By Christina Bottley
One of the most important lessons that I learned during my time at Atlantic Acting School’s Evening Conservatory was to trust the journey because you never know where it will take you.
On this journey I found my tribe. A tribe of actors and friends who encourage and lift each other up, and who are gracious and giving. It is out of this tribe that a few of my fellow alumni and I have founded our own theater company called the A Collective. So many wonderful people contributed to my time at Atlantic, one of them being Chris Booth, Director of Admissions. He saw me in a monologue competition, gave me a callback, and then I attended Atlantic. To meet someone who believes in you and is willing to give you a chance is few and far between. I learned so much from my teachers, who exemplified the spirit of being an ensemble in each of their classes, believed in us, continue to cheer us on, and who selflessly gave of their time/energy 4 nights a week to teach us the tools to help us better ourselves as actors.
A highlight of being in the Evening Conservatory is your final production. In our year, we were fortunate enough to work with a playwright that wrote an original piece for our ensemble. Here is the journey of that creative process …
We Met Our Playwright
At the beginning of our second semester, we met with our Playwright; Danny Rocco. It was here that he shared his vision of creating a one act show about what EXACTLY went down at the 1944 Democratic Convention to be called, Convention. Since we were a class of almost 30, this was a BRILLIANT idea. And most exciting of all – we would be performing our workshop production at Atlantic Theater Company’s historic Off-Broadway Linda Gross Theater!
The Journey Begins
It was in that first meeting with Danny, that we were introduced to his playwriting technique, the Score. We were given an excerpt from a One Act play that he had written and at first glance (as a musician and singer) I saw not music notes written on a musical staff, but lines! I remember thinking how different and unique it was from the traditional way that a script is normally written. I knew from that moment, that we were on a journey. The following month, we met with Danny individually so he could get to know us. He explained that he would be recording each conversation so he could write lines for us in the rhythm of our natural speech patterns. From there, we were cast. I was to play: Frank Walker, Postmaster General. Danny carried the spirit of the Ensemble since the conception of Convention. He reminded us that it was not only his play, but ours. He tasked each of us to research our characters, read books, and watch documentaries on the 1944 Convention. Each week we discussed and collaborated with him on our findings.
The Rehearsals & Performance
We hit the ground running as soon as we were in the rehearsal process. Aside from all our other classes, we headed into our Production class for the first table read. It was clear that this was going to be very different, not only in how we held the script, but how we would have to learn our lines. To be honest, not knowing how to go about learning my lines made me very nervous. I created a system the past 2 semesters when it came to memorizing lines for my scenes and it was clearly not going to work for this. I took a deep breath and reminded myself what I had been hearing all year long: trust the journey.
It was in this final semester of working to put on this show that I really felt the energy of what Atlantic instilled in us; being an ensemble and bringing it all to life. Everyone was willing to work together, encourage each other, and were all gracious and giving. As we inched closer and closer to our opening night, we grew, trusted, and worked together to become a stronger ensemble. It became clearer and clearer that we were part of something special, and when we opened at the Linda Gross, the audience felt it too. We sold out our two night run, and the audience began to buzz that they wanted to see more. Two months later, we did a remount at the Linda Gross for one night where we debuted an Act II. It was clear after both workshop productions that the journey for Convention was not over.
But Wait – There’s More
Two years later, in May of 2019, we came together once again, with Danny our Playwright and our Director Shannon Fillion, to begin rehearsals for the world debut of Convention at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn. Convention ran for the entire month of June. Not only were audience members raving about the show, the critics were calling us a hit! If you missed the opportunity to see Convention, don’t worry. I have a feeling that this journey is far from over. (www.brontosaurushaircut.com/convention)
As I look back on Convention, I am grateful that I trusted the journey from where it all began – in Atlantic’s Evening Conservatory. Within the first week of classes, I knew that I was right where I needed to be. The year that I was a student at Atlantic was life changing. I learned so much about myself and who I am as an actor, I learned to let go, I learned to be brave, I learned to be fearless and to ignore the voice of resistance, I learned that it was okay to make mistakes and to allow myself to be messy, I learned that as an actor it is not about me. Instead, my job is to discover the writer’s intentions and serve the purpose of the play for the audience. And finally, I learned to not wait for anyone to tell me that it was my time, but to create my own work, which I am currently doing by writing my own one woman show. It is about being a Korean Adoptee and my mother’s heroic journey to adopt me.
Much More To Come
You never know what may come your way, but when an opportunity presents itself, take a chance and trust the journey. I will always be grateful that my journey brought me to Atlantic and for the time I spent in the Evening Conservatory.