Sophie Goldstein is a member of the current class in the MFA in Physical Theatre Program at the Accademia. We had a chance to ask Sophie some questions about her experience prior to coming to ADA, her impressions of the program as she undertakes her 2nd year of study, and her goals and aspirations for after the program.
Name: Sophie Goldstein
Q: Where are you from?
S: Los Angeles, Ca
Q: What is your performance/theater background?
S: I did my undergrad at California State University of Los Angeles where we received a wide variety of training and techniques. We studied Stanislavsky, Misner, Adler, Strasberg and also were introduced to Linkletter, Mary Overlie and Anne Bogart. While in LA, I did a lot of site specific, ensemble based work and was part of a small company called Opera Del Espacio which performs all over the streets of Los Angeles. I’ve also studied with LA’s Cornerstone Theater Company and did a summer intensive at Dell’Arte International in Blue Lake, CA. I’ve found that within the studying and practicing I’ve done so far, I am most interested in devised, ensemble based “physical theater” work.
Q: What were you doing just before you came to the Accademia professional/performance wise?
S: Prior to coming to Accademia, I was working as a lighting technician/designer and box office assistant at several theaters in Los Angeles while also performing with Opera Del Espacio.
Q: Where did you first learn about the Accademia and what specifically about this program made you want to attend?
S: I first heard about the program at the Dell’Arte school in Blue Lake. A professor there told me that I might be interested in studying Commedia in Italy and recommended the school. I did not think about it again until a year after I received my BA and stumbled upon it again while searching the Internet. I was incredibly interested in learning Commedia Dell’Arte in the country where it was born by people who had been studying it for years and spoke the Italian language with its many dialects. I am already receiving this training and am so excited to keep learning more! I was also drawn to the overall philosophy and training that the program offers. I appreciate that they do not offer simply one method or one rule to “physical theater” but acknowledge the wide variety that exists and provide us with professionals who can give us training in several different styles and perspectives.
Q: What have been some of the most influential/impactful moments of your training at ADA so far?
S: This may sound cliche but the moments that have been most influential have been when I feel understand a perspective only to be hit in the face within the next two days of something entirely new. This forces me to always go deeper to try new things. There is value in learning a technique and a skill but I’ve also been pushed here to “break the rules if they work.” To not be afraid to try new things and if it fails, you ask why and then take note of it. And you also take note when something worked, even though it may have come as a surprise.
Q: What is something unexpected that you’ve found while working towards your MFA?
S: The most unexpected aspect of my experience so far has been the collaboration and support I have found among our cohort. It completely baffled me that a group of people with so many different personalities could come together and work together so incredibly well. Granted, I do believe that we got luck in many senses; however, that is indeed what has surprised me most. A lot also has to do with the fact that we each have a professional mindset when it comes to the work. Despite any personal problems which may occur, we always know that the work comes first and thus have been able to successfully collaborate.
Q: What work that you have done during your time in the MFA program are you most proud of?
S: At the end of our first semester our cohort decided to do a production of Midsummer Nights Dream, incorporating skills we had learned so far. We cut the script and re-arranged scenes that we thought worked best for our goals and divided ourselves into groups of Fairies, Lovers and Mechanicals. The fairies focused on acrobatics, the lovers focused on stage combat and contact improv and the Mechanicals focused on slapstick and clown work. It was simply an experiment we wanted to do and even came back early from break to begin rehearsals and eventually performed it for an audience. I am incredibly proud of this moment for it was something completely outside of class/school and something we felt inspired to do as a cohort.
Q: What is the connection like with your fellow MFA classmates?
S: We support each other with constructive criticism and enthusiasm. All of us, as a group, work very well together.
Q: How would you describe the interaction with the teaching faculty and guest artists?
S: Almost every faculty member and guest artist have been incredibly influential and given us a skill to keep away and use as we see fit. They are usually open to the class, inspire discussions and ideas and treat as fellow artists as well as students with something to learn.
Q: How would you describe the experience of living and working in Italy?
S: I don’t really think there is a right word to describe this. Several words come to mind such as amazing, exhilarating, wonderful and inspirational. As someone who has spent most of her time living in Los Angeles, it is wonderful to come to Italy and learn a new language, culture and practice within the work I love. Being in a new country and surrounded by the opportunity to experience a wider variety of cultures and languages has allowed me to gain new perspectives on not only theater but the way I see the world. It has given me ideas on the kind of art I wish to create and how I can share that with others.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
S: This summer we are headed to Berlin to study with a physical theater company called Familie Floz who works with full masks. We were able to see a production of theirs in Rome last winter and it was absolutely incredible. Using no text they put together a breath-taking performance surrounding the life of a man from the crib to the retirement home. After seeing their performance and discovering that we will be able to work with them for six weeks, I am incredibly excited to listen and experience what they have to offer.
Q: Looking beyond the program what are your plans post-graduation? How would you like to use your degree? What direction do you see yourself moving in ie: teaching, performing, company creation etc…
S: After the program I am going to try and find a way to stay in Europe. There are several physical theater companies that I am currently looking at, all of which are doing the type of theater I am interested in. All of them are incredibly political, taking stories from the communities that surround them and putting together amazing work. Two of the companies that I’m looking at are both located in England: DV8 and Cardboard Citizens. Eventually, I hope to move back to LA and continue working with colleagues and friends who are currently developing their own companies. In the far off future I would like to teach high school and do community theater with homeless youth.
Q: Who would you recommend the program to, who is a good fit for this program?
S: I would recommend this program to artists who are interested in ensemble based devised work. I think those who are open to entertaining the idea that the movement and body is just as important as the text would be a good fit for this program. I feel strongly though that those who enter this program should realize that it’s not only the building of the individual actor/performer in terms of techniques and skills but the building of the actor/performer as the creator of their own work and their role in an ensemble.