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Returning from London: switching from acting to academia

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features, Top Stories

February 3, 2017

Sara Kenney ’18 just spent her fall semester studying abroad in London through the British Drama Academy (BADA) program offered at Sarah Lawrence College. She attended the London Theatre Program, a semester-long program “designed for dedicated students who are passionate about their work and serious about acting,” according to BADA’s website.

Kenney, a Theater Arts major and a Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor, is the only Brandeis student to have attended BADA last semester. She has been a performer, theater assistant and props designer for various shows at Brandeis. Kenney continued her passion for theater by studying and acting in London, where she took classes relating to Shakespeare and modern physical theater, among other topics. She spent 40 hours per week in classes, where she learned how to rehearse scenes and received “constructive and sometimes painful criticism,” she said. British professors taught all the BADA courses to classrooms filled entirely with American students abroad.

Her favorite moment of her abroad experience, she said, was establishing a close friendship with a classmate through their collaboration on art and various scenes. The two became scene partners for a portion of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” in which they entertained their peers and professors with a complete, choreographed incorporation of stage combat alongside their lines.

Their shared experience extended to other projects as well, but Kenney noted specifically that having a “friend I could trust and come up with fun ideas with” was the “highlight of my semester.”

Kenney recounted another project the two worked together on. They played a scene where an invisible person or thing entered the room and joined into the dialogue. The point of the activity is that “the audience has to guess what it is based on the context clues you’re giving and how you’re talking to them,” she explained.

According to Kenney, the academics at BADA varied greatly from those offered at Brandeis and other liberal arts colleges, which posed a challenge to her re-acclimation process on her return to Brandeis this semester.

At Brandeis, “there’s a sense of having actually finished your work, where at BADA it just felt continuous,” she noted. She contrasted the coursework in terms of written assignments. At BADA, she completed two written papers throughout the semester, whereas this semester she will be writing about four papers for each individual class.

“Going from acting training to academia,” was especially difficult, she said, because the mindset and thinking process is much different. Returning to Brandeis required time, but the entire experience “was worth it.”

“I missed Brandeis the entire time I was gone,” she said. On her FaceTime calls with friends, she constantly checked up on department shows, the Undergraduate Theater Collective and other Theater Arts events that occurred while she was abroad.

Outside of academics, Kenney had to readjust to campus living once again. She took an opportunity to visit Brandeis before the students on campus ended the fall semester. From Dec. 12-15, Kenney spent time re-learning the Brandeis lingo and catching up on aspects of campus life that changed while she was away.

“I actually had a friend just walk me around the campus and tell me what’s changed, what’s been different,” Kenney said. Along with a campus tour, she also “mourned the Castle’s passing,” peeked in at the Admissions building, where she works as a tour guide, ordered Einstein’s, took a trip to the dining halls and visited Spingold Theater.

Despite the difficulty she may have had on her return from an acting-intensive abroad courseload, Kenney acknowledged that the experience was fulfilling and worth it.

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