Wednesday, January 2, 2008

MFA Actor Bio: A Typical Day in the Life of Graham Allen

By Graham himself

7:30 AM: The typical day begins. I roll out of bed (a surprisingly comfortable inflatable Aero bed mattress) and down two pints of water, which is the best way to start the day, I’ve been told. I follow this up with the more important cup of tea. No, I’m not a caffeine junkie, and yes, I know it’s a contradiction of hydration because of the caffeine, but I like it- so there. I’m not a theatre monk or some simple puritan- I’m a first year MFA/PAT (Master of Fine Arts/ Professional Actor Training) student at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival who needs his caffeine. Today is another typical 12+ hour day where I will peck away at class work or the homework for my theatre history class on Saturday morning, all while sitting in my faded lime green thrift store rocking chair from the 70s. For theatre history class I have to read about three plays a week as well as other supplemental materials.

10 to 12 and 1-5: My first class is from ten a.m. to noon with one of the main faculty members. When I worked on my ASFD (American Society of Fight Directors) combat certification along with the other students, we spent over 115 hours swinging broadswords, parrying rapiers with daggers, punching each other, and learning how to fall in a way that looked painful, but really wasn’t. My class is now working on Winnie the Pooh in the smaller thrust stage of the Octagon Theatre in the evening, while still meeting with acting, movement, and voice faculty in the morning.

My class schedule changes every week, which keeps things fresh from one week to the next. One of our faculty members worked at another theatre for a few weeks, so during that time we spent more time with the other faculty members. I remember having over eleven hours of Voice in one week (and that’s not a judgment on my voice- it’s just the facts!) We call this front-loading, and it’s very typical here at the Festival.

5-7 p.m. We get two hours for dinner break (from five to seven), but it generally becomes gym and workout time for me so that I can relax and stay sane. Sometimes I have to sacrifice this time for the sake of studying when papers are due. Oh yes, there are research papers and projects due in nearly all of our classes, so after my long day, I trek to the AUM library to dig through the stacks of books. It is said that MFA program graduates have found the “real world” to be much easier than life here up to their eyes in studies. And there is plenty more to do after you’ve written your papers. The faculty is willing to meet with you if you want a tutorial. Don’t forget singing lessons with Randy and the costume fittings!

The Lure Come to think of it, you never know what might lure you in at the Festival. During my first week here I was roped into being part of CultureFest and ended up “working it” onstage as part of Pangaea: the International Fashion Show. If you saw the show, I was the ruddy looking guy with freckles dressed in traditional Pakistani attire. There’s never a dull moment at ASF, and it can be hard to prioritize at times. I’ve had to learn to be comfortable with having deadlines loom over my head instead of finishing everything at once before doing things that are not work-related. Seem frantic? It’s really not. There’s a wonderful mix of hubbub, reveling, and order at the sixth largest Shakespeare Festival in the world.