After a fantastic set of workshops earlier this year, our Artistic Director, Laura, returns to offer two exciting, intensive day sessions in August: ‘Script vs Score: Acting for Opera Singers’ (20th August) and ‘Preparation and Presentation: Opera Auditions Masterclass’ (26th August).
We interviewed Laura earlier this year** about her work and what she offers to singers in her workshops…
Laura, can you introduce yourself for our readers?
I’m Laura Attridge, and I make theatre and opera: I’m primarily a director and writer, and am also proud to be the founder and Artistic Director of And So Forth. My particular passion is for creative collaboration, so I try to do as much of this as possible!
You initially trained as an opera singer; how does this experience inform and enhance the work you do now with performers as a director and writer?
I couldn’t be the artist I am without the skills and knowledge I acquired during my time at the Royal College of Music: I draw upon this experience constantly, and am lucky to be able to combine it with everything I learned in my undergraduate studies in English Literature. My training gave me a deep understanding of the opera singer’s craft, and the unique demands they face as performers, and thereby a real passion for working with these extraordinary artists: I see my job, both as director and writer, as facilitating their best performances. In addition, I work regularly with young and emerging singers; my time at conservatoire gave me a practical insight into their training, which helps me to support them both on and off stage.
What are your favourite things about your work?
Collaboration, as mentioned above. Every contract I do offers me the chance to make work that is unique to the combination of people involved in the project, and every job offers me the chance to support and learn from the work of my colleagues. Working as a director, I get to help artists flourish in my rehearsal room: supporting them to play, invent, discover and challenge themselves, to get their very best performances on the night. I love the moment of sitting in the audience, thinking ‘I helped make this happen!’. More often than not, I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat literally taking every breath along with my cast.
What are the most common issues you come across when working with opera singers?
Insecurity, defensiveness, fear, inflexibility. But it doesn’t surprise me. Practically speaking, it is rare to see a singer fully equipped with a working knowledge and command of the myriad of skills required of them in terms of approaches to acting, movement and stage craft; their training in these areas is in its infancy compared to the very best training available to actors. When a singer has been lucky enough to encounter a particularly skilled tutor (although there are a few, who are worth their weight in gold) in any of these areas, it’s obvious. But I’d be insecure – I’d be afraid too. And this is why we’re putting on these workshops.
What should people expect from your workshops?
Both of my workshops are in place to offer singers a toolbox of methods with which to approach role preparation, rehearsal rooms and stages. The sessions will consolidate knowledge drawn from participants’ existing experience, allowing for the sharing of practice in a safe and supportive environment, and then challenge participants to go into much greater depths both with fundamental techniques and with new ideas. ‘Inside Out/Outside In: Building a Character’ will explore how you can prepare and develop a role both physically and psychologically, whilst ‘Script vs Score: Theatre for Opera Singers’ will be an intense session in which singers will get practical experience of the way actors work.
Participants should expect to be challenged and to be empowered, and to have to let their defences down.
What do you hope participants will go away with after your workshop?
I hope participants go away with a whole arsenal of ideas and techniques with which to approach their next roles, to surprise and delight their next director or audition panel! I also hope they go away inspired by a clearer knowledge of their own potential as performers, and with more of an idea of how to develop their craft.
**NB: This article was originally published ahead of our Spring 2017 workshops. Laura led ‘Inside Out/Outside In: Building A Character’ (19th February) and ‘Script vs Score: Theatre for Opera Singers’ (26th February). Click the links for more information about these sessions.