Our First Week in England

posted by Anya Richkind, A.C.T. Young Conservatory student

Every other year, students from A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory go to England to develop a new play written for young actors as part of an ongoing exchange program with Theatre Royal Bath. This year, a group of Young Conservatory and M.F.A. Program students travels to Bath to work on Riot, a brand-new play by Irish author Ursula Rani Sarma, which will receive its world premiere production at A.C.T. in April 2010. Anya Richkind, a junior at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School, writes about her first week of making theater across the Atlantic.

Gosh, halfway done already. I can’t believe it. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been here for months—The Egg, the theater we are working in, now gives me those warm and fuzzy vibes that come only with familiarity—but on the other hand, we leave in less than a week. In our week here, so much has happened, from learning about new theatrical techniques to exploring the beautifully ancient city of Bath.

Over the course of the first week, we rehearsed our play, Ursula Rani Sarma’s Riot, and took various acting workshops. It was remarkable and surprising to see how our characters grew and evolved in such a short period of time. We spent the few days reading and discussing the play, which proved to be quite controversial, perturbing, and altogether fantastic! Then we jumped into staging the play, finishing the complete blocking in just two days (whereas most plays rehearse for a month!). After a week of preparation, we performed our informal staged reading last night. Even though we used minimal props and costumes, it felt very real. I definitely had the notorious “butterflies in the stomach” before I went onstage. The English people who came to the performance certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves; I could recognize the really high-pitched melodic laugh of my host often throughout the reading. Furthermore, I’m sure I speak for the entire cast when I say it was an incredibly fun play to perform.

Aside from the theatrical experience, it’s been superb to get to know all the people on this trip—Brits and Americans alike. After a week of continually hanging out together, this crosscontinental group of youngsters has grown into a cohesive, super-enjoyable . . . family, if I may be so cheesy. I absolutely love how this program somehow manages to both provide amazing acting experience AND friendship up the wazoo! We go to the park for lunch, we go out to dinner, we explore a city that just reeks of that marvelous English old-fashioned mystique. Besides all that, plus seeing high-caliber English theater in the nighttime, plus the acting workshops, plus a brand-new, fantastic play, what more could I ask for? Furthermore, four [A.C.T. M.F.A. Program] students are on the trip with us, so I’ve gotten the chance to get to know some simultaneously hilarious and profound people I might not otherwise have met.

Oh and did I mention culture shock? It’s positively charming to hear English accents everywhere I go. (My host father has taught me that a “British” accent can refer to England, Ireland, or Scotland, so that’s why I now say English.) Hilarity ensues every time I discover a word they say particularly differently. All of us Americans get a kick out of how they pronounce aluminum as “aluminium.” And sometimes I feel like the everyday English activities around me are just too quaint to be real. For example, today, one of the hosts had a garden party for all of us (held indoors—it rains a lot in Bath!). I have never seen so many scones (pronounced “scawns” by the Brits), handmade raspberry jams, teas, or “Victoria sponges” in one place. It was adorable (and very tasty!).

Well, that pretty much sums up my experience thus far, although I doubt I will ever really find the right words to describe how enjoyable, exciting, and eye-opening this trip has been. I will treasure my last week here, and try not to think too much about that moment when I have to say goodbye.

Click here to read Anya’s first blog about her preparations for the big trip!

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