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BADA Newsletter May 2014


British American Drama Academy Newsletter

May 2014

Spotlight On: BADA Outreach

Ian Wooldridge, BADA's Dean and Director, recently spent two weeks conducting classes and workshops across America as part of BADA's Outreach work.  He kept a diary of his experiences, excerpts of which are published below

Ian Wooldridge teaching at Harlem School of the Arts. 

Wednesday, March 26 A plane and a ride from Washington DC to Greensboro, North Carolina, home of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University. My third visit.

Thursday, March 27 A day of auditions and classes at NCAT. Frankie Day, Chair of Theatre and a BADA alum (MIO 2010) her usual energetic, caring self. Great to see her again, and work with some wonderful students, several of whom audition for this year’s Midsummer in Oxford program. Thrilling that previous outreach projects at NCAT have made it possible for students to apply for and come on BADA programs.

Friday, March 28 Fly to Montgomery Alabama, via Charlotte, and a second visit to Alabama State University. Tommie Stewart, Dean of Visual and Performing Arts, and Wendy Coleman, Chair of Theatre Arts, preside over a large and thriving theatre department. As in all these universities I visit, the buzz of creative expression is palpable.

Saturday/Sunday/Monday Acting Shakespeare and Audition Technique classes at ASU, culminating in a class in the main theatre on Monday evening in front of theatre faculty, students and parents of would-be students.  A lot of energy in the room!

Tuesday, April 1 Fly to Houston Texas, via Dallas and a first visit to Texas Southern University, one of the largest HBCU’s in America.  I meet Thomas Meloncon, a distinguished African-American playwright, and faculty member at TSU for many years.

Wednesday to Saturday 4 days of classes with 14 students at TSU. We work on sonnets, Shakespeare monologues and scenes.  Again the work is filled with energy and passion. Thomas sits in on all the classes, and we have great chats about the 60’s, the Civil Rights movement and contemporary Texan playwriting. The first, I hope, of many visits.

Sunday, April 6 Fly to NYC.

Tuesday, April 8 A class at the Professional Performing Arts High School on 48th street in Manhattan. Greg Parente, Chair of Theatre at PPAS and a BADA alum ( MIO 2013) introduces me to 12 students who strut their stuff in a large theatre. The range of work and the technical accomplishment is fantastic! 5 PPAS students will come on our Midsummer Conservatory Program this summer, and with talent like this on display there should be many more in the future.

Thursday, April 10 An evening class at Harlem School of the Arts, an event organized by HSA, the American Friends of BADA and BADA.  Many BADA alums, parents, invited guests and AFBADA board members in attendance.  Yvette Campbell, President of HSA introduces the evening, and then I work with 5 young actors, who yet again demonstrate that Shakespeare’s language combined with energy, focus and commitment can yield exciting results. A fitting end to this year’s Outreach project.

Interview with Erik Patterson

In an interview for American Theater Magazine, Fiona Shaw, who has taught countless master classes at BADA, once wondered aloud whether drama schools “need to be producing hundreds of actors every year, when we only need 10 new ones who are good.”  Her conclusion?  “To study acting and then become lawyers or housewives – it makes them better lawyers and better housewives.  The really great thing is that if they learn anything in their classes, they can use it in their kitchens.”

Erik Patterson

Erik Patterson trained as an actor in the London Theatre Program in the fall of 1998, but his “kitchen” since then has been his writerly imagination.  He started out as a playwright based in Los Angeles before seguing into writing for television and films and since then has earned a Humanitas Prize, a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations.  He’s the first to say that his studies in acting made his current career as a screenwriter possible and has a choice memory or two of studying with Fiona in the days when who he now is was just beginning to be formed by the theater in general and by BADA specifically. David Byron, BADA's Director of College Relations, took the opportunity to ask Erik a few questions about his career, and his time on the LTP.

DAVID: So how did you go from being an aspiring actor to a successful Hollywood screenwriter? 

ERIK: I started acting when I was ten in classes at the South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, fell in love with the theater and so studied it, later, at Occidental College in L.A. But it wasn’t until I wrote my first short play while at BADA on our fall break that I realized I was mostly interested in writing.  We had a week off of classes, and I spent the time in Venice on the Lido sitting in these amazing little cafes and wrote my first play.  Very romantic!    

Once I returned home to L.A. my first job was as a Production Assistant on a TV show called Night Visions on Fox.  And at the same time I was working at the Actors Gang theater company, which was started by Tim Robbins, the agreement being that if I worked as a stage manager for them, they’d give me the space for free to do a workshop of the play I was writing.

I’d leave my p.a. job at around 5 or 6, rehearse my workshop at the Actors Gang till midnight, then drive to Fox and Warner Bros and pick up a mountain of scripts which I had to deliver all over town as part of my p.a. job.  Being on the set was a crash course in how writing for theater and writing for film or TV are so different.  I never studied writing, I just taught myself by reading a lot.

Then, in 2002, I was working on a show, the pilot for which  was supposed to be shot in Berlin, but the international financing fell through at the last minute.  My friend, Jessica Scott, who was a writer on the show, and I had tickets to London for the shoot and just decided to go anyway and stay for three weeks. During that time we came up with an idea for a TV show – a kind of gay Wonder Years – and sold it later to VH-1. It was before Glee and some of the other shows with gay content, so the response we got a lot was, “We love this, but we don’t think people are ready for it,” so it never got made, but we did get paid to write it. Out of that experience I got a credit and an agent and a writing partner who I still write with to this day. 

We sold a few more scripts that didn’t get made and then were hired to write a sequel to Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff, called Another Cinderella Story because Warner Brothers wanted to turn it into a franchise.  That was my first script that got made and I’ve been working as a professional writer without a day job since then.  It changed everything.

You’re also a regular on R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour?

Yeah, we’ve written 14 episodes and, in fact, we got some exciting news last week:  we’re nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award, our second nomination!  The ceremony is June 20. The show is basically a Twilight Zone for kids. We try to be as scary as possible and really freak out the kids!

Do the producers ever reign you in and say, no, no, no, you’ve gone too far?

Absolutely!  We try to take it as far as we can in the first drafts and the producers will say, “Hey, you can’t kill these kids!”  And we say, “Aw, come on!”  I think it’s important to scare kids at that age!

It’s the sponsors you can’t scare!

Exactly.  The great thing is that The Haunting Hour is free-lance, so it gives us a lot of freedom to do a lot of other projects at the same time.  We did two sequels to the Cinderella story for Warner Bros and then about a year ago we were approached to write a movie for Sophia Grace and Rosie.

Tell me about them.

Sophia Grace and Rosie are two adorable little British girls, cousins, from Sussex who, when they were 5 and 7 videotaped a Nicki Minaj song, which went viral.  So Ellen DeGeneres had them on her show, fell in love with them and brought them back as correspondents for her show and sent them to the Grammies, the MTV Music Awards… These little girls would be on the red carpet, interviewing Katy Perry, Beyonce, Rihanna.  Or they’d have tea with Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, all of these big pop culture people. 

So we were hired to write a movie for the girls which is called Sophia Grace and Rosie's Royal Adventure. That was last June, we were filming in November in Cape Town, South Africa, and it comes out on DVD on May 20. The idea of it is that Ellen sends Sophia Grace and Rosie as correspondents to a fictional country to cover the coronation of a new queen.  When they get there they discover that there are three princesses competing for the throne and one of them (Princess Abigail) is very shy and constantly overshadowed by her more confident sisters.  Sophia Grace and Rosie bond with her and help her become the next queen.  What the movie ultimately is about and what Ellen stands for is that when you live an authentic life being yourself can be your greatest strength.  We wanted to send a message of empowerment for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong. 

How can we see it?

It’ll be available anywhere DVD’s are sold.  It’ll also be on iTunes, and eventually it will be available on Netflix. 

So to come full circle back to your beginnings at BADA: Do you feel like your time there served you as a writer? 

Definitely.  I still think back to my days at BADA; it was definitely the best semester of my college life.  I feel so fortunate to have studied with Mick Barnfather, who was an incredible teacher, Michael Maloney, who I studied Shakespeare with…  And as a writer, something that not a lot of people realize is you have to constantly sell yourself and your stories.  You go in and pitch them and hope that they’ll hire you to actually write them. So I’m constantly drawing on my acting background to sell my stories, because you have to paint this picture of what’s going to be on the page.  You really do perform the story for the executives and I feel I have a certain amount of confidence I would attribute to that time. 

My guess is that when you’re writing you kind of have to act out the parts in your mind and be a little schizophrenic.

You do and it’s important to approach a scene how an actor would approach it, so that if I was acting this scene, what would be important to me, where would I be coming from?    That way I start from a place I might not otherwise start the scene from.

One of my favorite things about living in London for such a long time was I actually saw 60 plays while I was at BADA in one semester-- 

--That’s got to be a record --

--I’ve got all the programs!  And seeing that much theater also helped me as a writer.  I would go to class, then see a play 3 or 4 nights a week.  I also went to the theater museum in Covent Garden and watched productions on video and saw Complicite productions on tape there.  I saw Blue Room at the Donmar with Nicole Kidman, which was great,  Mick Barnfather in Puntilla and His Man Matti and Antony and Cleopatra at the National with Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman.

We also did master classes with Simon Callow and Fiona Shaw. I was lucky enough to work with Fiona in a scene from Taming of the Shrew

You know, Fiona, Mick, Ian, many of the people you studied with are still teaching at BADA all these years later.

You know, I went back several years ago to visit the old school.  It was closed over Christmas holiday, but I introduced myself to the caretaker, who said, “You’re one of the BADA kids!” and he let me in to have a look around. I looked at the old classrooms and I got kind of emotional because I could feel I was back in school in 1998.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mick or Ian had suddenly walked in the room.  It is such a community and it was such a transformative time.

Sophia Grace and Rosie's Royal Adventure comes out on DVD on May 20.  You can watch a promo for the film by clicking here (EXTERNAL LINK)

AFBADA event in Washington

Jennifer Rockwood, Michael Kahn and Ian Wooldridge at the first Washington DC Alumni event.  

On March 25, a group of 20 alumni, friends and supporters gathered at The Shakespeare Theatre for the first-ever American Friends of BADA event in the DC area. Director Michael Kahn joined the group for pre-show cocktails and alumni ranging from recent to as far back as 1985 were in attendance. Organizer Mike Kelly (MIO 2010) shares his thoughts below.

We were very lucky to have our inaugural event of the DC chapter of the American Friends of BADA on March 25 for many reasons, but the night would not have been possible without the incredible help of Jennifer, Ian and Jenny. Working together, we somehow managed to align the various stars to make the night such a wonderful event: finding a time when both Jennifer and Ian would be in Washington, discovering that the Shakespeare Theatre Company would be producing their namesake’s Henry IV, Part I and securing tickets, reaching out to our local alumni, all the while coordinating from both sides of the Atlantic! Not an impossible task, but definitely a long shot to hit everything perfectly on the first try.

Well, not only was the show fantastic and getting to meet alumni from many different years and programs really special, but one DC alum was able to connect BADA to a local foundation that awarded them a scholarship grant! And that wouldn’t have been possible without the one implausible idea of wanting to start a DC AFBADA branch because I knew a number of alumni live and work in the area, and the awesome folks of BADA’s front office saying “why not?” and helping me put the whole thing together. So, to all of you theater-makers, supporters, and alumni in the regional theater cities of the US: start your own alumni groups! Who knows what great things can come from our implausible ideas?

-Michael Kelly, DC BADA Alumni Liaison

Other News

Recently - Orlando Bloom (LTP 1996)  unveiled his new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Davis McCallum (MIO 1993) has been appointed the new Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.  Chris Myers (MIO 2009) has won an OBIE for his performance in Octaroon.   Oliver Platt (MIO 1986) is currently appearing alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Colin Hanks in FX's acclaimed new TV show Fargo.  David Walton (LTP 1999) is starring in NBC’s About a Boy, with Minnie Driver.

BADA Liaisons - We are delighted that Michael Kelly and Therese Lee have agreed to be our official BADA liaisons for Washington DC and Los Angeles respectively. 

Special Thanks - We would like to extend a special “thank you” to both Jacqueline Chenault (MIO 2007) and the Morgan Fund.  Following the Washington DC alumni event, Jacqueline introduced us to the Fund, which will be providing a grant to cover partial tuition for a student from the DC area to attend this year’s Midsummer Conservatory Program.

Keep Us Updated! - Thanks to everyone for sending us all your updates - wherever possible, we will post upcoming shows and events on our Facebook page, where you can also see exclusive pictures of our latest productions.  Please remember to let us know if your e-mail address changes (when your college e-mail expires etc), so that we can keep you informed about upcoming events and other information.  You can also click through to the AFBADA website here.

Save The Date - Therese Lee (MIO 1995), our BADA Liaison in LA, is planning the first AFBADA event there, with Ian Wooldridge, so please save the date - 16 October 2014. Please email Therese directly if you are able to attend or be involved in some way.


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