Monday, February 23, 2015

Fordham Study Abroad: London Dramatic Academy

I spent last semester at London Dramatic Academy (LDA), one of Fordham's study abroad programs. I love acting, but I didn't want to get my undergraduate degree in theatre. Still, I wanted to get some kind of training before college was over. LDA was the perfect compromise. I got to spend three months focusing solely on actinga rare opportunity for any college student who isn't a theatre major. Even better, my LDA class was quite diverse for a Fordham program. Two of us were from Fordham Rose Hill, four were from Fordham Lincoln Center, and the remaining ten were from a variety of schools including Cornell University, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. My roommate Julia and I, both of us from Rose Hill, were the only non-theatre majors.

LDA is a conservatory acting program, with a full week of classes that last, on average, from 9 AM to 5 PM (though ending a bit earlier on certain days of the week). It sounds like a lot, but the weeks actually flew by because 1.) I enjoyed virtually everything I was learning, and 2.) There are a several different modules within each course, so no one class became tedious. For instance, one of the four courses you register for at LDA is "Physical Training for Actors," but under that course we had four classes a week: Period Dance, Stage Combat, Movement, and Physical Theatre. (Check out my Instagram below to watch an excerpt of me and my classmate Tim rehearsing our final presentation for Stage Combat!) We also had interesting master classes with London-based theatre professionals, as well as a "Casting for Camera" workshop with Polly Hootkins Casting.

My classmates rehearsing the famous lovers' quarrel from Midsummer Nights Dream.
Aliyah and Tim performing as Hermia and Lysander in Midsummer Night's Dream rehearsal.

Most of our teachers were trained at England's finest drama schools, and some even teach at those schools now in addition to working at LDA. For example, my acting teacher Kathryn Pogson (who also happens to be director of LDA) spent her years at Drama Centre alongside classmate Pierce Brosnan. My voice teacher currently teaches at the highly prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Several of my teachers have acted on the British theatre scene with the likes of Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, and Mark Rylance. My one-on-one audition coach was a prominent drama teacher at Eton College for fifteen years, where he taught both Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston. (He actually still keeps in touch with Eddie.) Needless to say, we were in very good hands at LDA.

Me and two of my roommates, Julia and Jasia, take a final photo with our LDA director and Acting teacher, Kathryn Pogson. Excuse our teary looks--this was taken at the LDA Farewell Party!
We had several walking tours of London built into our class schedule, as well as two day trips to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. LDA also booked about fifteen shows for us to watch as part of our Dramatic Criticism module. No exaggeration, I saw some of the best theatre of my life during my short time in London. The theatre culture there is wildly different from the culture in New York, and I firmly believe that training in the British tradition has its own merits that can't necessarily be reproduced in American acting schools.

Tim, Julia, Maryn, and Courtney amid the beautiful architecture of Oxford!
Between a full class schedule, day trips, and over a dozen shows to watch, it sounds like we never had time to travel, but in fact, I visited four different countries while I was abroad. Some of my classmates saw even more. LDA has one week-long fall break, and it ended a week earlier than the other Fordham programs. Ending early was nice because we were able to travel afterwards without having to worry about homework or getting back in time for my next class.

LDA gave me confidence, posture, and practical tools for approaching my craft. No matter what artistic projects I may undertake in the future--whether on stage, on screen, or simply an audition--I feel like I have an actual method to return to whenever I'm not quite sure how to begin. And LDA isn't just for actors; past LDA students include future lawyers and people who simply wanted to get out of their comfort zone.

Even if I don't continue acting after college, I am thankful for my time in LDA because it has immeasurably improved my critical thinking skills, the way I carry myself, my ability to follow direction and take criticism, and the way I communicate with others. All of these skills will serve me well in whatever career I pursue.

To learn more about LDA and how to apply, click here!

Our Acting class in a cast photo for our final presentation of the play Mixed Doubles.


  1. I enjoy reading this one! I read so much good reviews about LDA! I also want to study there, hopefully by next year. For now, I've been concentrating on finding the Top 10 of the Best Acting Schools in America since I want to develop my craft in acting before going to London. I do hope that I could also find true happiness and enjoy the activities that I will be doing in the future just like what you did.

    1. Hi Mary! Glad to hear it. Keep in mind that this is only a semester-long program, so it's not as thorough as a four-year conservatory. Good luck in your search! :)