To Ecuador…and Beyond

Abi Nelson participated in PAA’s Music Internship in Ecuador in Fall 2017. She is from Edinburgh and has just begun a job at The Orpheus in Surrey just outside London, an opportunity she says grew directly out of the work she did during her PAA program. Another exciting example of a PAA participant using our program as a springboard for her career in the arts!

Getting ready to leave university is a pretty daunting thing. Will I get a good grade? Where will I be in a few months time? How will I pay for things without student finance? Will I get a job?? I never would have guessed that just 3 months after walking across that stage in my gown and cap that not only would I have travelled across the world to live in Ecuador for two months doing something amazing, but I would also get a job that I not only get paid for, but I LOVE. And who’s to thank?

Performing Arts Abroad.

Love at first sight…

In my final months of my university career, I had a lot of thinking to do. I knew I wanted to travel after I graduated. I also knew I wanted to work in the field of Theatre for Development. What I didn’t know is that I could do both those things immediately after I finished university and that one would provide a kickstart for the other. How did it all happen? Well, that’s a long story. But I’ll try cut it down for you…


Going back a few years, when I was 18 I went to study Drama at Kingston University in London. Not exactly a parent’s dream – especially when I threatened to study Law just a few years prior – but my favourite subject nonetheless. Apart from knowing I didn’t want to be an actress, I didn’t have a clue what I would do with a degree in Drama. I loved directing, teaching… anything that helped others achieve anything they wanted. But it wasn’t until my third year of university that I discovered Theatre for Development (TfD – theatre used as a developmental tool). I had finally found what I had been looking for, putting my passion for the Arts into helping others.


It was while searching for a way to combine my new found love with my old one – Theatre for Development and travel – when I stumbled upon Performing Arts Abroad, an amazing organisation offering study abroad programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities all over the world in the Performing Arts.

Skipping ahead a few months and I’m all set to head off to Ecuador! The team at PAA had made everything so easy. They had listened to everything I hoped to achieve during my time abroad and tailored a programme just for me. I was off to work in Sinamune, a school for disabled people with a focus on the Performing Arts. And although the school didn’t have drama lessons, they said I could start my own drama class. It seemed too good to be true!

As soon as I arrived in Quito I knew I was somewhere special. From the beautiful mountains and volcanos to the exquisite streets and parks, I had a feeling I was going to have an amazing two months. Arriving at Sinamune only confirmed that.

Sinamune is an amazing organisation founded by Edgar Palacios, Ecuador’s famous trumpet player. Starting as just music classes for a few disabled people, it has expanded to an amazing school with around 80 students studying music, dance and art, along with regular studies such as language skills and maths. From my second week, I was teaching 15 students drama (and 3 students Piano). It had its challenges of course, like the students having no previous drama experience and me having not too much skill with Spanish (the language I had to teach in). But with 6 hours of Spanish classes a week after school and the ever-growing confidence of my students, we very quickly got into the swing of things. And we had something to work towards! The school wanted the class to do a performance at the end of my 8 weeks in front of fellow students, the students’ families, and tourists. I remember feeling so much pride and love for every one of my students that day.

While doing some research for what to do with my drama class, I found the website for an amazing company in the UK doing a similar thing to Sinamune. The Orpheus Centre is an independent specialist college in Surrey that increases the confidence and skills of young disabled adults through the performing arts. I knew instantly I wanted to be a part of it, and there happened to be a job going in the fundraising department. I have always enjoyed fundraising and I knew it can be an invaluable way of ensuring the continuity of organisations like Orpheus and Sinamune. Although I was worried about my reasonable lack of experience, I applied. Not long after, I was having an interview over Skype. They were so interested to hear about the work I was doing at Sinamune and thought it gave me invaluable, transferable experience that I could bring to Orpheus. I was overjoyed when I got the job offer.

After a tearful leaving party, and an incredible trip through the Cloud Forest, Andes and Amazon with my dad, I was ready to head back home. I had a few days at home to say hi to the family, then I was back down South to start my next adventure. I truly believe my experience in Ecuador not only gave me life-long friends and memories, but it also gave me a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do and a huge boost into my career.

Julia Perry Alum Spotlight Interview: RADA

We had a chance to catch up with PAA alum Julia Perry, and she offered us some insight about her experience on our RADA program!

1. What skills did you pick up that most helped you professionally?

The skills I picked up that helped me the most were most definitely those I developed when I was thrown into living and studying with a completely new group of people. Not only was it my first time living on my own, but it was my first time living in another country, and so immediately we all learned how to live and function as a little family. Additionally, I learned how to navigate and stay focused during a long school day! Although the classes are quite enjoyable, they are very long days, and so I learned how to stay energized and focused through long classroom days!

2. What is your fondest memory from RADA?

My fondest memory by far is the last day of classes. Doing our mini performance we weren’t focused on anything but doing our best and having fun, and without a doubt, I look back on that and smile because it was simply a wonderful day.

3. What impressed you the most about the program?

What impressed me most about the program was how knowledgeable the professors were on Shakespeare. Every question we had was answered intelligently and in a way that we could understand, making learning about Shakespeare not only easy, but truly fun.

4. What advice would you give to someone going on the program this summer?

Go with an open mind! Be ready to learn and work hard, but also have a lot of fun. My days were filled with text break downs and dance classes, and my nights were filled with delicious dinners!

PAA RADA Shakespeare Acting Intensive

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? 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

London Theatre Profile: Young Vic Theatre

Christine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London. For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January. Stay tuned for more from Christine soon!

Young Vic Theatre

Five Fun Facts:

  1. The Young Vic theatre takes pride in how open and accepting they are. They are big supporters of the LGBTQ community, which is shown by the large rainbow flag they hang outside their doors. They believe that their secret to success is to support everyone, and be welcome to all. Pretty good motto if you ask me!


  1. No matter what your price point, you can go see a show! The Young Vic gives away 10% of their tickets in order to allow people who normally cannot afford theatre tickets to go see shows. They also offer a variety of ticket prices for students and kids. They want to make sure they share their art with as many people as possible.

  1. They play a big part in arts education for London. They encourage all local schools to come and see shows in their theatre, no matter what the age of the kids. Not many of the surrounding theatres are as great about providing options for arts education in the area.

  2. They have a wonderful café right inside the lobby! It serves as a great meeting place for a casual cup of coffee, or to enjoy some lunch. (I highly recommend their croissants!)

  1. They have an awesome green sustainability program, which you can tell immediately from walking into the building. They were awarded 3 stars by Julie’s Bicycle, a local sustainability charity, which is the highest score you can get! They encourage everyone to help create a better environment, and definitely do their part to make that happen!


Brief History:

The Young Vic theatre was originally supposed to be an “offshoot” of the Old Vic theatre, which is right across the street. Laurence Olivier said that there should be a theatre to develop plays for young audiences, and then the Young Vic was born. It was built on an old bomb-site from World War II. Since its beginning over 30 years ago, the Young Vic has been on a steady stream of producing wonderful theatre that can be available to all. To find out more about the Young Vic, visit their website:

Coming next:

The Space Arts Centre

London Theatre Profile: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane


Christine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London. For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January. Stay tuned for more from Christine soon!

Theatre Royal, Drury Laneauditorium-from-the-royal-box

Five Fun Facts:

  1. The current building on the site of the Theatre Roya, Drury Lane is the fourth building to be put there! All of the same name, same location, same idea, but they kept burning down and needed to be rebuilt. Each one was more grand than the previous one! Why did they catch fireyou ask?? Well…giphy-copy2. No, it wasn’t from a fire breathing dragon. It was because of the lack of safety curtains! Back before everything had electricity and light bulbs, they relied on candles to light the stage fromthe front. Now if someone were to tip one of those over and the stage caught fire, you would normally bring down the safety curtain to save everybody, right? WELL, because these fires happened so rarely, the safety curtains rusted shut and were not able to be used! That is why at every West End production you see, they will always pull down the safety curtain at the interval. Just to make sure it won’t malfunction…output_mjaho43. The theatre is DEFINITELY haunted. On the backstage tour they offer (which I highly recommend!!), they explain all about how there are ghosts everywhere in the theatre. One of the ghosts was an old cast member who never forgot anyone’s lines. If an actor ever forgot his lines, this cast member would tap them on the shoulder from behind and whisper them into his ear. One day, that cast member was on stage, and he forgot a line. He apologized to the audience, announced his resignation immediately, and was never seen again. To this day, when someone forgets a line, they often feel a little tap on their shoulder, and they instantly remember their line, but when they turn around, there’s nobody there…

output_x8jqku4. Ever wonder why everyone things that theatre stars and movie stars are, well, stars? You can thank David Garrick for that. He ran the theatre for many years, and he changed the view of actors in the public eye. They were always seen as common workers just as everyone else was, but he made sure that they were seen as much more than that. You can also thank him for giving women the ability to be in theatre! Men always played the roles of female parts, but Garrick knew it was time for women to shine in the theatre! The only exception to his rule was for the ever so fun Pantomime Theatre (when a man dresses as a woman for comedic effect).giphy-3

  1. During the shift between Shrek The Musical and the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber donated millions of dollars, of his own money, simply to renovate the theatre back to its original state. He knew that the theatre was originally beautiful, and he wanted to restore it back to how it should have been many years ago. Talk about a dedicated artist!

Brief History:

The First Theatre Royal opened in 1663, but the current standing building was built in 1812. The Theatre Royal has been home to many important historic events, such as the first performance of the National Anthem. The theatre has been a staple in London’s West End for so long, and continues to always put on amazing performances. If you would like to find out more information about the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, visit the Really Useful Group’s website: royal

Coming next:

St. Martins Theatre

London Theatre Profile: The National Theatre

christine-steinChristine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London.  For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January.  Stay tuned for more from Christine soon! 

The National Theatre


Five Fun Facts:

  1. The National Theatre has three different theatre spaces. Their largest theatre is the Olivier Theatre (named after Laurence Olivier, their first artistic director), and because it was Olivier’s favorite color, all the seats in the space are always bright purple!


  1. Throughout the history of the National Theatre, they have had several resident companies of actors, which means that the same actors would stay for the entirety of the season and do every single show. However, these weren’t just regular casts. Have you ever heard of names like Ian McKellen, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench or Anthony Hopkins? Imagine being able to watch them in every single play for years at a time! Check them out in their National Theatre days!
Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

Judi Dench & Anthony Hopkins

Judi Dench & Anthony Hopkins


Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

  1. The National Theatre is a repertory theatre, which means that they can put on several shows at once. In only two days, the National Theatre can put on six different productions! Each theatre space is a different size and has the capability of doing different types of shows, so the variety of shows being put on all at once is amazing! Can you even imagine cycling through shows that quickly?

tumblr_lvkp9tvzsy1qapbk34. Feeling inspired after seeing a show at the National Theatre? Well in addition to having some fun souvenirs, their shop has an incredible array of scripts! They have everything from Shakespeare to whatever is currently playing on the West End, so there is always something for everybody! It basically makes you feel like Belle when she walks into a library! Can’t wait to read the script you just bought in their shop? You can mosey on over to one of their many places to eat. From cafés to a full on dining experience, the National Theatre has all you will need!


  1. They offer a really cool backstage tour! In case you are ever curious about the inner workings of the National Theatre, the tour that they provide is excellent. You get to see backstage of the theatre spaces, you get to see people working on the sets, and you learn a lot of really fun facts about the theatre and its history! I give it a 10/10 on the backstage tour scale!

output_h3uy0iBrief History:

The National Theatre opened their first production, Hamlet, in 1963. The first artistic director of the company was Laurence Olivier, and originally, they started their productions at the Old Vic theatre. They did not have their south bank location until 1976, but that didn’t stop them from producing great shows with marvelous talent! Since they have opened, they have performed thousands of shows to hundreds of thousands of people! The National Theatre is truly one of London’s greatest spaces for performing arts. To find out more about this theatre, visit:

Coming next:

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

On Running Away and Joining a Costa Rican Circus

emily-priceEmily Price is a senior studying Creative Writing with minors in Theatre and German at Arizona State University.  This summer she went on PAA’s Circus Arts (Theater) in Costa Rica program where she had the time of her life learning Spanish…and how to juggle.  She is currently a Performing Arts Abroad Ambassador at ASU.

I wanted to do something epic this summer. So, I told my parents I was going to run away and join the circus – in Costa Rica. They didn’t believe me.


A random sloth I found while out walking around the University of Costa Rica

But I actually did. I hopped on a plane (well, three planes, because that was cheapest) and went to San José to start the Circus Arts Program offered by Performing Arts Abroad. I had never been anywhere like it. Coming from the Arizona desert, I was thrilled to be surrounded by such lush tropical trees. I remember my first evening there – after eating a delicious meal with my host family, I went out on the balcony and watched a black cat crawl across the rusty roof of an adorable house across the street, while the sun set and the very air seemed to teem with life. Then I made sure to let my parents know that I was in Costa Rica. They have since forgiven me.

I had no knowledge of the Spanish language prior to my trip, other than what DuoLingo had taught me in the couple months before I left. So it was a good thing the first week of the program consisted of Spanish classes at the Costa Rican Language Academy, which were extremely helpful, as well as held in the prettiest school ever.


The courtyard at the Costa Rican Language Academy

After a week of classes in San José, I took a bus ride through a surreal landscape of mountains to the little city of San Isidro. How do I even describe San Isidro? Surrounded by foggy mountains on all sides, it is the most picturesque town with the friendliest people, bakeries on every corner, and butterflies wherever you look. I lived with another volunteer from the United States in the house of an adorable woman who gave us entirely too much food at every meal.


San Isidro del General, Costa Rica

I spent three weeks in San Isidro, training and volunteering with the circus group, Circo FantazzTico, which helps the local youth gain confidence and reach their full potential through juggling, aerial silks, trapeze, fire-dancing, and acrobatics. There were other volunteers from around the world who each contributed their own talents to the group. Every day groups of volunteers went to different places in the area to train. My favourite place to go was to a home for girls, where the young, smiling girls just wanted to hold my hand or show me their plate-spinning skills. They were such sweethearts – a bit difficult to keep focused, but sweethearts nonetheless.

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

Eventually my Spanish was good enough to have actual conversations with the delightful people in the circus, provided they spoke slowly enough. I was learning how to juggle and how to climb silks as well, and I helped teach some theatre games and spot with acrobatics. I had never learned so much so quickly, nor had I ever had so much fun in my life. When we weren’t training, we volunteers had parties, went out dancing, watched fire-dancing shows, and one weekend we went to the nearby beach.

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

My experience with Circo FantazzTico and Performing Arts Abroad – and this is going to sound dramatic – changed the course of my life. I am now taking aerial classes twice a week, I can speak in another language, and I am much less introverted. I’m even considering returning there to volunteer for a year after I graduate, instead of going to Germany like I had originally planned. I just fell in love with it. In Costa Rica, I learned to just go with the flow. There was much confusion during my time there, with the language barrier and everything, but things always seemed to work out, and the people there have such positive attitudes. They greet you there with a kiss and a “pura vida.” I’ve never been so inspired anywhere else, and I’d recommend it for anyone else who has a love of travel, language, and the performing arts. The circus program in Costa Rica blended all of those passions of mine so perfectly, and I hope I get to return very soon.