Welcome to Madi's Drama Training Blog!
Madi was a founder member of Flintlock Youth Company, which she joined when she moved to Oxford, aged 16. Two and a half years on, she has flown the nest, and is the first of our students to embark on a 3-year professional level drama training course.
Over the next few years, Madi will be sharing with us extracts from her study journal, and we hope that those of you interested in professional drama training will enjoy having a direct insight into her experience.
Madi is studying BA Acting: International Performance Ensemble at Pace School of Performing Arts, part of Pace University, New York.
Madi in Flintlock Youth Company's
Well, here I am. All moved into my dorm at Pace and just finished my first full week of classes. I’m feeling a lot of emotions at the moment both good and bad. I am now in New York City, doing what I love best in this world. This is my chance, my four years, and no one can take that away from me. I feel so ready and alive. So far I feel very welcomed here. On Friday, there was this performance that all of the upperclassmen put on for us called “This is How We BA.” It consisted of inside jokes, people falling on floors, teacher impersonations, random ukulele jam sessions, and everyone just being weird with no judgment, and being truly themselves. I am ready to let lose and feel as comfortable in my own skin as the upper classmen, and not worry about what everyone else is thinking, just have fun. I am also ready to focus and give my full undivided attention to these classes.
My first acting class was a blast. We dove right into [Michael] Chekov’s book “To the Actor”, and started to experiment with the ideas and theories. We had to make up three random lies, not knowing why or how. These three lies, which we later figured out, were going to be incorporated with our homework that we had to create for that week. My three lies were completely opposite than myself because I wanted a challenge. I said that 1) I was a 49 year old pedophile 2) I collect children’s mannequins as a hobby and, 3) I recently proposed to one of my mannequins. These lies were so ridiculous and we had less than two seconds to come up with them and blurt them out to the rest of the group. Later in class we were told to create a three-minute movement piece, with no words, which made your lies come to life for the audience. I was scared and nervous about how I was going to pull off such a dark, yet oddly comedic piece. It ended up being great, and challenging after working on my ideas all week. I took a leap into being something and someone I am very much not, and it was so thrilling.The next week is working animal based theme, we are instructed to take a trip to the Bronx zoo and observe an animal which we feel spiritually connected with, and create a two minute movement piece that melds human and animalistic characteristics into one. I love being challenged and frightened, and then being able to feel accomplished about the hurdle I just jumped. I am proud to be here, and proud to be working with the people who I’ve met so far and continue to get to know.
Madi Hall, 11 September 2016
There are now 6 days until move in day to Pace University. Still have not packed yet, but I am getting more and more excited each day. It turns out I didn’t receive any information about classes or schedules yet but I will get organized when I arrive. I am so nervous with excitement to start this new adventure.
For me, I love the feeling of being lost and finding my way around a new city by myself. I can’t wait to feel like I have a clean slate. I also am just overall very excited to meet people with the same passion as me. To meet people who will motivate me and inspire me to be my best self.
I hope that this program will be right for me. The program itself emphasizes the importance of working with others and the importance of an international community. I’m so eager to finally be able to do what I have dreamed of doing since I was eight years old. It’s finally here, and I was able to make it happen!
Madi Hall, 25 August 2016
In movement today we worked with bringing and perfecting images from the outside, into the body. The professor set up a giant gallery of printed pictures which had photographs of statues or sketches of human figures in a contorted and interesting pose. We were instructed to bring these characters to life through our bodies by replication. Everyone replicated three bodies each and then had show them in a “human gallery”. This was where we walked around the room and randomly one of us would drop into one of our bodies and have to hold it for the entire class to observe from all angels of the room and from a variety of distances. The entire class had a conversation about each pose while the actor was holding their positions. We talked about how certain angels of limbs and tension within different parts of the body can make the intention differ. For example even the slight difference of a tense foot and a relaxed foot can tell a completely different story. I held my bodies for about 7 minutes each, which is not easy given my pose was very intense and straining on my muscles.
For homework we were told to make a continuing story of the three bodies. I had so much fun with this exercise and I made a movement piece that was about a soldier is was walking through the woods with his troops when he notices an enemy lying in the grass sleeping with a sword right next to him. He then sneaks over to the soldier grabs the sword, without waking the enemy up or touching him in any way, grabs his neck and stabs him but ends up aiming wrong and stabs his own hand instead. I used a lot of comedic timing and I had to hit each of my poses smoothly within the scene. I so far love my movement class all around and am learning how to have a magnifying class when it comes to observing others, and myself, on the ways that we move and hold ourselves.
I’ve been able to have the experience to learn so much more about the way in which my mind works. Each time I walk out of another class I think to myself how lucky I am to be here. I’m starting to believe that if everyone in the world had a chance to participate in a class similar to the ones I’ve been taking, the world itself would be more cohesive and people would have such a larger amount of knowledge about themselves and how they work with others. The world itself would be much more cohesive and cooperative.
In my Acting 1 class today we worked with meditation. I wasn’t expecting the majority of the class to be a meditation exercise but it was, for a whole hour and a half. We were first asked to lie on the floor and to breathe heavily and continuously. So much oxygen went straight to my brain that my mind was becoming very clear and focused. We were then asked to imagine the place that made us the happiest, and the most serene. I chose a beach in Hawaii with my family where we would spend all day in the sun and the sand laughing and swimming and eating. I was so lost in this vision that I didn’t follow along to the next prompt which was to find your childhood home. I came back into the exercise when the beach image started to fade and we were instructed to imagine the person that makes you feel safe in this world. This question brought up a lot of questions for me but my mind automatically envisioned my mother. I saw her so clearly in my mind that I could smell her and hold her hand, it all felt so real. I didn’t leave this image until we were instructed to wake up and discuss our feelings. Immediately when I sat up, I giant wave of emotions flooded my mind and I couldn’t contain my self I just let out a huge cry. It felt so relieving and fresh to exert all of that built up sad energy. I really couldn’t contribute to the conversation because I was so taken back at what emotions just arose in me.
A lot of the work that we have been doing in acting has made me realize how much of a skill being able to “shake off” emotions is. Every acting class is from 9am-12pm and after the class finishes I always give myself a whole day to recuperate and “shake off”. I realize how much work goes into forming these emotions and being able to express them enough but not let them consume you. All in all, I am learning so much about myself, about how much I can take on and about the vast amount of emotion that every human being can harness with concentration, but never gets the chance to do so because of the limitations that society has.
Today was the gloomiest day since I have arrived. It is the day after the election. I stayed up until 3am to watch as the majority of the electoral votes went to Donald Trump, our new president of the next four years. There was so much negativity in the air and even the sky started to cry. Today I realized how important art is in difficult times. I was added to a Facebook group today that was titled “Young Artists of NYC”. The page included people from every school in New York and united art students to join together and create love and positivity rather than hate and negativity. People were inspired by limitations and I think that is absolutely beautiful.
We all attended a love rally in Washington Square park where we spoke out to the public about how now is the time to spread love and peace rather than hate on our neighbors for their decisions. I think that art, and theatre in particular is a key tool to use within times of crisis. No one around me was happy today. We all walked with our heads lower and our fear higher. I was scared to go outside today and that is just horrible to live somewhere where you are scared to leave your house. I really got a sense of what it must be like to live in parts of the world and be treated as a minority, or someone who is limited to live life the way they want to live it, without fear or hate. Today we all bound together here at Pace, and all around New York, and I was so proud to say that I was a theatre student. We all recognize as the upcoming generation that we have the power to take matters into our own hands and create awareness and spread change. I was really inspired to work towards a better more peaceful future and to collaborate with the genuine, loving people around me.
All I can say is wow! Today marked the end of term for all of my acting, movement and performance ensemble classes. Time really has been flying by. I have been looking back on how much progress I have actually made over the course of this semester and it is amazing. Going from class to class, I didn’t feel that any major improvements were being made. But now, looking back on my first four months here, the classes really did make a very big impact on me. They especially impacted me in the way I carry myself. I am very aware now of the presence that I have when interacting with others.
Yesterday I just finished my acting final, which consisted of performing two scenes and one monologue in front of the entire program. It was nerve racking and thrilling. I performed a monologue from Nicky Silver’s “The Altruists”, and scenes from Mike Barlett’s “Love,Love,Love” and a play titled “Yoga Warrior”. I felt that I was really grounded and most of all I just had fun with it. The feedback that I received back from the directors of the program was really positive and the biggest note that I received was that I need to focus on clarity and articulation. With the scenes especially, I have really been learning to respond not from the lines but to what my scene partner says. Overall, I am so happy with how this semester went in acting class and I am so eager to keep learning and absorbing from my professors and my peers.
My movement final was very different to my acting final. In movement class, we have been experimenting with portraying a character “from the outside in”. This all sounded so confusing to me at the beginning of the semester but I really was able to bring a character to life by the end. The first class, our movement teacher put a variety of pictures of sculptures in twisted body formations and odd poses around the room. We were instructed to pick the four that we were intrigued with or that we identified most with. Over the course of the semester we mimicked these ‘bodies’ and started to bring them to life. We were told to ask ourselves what these bodies would be and how they would move if they were real people. That was the only instruction besides that we could not use words, just non-human sounds to vocalize these bodies. Each class we worked on different bodies and played around with the limitations and challenges that each body has in their movement. We then harnessed those limitations and made them into a more human character. The final project was a collaborative project where each person chose their favorite body and make up a scene with groups of three people. I was happy with my final performance and the basis of our scene was a ‘ballet class gone wrong’. This class was one of my favorites because every week it forced us to think of ways that we could move besides the ‘socially correct’ way. I found out that our society today limits us from so many movements. We sit, stand, sleep, run, walk, and don’t do much else. Our bodies are capable of so much and in modern day we are limited in terms of how we can move. I challenged myself in this class to free my inhibitions and let myself explore endless possibilities of movement.
The last class that we had a final in this semester was performance ensemble. We were told to get into groups of five and replicate an area in New York. Again, no voices are allowed to be used but sounds are encouraged. My group chose the 9/11 memorial. We studied this space for three days observing sounds, sights, textures, people, movement, and the overall ambiance of the memorial site. We started to create a piece of physical theatre based on what we saw. We made large contrasts between the business of the people and the heaviness and seriousness of the monument. We tried to show our audience what it really feels like to be right in that memorial, staring at the falling water going into nowhere and starting up into space to see what once was there.
I am really happy with all of my finals and the work that I created with others. We were told that this was just the warm up semester and we better hold on tight for what is to come. I can’t wait.
These past two weeks after break have absolutely flown by. So much has happened in so little time. I feel that these two weeks really boosted my confidence in my profession and made me reassured that this is what I want to do for a living. First I’ll explain what happened in my classes and then what happened outside of class that is so exciting.This semester is so far much more difficult than last semester in terms of dedication and time outside of class. We are challenged much more this semester in different ways than the beginning of the year. The first week I headed back to my Movement II, Acting II, and Performance Ensemble classes which are the core of my curriculum here.
Movement started out with a discussion surprisingly, analyzing the article “The Actor and the Über-Marionettte” by Edward Gordon Craig. This article (I’ll attach the link below) challenged the ideas of what it means to be an actor, and if it really should be considered an art or an ‘imitation’. This was the first time in movement where we were asked to analyze an article in class and it really sparked my train of thought and made me consider the writer’s points about what it means to be an actor, and what art and ‘perfection’ really mean. If you have time, I would definitely read that and try to understand some of the points the author makes even though some of them sound opposite to what some actors believe in. We then started to “sketch movement” in class. This means that the teacher would teach a certain specific movement, showing it only once to the class, and we would have to copy or ‘imitate’ it the best we can. It really helped me be more observant and aware of how my body moves. I noticed that whenever a movement is made there is always a preparation and a ‘re-bound’ sort of movement that follows the action. I’ve tried to be more aware of details when I’m moving and have a clear sense of how my body is moving thorugh space.Acting class has been extremely interesting since we have been back. The first assignment we had when we got back was to pick a two-person scene and perform a ‘one-man show’. I chose a scene from “Angels in America” playing the characters Harper and Joe. Harper is a scatterbrain housewife who is constantly high and hallucinating and is extremely unhappy about her life, and she is confronting her husband Joe in the scene about his sexuality. We learned how to do a one-person scene and how to make it seem more convincing my accentuating the differences of the two characters. Cosmin, my professor told me to find a tick that each character has and go farther and farther with it until it is almost too much. I did the scene once, we had three minutes to re-work it and then we presented again in front of the class. The difference of characterization from one performance to the next was insane. I really felt the difference of the two people. Also when watching other people’s performances, it really felt like there were two people on stage when the characterizations were maximized.Our next project that I am working on this week is called the MET project. We were all told to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pick one piece that spoke to us and create a 3-5 minute piece bringing the art to life. The piece of art that I chose was this one [see below]
I chose it specifically because when I walked by it, I felt scared. I felt so scared for this woman and I think it was because of her dark, almost soul-less eyes. I felt such a contrast of lust and terror and I really think that I could work with this initial reaction to create something really interesting. I am not 100% sure what I am going to do yet, but we show our pieces next week so this weekend I am going to be perfecting my ideas and I’ll let you know how it goes!
In performance ensemble we are working on a lot of mime which is something so new to me. I have never been able to work on it before so I am learning so much about space and how to make inanimate things come to life just with movement. We are also working on becoming inanimate objects. For example, we started simple and were asked to think of a specific type of door with a partner. One person had to be the door and the other the person entering. I was partnered up with someone who had the idea of a haunted house. So as the door, I hunched my shoulders, made my hand tense and with my fingers flailed out and my face very mysterious with my gaze directly straight. It ended up being really great and created a real ambiance of a haunted house, especially when my partner entered and gazed into the space as one would going inside a dark mansion. This feeling of becoming an inanimate object is completely new for me and I am really excited to start diving into this project more. This skill is also very much based on the details of movement and the meticulous changes you can make so an audience can experience what you are experiencing.I saved the most exciting news for the end! So last week I was asked by a great friend in my program to be his partner for a commericial audition in the city. He has an agent who asked him to find someone who is comfortable doing a kissing scene with so there wouldn't be any sort of awkwardness or tension. I was willing to help and thought if anything, going to these auditions are good experiences overall and can prepare me for work in the future. Little did I know what was going to happen! We ended up getting called back and then waited for the results of the casting. My friend knocked on my door and said, “You got it Madi!” I was so surprised, but also sad that he didn’t get the role as well. It all happened so fast, and I loved it! His agent called me that day and asked to meet with me next week. I actually shoot the commercial tomorrow and it will be aired nationally for a year on television and on the Internet! The company is called QUICKTRIP, its a brand of convenience stores in the south, and I will be playing a high school senior. I am so happy and also overwhelmed and surprised. I can’t wait to shoot the commercial tomorrow and see what it is all like.So many exciting things happening these past few days! I can’t wait for more to come and I will definitely update the blog as much as I can !
Check out this link about the Über-Marionette:
Madi Hall - February 2017
These past few weeks have just flown by and have been so action packed. Besides my three core classes; Movement, Performance Ensemble and Acting, I production-managed three one act plays, I ran box office and backstage for multiple student shows and I went home and back for spring break. I haven’t stopped going since it all started and I love every second of it. This semester is definitely more challenging than the last semester. Instead of ‘breaking you out of your shell’ sort of work, we are really starting to dive into the technical side of acting and really start examining what the trade requires from an actor.My favorite class this semester is performance ensemble. Performance ensemble is the class that focuses most on what it takes to build theatre collaboratively and constructively and it explores so many different angles of creativity when trying to devise a piece with a group of people. One of my favorite group projects was when we were assigned to create a haunted house using just four people. We used many techniques such as perspective, timing, and character creation to create a creepy robotic space filled with neon clowns and rigid dolls, and the best part was, we only had to use our imagination to portray the scenario to the audience. We are also really trying to start diving into mime. I have never done anything to do with mime before so its so much fun and so interesting to learn about techniques like how you have to keep space between your fingers to give the object “breath” for example. Or, how the weight of an object really matters if you want to convey it correctly to your audience. My favorite miming exercise so far was when we had to draw a circle in space, and then take an imaginary item (that had to look very real and tangible) out of the space in the air and interact with it somehow. For example, I drew a huge circle in front of me and then pretended to put it over my head and use it as a gigantic hula hoop. This class is just teaching me a lot about how if an actor puts focus, energy and preparation into something that is completely make-believe, the audience can see it just as clearly as the actor can. Every time I have this class the space just feels very magical and exciting because we don’t know what the professor is going to throw at us next or what new space is going to be created from our imaginations.These past few weeks I have been really struggling with my movement class. I didn’t understand why what we were learning was relevant and I really was counting down the minutes of class time left for the last few sessions. Until yesterday I had a really big “AH HAH” moment. In class we have been learning a series of postures called “the etude” or “the study”. The etude is a sequence of movements that involve physical strength and mental focus, almost looking like a series of dance moves but slowed down a lot and very specific. The etude took about 6 hours to learn, but the series of movements when done all together only take about 2 minutes. The teacher went on and on about the specifics of the movements and I could barely take anymore. Until, he told the class to apply the etude to an imaginary circumstance. This time that we did it I loved the movements. I imagined that I was a small fairy on a mission to deliver a secret rock to a magic kingdom. It sounds ridiculous but it really worked. And this is when I had my AH HAH moment. Having an imaginary circumstance, or a purpose for your movement helps you execute your movement clearly to the audience, and it’s exciting to do it as the actor. It feels almost as if it was the first time I was performing the etude even though I did it about 50 times prior. Then I thought about my acting class and I made a huge correlation between the small specific movements and the lines of a script. They are the same. You have to memorize them and put them into your body so it comes natural but each time you have to have a purpose when you deliver them, and something has to make you want to do these movements (or lines of text) new each time. The motivation that I recognized was needed behind the etude made me understand what I was doing wrong in my acting class. I was memorizing a script over and over the same way every time so when I performed it, there was no motivation or reaction or give and take, I just said what I memorized and that went horribly. The whole week I could not figure out how to fix my scene but now I know. The script lines are just like the specific movements but I need to find purpose, I need to ask myself why I am saying this and what is my motivation.One last big project to mention that I should definitely mention is in my acting class. The project is called private moment and it is one of the hardest projects that all of the upperclassmen warn you about the second you are accepted into the BA Acting program, so I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. Private moment is when the whole class is scattered around the studio, which is a total of 24 people, and you are supposed to do something that you do by yourself that you would never show to anyone else. It’s supposed to be something that if someone came into the room, you would stop doing that activity and try to hide it. And we had to do this for two hours. It was a really cool experience but I had a very hard time letting go and pretending that my classmates were not surrounding me. Many people got naked, or sang out loud, or went crazy in front of a mirror, or laughed and cried. Each person was different and had different issues that they needed to overcome. Unfortunately the project did not work as well on me as it did others. I decided that I didn’t want to be nude in front of my classmates so I tried other forms of release. I meditated and tried to clear my mind while there were various noises from my peers and I tried my hardest to just cancel them out and focus on my brain. Then I got up and put headphones in and tried to teach myself a hip-hop routine in the mirror for the rest of the hour and a half. The project was really hard for me to do, especially because the way my mirror was facing I could see everything happening in the classroom and it was really hard for me to be as vulnerable as everyone else. But, maybe that is the lesson I take away from the project is that I need to be able to work on getting more vulnerable in front of others and that can take time and that’s okay.All in all, these past few weeks have been really great and they have really pushed me to help me grow as an actor and as an individual. I’ll be sure to write to you all next week!
Also: Here is the link to my first commercial! :
Madi Hall - April 2017