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What was your experience/field of study before the course?
My undergraduate degree was in History of Art & Architecture, but throughout all four years I was also heavily involved with theatre on campus and essentially took every acting course my school offered. At the time, I felt that it wasn't a practical career choice to concentrate on theatre, but after graduation I found there were more opportunities than I was expecting. I was hired by my old high school (I'm American) to take over their theatre programs as a teacher and director, and around that same time, I met up with a producer who gave me the opportunity to begin directing my own projects, and we began a great partnership. In the final year before I came to LAMDA, I quit my full time teaching job and began freelance teaching to give myself more time to focus on directing, apply to grad school, and start a summer theatre residency in my home village in Sicily, something I'd been dreaming about for a long time. That was part of how I knew this was the right choice-I'd already decided to give up a career that offered me certainty and make directing and theatre my whole life.
What made you want to study a post grad course and how did you make your choice?
After about four years of teaching and directing simultaneously, I began to feel like it was time to take the next step and get my MA in either theatre education or directing, since I hadn't technically gotten a degree in either one yet. I knew that even as a teacher, I was much more compelled by the work in the rehearsal room than the classroom, so I decided to look for MA and MFA programs in directing. As an undergrad I'd done a lot of acting but only directed one show, so I felt hungry for a chance to be back in that learning environment, somewhere I could take risks, make mistakes, get meaningful feedback, be challenged, and grow.
I chose LAMDA because it was the only school I looked at that offered the chance to explore such a wide variety of performance practices and traditions - I knew we'd be working on classical texts, devised works, contemporary playwriting, movement projects, etc. LAMDA also has its MA Directors train alongside the acting students during their first term, which was important for me. Since I'd previously worked as an actor, I felt that an understanding of the actor's process was crucial to my work as a director. I wanted to develop a deeper understanding and have a shared vocabulary with professional working actors.
How has the course helped so far?
LAMDA gave me the chance to learn from brilliant artists at all stages of their careers - not just directors and instructors, but also designers & actors (both professional and still in training), and my astounding classmates perhaps most of all. Moreover, I came here to be challenged, and that's exactly what I got. I was given the space both to fail and to succeed. No failure was ever treated like a disaster, nor was a success ever treated like a victory. It was all part of the process of learning, so even a failure becomes a success if it helps you to grow as an artist.
Any challenges in taking on a post grad course-time, finances etc. and any tips for addressing those?
I don't think I have any great advice for this. I was lucky enough to be able to live at home for a few years before coming to LAMDA so everything I made working as a teacher and director I put into savings, which is how I managed to afford the program (though of course that means I have no savings left to fall back on now, which is scary!). I romantically believed that there might be time to hold a part time job during the course but that is completely impossible, there's barely time to breathe. You have to embrace the breakneck pace of it; the course really does require your full time and energy.
Mariagrazia graduated in 2017.