To End is to Begin: From Conservatory Students to Company Founders

House of Bernarda Alba curtain call

Rory Byrne and Lumka Coleman are in their final semester of Atlantic’s Full-Time conservatory, a program that equips students with the tools to found their own theater company.

It is the final semester for the Atlantic Acting School’s 2019 Conservatory Class – whose members became the founders of the Bluebird Theatre Company – and the air is bristling with anticipation. It’s time.

Time to unpack and explore the company’s up-coming inaugural play The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcìa Lorca in a new adaptation by Emily Mann directed by Bluebird Ensemble member, Romain Mereau. Time to polish and finesse the skills it takes to stage a play from the ground up: as taught in the Atlantic Technique, the company will build, realize and create every element from sound, lighting, set and costume with the support of Atlantic along the way. Time to absorb the wisdom of valued instructors who have become colleagues and mentors. Time to trust in craft built over two and a half years of full-time training.

Having just finished tremendously successful runs of Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and Shakespeare’s As You Like It, 10 ensemble members of Bluebird Theatre Company – Carmo Bebiano, Alice Corti, Georgia Gabriele, Brianna Gill, Josie Mura, Alexandra Rigby, Gracie Rittenberg, Jillian Tayeh, Jane Wirth and Töve Wood, are entrenched in rehearsals for The House of Bernarda Alba – an ambitious culmination of their training at Atlantic.

In rehearsals for The House of Bernarda Alba, this training proves to be fundamental. Crucial lessons from their classes shift from theory to practice: advanced movement techniques, Suzuki Actor Training and Viewpoints taught by Kelly Maurer, founding member of Siti Company – as well as extensive Chuck Jones and Fitzmaurice vocal training taught by vocal expert Francine Zerfas. This is the heart of craft. These tools help actors ground their bodies and access their instruments, enabling them to meet the demands of any material. As acting is emotionally and physically intense, the rigor with which an ensemble can perform is dependent on these skills. Rehearsals for The House of Bernarda Alba demands the cast find muscularity and vulnerability, swinging between these polarities; a skill each actor finds through training the body for the work.

These movement and vocal practices combine with the aptly named Practical Aesthetics technique, also known as the Atlantic Technique, allowing each actor to find a deeply personal connection to this raw and intense piece of material while maintaining a healthy physical and emotional state. Actors can trust they will bring themselves to bear on the material, and then leave it on the stage behind them.

The Bluebird Theatre Company is continuously dipping into the toolbox of skills they have gained through their time at Atlantic Acting School. They’re hungry to keep testing their abilities whether from the Edith Skinner-based Speech classes taught by Susan Finch, Shakespeare and Chekhov scene studies taught by Anya Saffir, Script Analysis and Performance Technique taught by Cynthia Silver, or On-Camera Film and TV classes taught by names like Todd Thaler, Katie Flahive and Jennifer Rau. With the glowing expertise of its faculty – including specialized Speech classes with Charley Layton designed for accent reduction – it’s no wonder Atlantic boasts such a large international draw. More than 1/3 of the Bluebird ensemble are non-native to the US.

The years of intense training have become a springboard for the ensemble to demand more from themselves as they near the end of their journey with the school. Bluebird Theatre Company ensemble members are ready to take their next leaps and are reminded of their seedling beginnings. What began as a group of individuals, daring enough to enter the incredibly rigorous program Atlantic Acting School offers, has grown into a family of artists who have come together to create a kaleidoscopic vision and tell a timeless story.

The Bluebird Theatre Company embodies the hopeful, voracious and unencumbered spirit of the Bluebird. In bringing to life stories that spark curiosity, challenge perception and inspire human connection, we aim to leave an indelible, positive imprint on the soul.