Allison Doody studied theater arts at SFSU in San Francisco, with an emphasis in performance. In 2015 she attended the Ages and Stages of English Drama intensive hosted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.
Your phone buzzes with an incoming message, you pause, wondering what or who it could be. The moment you glance down your life is changed forever! Your heart beats like a jackhammer, your palms sweat. You were accepted into a program to study theater abroad! This is how it was for me one fateful Saturday morning, when I found out I was invited to study theater in London at Royal Academy of Art in London! I could barely contain my excitement. The trip would come at the perfect time in my life, especially since I had only one semester remaining to receive my Bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts at San Francisco State University. Unsure of what life would hold in store for me after graduation, this was the confidence boost I needed to propel me into the big bad world. Just kidding, as a current graduate now, life after school is not so bad. There are ups and downs, but as long as the person is driven everything works out the way it is suppose to. This program taught me to never be timid, go for what you want. What is the worst that could happen?
By jumping into the RADA program through Performing Arts Abroad, I learned many facets of British theater, not to mention a lot about myself as an actor. The training was varied and reflected in the techniques used during our classes. We performed plays done on Medieval pageant wagons as well as clowning, Restoration comedies, melodramatic pictures, contemporary British Theater and of course, Shakespeare. Mornings began with a vocal and physical warm up, followed up by a lecture on the history of what we would be performing that day, always interesting and informative. The pacing of the program was balanced and proceeded in a way that did not leave us too tired. After lecture we divided into groups to work on what we would present that day, led by RADA instructors and often by working directors famous on the London scene. The staff were very professional and divided their time evenly amongst us. A word of advice; talk to these people, ask questions. They have such a vast trove of knowledge and experience that is there for the taking. Most of them have been in the same place you are in right now, they have been there, so do not be intimidated, they are only too happy to share their advice.
There were many little adventures I had on this trip, however, my most memorable session in the program was with Phillip Stoppard, a director with the Globe Theater, who had taken a production of King Lear on tour throughout Europe. He was incredibly detailed, lovingly going over every single line. We spent so much time with one scene alone that he jokingly said, “Yep, there goes the time, but I always spend two hours per page!” We soon found out he was only half teasing. He took us through Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I played Cassius, to multiple actors switching places as Brutus. Going back to technique, what I loved most about this session was going over how the environment affected us. This was an outdoor scene so we felt the grass on our feet, the chill in the air, etc… We also talked about how we felt and what we were doing before we arrived at Brutus’s house. I appreciated that we spent the most time on one solitary scene from Julius Caesar, analyzing it, understanding it instead of trying to do multiple scenes or try to cover Shakespeare in too broad a reach. Mr. Stoppard had us take the scene apart line by line before we moved on. And boy we definitely understood everything that the text and sub-text was saying.
My main reason for participating in the program was to continue to build on the foundation I was forming at SFSU. To study the classics in this setting with these professionals was invaluable to my development as an actor. The RADA program puts into perspective how the study of classic theater related to the field today. For example, when we worked Melodrama it was all about creating stage pictures with our bodies. to this day performers still utilize spatial awareness in order to keep blocking interesting in modern day shows, just like they did back then. Just one of the little gems I mined from this wonderful experience.
We were given a variety of parts to play; one day I was a saucy wench from the restoration period and another, Paul from the Bible! I stretched me as a performer and made me realize just how versatile modern day actors need to be. Clowning was reserved for the last day, creating a festive atmosphere for our going away party. Good timing too for by now, we knew one another in the group better and were not afraid to be silly.
That the RADA program is held at such a prestigious location in the heart of London is, in itself, awe-inspiring. The place is seeped in history, which attendees would have plenty of time to explore this fabulous city. We had events scheduled that pertained to theater, like our visit to the Globe Theater and the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum! For a theater buff, going to these places was essential. We saw shows, glanced antique costumes, and paintings; it was everything one could ever want out of a trip!
Participating in Performing Arts Abroad in collaboration with RADA was simply awe-inspiring. It was the trip of a lifetime! I highly recommend anyone taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity whether they are in or out of school. After all, one email could open up many doors, to many possibilities.