Telling a Story

Actresses from the RADA Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the Midsummer Night’s Dream performance – (c) Andrej Pungovschi

By Laura Trott

Standing ovations, as Alpbach awakens from its Midsummer Night’s Dream and ten students of the renowned RADA Royal Academy of Dramatic Art bow to the delighted audience that fills the Congress Centre. Four of us South Tyrolean scholarship holders feel especially involved and intimately connected with the events on stage, as we had the pleasure to take part in a theatre workshop offered by the very same Puck’s, Helena’s and Lysander’s whose adventures we had just witnessed. The performance of one of Shakespeare’s most well known plays marked the highlight of a journey that had started way before Alpbach and will surely continue after.

Acting is an art and a craft that has always fascinated me. But then the dull reality of life comes in the way and exploring my body, mind and emotions and how they are all intertwined becomes an unnecessary luxury. I need to focus on work, studies and running twice a week. Rinse and repeat, as that is the not so secret recipe for a successful and fulfilled life.

When signing up for the workshops offered during the seminar week, the theatre workshop immediately caught my eye. Being a social worker I should know better than to dismiss extra curricular experiences that don’t belong to your own field of studies as superfluous and distracting. Acting teaches you about yourself and the way you relate to the world and yet I was close to going against my gut instinct. Some people decided to spend money on me contributing to the European Forum Alpbach and making meaningful experiences for my future development. How can I justify playing endless get-to-know-games all afternoon, rather than learning about the utility of force in the 21st century?

Luckily I changed my mind and came to the realisation that, as RADA playwright and associate director Nona Shepphard put it: “Studying drama is learning for life”. And so I found myself in the midst of a heterogeneous group of people imagining to be four-year-olds, reproducing the ministry of silly walks and shouting the names of fruits in the most colourful manners.

Once we all got to know each other and created a safe space where everyone felt at ease, the drama students Cath, Katie and Letty confronted us with a seemingly trivial question: “What brought you here?”. It was then that I realised that while I’m used to speaking in front of many people and laughing about myself, I am scared of exposing myself in front of others and rendering myself vulnerable. Acting requires you to turn your inside out and let go of all the internal and societal forces controlling your behaviour and emotions on a daily basis. Letting go of control is a scary process, and a meaningful one. For me joining this course was not a choice of pleasure, but a choice of challenge. All of us tackled this challenge with enthusiasm and persistence.

We’ve been a journey/We know who we are is a line in our incredibly cheesy farewell chorus, but the message it contains now feels so real. I have learned a lot about myself and about the social work professional, lecturer, and researcher I want to be. Acting is not about pretending to be somebody else, it’s about telling someone’s story. Social work is about telling the story of people that oftentimes get overheard and I am convinced that this seminar with brilliant aspiring actresses has helped me become better at telling those stories.