Planting the Seeds of Creativity

byMeg Hennessy

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There are many summer acting courses in New York and the United States. Many professional actors choose the Maggie Flanigan Studio every summer for professional Meisner based actor training. Meg Hennessy talks with Katie about coming to New York to train at the studio and what it has been like working professionally while studying in the program.

Summer Acting Courses Near Me –┬áMeg Hennessy Interview

Meg Hennessy talks with Katie about coming to New York to train at the studio and the summer acting courses near me at the studio

Interview with Meg Hennessy – 2020 Summer Acting Courses Near Me – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: Before you started in the acting program, what did you think it meant to train as an actor?

Before I began, I thought it meant to just immerse yourself in all the different kinds of acting every day. That was what initially drove me to want to train, I was only to be able to do it every day, and I was not disappointed.

Q: Now that you are almost done with the two-year program, what do you think it means now?

Oh, it’s so much more than I initially thought that it would be. For me, it means having a safe space to foster your creativity and allowing yourself to discover who you are as an artist and what that means for you in your life, and also, how it’s going to affect other people. It’s just been such an expansive process and so life-changing and better than I was expecting or could have even imagined.

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"This program broke down the walls to allow me to discover the courage and strength that already existed in me."

Meg HennessyStudent, Summer Acting Courses

Q: What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself over this bit of time while studying at the studio that was a surprise?

I think the main thing with the studio, in particular, was I thought I was going to have to change aspects of myself or adapt or pretend when I was acting to be somebody else. The most incredible thing about it was learning that it’s all there. You’re taught that everything is already– It exists within you, and it’s all about just breaking down the walls and allowing yourself to access part of you that you didn’t think that you had. It was courage and strength that I wasn’t aware was there, and it was so exciting and fun just to realize that I was able to stand up for myself and being allowed to do that helped me grow as a person and as an actor.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the steps that led you to train at the studio? Why did you come to the United States specifically to study?

I always was acting from a very young age. I caught the bug young, and I always knew I wanted to do it. I always wanted to move to New York, as well as individually. It wasn’t until I discovered the Meisner technique that I was like, “Oh my God. This is huge.” It was then a youth theater, and it was a friend to my parents who had come to give us a little taster of it, and I was amazed. It was just like a gateway into what acting could be. Then, I studied in college in Ireland, and I was unhappy because I knew that what I wanted to do was to act.

I felt like I was wasting my time, even though I’m not sure if I was. All I wanted to do was be in New York and be immersed in theater all the time. When I found the studio, I thought that it seemed like a safe space. It just seemed like somewhere I wanted to be. When I researched it, I was like, “Okay, that seems interesting or intriguing for me,” so I auditioned, and I was so over the moon to get in. I did decide to move to New York specifically for the training in the Maggie Flanigan Studio, and it was tough for a while, but I do not regret that decision at all.

Q: You mentioned it’s when you found the Meisner technique that acting started to become interesting to you. What is it about the Meisner technique that connects with you?

The Meisner technique centers explicitly around the imagination. Before I had found the method, I had been trying to develop my way or my style. I’m trying to become the character, live in nature, as the character. Sometimes, I found that aspects of the character were sticking to me, and I couldn’t differentiate between who I was and what the role was. My behavior would be a bit all over the place, and I would get confused once projects would finish. I was like, “Oh, I need to learn a safe way to do this.”

I looked at the method, and I looked at Stella Adler, and I looked at Meisner, and I just thought Meisner, because it was centered in the imagination, I thought it was so much more of an opportunity to be creative and explore that. With the first year of the program, it’s finding out who you are as a person and what you’re capable of because we’re taught to suppress that in society. You can’t differentiate who you are between a character until you know yourself. That was the first year of the training for me. Then, the second year is adding character. I’m learning how to just with self-care, take a character off at the end of the day and just come up with a safe way of disappearing into somebody else.

Meg Hennessy - Summer Acting Courses Near Me - Maggie Flanigan Studio

Meg Hennessy – Summer Acting Courses Near Me – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: There are a lot of Meisner programs in the city with many teachers that say they are teaching Meisner. Was something in particular that drew you to this studio?

I did feel like a number when I was in college. That’s not how I wanted to explore. When I was picking a studio or studying, I wanted to feel like a person. I wanted to feel like an artist among other artists. I looked at a few different schools. They seemed high and everything, but the numbers were large, or they were costly, or they didn’t have alumni that I was drawn to specifically.

Then, when I saw the Maggie Flanigan Studio (https://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com/new-york-ny), I thought, “Okay, so it’s centered around being a small studio. Therefore, it’s going to be intimate. You’re going to get to know your classmates. You’re going to get to know your teachers well.” I just learned how to be in a community in a way that I had never been before, and that teachers can be mentors, and they can also be friends. It says like, “NYC home for the actor,” but I didn’t know the meaning of that until I had spent a couple of years in the studio being like, “Oh, this is my home. It’s just unbelievable. I love it so much.”

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your experience working now Off-Broadway with New York City Theaters has been, and how that has connected with your training at the studio?

Yes, I was fortunate to have booked while I was training. I think that is because I spent a year before the studio and training, which gave me so much confidence. It allowed me to see that my emotional life was just beneath the surface of myself. That access that you have once you spend time in the first year to your emotional life becomes so readily available that the fear that it won’t be there when you’re in the audition room completely evaporates. You’re so present, and you just have that confidence because you have that basis of training behind you that allows you to understand that it doesn’t matter whether they like you.

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It matters whether or not you do the character justice, and you do the words truth. I guess that gave me a significant leg up in the audition room. I found that once I started working, the support that the studio had was incredible. I was worried that I would have to leave the studio. I was worried that I would have to stop my training, and that was the last thing that I wanted to do because I want to see it through.

Now, I’m just addicted to learning about the technique and getting better, and what Charlie was able to do was offer me a different class time, so I was ready to go to the morning classes while I was rehearsing. The afternoon classes when the show was on, so I didn’t have to leave the studio, which was such a gift, honestly. I don’t think that my experiences in the theater or the industry would have been the same if I didn’t have the studio to come back to the end of the day. The training here helps me remember what’s important or just recenter in training only to do a better job every day when I stepped on that stage or stepped into that rehearsal room.

Q: How would you describe working with Charlie at the studio?

I think it’s so funny because everybody probably has a different answer because he does have a different relationship with every student. I would describe him as somebody who genuinely cares about his students. My experience with him was that of somebody who was very gentle and very kind because that’s what I needed. He caters differently for who he perceives need different things. Sometimes, he can be like tough love. Sometimes, he can be very kind and warm. In the beginning, I was terrified, and I needed a teacher who would be able to see that and encourage me.

I know at the beginning, I wasn’t ready for the studio. I had just moved to New York. Charlie said to me, “You can come back when you’re ready.” That was a tremendous gift. I was able to take the time then to really find my feet in the city and find my feet as a young adult and just go back with fires blazing and ready to work. I’ll never forget that. I never knew that a teacher could be a mentor like that in that way. I just have so much respect for him.

Meg Hennessy Interview - Summer Acting Courses Near Me - Maggie Flanigan Studio

Meg Hennessy Interview – Summer Acting Courses Near Me – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: What advice would you have to other international students who are thinking about moving to New York to study acting?

New York is theater training within itself. It was a huge culture shock, but I wouldn’t say that it was the hardest thing in the world because of the nature of the studio’s familial aspect and because of the studio’s community. I made friends straight away. For me, living in any place, I need people who I can go to and talk to who I love and who love me. I found that at the studio. I would recommend finding your feet for a couple of months first before jumping into training because it is a culture shock again. It is such a different place than I’ve ever been before. I did need that time to ground myself in the city before giving myself to my training.

Q: How important have your fellow students become for you through this journey?

Yes. We’re encouraged to encourage each other. I’ve heard some horror stories from other people in different studios about extreme competition or just pushing each other down. That’s not how the industry works, and that’s not how the studio works. That’s not really how life works; I don’t think. What I’ve learned from the training and the teachers is that when you help other people and bring them up, you’re receiving what you’re giving in away. It’s also a place because the training is so intense and because you’re living at the very height of yourself every day, you’re not going to forget the people who are allowing you to do that.

You’re not going to forget the people who are holding that space for you, and you’re not going to forget the people who are brave enough to show themselves to you every day. It’s the kind of community and relationships that just stick with you, that just stay with you. The teachers have helped me give myself that permission to be weird, vulnerable, crazy sometimes, and angry. We can only have any kind of emotion that exists within us. We don’t have to stifle them, and that we don’t have to save them for the stage, especially.

That’s been something constructive for me. In an environment where you have permission, and it’s warm and friendly and loving, you can’t help but fall in love with the people around you. The community is probably my favorite aspect of the studio.

Summer Acting Courses Near Me - Maggie Flanigan Studio - Maggie Flanigan Studio

Summer Acting Courses Near Me at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: How are you feeling now in the current state of things with this pandemic?

I’m feeling hopeful. I may not share that with everybody, but how we’ve been able to continue the classes over Zoom and continue to support each other and how Maggie has come back, and there are weekly talkbacks with previous students and alumni and professionals in the industry now. We have got time to sit with ourselves and foster our artists without external stimulus pressures or any sort of superficiality that can sometimes cloud ourselves and our minds and our ideas about the industry and what they are and what they mean.

We’ve been encouraged to read a lot. We are inspired to understand what’s going on right now in the world and our society, feel how we feel, and honestly talk about it. It’s made me hopeful for the future.

Q: What are you most excited about when we can get back into the physical space?

I just want to hug everyone, to be honest.

Q: If that’s allowed.

Definitely.

Q: What’s something you’re most excited for about really starting your professional career?

It’s quite daunting, to be honest. I’m excited because I know that I’m going to be going in with all of the tools I’m going to need. I know that I’m going to be diving headfirst into an industry that I don’t know enough about yet, but I’ve had some taste. I’ve met a few people, but I’m confident in the knowledge that I’ve done the work and that I’m not going to quit because the diligence and the work ethic that’s instilled in you in the program just makes you want to continue to do it no matter what, and you only lose when you quit. You only fail when you stop trying, and I never want to stop working, and I just want to keep going.

Even if it doesn’t go the way that I think it might or the way that I hope it will, I’m always going to have the experiences that I had at the studio to fall back on and look back on remember. I’m still going to have the friends that I made there to get me through the day or get me through if I didn’t book anything just to support me, and I’m going to be able to be that person for others. It is daunting, and I’m nervous, but I’m also quietly relaxed, confident, and excited.

Summer Acting Courses Near Me - Meg Hennessy Interview - Maggie Flanigan Studio

Summer Acting Courses Near Me – Meg Hennessy Interview – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Q: What would you say to someone on the fence about committing to a program like ours?

I would say that given the circumstances of where the world is right now and everything that’s happening, now more than ever, we should be doing what we love doing, especially when the future is so up in the air and so unknown and seems so scary. Why not just actually give that to yourself? Why not give yourself the gift of pursuing your dreams and pursuing what you want to do? Do what you want to do. Do what you love doing otherwise, it’s just going to– What’s the point in life?

I moved to New York because I had to, I needed to and I couldn’t do anything else. I wasn’t going to settle for anything else. I’m so, so glad that I did. Regarding training, if you think that you are interested in learning about the craft of acting, or if you feel that you are interested in becoming an artist. You’ve never done it before, or even if you don’t think that you need it, but you would like to get to know other people in the industry, it is such a gorgeous place to plant the seed of creativity, plant the seed of that talent that you’ve been given and foster it, and water it, and watch it grow.

It’s like being in a greenhouse for an artist, and you’re the flower. All of these different aspects of the career that you didn’t even know that you needed like cold reading or nutrition or movement that can help your instrument and how it can just make you a better person and a better actor start coming together here. I think the more that you can look at yourself, and be with yourself, and sit with yourself, and say, “I like myself,” the better of an actor you’re going to be because you’re going to encourage yourself and you’re going to promote other people. I found that in the Maggie Flanigan Studio. I found that in my training, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Q: Anything else you want to share before we wrap up?

I think just follow your dream. You won’t regret it. You only regret the chances you never took and the things that you never did. Just do it. Just give it to yourself. It’ll be the best gift you ever gave yourself.


Summer Acting Courses Near Me

Learn More About Summer Acting Courses near me at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Actors looking for professional summer acting courses can apply for acceptance into the Maggie Flanigan Studio by completing the online application. Admission to the studio includes an interview with Charlie Sandlan. Actors who have specific questions about the acting programs can call the studio at (917) 789-1599.

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