Acting out

ENOSAEnosa Ogbeide '20 didn't think she could learn acting from an acting class. Then RADA changed the way she sees both theater and Shakespeare. 

By Guest Blogger Enosa Ogbeide '20

Enosa Ogbeide ’20, a resident of Adams House concentrating in psychology with a secondary in theater, dance & media, was awarded an Artist Development Fellowship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art eight-week Acting Shakespeare intensive in London. Ogbeide has performed in six productions at Harvard, including TDM productions of The Owl Answers and Far Away directed by visiting artists David R. Gammons and Annie Tippe (respectively). Last spring she will performed the role of Ismene in Sophocles’ Antigone in the Harvard Stadium as part of Harvard’s ARTS FIRST Festival, and plans to pursue a career in acting and children’s clinical therapy. The following is her account of her time at RADA. Editor's note: On Oct. 14, we added PART TWO to this blog. 

PART ONE: Finding voice

Although I have acted in productions, I’ve never truly understood studying acting. I understand that one can learn about a variety of acting methods and their usefulness and such, but the idea of spending a full day in a theater acting intensive program to “learn to act” never quite

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Enosa Ogbeide's Acting Shakespeare Class 2018 with RADA teacher Francesca Roche
made sense to me. I’ve never taken acting classes. I didn’t want to attend an intensive program for college. I always believed the only way to really learn is to do. I thought that a full day of voice, movement, text, etc. would only work to suck the joy out of performing. I thought it would only crowd my head with too much thought and not actually prove helpful.

Alas, I was quite wrong. I found out how valuable acting lessons are during my time at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

While I was excited to attend RADA to study Shakespeare at perhaps the best possible place to do so, a large part of me was excited to attend my first long-term intensive program. At RADA, I would spend between eight and 12 hours a day studying voice, Alexander Technique, Laban method, movement, period dance, choral music and more. I was intrigued to get a taste of the intensive program lifestyle, and RADA certainly offered that.

During the first six weeks of RADA, I attended classes all day, and at the end of the six weeks I had a series of showcases. As I finish my last two weeks of RADA, in which I will be rehearsing and putting on a play, I can’t help but reflect on the classes I took and how they have affected me.

Two classes that have especially made an impact on me are “Voice” and “Alexander Technique.” Voice class has taught me

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Enosa Ogbeide's monologue group with RADA teacher Alan David
so much about how to use my natural resonance to produce sounds in the most efficient and easy way. Speeches that I used to perform that would cause me to go hoarse, no longer have that affect on me. I have learned more about breathing than I ever thought I would. Alexander Technique, a process that helps retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture, has also changed almost everything about the way I hold myself. It wasn’t until this class that I realized that my chin habitually tilts up more than needed, which can cause my throat to strain and overwork itself.

These two classes, as simple as they are, have affected me more than I thought was possible.  It has brought a new liveliness to plays and speeches that I have read and known forever. It has taught me that one misplaced breath or lack of breath can completely fill a speech with energy. It has opened my eyes to the expansive and beautiful world that is alive within the sounds and images of every word of Shakespeare. In short, RADA has made me re-fall in love with Shakespeare, and I’m beyond excited to see how I can use what I’ve learned as I head into our final production weeks.

PART TWO: Alicia

During the last two weeks at the RADA, we were to put on a Shakespeare play in 11 days. I was excited to learn that my group and I would be performing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and I would be playing Viola. I soon learned my director had decided to double cast a couple of the roles, therefore I was actually playing Viola along with my friend Alicia. We didn’t just split the play or take individual scenes, but instead we were always on stage together and split individual lines as well as scenes. While one of us was talking, the other would also be near, fully participating in the scene, almost acting as a shadow. Alicia and I often used each other for our scenes and even relied on each other in some scenes. It was as if our character was able to talk to a physical version of herself whenever she wanted.

I had never been double casted before this and I thought it was a unique and enriching experience in which I learned a lot about myself. During the whole process Alicia and I worked together a lot outside of being on stage in order to prepare for our role. Before this I had never truly realized that I fall on the side of being the type of actor who “learns the lines and shows up.” While I like to do some thinking about my character’s background and their “before,” I am not much for necessarily writing these things down or creating some type of character map. Instead, I really like to read and reread the script a lot and focus on the character’s different circumstances and wants during the play.

This is very different from Alicia. Alicia is the type of actor who writes everything down. She had made journal entries as Viola, had written down her “past” before getting to Illyria; she had done it all. When I realized how different Alicia and I were in our preparation, I was a bit rattled at first. I almost felt bad and thought that maybe I wasn’t doing enough. Maybe I wasn’t taking my character seriously enough. I felt like a bad actor.

While on lunch one day, I brought up these insecurities to Alicia and I will never forget her reaction. She immediately burst out in laughter. I was so rattled. It turns out Alicia was feeling the exact same way because she was scared that she was doing too much. We came to realize that this was the beauty of acting in general. Every actor has her own way of preparing for a role and that’s what makes the final product so amazing to watch. At the end of the day everyone is on stage and just trying to give the best and most honest performance they can, and that’s what matters.