned to wear multiple hats on set. SOMNIO is currently in post-production. Ura Yoana founded Cuentos de Ada Productions with the purpose of creating universally relevant film and theater productions, which are both inspirational and provocative. Cuentos De Ada, is a play on words meaning “Fairy Tale” in Spanish as well as the literal translation, “Tales of Ada”; Ada being Ura Yoana’s mother, whose legacy lives on through the work of this company.

Video Testimonial Transcript:

“Just recently I had an experience where I was able to participate in one of Atlantic’s Technique Tuesday classes, which was taught by Reggie White, who is a genius, and so… in that moment, participating in that class, i was able to see so much of my own growth throughout the past two and a half years that culminated in that moment for me…

I was working on a monologue, which I’d used for years before that, and the monologue is Rose from Fences, which I’m sure everyone is familiar with. And I’d used that monologue actually to get into Atlantic so that was my audition monologue when I got into Atlantic.

And as I worked with Reggie, I felt the freest that I had ever felt in my entire time as an actor. I felt incredibly…just dropped in, in the moment… And just not worrying about anything except, you know, the action that I was playing, that I was going for.

And that’s the thing about the Practical Aesthetics Technique – that it’s the force that technique which is the literal: “What is the character actually saying? What are they literally saying?”

The want: “What does the character want from the other character?” And the action, which is “what is the essential nature of that?” And then the final one is the as if, which is something that is adapted from the Meisner Technique. And essentially it’s just thinking of a moment of your life in which this action could potentially be played. Or be… executed in you real life.

And so, when I was working with Reggie on this monologue, everything that I had ever done in this piece just went out the window. And it was just full and alive and… and amazing. And I think to me, that’s what acting’s supposed to be. It felt like what acting is supposed to be.

As embarrassing as this is, before that…many times I would rely on inspiration in a piece. Of course I had taken so many acting classes – I have a BFA in acting as well – and I had studied with multiple different teachers, but I never felt like I had a technique. And it was only when I came to Atlantic that I was ready to…just feel like I had a technique that would be there for me every single time.

And so this is especially helpful for me at auditions, when I don’t have time to do Uta Hagen’s, like, I don’t know how many questions – background questions and character analysis and all of that stuff – but I could just do these four steps and, one, two, three, four, I have the… I”m in the scene and I’m dropped in.

Many times artists are misunderstood. One of the things that I find interesting is when artists say that they… do their art to express themselves – that’s something that we hear a lot, you know, “I want to express myself in this way.”

And I find that artists are more than expressing themselves when we create art. Artists are conduits of words, of thoughts, of beliefs, of worldviews. And we create through this medium a way for people to connect and in that way foster empathy and human connection and love.

And so that’s something that I find that is… I hope that it is not lost in this time of lockdown, in this time of pause. You know, I want to encourage artists to, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, to do something for your art. And whether it’s writing, whether it’s, you know, working on a monologue as an actor, whether its drawing or painting or something that just feeds your artist spirit so that that conduit is not shut down.

So that when we get back to whatever normal is gonna be after this, we’re… in a place where we can continue to serve the world in the way that we do.

Technique Tuesday Session Transcript

: How are you doing this? Like, eye line. Who are you looking at, or how — this is magic?

Ura: It’s magic [holds up a clothespin]

Reggie: Great. Ou, ok great! You better give it to that clothespin! That cheating ass clothespin! Do it.

Ura: Ok! 

Reggie: So really really sort of breathe, and… really focus on correcting their version of the story. Really tell the truth. Really get them to wake up to reality. Yeah?

Ura: Yeah.

Reggie: Great. Whenever you’re ready.

Ura as Rose in Fences: Why Troy? Why? After all these years for you to come drag this in to me now? It’ll make no sense. I’ve been standing right here with you! I have been right here with you. I gave my life to stand here in the same spot with you! Wha – You think I never wanted other things? You think I didn’t have dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me? You think the thought never crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good too? You are not the only one with wants and needs around here, Troy. I held on to you. I took all my feelings and my wants and needs and dreams and I buried them inside of you. I planted myself inside of you and I waited to bloom. It didn’t take me no eighteen years to figure out that the soil was hard and rocky and that I wasn’t never gonna bloom. But I held you tighter… You was my husband. I owed you everything I have. And upstairs, in that room with the darkness falling in on me, I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world. So you talk about all you give. But you don’t have to give, but you take too. You take and you take and you don’t even know nobody else has given.

Reggie: Yeah that’s different. What are you feeling now? What’s happening? What’s going on?

Ura: This is much more direct. And it’s like, these are the facts, this is what you’ve…this… it’s like a list of facts.

Reggie: Yeah. And like, it… it’s actually kind of amazing that you’re using that clothespin, which is like, we don’t even have to get into the dramaturgy of how that’s, like, perfect for Rose because like, she’s like, doing the laundry and there’s so much care, and also Troy’s ass is wooden and stiff and not going nowhere and not listening and hardheaded.

Ura: That was exactly what I was thinking when I…

Reggie: That’s amazing that’s amazing that’s amazing.