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My time at The Gaiety School of Acting on their Irish Theatre Summer School

When I got a call two months ago and was told that I had been chosen as a scholarship recipient to the Irish Theatre Summer School, I couldn’t believe it. I saw the scholarship advertised on the Gaiety School of Acting Facebook page, and so I applied, thinking I hadn’t a hope of getting one of the three places up for grabs. Applying for the scholarship turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can honestly say that there are few things that I have ever enjoyed more than the Irish Theatre Summer School, and it was both beneficial to my acting, while also being a lot of fun.

The course is mainly a study abroad program, and myself and the two other scholarship recipients were put into a class with seven American students. Naturally before I started, I assumed that we were just going to study Irish theatre every day. But the course included so much more than that. We had scheduled culture visits, we saw a plethora of plays and took part in both practical acting classes, voice classes, and attended seminars on Irish playwrights; all of this culminating in an end of course showcase.

The acting classes covered all aspects of acting and acting skills needed in the world of theatre. We learned the technical side of acting, but also how to reach for the emotions and make the connection between yourself and the character. We were taught many great acting tips and given advice that I fully took on board and now use in my performances. I can see the improvement in my acting since I started the course and hope that it will continue to improve. The acting classes not only taught these techniques, but also showed us how to utilise them in performances. We also had voice classes, which taught me how to do something I had no idea how to do previously, project. We were thought how to get our voices to sound louder and stronger, and most importantly, we were taught how to protect them.

Our cultural visits included the Yeats exhibition, which is one of the finest and most detailed exhibitions that I have seen to date. We also visited The National Gallery, The Archaeological Museum, and The Chester Beatty Library. The latter was a completely new experience for me, as I was unaware that The Chester Beatty Library even existed. It is full of the most magnificent collection of artefacts from all over the world, and is a definite must see for anybody. We also saw some very fun Dublin staples, such as the Guinness storehouse, a walking tour of Dublin, the Viking splash, The Book of Kells, and St Michan’s Church, where you can shake hands with an 800 year old corpse. Definitely not something that you get to do every day.  This was a very fun and cultural side to the course, and not only is it great to have for the study abroad students to get to know Ireland better, but I myself got to see places and learn about things in my own city that I had never taken the time to before.

Probably the most helpful aspect of the programme was the amount of plays that we went to see as part of the course. Particular highlights include Once the Musical, Shadow of a Gunman, Trainspotting, Iscariot (Written and directed by Gaiety School of Acting director Patrick Sutton) and a fantastic new play called Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts. We saw the graduating Gaiety full time students perform their amazing play Full Moon Hotel, which was side splittingly hilarious, and we got to see the first year full time students performing their end of year showcase, which was also exceptionally hilarious and full of very talented actors. It was great to get to see fellow acting students showing what they can do, and also demonstrating what can be achieved through hard work and practice. It was so helpful to get to see all of these plays, and observe live all of the techniques we had been taught in class. This was definitely one of the more educational and enjoyable aspects of the course.

The course would have not been nearly as educational and informative without its fantastic tutors. We were thought by Patrick Sutton and Donal Courtney for our practical acting classes, and their advice and direction was second to none. They gave us practical advice while also getting us to build our confidence and stage presence. We had Russell Smith for our voice classes, who not only brought all of our voices towards reaching their full capacity, but also brought a lot of us out of our shells. Gerry Dukes gave exceptional seminars on famous Irish playwrights, and delved into their fascinating history, lives, and explored the mark they left on Irish theatre and culture.

The Irish Theatre Summer School was over all a really great experience, and I am so grateful to have been selected. I met some of the most amazing people and it was difficult to say goodbye to everyone at the end. The days were so fun and varied; you never knew if you were going to find yourself crawling on the floor pretending to be animals in voice class, or acting out very serious scenes that challenged you to the extreme. It was a mixture of fun and seriousness, at times calling for you to dig deep and grow as a person and an actor.  The end of course showcase was not only a highpoint of the course, but also of my entire summer. I’ve never been so terrified or had so much fun as we showcased all of the work we’d done to a packed room in the Black Box theatre. It was the perfect way to end a great experience. I think that I can safely say that I am going to miss the Gaiety School of Acting and every single person I met there so much.

Suzanne completed the Irish Theatre Summer School in July 2015. This four week program explores a unique approach to Irish Theatre that combines the understanding of the text with an exploration of the craft of acting. By working with improvisation and breath control you will focus on locating and developing the presence of the actor. Combined with lectures on Irish Theatre classics and contemporary Irish writers, participants will be submerged in an extensive cultural program which includes regular theatre visits and points of interest throughout Dublin.