Help me fund my Postgrad

Dear friends and family,

I very serendipitously (through The Stage) found out about my dream MA and about two weeks ago, after a very last minute audition, I received an unconditional offer for exactly that MA! It is the MA in Acting (Company) course at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Since then I have been trying to get the funds together for the remaining tuition fees which are not covered by my student loan. After generously funding my BA for the last four years my parents can no longer support me financially. 
This course starts on October 1st but I need to have paid £2391 to LIPA by September 21st. As an EU student I also do not get a maintenance loan so the rest would be to help me with my initial move over and rent for the first month. 
Given this limited amount of time I have been struggling to raise the funds that will allow me access to this MA. 
The way this place at LIPA came about was truly magical and if any of you believe in signs from the universe, the way I found out about this course was definitely one of those and I know it is the right place and course for me. 
The programme is based on building a Theatre Company from the MA year group, with the intention of training actors to be independent and creative in getting their own work off the ground. 
Hopefully most of you will know that creating work that has social impact and artistic, expressive value and purpose is the kind of work I aim to make as an artist and this course will provide a unique and excellent opportunity to prepare me for a future in the arts where I can communicate, share, inspire and create change. I’ve learned enormous amounts about what it means to artistically, authentically and truly express yourself for yourself and for others over the last year and I believe it is part of what has gotten me into LIPA.

I would be so incredibly grateful for any support! Over the last four years I have worked towards my dream of getting into drama school and now that I have gained a place I will not let finances get in the way of it so I am trying all possible ways, this being one of them. If you know any patrons of the arts feel free to share this with them. 

(I've attached my offer letter at the bottom)

Also, feel free to read my written application that I sent to LIPA which got me my audition, as well as the critical analysis essay of a recently seen art installation/performance, required by LIPA as part of the application process.

"Please tell us your reasons for applying for this course and how you think it would benefit you. If necessary, please continue on a separate sheet and submit this with your application. "

My ambitions for the LIPA Acting (Company) MA are to further my skills in being open to and taking opportunities, using different media, further improving my use of voice and movement, and to be in a space developing ideas from scratch with a group of creative, intelligent and hard-working people. After graduating I would want to continue to build and be in teams and theatre companies, to give others voices, to share my own, to create with purpose.
The work that I aim to do, and have in parts started, would benefit from the skills LIPA would give me the chance to learn and improve. It is work that requires a strong foundation in perfamce in various forms, mutiple media and the ability to create and share it authentically and efficiently. (I describe one of my current projects in the next section)
I know that a year at LIPA on this particular course will lead me to be more skilled and prepared to make the most of all opportunities, as well as making my own and gaining necessary life experience while on the course.

"Please describe how you meet each of our 6 entry attributes of 1. Knowledge, ability and experience; 2. Commitment; 3. Ability to work with others; 4. Broad interest and engagement; 5. Self awareness; 6. A spirit of enterprise. Please see the entry requirements section of the MA Acting Company course page for more information on the 6 attributes."

Whilst reading for a degree in Classical Studies at King’s College London I tried to get as much part-time acting training as possible. I tried various classes and schools, including workshops offered by our university drama societies, City Academy courses, a term at the Identity School of Acting, private coaching and several months of intensive training at Method Acting London. The latter two have without any doubt had the greatest impact on how I see myself as a performer and artist and how I connect to characters and circumstances. For me this technique truly helped me connect to my inner self, sensitivity and vulnerability, but also to learn to completely trust in your acting partners and take risks - I regard these as fundamental to portraying and creating psychodynamic work. I have learned a lot over the past year pursuing training part-time but would like to solidify and sharpen the base knowledge I through training full-time.

My performance experience has mainly been through university drama societies, including performing as Lady Macbeth, Hayley in Pitchfork Disney, doubling as Lady Wotton and some minor characters in The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as roles in several student-written pieces. Recently I performed in German for the first time with the German Society, as Moniker in The Physicists by Duerrenmatt. As I speak English and German bilingually it was an exciting challenge, providing its own unique obstacles such as pace and rhythm, and was certainly a beneficial exercise in diction and annunciation.

Through KCL I was also given the opportunity to perform, among several other girls, in the Vagina Monologues for VDAY to raise money for the VDAY charity to end violence against women. This experience really reiterated that the purposes and possibilities of art are community both within the company, how it is reflected in the work and through the bringing together of audience, story, cause and artists. It was also the first time part-taking in what I would call activist art which has hugely inspired me.

About a year ago I began working with two close creative friends on a devised piece called ‘The Expense of Simplicity’, it was devised and developed by all of us about a theme close to our hearts, but writing credits rightfully go to Lizzie Slater. We performed at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. With this same group I also began developing a short film based on several Shakespeare monologues, which were being visually and contextually compared and contrasted with the aim to show unity but complexity. However, the project was halted once in post-production and until now has not been completed due to sound recording issues. Ultimately, this experience showed the difficulties one can encounter but taught us all how to learn from the project, it was also an opportunity to put together and work with a great team.

In terms of screen acting, besides the Shakespeare project, I have been in some short films, and two yet unfinished low budget indie features. This work has shown the demanding yet rewarding nature of film production and screen acting. I have done doubling and stand-in work on big film and TV sets which was a great way to learn about set etiquette and the film industry.
An enriching event for me was the staged reading of 40 Years On by Alan Bennett that I got to do with the Hampstead Players, my local theatre group. It was a group within which I was by far the youngest, this was a blessing as I was able to observe and talk with inspirational retired actors. The stories of courage, tenacity and passion told by one of the 84-year-old members of the group are particularly memorable.

As I will be graduating from KCL in late August I have spent my summer studying for an ancient literature exam (due to illness I had to miss this exam in May) and undertaking work that I see to be essential for my personal development. This has included gaining new perspectives by working with a charity called Crisis, which aims to end homelessness. I also helped organise and run a Pop-Up store including daily events with a friend who owns a small sustainable fashion brand. Both experiences have been incredibly eye opening and provided so many opportunities to meet different people, hear their stories, and gain valuable knowledge about sustainability and running an ethical business.

I have worked on my ideas for one of my personal art projects, which is to contain multiple media, ranging from essays, stories and poems to painting, dance, theatre and film. I intend it to be an expression of our ability to be and do everything if we have the courage and trust, and that that which one seeks to express may require various media forms or one in particular. It comes from a place of feeling pressured to make final choices and choosing one path, but realising that we do not need to be perfect at something to have a right to express ourselves creatively. The project is also intended to build a community both online and offline, to share my adopted philosophy of sharing creativity fearlessly and authentically.

Aspects of my degree excellently complemented by interest in anthology, analytic psychology, spirituality, mythology, theology and storytelling as part of human nature, and it has furthered independent study, particularly of Campbell, Jung and Kant. My dissertation on the metaphysics of St Augustine and Plotinus explored the similarities between early Christianity and Neo-Platonism regarding the nature of being and how we try to define purpose.

At KCL I was also able to take a full year module in Greek Drama, learning about ancient performance practise, mask and chorus work.

One of my ambitions for the LIPA Acting (Company) MA is to further my skills in being open to and taking opportunities, using different media, further improving my use of voice and movement, and to be in a space developing ideas from scratch with a group of creative, intelligent and hard-working people. After graduating I would want to continue to build and be in teams and companies, to give others voices, to share my own, to create with purpose.

I gained insight into organizing and managing an amateur company through my time on the committee of my university’s Shakespeare society (King’s Shakespeare Company). In addition to this I attained the position of RSC Ambassador for my university, which led to exciting opportunities and the possibility to organise projects and trips on my own initiative. I also believe that having done part-time jobs throughout university in areas such as catering, retail, promotion and bar work, have exposed me to hectic business environments and I have had to learn how to conduct myself and work with others.

Growing up in Cyprus, Germany and the UK and having travelled parts of Europe on my own, including living and working in Paris for 6 months, have been immensely important in my growth.

For the near future I plan to live in Berlin for a few weeks to work on my writing projects and invest in further acting training, or through the contacts I have made, gain work in the German film industry.

As excited as I am for all the potential opportunities that lie ahead if I keep working towards them, I know that a year at LIPA on this particular course will lead me to be more skilled and prepared to make the most of these opportunities, as well as making my own.

ESSAY 

The Squash by Anthea Hamilton, Tate Britain, 2018
 
As one of the main exhibitions currently running at the Tate Britain, The Squash is a performance art piece by Anthea Hamilton and is on display in the Duveen Galleries until December 2018.[1] According to the artist this piece of performance art is an interpretation of a photograph once observed by the artist. Being unaware of the original context of the photograph the interpretation provides the artist’s imagined context as well as her exploration of the subject of being human and being other. The piece consists of a performer exploring the space as something other than human, through movement. The performer wears a large squash-like headpiece and bodysuit or costume.

The photograph, upon which Hamilton based her work, depicts a person dressed in a black and white stripped body suit wearing a black and white stripped, squash-shaped headpiece, lying on the floor between artificial vines. The person in the photo is a performer in Erick Hawkins choreographed dance piece entitled 8 Clear Places (Squash) in New York in 1960.[2] Erick Hawkins’ work was heavily influenced by his study of Greek civilization as well as Native American, Japanese and Zen culture.[3] Anthea Hamilton’s reimagined performance piece however is entirely divorced from this context. The Squash installation at the Tate Britain is clearly the current centrepiece of the gallery. The Duveen gallery’s floor is covered in white tiles and white-tiled structures protrude from various areas of the floor for the performer to interact with.

Incorporated into the display are art pieces that also serve to explore body and movement. The performer, on the day, can choose when they wish to perform and when to take breaks. This seems to allow the performer complete freedom of exploration; nothing is prescribed to him or her. The performer is to explore what it is to be Other. In this same vein, we see that the performer is often in different costumes, varying from elaborate to simplistic. The performer can in fact, choose him/herself from seven different costumes, custom made by the Artist and team of designers, for this performance.

In their exploration of Otherness the performers use only movement, no sound or speech. They remain within the white-tiled area of the gallery and only interact with the structures.

The Squash is clearly influenced by performance and theatre. The white-tiled area acts as a stage in addition to what seems to be an actual stage structure. There is also an element of mask work, which seems necessary to the performance given the large headpiece the performer has to manoeuvre and make theirs.

Additionally if one thinks about the original context of Erick Hawkins’ work, one might think about the importance of mask work in ancient Greek performance practice. Furthermore the headpiece plays strongly into the concept of Otherness as it restricts the performers movement and sense of him/herself, while at the same time enabling a state of Otherness.

I see a particular focus on multiple layers of interpretation in The Squash. Beginning with the interpretation by Hawkins, then, albeit unbeknownst to Hamilton, there follows her interpretation. This is followed by the interpretation of the individual performer led and inspired by Hamilton. Despite Hamilton’s guidance it is inevitable that each performer (seven in total, who take turns) have an interpretation based on his or her life experiences, each performer would have felt and interpreted Otherness differently. The last layer of interpretation comes from the audience and their observations on a particular day and of a particular performer, given that no performances can be identical.

Noteworthy also is how the performance seems to only be limited by the number of costumes available and confined to the white-tiled area of the gallery. Thus, despite the attempted exploration of the state of complete Otherness, one is still given or forced to adhere to a limitation in space and borders, and attire, all of which are inherently human constructs, so the performer has to understand how this will impact the performance.  

Nonetheless, and as awe-inspiring as the piece by Hamilton initially is; upon further research into the nature of the original context of the squash-like costume one might criticise it for showing a lack of cultural sensitivity and appreciation for the Native American Hopi culture from whose mythology, symbolism and ritual it derives.

As previously stated, the work by Hawkins appears to give its relevant cultural influences but we see no mention of this in Hamilton’s work and as we know she claims to have been unaware of the origin of the photo. This divorce from its native mythology and culture has led certain critics to write reviews pointing out this issue, claiming it is a form of cultural appropriation.[4] More sinisterly, one might even see it as an appropriation of an appropriation overall as the original artists/culture are not included in this new interaction between artists, performers and audience.

In the Hopi tribe the squash character (as well as others) is used in ceremonies and replicated as wooden dolls (Hopi Kachina dolls) which are gifted to children as prayer figures, but mainly it appears as costume worn by men for sacred dance rituals, wherein it represents a spirit being that is a conduit between people and gods.[5] The Hopi Kachina figures have an object-human morphed appearance as the Hopis believe in, ‘the presence of life in all objects that fill the universe. Everything has an essence or a life force, and humans must interact with these or fail to survive.’[6]

Therefore, although perhaps unintentionally, Hamilton’s exploration connects quite fundamentally to the Hopi belief in the way it seems to attempt to find life in the inanimate, yet the problem lies in the lack of acknowledgement of Hopi culture. Perhaps The Squash is an exercise in Lost in Translation, and upon closer analysis points us towards some of the most prominent philosophical questions in art in general.

 

Word count: 1060

By

Isabeau Popp

 



[1] https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/squash
[2] www.erickhawkinsdance.org
[3] “Important influences were the dances of the American Indians, Japanese aesthetics, Zen thinking, as well as the Greek classics.” www.erickhawinsdance.org

 
[4] see http://firstamericanartmagazine.com/cultural-appropriation-tate/
[5] Barton (2008) Ch 4: 113 ‘It is believed that by donning mask, costume, and paint, the impersonator becomes imbued with the kachina spirit, that for the time of the dance kachina and man are one.’
[6] Barton, Wright (2008). ‘Hopi Kachinas: A Life Force’. Hopi Nation: Essays on Indigenous Art, Culture, History, and Law. Univ. of Nebraska Ch. 4: 112

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