Laila Abdo (Spring 2017)

Advice For Day One...

 You are not going to be a new person at the end of this. You are going to be an empowered person. There is a difference.


Upon graduating with music and biology degrees, I was hired by a Shakespeare company. My three-year professional career consisted of me being hired as an actor, or an actor who sings, in theatre. I came to ECT having had no formal acting training. Instead, my knowledge came from director’s spouting trickled down Chekhov theory, Viewpoints, how-to Shakespeare, and image structuring. I thought, “If I’m getting hired for this, I need concrete training for this.”


That’s why you’re here. You’ve got the diligence, you’ve got the desire, and you’ve got the drive. So, what don’t you know?


1.     There is no wrong or right in art. The sooner you accept this, the freer you will be. As a classically trained pianist, this is an ongoing struggle for me, but the sooner it’s acknowledged, the sooner it can be accepted.


2.   You aren’t here because you are perfect. So, why would you expect yourself to be perfect? You are here to be curious, to be interested, to be excited. In twelve weeks, you cannot expect to become Julie Andrews (practically perfect in every way). Instead, be Bilbo Baggins. Make the decision, like Bilbo, to go on an incredible adventure that has twists and turns and side adventures and a dragon (so many dragons in my adventure that are equally thrilling and tasty) and with each step, you are one step closer. Enjoy the ride.


3.     Perfect posture does not exist. It is a myth voice teachers have planted in my brain. Forgive your body. Love your body. Enjoy your body. The road of body understanding is a journey. Like everything else, saddle up, get used to it, and get patient.


4.     Feel how you want to feel about everything. You are in a safe place. All you have to do is try with an open heart. That's it. Nothing else. In fact, my greatest mission I have received at ECT is to do nothing. Be honest with yourself. I spent some time being angry and frustrated and hiding it because it’s not my previous idea of professional. The more upfront you are with what’s going on, the farther you’ll go. This isn't about telling Aaron, your spirit guide on this quest, so that you are right or wrong. The clearer you are with what's going on means that YOU, the almighty and powerful beautiful YOU, can address it. There is nothing you can't do. Unconscious incompetence --> Conscious incompetence is a critical learning step. Learn to love it. 


5.     This is not a race. You read that, but I really need you to hear me: this is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. This is not a race. Hah. It's stuck in your brain forever. You're welcome.


6.     Acting is a team sport. This is something I believed before finding ECT, but it is something ECT has proven to me every day. Seize that. Take advantage of being in a place with so many giving, willing people that are as passionate and obsessed and specific as you are. You can struggle and toil alone or you can commiserate, support, and uplift your teammates knowing they are there for you.


7.     No one can do what you can do. This is a motivating mantra I needed to hear. There is a way art has been quantified and artists like myself are taught to compare interpretations like there is only one way to bake a brownie. There are many brownies out there, friends. Each with their merits. Trust your chocolate-y goodness and enjoy finding your sweet spots.


8.     Language matters. Re-framing language and mindset can be challenging (and should be done healthfully so you can still fully feel the way you want to feel about something) but the difference between interest/noticing/curiosity and judgment (that dark place of doubt we all fight like hell) is so stark you could call it Ned. Stick with the re-framing. Being positive cannot only be what escapes your lips. It starts with how you talk to yourself.


9.     Learning how to be a professional while life is happening is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Be reasonable with your schedule and the commitments you take on. Know that, unlike undergrad and grad schools, you are not in a bubble of nothing is real off-campus (or outside of the theatre, as it were). Take in the opportunity to notice what is a healthful balance: how you can take care of yourself, how can you take care of your relationships, and how can you do your best work when you - as a person - are not feeling "all there". Nothing is wrong. Shit happens. Mama said there would be days like this. Gift yourself. (Spoiler alert: there's a tool for this.)


10. The social aspect of acting is as important as the crafting + homework + warm-ups + memorization + tools in your toolbox + everything. Everything is everything, but what you can learn while being in a community is the greatest thing you’ll ever learn on a Moulin Rouge level of epic. I begrudgingly admitted community is a nice thing to recognize on my first day of class. Now, I am so honored by these people I am surrounded by that have touched my heart so deeply in the course of twelve weeks (a.k.a. eternity). 


I had a music professor who once told me that in a singer's life, they'll find five people they trust, a.k.a. their five trusted pairs of ears. These are the people you go to after your rehearsals, recitals, and performances and say, "But really, how was it?" People like the accompanist you collaborate with, your voice teacher, or a fellow singer. While this acting technique is entirely about empowering you to become who you were meant to become, know that your instrument can trust the people in this building. We love you. We are rooting for you. And we will never give up on you.


Be brave,

Laila Abdo (Spring 2017)

ECT Mainstage Credits

Romeo & Juliet (2017)

TYBALT (u.s.)

PARIS (u.s.)


Dark of the Moon (2017)