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FRANTIC ASSEMBLY TEACHES GUEST CLASS AT ATLANTIC ACTING SCHOOL
by Wyatt Welles, School Administrative Intern (Fall 2015)
You may not know their name, but you’re likely to know their breath-taking work. They created a surge of Broadway buzz when they developed original movement for the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which moved to Broadway in October of last year. The production not only went on to the win to the Tony Award for Best Play, but it also received five other nominations, including one for Frantic Assembly’s movement work, making Curious Incident the first play in 23 years to receive a Tony Nomination for Best Choreography. Although they are only now gaining widespread attention amongst American theater-goers, they have been an influential force for British theater since the company’s conception 21 years ago.
Artistic Director Scott Graham formed the Frantic Assembly in 1994 in an effort to create movement-based-theater out of collaborations with like-minded artists, including his two co-founders, Vicki Middleton and Olivier Award winner and three-time Tony Nominee Steven Hoggett. Beyond their ground-breaking productions, Frantic Assembly spent the past two decades developing educational opportunities for young theater makers. While the majority of these training programs are exclusive to London, providing those of us on this side of the pond with little opportunities to see their process, members of Frantic Assembly made the trek to New York City to do a full day workshop with Atlantic’s second-year conservatory students this October.
Students at Atlantic Acting School are no strangers to brilliant minds in the rehearsal room. Atlantic NYU and Conservatory students alike have had the opportunity to learn from theater and film legends such as Kate Winslet, F. Murray Abraham, David Mamet, and Glenn Close. What was unique about Frantic Assembly’s time spent with the students is rather than discussing their artistic process, they got the students on their feet and experiencing it for themselves. Early in the master class, Associate Director Neil Bettles and Frantic Assembly educator Krista Vuori had the class form a circle and began to introduce the warm up exercise.
All you have to do is move from one side of the circle to the other. Do it as fast as you can, but don’t panic. You have all the resources you need, said Neil, as he watched the students quickly discover how challenging a simple task is when they are given limited time to complete it. As the warmups continued, Krista and Neil provided kernels of advice that quickly moved the class from eager students to focused and determined performers.
Every time we see you starting to get the hang of it, we add something new, explained Krista. This turned out to be no exaggeration. Once the class got the essential rhythm of what they were learning, Neil and Krista had them devising work in pairs. Using principles from their own training with Suzuki and Viewpoints and direction from Neil and Krista, the students created short pieces adapted from a series of simple gestures. They then had each student perform with the audience placed in several different specific locations, experimenting with the ways in which proximity and sight-lines affect our interpretation of movement. To complete the day, the students learned simple lifts and choreography bits used in various Frantic Assembly productions.
In just the course of an afternoon, Frantic Assembly had given the students not only invaluable insight and advice, but also a vocabulary of new movement to use in their own work. And while Frantic Assembly may have 21 more years of practice, it was clear that they had inspired each eager student to re-think the ways they use their body in space and proved how physical awareness can be a story of its own.
Practical Aesthetics Scholarship recipient Langston Darby, who recently began his first year at our Full-Time Professional Conservatory, discusses how the Atlantic Technique helps develop actors who are comfortable with change.Several of my teachers have said “part of this first year is about getting comfortable being uncomfortable.” Generally, this statement means two things:
1. As an actor studying Practical Aesthetics, you have to get comfortable with not knowing exactly how every scene is going to go. Don’t be mistaken. You will prepare and you will rehearse. But if you’re really playing in the moment, everything you do will be based on what your partner is doing. You cannot control what your partner is playing; therefore, you will never know exactly what to do in a scene until you do it.
2. As an actor– as an artist in general, you have to figure out how to manage the inevitable challenges of the career. In a guest class, David Mamet said that most people quit the business because they can’t get used to being uncomfortable; I believe him. These days, just about everyone’s lives are full of uncertainty, but artists have pretty much always had it bad.
There is, however, a third inherent meaning in this statement.
Since starting at Atlantic, I’ve spent a lot of time examining the idea of habit. We try not to label habits as good or bad, but to identify the habits that support us and those that don’t. We try to learn new habits that elevate our work and keep us healthy. As nice as all this sounds, it’s no easy task. In his Principals of Psychology (a little required reading), William James says “that habit simplifies the movements required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue.” When we make something a habit, it requires less conscious effort to do. Consequently, when we try to create a new habit that opposes an old, ingrained habit… it can be a bummer, draining; ask anyone who has ever changed their diet.In an early voice class, practicing breathing stretches, our teacher said to tell her if something was painful, but to be aware of the difference between discomfort and pain. Changing the way you do anything can create discomfort, even if the changes are positive. Whether you’re moving to a new city or releasing muscles that you’ve been tensing for years; change can be uncomfortable. But if you can stick it out, if you can have patience and take care, discomfort can transform into a new normal– it may not have the same feeling as the old normal, it may take regular practice to maintain, but you can grow accustomed to it. If you’re willing, the faculty at Atlantic can help you discover remarkable potentials in yourself and work with you to develop those potentials into skills you can call your own. They coach you through the discomfort, and they warn you when you’re doing something that might hurt you. From what I’ve experienced, I can say that I’m working with professionals committed to guiding students on a journey to create habits that will allow us to be as versatile and evocative as we can, to be actors with longevity.
In another guest class, F. Murray Abraham talked to us about when he started working again after a few years of inactivity. He discovered that some of his skills weren’t as sharp as they used to be, so he had to get himself back into a regimen. I asked him how he balances the responsibilities of his career and life while staying in practice; he told me he gets up early. Mr. Abraham is 76 years old and is an energetic, focused, and dynamic person. He’s working on learning at least 50 of Shakespeare’s sonnets to keep his memorization and interpretative skills keen, he does daily vocal exercises, he rides a stationary bicycle. We don’t usually associate the words “discipline” with “comfort”, and it takes discipline to commit to that kind of practice. Today one of our teachers made it clear: “you’re doing something wrong if you’re comfortable when you’re doing a scene… discomfort is your best friend.” I believe her.
Hey Readers! I’m Christopher Ryan (Or Chris works too). I am a recent CityTech grad where I studied Advertising & Illustration and now the new Marketing Intern –Intern13. Really No one calls me Intern 13, it’s more for logins and computer related things but the title has a James Bond kind of ring to it (Minus the cool gear). My purpose here is to keep you guys up to date on the things I do here at the Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic Acting School; I’ll post pictures and various theater related things for you to enjoy.
Since starting my internship in early September, we had a back to school party that was crazy successful. It was the Atlantic’s first Back to School party ever; though you’d never tell from the pictures (some of which I shot). I helped create ads for the Atlantic Acting School’s Scholarship Open House which got printed in an issue of Backstage. As a designer I got really excited about that. The Open House which the ads were for turned out to be a pretty great event.
For the Atlantic Theater Company, Cloud Nine is doing great. We had the first reading in Atlantic’s Amplified series with There’s Never a Gavin which had a packed house and was received very well. Shout out to the cast for such an amazing job.
These are a few of the highlights so far. As I get the ball rolling on these posts, I’ll be sure to post pictures of the office, my fellow interns and other cool things. Til next time.
-Chris, Intern 13
RED CARPET ATLANTIC by Janine Repka, Atlantic Theater Company’s Manager of Individual Giving and Special Events
The nominations for the 67th Annual Emmy Awards were recently announced, and we’re so proud of all the Atlantic Ensemble Members, alumni and friends of the Company who were nominated. Among them are:
Join us in cheering on our Atlantic family by tuning into the awards ceremony on Sunday, September 20th on Fox!
PRACTICAL AESTHETICS SCHOLARSHIP – FALL 2015 RECIPIENTS
Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic Acting School introduced the Practical Aesthetics Scholarship in September 2014 and received over 100 applicants before the December 2014 deadline. After reviewing applications, interviewing select students, and holding audition panels, the Atlantic admissions team awarded four full scholarships to Atlantic Acting School’s Professional Conservatory. This year’s recipients include Vanessa Alvarado Flores and Jessica Hajdu-Nemeth, who will be attending the Evening Conservatory, and Langston Darby and Luke Ledger, who will be attending the Full-Time Conservatory.
“We want students to concentrate on honing their craft while attending Atlantic, and dealing with financial issues can take away from that focus,” said School Executive Director Mary McCann. “The Practical Aesthetics Scholarship will lighten the economic load for these talented students and give them the chance to fully invest themselves in the work. We’re thrilled to welcome Vanessa, Langston, Jessica and Luke to the Atlantic family, and look forward to seeing them grow as actors.”
Vanessa Alvarado Flores
Vanessa Alvarado Flores was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, along the Texas-Mexico border. Shortly after graduating from Texas A&M University, she was cast in her first film shot in Rio Grande City. Vanessa moved to Austin, Texas where she quickly joined the theater scene and signed up with a talent agent. She has performed on stage for productions by Teatro Vivo, the Aztlan Dance Company, and the Gale Theater Company. She has also appeared in regional commercials and public service announcements. She will soon complete a Master of Liberal Arts at St. Edward’s University.
“What interested me about the Atlantic Acting School is not only its curriculum but also that it has a support system for its actors. I believe it is a conservatory program that is invested in seeing its alumni succeed. And I want to succeed in this profession. Two years ago I decided to step out on faith and follow my heart. Receiving this scholarship has been a huge affirmation. I know that this opportunity is both a significant stepping stone and a huge door. I can’t wait to step through it.”
Langston Darby is a native of Laurel, Mississippi. Langston was a Drama major in the first graduating class of the Mississippi School of the Arts and went on to earn a BFA in Acting from the University of Southern Mississippi. Winning a Dorothy Haas Acting Apprenticeship at the historic Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, Langston stayed on and worked with numerous companies in the Delaware Valley such as 1812 Productions, Egopo Classic Theatre, The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Plays and Players Theatre, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Shakespeare in Clark Park, and the Walnut as an actor, performer, and teaching artist. Langston is also an improviser and a member of ComedySportz Philadelphia and Bright Invention, the ensemble of White Pines Productions.
“To me, this opportunity is about giving my career and craft a major portion of focus; allowing myself to really commit. I come from an, in a word, humble background. I’ve been able to live working various part-time jobs while doing non-equity regional work, but I really wouldn’t be able to attend a conservatory like this on my own.”
Jessica Hajdu-Nemeth hails from the great state of New Jersey, but she has seen much more of the world than just the Jersey shore. She studied at New York University’s Tish School of the Arts, did a semester abroad in Johannesburg, South Africa and lived in Berlin, Germany. Although, she has had many different jobs throughout the years, theater has always been her passion.
“The Atlantic Acting School is known for learned and talented actors and I wanted to include myself among them and learn their secrets. This is one of the greatest opportunities that has ever been bestowed upon me. The Practical Aesthetics Scholarship will finally enable me to complete my education, something that I had essentially given up on. This scholarship is a most precious and beautiful gift that I cannot wait to take full advantage of!”
Luke Ledger grew up in Perth, Western Australia and moved to Sydney at the age of 18 to pursue a career in performance. Luke gained representation and has worked on several projects in both film and television. The life experience Luke has acquired while working independently in pursuit of his career has been a wonderfully rich education so far and he is excited to expand his knowledge during his time at Atlantic Acting School.
“Along with all of the wonderful experiences that being on film and TV sets gave me, they weren’t without real times of doubt, rejection and costly mistakes made. That took a very real toll on my confidence. So when I received the good news [about the scholarship], it felt more than anything, like another chance to get back on the horse and finally study theatre and be the best performer I can be. This school has already instilled in me a sense of encouragement and reassurance, which has strengthened my belief that maybe I can be in a position one day to tell the stories that both myself and Atlantic want to tell.”
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: DEENA MARIE MANZANARES
During her time at Atlantic Acting School, alumna Deena Marie Manzanares performed the role of Darlene in Balm in Gilead. She was also chosen to perform a scene from Golden Boy during a master class with Atlantic co-founder David Mamet. Below, Deena Marie shares her acting career highlights after attending Atlantic’s Full-Time Conservatory. Want to share your story? Contact School Marketing Manager Cecile Oreste at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After graduating from Atlantic, I came back to my hometown of Salt Lake City, UT and worked steadily. I never expected to be successful at home, and had every intention of heading back to NYC. Instead, I found myself as a big fish in a small pond. My first professional show was in SLC at Pioneer Theatre Company in 2003. It was Cyrano de Bergerac. While my role was small, I shared the stage with Patrick Page! I have been a member of Actors Equity since 2007. I have been given incredible roles ever since. I played Hedda in The Sting & Honey Company’s Hedda Gabler last year. I am playing Blanche du Bois in Radical Hospitality Theater’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire this month. Other favorite credits include: Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, Shirin/Azedeh in The Persian Quarter, Sheila in Hair, and Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.
One thing Atlantic was always adamant about was creating your own work. I also took that advice to heart, creating a sketch comedy YouTube channel that became successful and launched me into other opportunities such as appearances on MTV, G4TV, national social media campaigns for Ford Motors, and features on national websites such as Mashable. It helped me grow in my local career, appearing on television here, and even leading to my own segment called Deena on the Local Scene, promoting entertainment in town starting this month!
I have a great agent and work on film projects as well as modeling jobs.
As a fixture in local press over the years, the Salt Lake Tribune did a front page feature on me, and I was recently on the cover of Salt Lake Magazine.
I’m known here for my professionalism and I have Atlantic to thank for that. I’m so proud of that. My time there shaped me into the person and performer I am today. I will always hold my time at Atlantic and in NYC as such a sacred time. I am truly lucky and I don’t think I could have what I have today if I hadn’t had trained where I did.
GUEST CLASS WITH GLENN CLOSE
Atlantic Acting School Full-Time Conservatory students are invited to a guest class every Friday during the school year. Guest teachers speak about their experience in the business, answer questions directly from students, and occasionally work with them on scene work. Previous guest teachers have included Atlantic co-founders David Mamet and William H. Macy, actress Kate Winslet, and alumni Peter Facinelli, Eloise Mumford and Elizabeth Olsen.
Last Friday, February 6, 2015, students were treated to a guest class with Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close. Below are a few photos from Ahron R. Foster and quotes from the class:
THE MYSTERY OF FAITH IN PROCESS
In keeping with Atlantic Acting School’s focus on creating your own work, 2014 Evening Conservatory alumni Bautista Duarte and Janine Renee Cunningham, formed the Coyote Theater Collective along with Australian writer Derran Moss-Dalmau. Their first original play Re:Late/Able, directed by Atlantic Full-Time Conservatory alumna and Director of Admissions Brandi-lea Harris, runs February 19 – 22 at the Access Theater in New York City. Tickets purchased online are $12 with special Atlantic discount code “CandyGimlet.”
Playwright Derran Moss-Dalmau discusses the complex process of creating Re:Late/Able including character development, workshops and more:
Theatre process is a strange thing. It seems rigid and flexible, a help and a hindrance, reassuring and terrifying. It is both solid and liquid, keeping you locked into a form in order to allow you to function, but also forcing you to flowing around it to fill every space, every chance, every possibility. And sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work at all, and you throw everything away and leap sideways and forwards and out and up and away. And that’s probably what it intended.
But most importantly, or at least most relevantly, it’s not something I knew anything about. I knew about stringing words together into pleasant-sounding cantrips and convolutions. If I were being philosophical, I would say that I knew about the basis of turning energy into action and action into emotion. If I were being self-flagellatory, I would confess I knew about writing short sketches for laughs so poorly earned that to call them cheap would be to diminish the concept of cheapness to a null point of meaning.
So when two Atlantic alums – Bautista Duarte and Janine Cunningham – raised the possibility of writing a full-length theatrical work and them actually performing the show, I was intrigued and excited. What little I knew of the Atlantic Acting School and its Practical Aesthetics technique was derived from attending an end-of-semester showcase and numerous conversations, often assisted by a healthy application of liquor. But it seemed grounded, it seemed sensible and above all, it – or at least the two Atlantica alumni before me – seemed pro-active. And thus, we forged forward to discuss, debate and conceptualise a play.
Working from a broad initial concept (“relationships….and technology…and love….?”) we sat together to develop something new, that we hoped would say something interesting about love and connecting with others in a time of technology. The initial overview had four friends at three dinner parties, with a duo of possible lovers providing commentary and a pair of possible paramours arriving late. There were eight characters, three simultaneous physical locations, three consecutive time periods and a division on stage between the real and the virtual world, with audio-visual technology employed throughout as a virtual ninth character. Suffice to say, it was a work of staggering conceptual genius and near-impossible actual execution. It was also preachy, obvious and, for a time, involved actors collecting macro-data from audience members in breach of Federal law.
Around and around the concept cycled, with the Atlantic alumni sensibly raising the “why” for each one of my “and thens.”
Characters, even the most absurd and overblown, needed reasons, they needed to want something, to go somewhere, to achieve something, and not simply to be and to exist. A chair could be and exist, but using a chair was a choice and had meaning and import. And thus the narrative changed. The seventh and eighth characters dropped away, followed by the sixth (he was a fool, albeit a handsome one), and then the screen with the tweets and then audience asides with the recitations of texts. Finally, even the fifth character was metaphorically killed, though for those who loved Colin, be rest assured that he lives on at the heart of the script –much spoken of, much maligned, though never seen. And then finally, as we circled the final conceptual drain, the technology was removed, completely, to make reference to its absence rather than wrestle with its presence.
And we were left with a leaner, meaner, script. 70 pages, lots of booze, four characters and one increasingly stressful dinner party.
A broad discussion, turned into a tight concept with a shaky script which then became the launching point for workshops, revisions, debates, deviations and more workshops. A process of searching for something, an elusive quarry that might be glibby called “truth,” but in reality is that near-intangible sense of “it’s right.” The workshop approach in this regard was critical. Though discussed between three people, the lifeless words transform under even the most brusque table-reading into an actual script -faults and incongruities laid bare like the rightly-feared conversational dead-cat, flopped onto the table and beginning the smell. And there was many a cat that died in the service of the early drafts of the script*. Transitioning a script from concept to draft and then through an evolutionary process measured in days and weeks, not months and eons, meant that the script carried with it many ghosts from earlier ideas. Characters, lines, references and timeframes all changed and each reading revealed not only those moments that rang wrong with the flaccidity of a moist plaster gong, but also those that retained echoes of lives no longer lived by characters both alive and dead. Perhaps the workshops were the theatrical equivalency of Schrödinger’s cat after all**.
Workshops and auditions brought into the fold two more actors– Jackie Viscusi, a stand-up and improv specialist to play the role of slightly unhinged best-friend Fran, and Brent Dixon, a veteran of The Flea Theatre to play the maybe-possibly-could-be boyfriend Paul. And with new blood came new discoveries, new readings and new questions to answer. And of course, that meant revisions, edits and a further mutation to the tale. All of a sudden the voices in the playwright’s head were not the only voices the characters might possess. These characters suddenly had their own, terrifying identities, loosely limber and breaking free of the inky constraints of the page, muscling up to demand attention. Nuances appeared, driven by slight inflections, minor tics, major movements, fresh perspectives. I could feel the piece suddenly springing into life on its own in ways that were both expected (which was thrilling) and unexpected (which was even more thrilling). The lightning had struck the anodes and earthed on the brain-pan of the written word and what arose from the operating desk was familiar and wholly unexpected. I was seeing things I hadn’t seen, meaning things I never meant, hearing things that I could not, once vocalised, un-hear. I feared it might kill us all, and urged it to do so, if only to see where that led.
But an audience doesn’t want to just see a monster, at least not one untethered and mindless. Direction is needed to channel those diabolical energies down useful, dangerous and exciting paths. And a story should be exciting, in the sense that it evokes emotion, reaction and response. It should awaken and energise something in the actors and through them the audience. The story must leave the leaden and dreary rooms where it is written and sear itself across the frontal lobes of the front row, the actors playing the role of conduit and catalyst. Or so is the hope. With this in mind and the script in such a shape that it could be held (even if with the tremulous fragility with which a small child holds the leash of an excitable Baskervillian hound) we turned to two more Atlantic alums to take charge of that leash and bring the woolly monster to heel – Brandi-lea Harris, Director of Admissions for Atlantic Acting School and Atlantic professional conservatory alumnus stepped on as our Director, and Karen Frances, indomitable Atlantic improv elf as Stage Manager.
And thus we were joined. Concept to draft, draft to workshop, workshop to audition, audition to final script, final script to director, director to the stage. Once more unto the breach, to the front of the stage, to the very edge of madness, and then onwards and into the unknown, that yawning creative chasm between the actor’s front foot and the audience member’s seated behind, that must now be bridged by carefully crafted dark arts rooted in that very mystery I first mentioned – theatre process.
Whatever that may be…
* No actual cats were harmed in the writing of this script.
** Seriously, I really promise I don’t have a thing against cats.
DIRECTOR’S LAB FOR THE ACTOR WITH NEIL PEPE AND TODD THALER
Get the chance to train with Atlantic Theater Company Artistic Director Neil Pepe and Casting Director Todd Thaler in our upcoming Director’s Lab for the Actor, January 23 – 24, 2015 at Atlantic Acting School, 76 Ninth Avenue, Suite 537! This Lab Intensive is for the serious working actor with prior training and performance experience who is ready to bring their work to the director’s eye. After being cast in their roles for the weekend’s working rehearsal, participants will experience a table read with their director followed by a casting workshop with Casting Director Todd Thaler. Day two offers a full day of exploring the creative process, technique and the business of working on plays with Artistic Director Neil Pepe through a working rehearsal / lab format. Below are a couple testimonials from previous Director’s Lab students:
“Director’s Lab was a terrific way to blow the dust off acting muscles in a compact amount of time. Fitting an intense workout into my busy schedule, since it only involved a day and half, was perfect. With only 12 actors, working on six scenes, everyone got individual coaching, while learning still more by watching Neil work on the other scenes, too. Neil is a wonderful teacher, perceptive, encouraging — he leads actors into discovering things which I think is the best way to learn. Plus, Todd Thaler’s on-camera coaching was delightful — he’s warm and funny, and set everyone at ease, while giving terrific, practical tips for on-camera auditioning. I loved the entire experience!” – Michele Remsen
“I loved studying with Neil. It was a great experience and didn’t have the taste of a “pay to play” like a lot of classes of the sort have. Neil and Todd truly committed their time and expertise and we all benefitted from it. It is by far the most beneficial work I have ever done as an actor because of the people in the class all being at a similar level – more classwork like this for people who are working and can not attend school full-time is key.” – Gil Perez-Abraham
SCHOOL PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT: THE FLASHBULB PROJECT PRESENTS A LIE OF THE MIND
The Fifth Semester of Atlantic Acting School’s Full-Time Conservatory Program focuses on polishing skills, applying them in performance and transitioning into the professional community. The combination of classes, sophisticated full-length productions and mounting of a company show challenges actors to refine their performance skills while preparing them to begin their careers. This year’s Fifth Semester Students created theater company The Flashbulb Project, along with Twitter, Facebook and Blogger accounts to promote their events including their inaugural production A Lie of the Mind December 5 – 6 at Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16th Street. Tickets are $5 cash at the box office and can be reserved online.
Atlantic student and A Lie of the Mind director Kyle Leibovitch tells us how Sam Shepard’s work fulfills their company’s mission:
As a collective of global artists, our mission is to distill the light and dark of life into basic human moments. We invite the audience to share a personal and immediate experience in hopes of uncovering that which unites us. We are the Flashbulb Project. Our inaugural production is Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. But how does the show fulfill our mission?
I’ve often heard that Sam Shepard’s works revolve around myths. The Western Myth. What the hell does that even mean? Sam would say, a lie, or an ancient formula that is expressed as a means of handing down a very specific knowledge. But what are we lying about? What specific ‘knowledge’ are we handing down?
I was struck while reading an interview with Sam Shepard in American Theater Reader when asked what myths mean to him:
The thing that’s powerful about a myth is that it’s the communication of emotions, at the same time ancient and for all time…They’ll always be true. Hopefully, in writing a play, you can snare emotions that aren’t just personal emotions, not just catharsis, not just psychological emotions that you’re getting off your chest, but emotions and feelings that are connected with everybody…you start with something personal and see how it follows out and opens to something that’s much bigger.
(Rhythm and Truths, Amy Lippman, April 1984)
I love that. Emotions and feelings that are connected with everybody. Love. Hate. Sounds like our mission. But in the context of this play, my mind keeps coming back to lies.
Have you ever told a lie because the truth was too hard to bare? To others? To yourself? I know I have. Funny thing about a lie, eventually the truth comes to light. Because as hard as the truth is to bare, so is the lie. Then why tell the lie? Why admit the truth? Why don’t we just deny the world around us? Most of us do to some extent.
As we’ve worked on A Lie of the Mind I find myself constantly searching for answers. As I hear every character tell their story, I don’t know what’s the truth. I don’t know what’s a lie. I don’t know who’s come to terms with their lies. I don’t know who’s creating new lies to cope with the present. I don’t know who’s denying the world around them. But then again, I’m not interested in theater that provides the answer. I’m interested in theater that asks the question.
SCHOOL PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT: MORITZ VON STUELPNAGEL
Students at Atlantic Acting School not only have the opportunity to train with industry professionals, but they also work directly with them on school productions. Moritz von Stuelpnagel, director of Hand To God which comes to Broadway next year, has been working with our Atlantic/NYU Studio third year students on Molière’s The Learned Ladies. The production opens Wednesday, November 19 and runs through Saturday, November 22 at Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16th Street. Tickets are $5 cash at the box office and can be reserved online.
Here’s what Moritz had to say about working with our students: “I’ve worked at a number of professional training programs, but I have to say that directing at the Atlantic is a particular pleasure. The students are well versed in analyzing text, speaking with clarity and rich point of view, and being front-footed in playing actions. By putting storytelling at the forefront of their work, they have great fluidity and wit. But also, the company building within each class has brought great ease and familiarity to the ensemble. They love to play together. These students are excited to work, and that enthusiasm has made them tirelessly creative. Not only that, but I think the positive spirit has allowed the comedy in this production to flourish, even without compromising the integrity of their characters.”
And a few notes about the production: “When Moliere originally wrote The Learned Ladies, he was out to lambast the French salon. But of course, that kind of cultural phenomenon is a little antiquated to a contemporary audience. So we’ve chosen to modernize the play by setting it in present day Orange County, California. The original emphasis on philosophy and rising above the physical plane translates to modern day fixations on new age spirituality. Meditation, yoga, pretentious book clubs, juice cleanses, metaphysics. Not that any of these things are without their good qualities, but I suspect we all know people who take them way too seriously and consequently fall into a sense of superiority. These are the new signifiers of erudition for today’s leisure class. That, to me, make them worthy fodder for satire. And I have to say, the cast has whole heartedly embraced this concept and taken particular joy in ridiculing it, even when they may have sometimes participated in the above activities themselves. Plus, forgoing period dress, including corsets and the like, has allowed this to be a distinctly physical and fast-paced production. It’s accessible, sly fun.”
More about Moritz: Moritz von Stuelpnagel is the Artistic Director of Studio 42, New York’s producer of “unproducible” plays. His production of Robert Askins’ Hand to God received acclaimed runs at MCC Theater and Ensemble Studio Theatre, and will transfer to Broadway in March. The show was named one of the best productions of the year by New York Magazine, Time Out, and the Huffington Post, and earned four Lortel Award nominations (including Outstanding Director), an SDC Joe A. Callaway nomination for directing, and won the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for best new play. Other recent New York productions include Mike Lew’s Bike America at Ma-Yi Theatre, Nick Jones’ Trevor at Lesser America, Robert Askins’ Love Song of the Albanian Sous Chef and Daniel Reitz’s Turnabout both at EST, Mel & El: Show & Tell at Ars Nova, Gary Sunshine’s Best Sex Ever at Rising Phoenix Rep, and Adam Szymkowicz’sMy Base and Scurvy Heart, Michael Mitnick’s Spacebar, Timothy Charles Browne’s The Most Lamentable and Tragical Historie of the Barber-Surgeons, and Clay McLeod Chapman’s friendly fireall at Studio 42. Regionally, his work has been seen at the Alliance, Williamstown, Kennedy Center, Millbrook Playhouse, American Stage Festival, Red Barn, Allentown Shakespeare, and Boston Playwrights. He has helped develop new plays at the Lark, Lincoln Center, MTC, NYTW, Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout, Vineyard, Williamstown, Huntington, Primary Stages, EST, Page 73, Dramatists Guild, Ars Nova, Ma-Yi, New River Dramatists, Partial Comfort, 2G, Apothetae, TBTB, APAC, Goethe Institute, Southampton Writers Conference, Studio 42, TerraNOVA Collective, and Young Playwrights. He has served as a guest director at more than a dozen universities, including Juilliard, Rutgers, Fordham, Strasberg Institute, Boston University, and the University of Rochester. Coming up: All Is Calm (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), Verité (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3), Hand to God (Broadway’s Booth Theatre). www.moritzvs.com
ACTING IN THE CITY
In addition to performing at our black box theater Atlantic Stage 2, our students have also showcased their talents throughout New York City. Whether they are practicing repetition in Union Square or performing Shakespeare monologues on the High Line, the students at Atlantic Acting School have truly embraced the city as their own. Here are a few pictures from recent Atlantic events throughout the city:
APRIL 2014 GUEST CLASS RECAP
Thanks to all the faculty, alumni and guests who taught our Conservatory students this past month! Here are a few highlights from our guest classes including photos and quotes from David Mamet and F. Murray Abraham.
On auditions: “Auditions are humiliating. They come to fail. They come apologizing. Come to kick ass. Know your objective.”
On acting: “The strength comes from NOT doing it…let it come out. Pick up the cues.”
On blocking: “That’s all blocking is-to get what you want. That’s why anyone moves in any situation. If there isn’t drama what is the scene about?”
On auditions: “”There’s only one thing you have to sell and it’s you. It’s the only thing you have that nobody else has. Try to remember that at auditions”
On actors: “”You’re not JUST an actor. Don’t ever say that. Without you there is nothing.”
On school: “”Follow your teachers’ advice but don’t lose track of who you are. It’s a hard thing to do.”
Conservatory students were also treated to guest classes from Christine Lahti and Jon Michael Hill during the month of April. Both provided great feedback and advice to students including this quote from Jon Michael Hill:
“During auditions don’t take it personally when people are talking/texting. Just do the best work you can and prepare.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: MARCH 2014 EDITION
Atlantic Acting School students, faculty and alumni have been busy! In case you missed it, here are the latest headlines featuring members of the Atlantic family. Have an article you want to share? Contact Cecile Oreste, School Marketing Manager, at email@example.com or tweet a link to @atlanticacting.
GUEST CLASS WITH COMPANY MEMBER TODD WEEKS
“The discussion with Todd Weeks gave me a very helpful perspective on the life of a working actor. In an industry so obsessed with meteoric rises to fame and big breaks, I think many, myself included to some extent, view our future careers with a sort of “all or nothing” mentality–there’s nothing in between an acting student and Brad Pitt. When in reality, if you really focus on doing what you most enjoy you will find a way to sustain yourself and make a living. Commitment to your dreams and goals will make them come true in ways you can’t even imagine.”
-Jefferson Reardon, NYU 3rd Year
“I thought Todd was a great guest speaker. As a man that from the start was completely aware and self deprecating about his lack of celebrity, he focused on what was really important to us aspiring actors: his real tangible experiences working hard to be a paid actor over the last 25 years. He was attentive to listen to our questions and answered them as best he could with sometimes funny, and always enlightening, anecdotes. I appreciated the time and care he took when answering my question about how he personalized Practical Aesthetics for himself. Great speaker, great person.”
-Ian Pryzchodniez, Conservatory 2nd Year
“Todd’s talk shed light on a side of acting that students often don’t hear that much about – how a working actor can make a successful living without the stereotypical glamour and luxury so often associated with modern acting. His talk really made me think about what it means to be a successful actor – and reminded me that the drive to do something you love to do is an extremely powerful thing.”
-Deanna Beaman, NYU 1st Year
Mar 7, 2013 1:48pm
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: MIKAELA FEELY-LEHMANN
It had been a year. A year since graduating from Atlantic Acting School’s NYU program. A year without an audition. A year of taking jobs as a babysitter, as a youth theater teacher, as a social media developer for a recipe website. And for someone who had spent half her life in conservatory theater training, a year might as well have been a decade.
“I was thinking, ‘this is terrible,’” says Mikaela Feely-Lehmann. “’Maybe I should work in social media.’ That is an actual thought I had.”
It was 2010, and Feely-Lehmann felt powerless. She had worked hard for four years at one of the most respected undergraduate programs in the country, and had spent her high school years “rolling around at a performing arts school.” But the audition circuit had been harder to jump aboard than she had anticipated, and creating her own work seemed even more daunting. As a last gasp, she responded to an email from her alma mater, seeking young women to audition for the Atlantic Theater Company’s new production of Gabriel. She received a polite nod and a “thank you,” and the show was cast…without her. Continue Reading →
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: CHRIS SMITH
Perhaps no other Atlantic alum has his hand in as many pots as Chris Smith. The star of Paranormal Activity 3 and the CBS pilot Ex-Men is also the founding member of the award-winning sketch group Harvard Sailing Team, a regular presence in commercials, and a part-time screenwriter.
When you came to Atlantic… what were you expecting?
I actually originally enrolled at NYU in Arts and Sciences program. I was in General Studies. But during my freshman year, I took an Intro to Acting class, taught by [Atlantic faculty member] Anya Saffir. And that class made me want to be an actor. My expectations as I started Atlantic were just that I’d work with her… and I’d lose my Long Island accent.
What part of your training stood out to you?
The first thing that stands out is the work I did in voice class with Katie Bull. She was the one who really made the light bulb go off, in terms of making acting about a physical experience, of having a relationship with your body. I remember Katie Bull pointing at me and saying “stop. Stop right there. You see what you’re doing, physically? You’re blocking your emotional availability. Stop and live in the moment.” And she was right. Continue Reading →
FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: ANYA SAFFIR
The play might be the thing – but it hasn’t been the only thing for a long time. Film, TV, and webisodes have served as launching pads for countless actors (hell, Patrick Stewart tried picking up a gig on The Daily Show). So it might seem an old-fashioned approach to hone in on the classics. I mean, when it comes to Shakespeare, or Chekhov, or the Greeks… how many ways are there to do it?
Anya Saffir, who teaches Shakespeare, Chekhov, and postwar British drama at the Atlantic, would answer by pointing to a single scene from Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Continue Reading →