What is your favorite travel memory?
Aside from all the usual experiences of new cultures and the creative inspirations that travel brings, (and it does!), I have two particular travel memories that stand out.
The first was in Florida when I was there performing in the Florida Fringe Festival. At the end of the festival, a group of local performers invited the overseas actors to a “swamp party”. There was a huge cargo net strung between two enormous trees that became a twenty person hammock for an improvised music session.
What I realized from that magical night was that the language of creativity and art is universal. We can go anywhere in the world with stories in our heart and collaborate and share them.
This was reinforced by the second memory of a night by a lake in Auckland, NZ that saw myself and a group of local Maori actors swapping Shakespearean monologues for hakas. Creativity has no borders.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I think what working for NYFA has done for me is give me the opportunity to understand the links between creativity and communication more fully. As a working artist, so much is instinct and “feel”, but in a teaching environment I’ve learned to find a way to articulate instinct.
It’s not enough to be able to say “every artistic bone in my body tells me that next chord has to be D major” or “thirty years of experience says deliver that line this way”. You have to be able to firstly identify the basis of what you believe is an organic understanding and then find the tools to articulate and communicate that understanding in a way that’s accessible to students of all backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.
What is the best story you’ve heard from a return student?
A student that I had taught improvisation to as part of the acting diploma told me she had made huge progress in her relationship with her estranged father because of improv.
When I asked her how improv had helped her, she smiled and said “Remember what you taught us was the most important skill in improvisation? I learned to listen.” To me it was a perfect reminder of how the craft of acting is really about the art of portraying real life, and that the two are interwoven.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I’m in the process of planning to access our professional development program. Ideal for our industry, it allows staff to engage with particular areas of specific interest. It allows up-skilling, cross-skilling and furthering a particular skill set.
For myself, I’m looking at traveling to a Robert McKee story workshop. As an actor/director/writer it would be a refresher on focusing on the essential art of telling a good story. Which is also a valuable perspective to pass on to our students.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
What makes NYFA unique is the focus on individuality. We are a unique and diverse collection of teachers working with a unique and diverse collection of students. This alchemical mix, combined with a determination to not simply turn out the next generation of cookie-cutter actors and film-makers brings a constant freshness to the working environment.
In terms of pride in the team, I would hope that happens on a daily basis, but there have been a number of highlights.
A recent example would come from the production of a TV pilot with our advanced acting group and our staff crew. What we achieved in three days under extreme weather conditions and last minute external factors was nothing short of magic.
But then again, film-making is all about magic.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I believe every successful company achieves that success through understanding not just its corporate identity, but how all the staff can help generate, influence and add value to that identity.
The successful company shares ownership of that success with every single person even remotely involved. The successful company listens within and without and is neither a slave to a market or master of slavish workers. The successful company sees the picture big and small, the forest and the trees in balanced perspective.
What makes NYFA a successful company is its commitment to enhancing the most important thing in the world - the people who will tell the stories that will keep the world growing.