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  • Writer's pictureMichael Monicatti

Studying Performance amid Pandemics

In the Spring of 2020, I was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship's John Wood Award to The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). I was forced with a difficult choice. With no option to defer, I had to pick between attending my dream school and program during the Coronavirus Pandemic, or take a gamble by applying all over again the following year. Because my intentions for choosing LAMDA were just as much academic as they were practical or performance-based, I decided to enroll this year, with the knowledge some of the coursework would likely go online.

The year has been a mix of blended-learning, online and on our feet at Talgarth Road (LAMDA's campus) in the Fulham/Hammersmith area of London. In the late fall and winter, I was cast as the titular character in Shakespeare's Richard II, a role that I auditioned to the school with, making the casting and production a full circle moment for me. Earlier in the term, I played Benedict in a scene study of Much Ado About Nothing, among other supporting roles in the canon.

We're currently tackling plays from the Jacobean Period and Spanish Restoration, casting has yet to be announced. Classes are daily, at least five if not six times per week, with a minimum of eight hours a day. When we're online, it's lovely, as we're able to be cozy drinking hot tea and doing table work over zoom. When we're able to be in person, it's all the more precious and demands a boldness and a presence that has greatly improved the quality of my rehearsal work.

As luck would have it, the legendary Rodney Cottier, Tutor to the Stars, has returned from retirement to head our program. Thus, making ours, his final cohort. I am deeply grateful for this as he has taught masterclasses and courses all over the world. In addition to rehearsals, we take a large variety of classes: Dialect, Pure and Applied Voice, Pure and Applied Movement, Singing, Ensemble Singing, Feldenkrais, Spanish Dance, Pure Acting, Improv, all supplemented with Industry Masterclasses (our most recent with Debbie Korley from the Royal Shakespeare Company).

London is frigid, gorgeous, and quiet right now as the new strain of Coronavirus has recently forced us into a Tier 5 lockdown. My most exciting outings these days look like a walk to my local farmers market along the Thames. Until things change, you'll find me hunkering down with my eBooks, audiobooks, Complete Works of Shakespeare, and all the streaming services known to man. For this introvert, not much has changed and honestly, I can't complain!

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know what the entertainment industry will look like when I graduate in the Fall. But I do know I'll be more prepared for it. I do know that I'm being challenged in large and small ways and that the work I'm creating is becoming more specific, more nuanced, less forced, and more informed. I trust this process. I trust this journey, if for no other reason than this: there have been too many divine interventions, connections, and openings that have paved my very specific and particular path! So, here's to faith and to a bright artistic future abroad and at home.

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