The MiNAPRESS Column

Where To Train. U.S. or U.K.? An Actor’s Dilemma.

Posted in acting, actors, arts, careers, drama, film, journalism, performing arts, stage, theatre, tv by MiNA on June 6, 2019
Mina Rios. Current as of May 2019

Mina Rios, Freelance Journalist, Sonoma, CA, U.S.A

Guest blog by Mina Rios  –  Originally published in May 2019 on U.K. blog page: GeorgiaTuohey.co.uk

 

Georgia Tuohey

Georgia Tuohey, Singer, Actress, Writer, London, U.K.  Instagram   @georgiatuoblogTwitter@georgiamtuohey


 

Mesmerised by the young protégée’s powerful stage performance, the audience wept as he took his last breath. Praise every actor yearns for following an acting achievement. Such a capacity as an actor requires an abundance of natural talent, ambition, classical training, and a bit of luck. Typically, a serious aspiring stage actor pursues the best possible training available within their means. More often than not, the aspiring look to the U.S. and the U.K. for superior drama training. To choose between the two, knowing what distinguishes British drama training from training in the United States is important. While acquiring this information, it’s essential to note that current research on drama training is paramount, as the industry has evolved tremendously over the years and yesterday’s news does not necessarily apply today.

In the U.K. (and parts of Europe), classical acting techniques by actors/theorists Konstantin Stanislavski and Michel Saint-Denis are prevalent. British drama denotes action driven stage acting, style, and technique; and is associated with some of the finest actors of our time including the late Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud.

For a time, between the 1930s and 50s, Method Acting the emotion-driven technique developed for screen acting, fathered by Lee Strasberg and inspired by Konstantin Stanislavski’s techniques, was the primary acting methodology taught in American drama institutions. Still widely taught today, but not exclusively, in Method Acting, actors use remembered emotions to find their character’s truth, enabling the actor to “live” the character; often times incorporating improvisation. Some actors have even been known to remain in-character through the duration of a film or stage performance.

A variety of different acting techniques have emerged over the years, several of which are variations on Stanislavski’s System. Many drama programs and institutions teach multiple drama methodologies to provide actors with options in case one technique isn’t working for them. In fact, some drama students over recent years have conveyed certain frustrations with Method Acting – they say they find it limiting. Other popular acting techniques embraced by drama professionals and institutions worldwide include Stella Adler’s Method, Meisner Technique, The Chekhov Technique, Practical Aesthetics, and Theater Games – all of which are described briefly for further reference, at the close of this piece.

British drama does have its distinctions of course. Actors are primed for the stage with emphasis on control, precision, and memorisation of all lines – allowing the actor to bring the scripted character to life – thus eliminating any possibility for improvisation; a common liberty used in Method Acting. Drama programs in the U.K. also impart supplemental training skills in areas such as accents, singing, movement – i.e. period dance, stage combat, and more.

To remain competitive and meet public demand on a global scale, drama programs everywhere have integrated screen acting into their curriculum; a change that has unified more institutions as opposed to differentiating them.

Course work at leading University drama programs such as Juilliard in New York, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, and Yale School of Drama in Connecticut, have become far more comprehensive than decades prior, drawing a closer parallel to U.K. drama training in such areas as voice, speech, movement, mask, clown, script analysis, theatre history, and other areas.

Admission into reputable drama institutions no matter where they are in the world (the U.S., U.K., or elsewhere) is highly competitive. Among the most prestigious U.K. based drama institutions are The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and Oxford School of Drama.

Some false generalisations by industry professionals over the years, infer that drama conservatories don’t exist in America when they actually do. There are simply fewer American conservatories in comparison to the U.K. and other countries abroad. Drama training programs in the U.S. are predominantly affiliated with 4-year colleges/universities. The idea is that the four year college degree provides graduates with leverage when seeking employment outside of their declared specialisation (acting); hence the reason two years of course work is spent on required general education.

A little known fact is – the early 1960s was a pivotal time for American theatre. The art form was becoming increasingly important to audiences. Theatre productions expanded from nightly engagements to performance seasons, opening doors for actors versed in international theatre repertory, ultimately leading up to the availability of conservatory training in acting within the U.S. 

A.C.T.’s founding artistic director, William Ball (left), and

Photo by Ganslen Studios; courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) founded in 1965, is a leading drama institution located in San Francisco’s theatre district. A.C.T. was the first American theatre to win a Tony Award for the quality of its training program and its productions. A.C.T. was also the first independent theatre in the nation to win academic accreditation and the authority to grant a master of fine arts degree in acting.

Geary Theater circa 1980

The Geary Theater, 1980, San Francisco; courtesy of the American Conservatory Theater.

While more than half of the world’s most sought after drama schools are located in the U.S. and the U.K., several outstanding programs can be found sprinkled around other parts of the world. No matter where you choose to train among the institutions mentioned in this piece or any overlooked, yet comparable, the investment in training is sure to provide you with the necessary wherewithal to help you advance your career. What you should find out in advance is – what kind of networking opportunities does the institution provide with industry professionals? Further to that, ask whether mentoring is available to help you market your personal brand, as this is an area drama schools are gradually working on to improve. Best of luck! Break a leg.  

A.C.T.'s Geary Theater following the renovation in 1996

Backstage at the Geary Theater, 1996, San Francisco; courtesy of the American Conservatory Theater.

 

 


 

Acting Techniques

Stella Adler’s Method based on Stanislavski and Strasberg techniques; emphasising imagination in addition to emotional recall. The Stella Adler Studio of Acting has a 45-year partnership with N.Y.U.

The Sanford Meisner Technique based on Strasberg and Adler’s methods; emphasise that the actor “live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.”

The Chekhov Technique – pioneered by Anton Chekhov’s nephew and star student of Stanislavski – Michael Chekhov – is a psychophysical approach to acting, focusing on mind, body, and a conscious awareness of the senses. Students of the technique include Clint Eastwood, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, and Jack Nicholson.

Practical Aesthetics is an action-based acting method developed by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy; inspired by Aristotle, the Stanislavski System, and Meisner Technique, the method entails having the actor commit his will to the pursuit of an action based on the other actor.

Viola Spolin developed the Theater Games approach, focusing on directorial and improvisational exercises for the actor. It is considered to be a major contributor to the improvisational theatre movement in the U.S.

 

Leading Drama Institutions in the U.K.

Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London: Graduates: Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes, Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, and Orlando Bloom.

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) – among the world’s oldest drama schools; Graduates: Donald Sutherland, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Chris O’Dowd, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Oxford School of Drama in Woodstock Graduates: Catherine McCormack, Will Adamsdale, Claire Foy, and Anna Galvin.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art RADA). Graduates: Peter O’Toole, Joan Collins, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Vivien Leigh, Clive Owen, and Tom Wilkinson.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Formerly Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) – Alumni: Alan Cumming, David Tennant, and Sheena Easton.

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School – founded by Laurence Olivier in 1946: Alumni: Olivia Colman, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, Greta Scacchi, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Sir Patrick Stewart, Mark Strong, Miranda Richardson, and Gene Wilder.

 

Leading Drama institutions in the United States & Canada

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco – Alumni: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Winona Ryder, Nicolas Cage, Benjamin Bratt, and Elizabeth Banks.

Juilliard in New York – Alumni: Adam Driver, Mandy Patinkin, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Robin Williams, Jessica Chastain, Laura Linney, Viola Davis, and Kelsey Grammer.

Tisch School of the Arts at NYU – Alumni: Alec Baldwin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael C. Hall, Jeremy Piven, Oliver Stone, and Martin Scorsese.

Yale School of Drama in Connecticut. Alumni: Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Paul Newman, Angela Bassett, Henry Winkler, John Turturro, Patricia Clarkson, Frances McDormand, and Paul Giamatti.

The National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. Teaches the classical Michel Saint-Denis Technique. Teachings include exploration, writing, studio presentations, imagination, improvisation, “the mask,” and audition preparation.

 

Leading Drama institutions in Australia

National Institute of Dramatic Art in Kensington. Graduates: Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett, Judy Davis, Baz Luhrmann, Hugo Weaving, and Sam Worthington.

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts – Alumni includes: Hugh Jackman, and Frances O’Connor.

 

More Leading Drama Institutions Worldwide

Finland: Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.

France: The CNSAD (Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique) in Paris. Considered one of the most selective schools and foremost in the world.

Austria: University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

South Africa: University of Cape Town – Alumni: Embeth Davidtz, Richard E. Grant.

 

Useful Drama Resources

https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/subjects/zbckjxs

http://www.supersummary.com/drama-theater-guide/

http://drama-lesson-plans.co.uk/

https://theatrelinks.com/

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On with the show. The column resumes.

Posted in arts, dance, events, journalism, music, performing arts, pr, public relations, salsa, sonoma, wine country by MiNA on February 24, 2017

Greetings from the MiNAPRESS news desk…. Since our last post, freelance journalist Mina Rios wrapped up 2016 with the October 26 issue/feature story “Refined Lines” in the Pacific Sun newspaper, commemorating the 10 Year Anniversary of Alonso King LINES Ballet’s BFA Program at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA.

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As we embark on 2017, the MiNAPRESS Column will resume with more regularity, as will published articles in print with a variety of media outlets. To that end, if you’re a professional artist/arts organization, a winery, restaurant, or brewery and have a unique story angle, contact Mina Communications for consideration in a feature story or review. Submit your query here.

In other news, Mina Communications proudly announces its partnership with Santa Rosa Salsa – serving as the company’s publicist/advisor. Santa Rosa Salsa is the pulse of Sonoma County – presiding at the helm of what is an actively growing Salsa community. Regular events and classes include:

  • LIVE Salsa at the Flamingo Resort. Monthly – every 2nd Saturday
  • Salsa & Bachata dancing every Sunday at the Flamingo Resort. 21 and older. Salsa dance lesson included.
  • Bachata dancing every Thursday at the Flamingo Resort. 21 and older. Bachata dance lesson included.
  • Salsa Crash Course w/Irene. Teaching the fundamentals of Salsa to get you confidently on the dance floor. A 4-week class series begins at the start of each month.  No partner or experience necessary. Location: 1808-B Empire Industrial Ct., Santa Rosa, CA 95403
  • Santa Rosa Salsa is also the presenter of the annual Santa Rosa Salsa Festival (projected for October 2017; location TBA) as well as Dancing Under the Stars at Francis Ford Coppola Winery (live musical guests to be announced). Summer 2017 dates include:
    • June 24
    • July 22
    • August 26
    • September 23

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Until next time. Live. Dance. And Prosper….

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MinaComm Pressing-on in 2016

Greetings Arts Enthusiasts!

Mina Communications has been keeping very busy since our last posting in July 2015. From article writing to new client generation, the work and results have been both steady and positive. Here’s what you’ve missed and what’s to come….

July 2015  – Pacific Sun – Restaurant Review: “Whip It Good” by Mina Rios

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October 2015 – San Diego Reader – Feature: “How Comic-Con Spectators Combat Hotel Wars. The Overnight Game of Woes.” by Mina Rios

 

December 2015 – Pacific Sun – Cover Story: “Cool Vines” by Mina Rios

12-9-15 PacSun Covr Pt. Reyes Wildflower. Heidrun Meadery

 

 

 

January 2016 – Santa Rosa Salsa client PR efforts for the 6th Annual Santa Rosa Salsa Festival
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February 2016 – Flamingo Resort client PR efforts for the 25th Annual Santa Rosa Tattoo & Blues Festival

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • “About the Music” Screenplay by Mina Rios completed. More details to come…
  • Mina Communications and New York City based Duvall Productions will be collaborating on various creative projects beginning in mid 2016. More details to come.

Thanks for your readership. As always – Live. Dance. And prosper.

DANCE IN CINEMA. MiNA Recommends: “First Position” (Part I)

Posted in ballet, dance, film, journalism, performing arts, reviews by MiNA on May 9, 2015
Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

Among the most notable independent dance films of recent years – was a film so well-received during its premiere at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, the award-winning documentary continued its surge across the globe well into 2013.

Director/former dancer Bess Kargman calls her debut feature film “First Position” a work she – “always wished had existed.” Shot in North and South America, Europe, and Asia – the 95 minute feature provides an inside look at youth dance competition – touching on some of the ballet world’s most sensitive topics including: peer pressure, injuries, eating-habits, and stereotypes.

Six contestants are documented – three male and three female, as they prepare for the world’s largest ballet scholarship competition – the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) from 2010. Immensely competitive, the annual competition enables supremely talented youth age 9 – 19 an accessible means to entering the profession. Few advance to the end to reap the extraordinary benefits, which in some cases include contracts with professional dance companies.

Aran Bell pictured. Photo by Nick Higgins. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

Aran Bell pictured. Photo by Nick Higgins. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

First introduced is 11 year-old Aran Bell from the US, living in Naples, Italy with his parents – where his father is stationed in the military. Dancing since the age of 4, Bell explains his adoration for ballet, then casually demonstrates the proper use of a foot stretcher; a torturous looking device which Bell innocently admits “hurts a lot.”

Voicing a common concern of parents, Bell’s mother confides: “Kids who are pursuing ballet as a career give up a lot of their childhood” – a position where mother and son differ, but has not interfered with the youth’s long-term goals; this is evident through Bell’s parents’ willingness to commute two hours from Naples to Rome, to ensure their son receives the best training available.

Aran Bell with mentor Denys Ganio. Photo by Nick Higgins. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

Aran Bell with mentor Denys Ganio. Photo by Nick Higgins. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

In Rome, we are introduced to Bell’s ballet teacher Denys Ganio. Bell describes Ganio as “Strict, but not mean strict, he’s nice strict – and funny;” a deeply moving scene as we observe the mutual fondness and respect shared between mentor and protégé.

Michaela de Prince pictured. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

Michaela de Prince pictured. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

In the compelling story of 14 year old Michaela de Prince of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we learn that the normal life she currently leads, might never have been, had she not been rescued by her adopted parents. Orphaned as a child amidst South Africa’s civil unrest, de Prince’s birth parents were horrifically shot down by rebels during her early youth.

In studying ballet at the Philadelphia Rock School, the art form has served as an invaluable means of expression for de Prince. Under Stephanie and Bo Spassoff’s tutelage, de Prince has found strength and determination through her art. Making certain she always remembers her roots, de Prince vows to play a key role in helping to abolish racial discrimination in the ballet world.

Michaela de Prince pictured. Bess Kargman, First Position Films, LLC.

With the competition fast approaching, all seemed in order until de Prince’s mom discovered a problem with her daughter’s costume. Concerned that the light nude colored bodice beneath her daughter’s corset might be too glaring against Michaela’s dark skin, she feared judges might get distracted. “They only come in flesh color – for white people,” said Mrs. de Prince. Instead of leaving matters to chance, Mrs. de Prince remedied the situation by removing the bodice from the corset, dying it a darker color, then reattaching it.

While Mrs. de Prince dealt with the issue with her daughter’s bodice as best she could, the subject she brings up about nude colored dance undergarments not being made for dancers with dark skin merits further discussion. For this reason, our focus will now shift to the topic at hand; while the review will resume in Part II.

In response to the question as to whether dance undergarments are made for dancers of all skin colors – the surprising answer in these modern times is – yes and no. Research shows that a few product lines offer some dark skin color undergarment options, however variety is still limited. One must still scour the internet to locate these costly hard to find products.

Considering we’re talking about product demand from such a sizeable demographic, where the potential for capital gain is substantial, why such a basic product isn’t already available through most major dance apparel manufacturers is a good relevant question for today.

Ultimately someone will catch-on and make a fortune. It’s just a matter of whom and when. If that investor happens to be you on account of this column, you’re welcome; just don’t forget where you got the idea. I’ll be awaiting your reply.

Stay tuned… Part II of this review will feature dancers: Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty, and Jules Fogarty.

Until next time – Live. Dance. And Prosper.

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