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Toi Whakaari Students Off To Chile, Paris, LA...

Sixteen third year acting students from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School are scattering to the winds in April. From Chile to Paris, from Los Angeles to Shortland Street all are gaining professional experience and widening their skills in a variety of ways.

Marama Emery (Waikato, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Ruanui) from the Kapiti Coast is leaving for Santiago, Chile in April to study at the La Mancha International School of Image and Gesture. While there she will spend four weeks learning movement based physical theatre, incorporating mask, mime, pantomime, Greek chorus work, improvisation and even karate.

"The work I'll be doing is in a direction I really want to take," said Marama. "I am going to further open my physicality and begin to learn techniques that will enable me to express and communicate clearly with my body."

Aaron Cortesi from Pukekohe is also heading off to work on his physical theatre skills. He is the first NZ acting student accepted to observe at the famous Theatre du Soleil in Paris.

"It's one of the most influential theatre companies of the 20th Century and produces work that is universally and socially compelling," said Aaron. "I want to bring the knowledge I gain back to Aotearoa so I can enrich the stories I tell here about New Zealanders."

Rachel Forman from Auckland is heading to New York to work with Susan Batson of Black Nexxus (the acting coach of Meg Ryan, Tom Cruise and many other luminaries). She will then head to Central School of Drama in London to observe Drama Therapists as they work in prisons, psychiatric wards, deaf schools and disabled hospitals.

"I expect the experiences will vary wildly, but it should all come together so that I can use the knowledge I gain to take workshops and classes and workshops with children and emerging actors after I graduate," said Rachel.

After the recent performance of Seven Fingers of the Hand, Michael Whalley of Wellington was so keen to work with the circus troupe that he's raised the money to get to Montreal where he will sit in on rehearsals with the performers.

"The biggest thing I'll get out of it is seeing how the big shows grow from the ideas of the company and watching it go from impulse to stage," said Michael. "I'm going to sponge off their ideas, practical physical skills and the way they work in starting my own company in NZ."

Rowan Bettjeman from Christchurch on the other hand is heading to Auckland to intern as a director's assistant on Shortland Street.

"I want to get some practical experience of what a real life fast turn around television set is like," said Rowan. "I also hope to mingle and get to know influential people in the industry."

A trip to Paris in the springtime is a dream come true for Jessica Robinson from Lower Hutt, but instead of a romantic holiday she will be learning to sing at the Roy Hart School - where students can develop a range greater than a piano.

I'm excited about experimenting with my voice and seeing how wide my range is," said Jess. "People trained at Roy Hart have ended up with a six octave range and that's just amazing."

The practical experience gained by third year acting students through their secondments with professional theatre and related industry organisations is an integral part of the final year of the training programme, and is vital to the students' professional development.

Other secondments this year include:

* Dancing in the NZ School of Dance's Choreographic Season "Slaves to the Rhythm"

* Studying acting for television in LA under Joan Schekel

* Acting in The Merchant of Venice at Palmerston North's Centrepoint Theatre

* A three week arts therapy workshop at the Tamalpa Institute in California

* Observing rehearsals at the Melbourne Theatre Company

* Observing classes at a drama school in Singapore

* Working in a casting agency in Auckland

In previous years students have spent time in Denmark (with Eugenio Barbe), Spain (for a Flamenco workshop), Shanghai (a technical exchange), the UK, LA, Canada and Melbourne as part of their third year professional development.

Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School recognises the considerable and generous support of the Performing Arts Foundation of New Zealand in making some of these overseas secondments possible.


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