Carrying on

Last Friday the third of four terms at LISPA ended, and it was a good week or two. My group’s masked performance on the Monday went badly (stopped by the teachers before we finished) but we had a fun week and Friday’s performance went well — we enjoyed it and seemed to get a good reaction. Soon the fourth term begins and I need to decide whether to stay at LISPA for the “Advanced” (final) year.

This year’s been very up and down so far, as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading along. There have been times when I’ve felt I was wasting my time, either with LISPA or with acting in general. And other times it’s been interesting and a lot of fun. The last few weeks have been more consistently worthwhile, as we’ve gradually moved into producing work that’s felt more complete and recognisably human than some of the previous narrowly-focused exercises. But I’m still torn.

In an attempt to make the arguments clear to myself are five main areas I’m thinking about, each of which has a reason to continue at LISPA and to leave…

  1. Some of the frustrating aspects of this year have been down to the very basic skills we’ve been learning. I think that next year we’ll be building on these to produce more interesting work, some actual theatre. If the past two or three weeks are anything to go by it could be more exciting and satisfying than the past year.

    To be honest (and apologising to anyone involved reading this) I haven’t been overwhelmed by the performances I’ve seen the current Advanced course do this year. I keep telling myself they’re very rough works in progress but I still want to feel excited by them, to wish I could have been involved. And the pieces that made me feel that have been pretty thin on the ground.

  2. I still love watching good physical theatre, stuff that’s more alive and interesting than a play that attempts to create reality on a stage. This kind of, perhaps, heightened reality is what LISPA is about and I’d love to be involved in something more exciting than conventional theatre… Hysteria, Complicite, The Andersen Project, The Black Rider, etc…

    On the other hand I like a lot of conventional theatre. And cinema. I enjoy realistic scenes and trying to create them in a believable, interesting and truthful manner is really difficult and very satisfying (from my very limited experience). I’m hoping we’ll be doing more simple, conventional work (we’ve certainly touched on it in some lovely improvisations) but much of the Advanced course’s work I’ve seen so far has been pretty excitable and action-packed.

  3. The other main aspect of LISPA is creating new work. We haven’t looked at a script all year (apart from in Voice class) and I wouldn’t be surprised if we never look at one next year. It’s all about generating ideas and developing them ourselves — the teachers are never involved apart from to tell us how to improve the end result. I enjoy a lot of theatre that has been devised in this way and it’s been a real challenge to be constantly collaborating on creating new theatre.

    Often though, it’s been too challenging for me. I usually dread the “Creation Group” sessions as I find them very difficult. Both because I find working with people I don’t see completely eye-to-eye with hard, and because I usually feel like I have few ideas and little to offer each group. To be honest I’m dreading another term of this, let alone another year.

  4. One reason I wanted to study full time was because I felt I was in a creative rut. LISPA’s been great for dragging me out of that. My ideas are no longer solely about more bloody websites and I find myself thinking about stories and images and movement.

    There’s no real “on the other hand” to this one, other than the possibility I could carry on doing creative stuff without going back to LISPA after the summer. Feeling more creative is all good.

  5. I’ve learned a lot this year and it’s been good for me as an actor — one of the main reasons I came to LISPA was to loosen up a bit and feel more comfortable with moving. I think I’m getting there and I expect I’ll progress at least as much again on the Advanced course.

    On the other hand there are other ways I could progress in a year and, given the pros and cons above, I wonder if maybe other courses would be interesting or, more particularly, if I should do as David Mamet urges and quit the dumb courses and just get out there and find work (paid or otherwise).

So there we go, the arguments for and against. Does it sound like I’m looking to be told to do one thing or another? Is the answer obvious to everyone but me? I hope things will become clearer during the coming term…


  • Hi Phil.
    I had no idea what you were up to until Richard Worland sent me a link. Wow, you and Richard really are going for it. You are so lucky that you have the opportunity to do acting full time. I would love that. I'm not saying that you should continue at LISPA, because you will more than likely have a gut feeling, and that is no bad thing to listen to. But there are other schools, as long as you won't have to start again from the bottom. I think your observation that you have put the boring stuff behind you and will probably now move on to more exciting things is more than likely correct. It's a tough one for me to comment on, but can you get hold of a prospectus for next year to get an idea of what things will be like? Maybe that could help you decide. Are you in The Spotlight? I'm not sure anyone gets discovered there, as I've been in for two years and never heard a peep, but it's always good to be able to give out your page number and access code. Looks good on the old CV, too.
    I'll mull this one and do a bit of online brainstorming with you. But ultimately, you will know best.
    Lots of love to you and Mary,
    Lois xx

  • dear phil, i have been reading your blog with great interest since i left the afternoon group in january. i sometimes miss the classes a lot,and i know even those first few weeks were very good for me. i was pretty terrified about going back to the outside world but i also craved it. sometimes i get scared that because i didn't finish it, i will always have missed out on my journey. but just to put in my sixpence worth (and this is not to say u shouldn't stay but more a general musing)i think i am with mamet on this one - there is simply no substitute for getting out there and doing it. we can enrol in courses forever to procrastinate and i think that once i left lispa it made me realise i either had to go out there and face up to my desire to do it, or..well, curl up and die!! anyway, i am more a musician than an actor but the school opend up a whole new chapter in that i realised for the first time it was perfectly ok to create my own stuff and not have it validated by some hierarchy or system. so i took that and went away...because ironically i think i felt in lispa sometimes that my thing had to be validated or corrected by the teachers and i found that a bit contradictory, if inevitable. now i am waffling. i am sure you will end up going out there and getting on with it, second year or no second year...good luck and thanks for all your writing...

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Thursday 3 May 2007, 10:13pm

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3 May 2007 at Twitter

  • 4:09pm: Ugh, brain is grinding to a halt after four days of wireframing and trying to make complicated things simple.
  • 11:50am: Attempting to rate all of one's music really does drain all the joy from it. Worth it in the long run though, I think...

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  4. The Specials (12)
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  6. Kate Bush (11)
  7. Annie (10)
  8. Metric (10)
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  10. PJ Harvey (9)

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