Amy Abrigo did our RADA “Shakespeare at Large” Summer Acting Intensive last summer, 2016. We caught up with Amy as she was applying to MFA Directing programs, and here’s what she had to say:
1. What skills did you pick up that most helped you professionally?
Remembering to breathe! This is a skill that can be used in any profession or stressful situation, but it was really wonderful to be shown so many ways to get connected to our breath.
The professor who taught us voice (not singing) shared with us plenty of stretches, warm ups, and ways to get our voices connected to the text. We learned new ways to breathe and were also heavily reminded to keep breathing while onstage. There is so much that can really come alive onstage when you are fully connected to your breath.
2. What is your fondest memory from RADA?
- One of my fondest memories from RADA was watching the other members of my class visibly grow in their skill-set as the course continued. We learned so much in a short amount of time, and it was beautiful to see those changes come alive when we were asked to redo our monologue at the end of the week that we originally did on the first day.
- There was a time when the entire class went out to a pub after class to get to know each other and have a good time. We were all talking about practicing lines and working hard and it was great to be in a space where everyone was there for the same purpose and really enjoyed what they were doing in the program.
- Every day, Tim would sit us down during rehearsal and just talk to us. Tell us about theatre, share stories of his past with us, and teach us these beautiful overarching lessons through one story. I really enjoyed when he shared his wisdom with us, and it reminded me of how although we live in different countries and focus on specific disciplines, all of my fellow students and professors are part of this larger lovely community of theatre artists who just love making art and that really excites me.
3. What impressed you the most about the program?
The level of training we received was nearly equivalent to master’s level in the United States, in my opinion, which was fantastic! All of the professors treated us as professional artists. We were given high expectations and expected to follow them and that was it. I loved that we were actually pushed to challenge ourselves and learned so much along the way.
4. What advice would you give to someone going on the program this summer?
Arrive earlier or stay later if you can so you can really explore London, the theatres, etc. If you can, save up or fundraise extra money so you can make a longer trip out of the program. You’re going to London, why not take a train to Scotland? Or stay a few more days in London just to explore?
I would also highly recommend getting most of your food from the grocery store instead of eating out or PRET-A-MANAGER, which can be much more expensive and not necessarily as healthy. There are so many grocery stores on almost every block in London, so it is easy to find a Sainsbury’s, where you can get a 3-5 pound meal deal, which means you pay about 3-5 pounds for a full lunch. This is a great option for RADA lunches, is much cheaper, and actually quite healthy as they use all natural ingredients and have healthier options in London compared to America.
I would also recommend carrying cash instead of using a card as there are transaction fees every time you use your card. Take money out in waves with your debit card if you need to, and then just use cash. It’s so much easier and doesn’t cost you more.
Try out a few of the local pubs! Alcohol actually tastes much better in London, is much cheaper, and there are so many more options! Also, the bartenders actually let you try something before you buy it, so try something new!
Theatre is much cheaper in London and every West End theatre has rush or lottery tickets, so try for those! They are the cheapest tickets and also the best (usually front row)! Don’t forget about the other off-West End theatres in London. I’d recommend the Almeida Theatre, but ask your professors! They know the area, they might even be working on a show, and they can let you know what shows are open and good to see! So bring extra money for tickets! Be sure to see any ‘Broadway’ shows you want to see as well because – you guessed it – they are actually cheaper in London.
Be sure to check out the local museums – I recommend the Victoria & Albert museum, but look up when you are walking around or taking the tube because you will see posters everywhere telling you what exhibits are currently out, etc.
Also, take the Tube! You have an Oystercard for a majority of the program, but there are some days that aren’t covered, and if you arrive early / stay late for the trip, you can order a visitor’s Oystercard online ahead of time for a lower cost. If you can get day passes instead of individual rates it’s great because you can take the Tube/buses as much as you want whenever you want and not have to worry. Use the Tube! Yes, you can walk everywhere, but you will get a lot more done if you use the Tube to explore all the areas of London. Don’t be afraid! You will make it, and you will feel so much better once you get a hang of the system – and then you will ask why every country doesn’t have this much accessibility.