Spotlight on Students in Studio Shows

One of the primary goals of the Conservatory is to prepare students to work in the professional theatre.  This month we sat down with Emily Kester and Shravan Amin.  These students were actors in last season’s 2ndStage production of Edgar and Annabel directed by Holly Twyford who completed the most recent Directing class in Fall 2013. We discussed the transition from student to professional actor. 

Where were you, in terms of your process as an actor, when you first started taking classes at the Acting Conservatory?

Emily: When I began taking class at the Acting Conservatory, I was about a year out of my BFA Acting Program. I wanted to take classes at the conservatory to keep working on my craft while I started my career in DC.

Shravan: Before my first class at Studio, which was in the summer of 2013, I was very involved with the DC-area comedy scene. I was performing improv locally at DC Improv, Washington Improv Theater, and at the Comedy Spot in Ballston for about a couple of years. I took a few acting classes during that time to complement my improv, but I felt I wasn't getting rigorous enough training that I wanted and needed. That's when the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory entered my life.

Was it always a goal for you to work professionally, or did the experience at the Conservatory open a pathway for you?

Emily: It was always a goal for me to work professionally. I found the conservatory as a great way to continually work on acting, while developing new skills and delving deeper into my existing understanding of various techniques and styles. The conservatory was a wonderful pathway to connecting with amazing teachers and mentors, as well other artists in the community, some of which I have been lucky enough to work with professionally.

Shravan: I wanted to work professionally as an actor before I started classes at the Conservatory, but it was all focused on film and TV. Theatre was something on the back burner. The Conservatory made me realize how much I love live theatre. I was having so much fun performing on stage that I decided to pursue it more aggressively. I got involved with Shakespeare's Macbeth at a community theatre. Then my next gig was Edgar & Annabel right here at Studio Theatre's 2ndStage. It opened up a path for me, for sure!

Tell us about an ‘aha’ moment for you in your training at the Conservatory. 

Emily: A real "aha" moment for me at the conservatory was about midway through the rehearsal process for final scenes in Principles of Realism. It was during that process where I truly discovered a sense of 'play' with the material and with my scene partner, and for the first time in a while, felt like the preparation was there and that true spontaneity could occur. I believe it was a combination of great coaching from Serge and the combined commitment and trust my scene partner and I developed through our work together in class. 

Shravan: It was about a week and a half before our final scenes for Character & Emotion (May 2014). My scene partner and I were having an incredibly difficult time putting together a scene from Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. We must have practiced 12 hours that week and we weren't performing the way we expected to. Nancy Paris, our teacher, met with us outside of class to rehearse and she told us to just throw everything away. She said to let go of our preconceived notions of what we thought should happen in the scene, our lines, our objectives, and just trust ourselves. At that point, I did my best to empty my mind and get out of my head. It was actually quite freeing. Not having to worry about what I need to say, how I need to say it. That's when we struck gold.  

Do you feel that the training you received at the Conservatory prepared you for a professional rehearsal process and for performance?

Emily: Yes, conservatory training at Studio is held at a very professional level. Teachers truly invest in your development as an artist, but also trust that you can handle the responsibility of personal preparation. It's a place where you can take risks, and not be afraid to do so. 

Shravan: Absolutely. I think the detail-oriented nature of the Conservatory helped me better prepare for the several theatre productions I've been involved in. Directors in the professional community are very specific in their feedback and direction. While it was certainly challenging going from a class to an actual paid production, the Conservatory stepping stone was clutch!

What advice would you give students who are new to the Conservatory?

Emily: Be a sponge. For those entering the conservatory with previous training there is a sense of letting go of what "you already know" that needs take place -there's no room for ego in this kind of collaborative environment. For those brand new to acting, allow yourself to play! Understand that the classroom is a place where you can make amazing discoveries, and that your teachers and classmates are your fellows, all helping one another become better performers. 

Shravan: Commit. Not just to showing up, but in between classes, in classes during exercises, and during rehearsals. What you get out of it is what you put into it.

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Interviews and conversations with members of the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory community.