Ever wondered what it's really like to train for a career in musical theatre?
UKP-Arts asked David Moss, a student at the Musical Theatre Academy (MTA) in London, to keep a diary to show just how varied and demanding it can be. Below is what David did experienced in a space of five days!
9:15 am and another week at MTA begins. The day is split into dance in the mornings and acting/singing/voice in the afternoons. A few of us prepare for our jokingly named 'remedial' ballet class, whilst the rest of our 13-strong year group prepares for musical theatre style. As not everyone at MTA has had a lot of dance experience, this way we get to refine our basic technique, whilst not holding back the more advanced students. We all join together in the second class to continue learning a routine for our upcoming show, 60s style!
The afternoon brings us all together in singing class, going over revue songs and talking about levels of performance and how to make the most of our time with our teachers, as well as our time outside the classroom. Later, in acting class, we explore the seven deadly sins and what each means to us individually and as a group. We then move on to exploring them physically - relating them to character, posture and breathing, and finishing with some improvisations. A really interesting class which manages to stir up a lot of debate!
Today started off with a contemporary dance rehearsal, an important class for the girls as it was the day our teacher chose who was going to perform this number in the show. Despite only a small number performing the dance, we all join in and it's a great style - full of character and expression, yet with a solid core of technique behind it. In the afternoon, we continue going over some of our show numbers - auditioning the girls for singing parts, and giving Sam and I the music to our duet to give us a bit of time to get it into our heads for tomorrow. For the last part of the day, we have our voice class where we have been exploring vocal floor bar, doing a lot of Alexander Technique and working mostly from semi-supine. The work focuses a lot on resonance within the body and voice, and how our posture and breathing affect it. Our teacher, Nia Lynn, has such a fresh and fun way of approaching her classes, and lets us find the answers within ourselves.
Not a very good morning for me. Dance is by far my weakest area, and I struggle in getting the right technique in ballet and jazz classes. My body just refuses to do what I tell it to do, nothing seems to be going right and my teacher is constantly prodding and poking and telling me what is wrong. At first, I resent it, but there was a point in the class where I was just encouraged to relax and things started going better - finally!
The afternoon was an exploratory acting class, going over our duologues/monologues and inputting our accents from voice class into them, before showing them to the rest of the class. Helen, our teacher, gives everyone more themes to continue our exploration, as well as directorial notes on space and staging, which will allow us to round off our scenes ready for next week. We finish the day performing all the songs for the revue for Ellen, our resident designer, so she can get a feel for the show, and we can look at the running order.
Today started with a class with Alan Burkett, our tap-dancing teacher, and we continue the choreography for yet another of our revue songs. Not being a good 'tapper' myself, I and a few others provide more 'characters' with our own dance style, leaving the good tappers to do the more challenging choreography. I think this is a great way of looking at life in the industry - if you aren't good enough to be in a number (be it because of technical ability or some other reason), you probably won't be in it. But rather than feel resentment at that, I like to just throw myself into the character that I have been given and make my dance as good as it can be.
The afternoon comprises an accent and dialect class, in which we explore tongue placement, glottal stops and aspiration within our chosen accents for our acting monologues/duologues. I STILL find Nia's ability to just fiddle around with tongue placement and create any accent within seconds amazing! And what's more, she's teaching all of us to do the same and encouraging us to play, but always with the target of getting it right. The latter part of the afternoon, we start to polish a couple of our review songs. I'm a little bit gutted that the duet I was in was cut, but Sarah and I have been given another song to replace it so we aren't missing out!
An unusual day at MTA today, as we have one of our 'special' classes in the morning and a planned workshop in the afternoon. Our morning class was stage combat with Marcello Marascalchi. After our week of combat last term that focused on hand-to-hand, we have now just been introduced to sword skills. We start with rapiers then move on to daggers in the last part of the morning session. I LOVE stage combat! Mainly because of the skill involved to make it look as realistic and impressive as possible, but also because of my personal interest in weapons like swords. As if that wasn't enough, the hours we put in with Marcello go towards gaining our BADC Stage Combat certification at the end of the course!
In the afternoon, we have a special guest do a workshop with us. Howard Samuels comes in and does a brilliant workshop, looking at each of our individual performances within a solo song of our choice. It was incredible how Howard was able to take a song, spin it on its head and get us to perform it in a completely new way, yet still remaining true to the song. And it was a little scary how quickly he was able to pick up on the areas we felt most vulnerable, and push us to just go for it. We all learnt so much, about ourselves and each other. I hope Howard comes in again!