In 2014, Charlotte Coles benefitted from the the Richard Chappell Award. She used it to go to LEATSS. Here's what she said about her experience:
The Luxembourg European Acting Theatre Summer School Experience
By Charlotte Coles
This is my 6th consecutive year at LEATSS, and returning to this same building has brought back all of those fond memories that have built up over time. I remember when The Student Project was called Project 3 and when the bar was open until 6am the following morning with people competing for who could stay up latest or who could drink most. I remember the special naming of that person who has purchased most on their bar tab and the discussions about those who made the most progress during the week. As I pranced through those large wooden doors on late Saturday morning, all of those memories flooded back to me in waves of joy and wishful thinking.
Naturally, this year wasn’t like all others. There was a record of newbies and the names of people I hadn’t seen for almost 365 days had disappeared, but the anticipation of a marvellous and challenging week remained firmly in my mind as a prepared for what was to come, and showed the two newcomers who had accompanied me around the labyrinth that makes Clairefontaine. On that first day, one could barely have a sentence leave one’s lips before there came an interjection from an old friend and the conversation was side-tracked, and just as one came to terms with the room that one should be in, it changed – a problem that, for some, was not solved by the end.
But we welcomed those who arrived late to warm-ups with ginormous delighted and somewhat mocking waves, as the tutor said “Everyone say “Hi Chris! So nice of you to join us!””, and that person would laugh somewhat embarrassedly and wave back before joining the group. If one was in the wrong room for Skills Swaps (a confusing title in itself, I know), one would find oneself rescued by a fellow classmate who had noticed one’s absence. Even with those who had an essence of complete bewilderment about them were congratulated with open arms when, after the umpteenth time, they succeeded in the task at hand.
Of course, there was the usual mixture of highs and lows – some classes contained almost constant laughter whilst others competed to see which could make most people cry in an hour and a half (not, I hasten to add, through the cruelty of the tutors; solely due to the emotions that were channelled through exercises which, if you think about it, is quite flattering as it means that the tutor was doing a good job), but during each tea, lunch and dinner break, the enthusiasm for each individual class was recognised as they were spoken about at great length and described to those who had opted for others.
As for the classes themselves, I can only fairly describe two – the Theme singing course with Graeme Du Fresne called ‘Tunes of Tyranny’ and Janice Dunn’s Skills directing course called ‘Getting Intimate With Acting’. Perhaps I could have chosen ones which would be more comfortable for me personally, but isn’t the point of this week to challenge oneself? I found my inner emotions with the songs ‘Make Them Hear You’ from Ragtime and ‘Dear One’ from Kiss of the Spider Woman, both of which are absolutely beautiful and were very skilfully directed by Graeme. We did attempt other songs (albeit with much less success) such as ‘The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea’ and ‘Poems’ from Pacific Overtures. I must also admit, to (I expect) Graeme’s horror, that I now tremble at the mention of Sondheim and that I’d much rather be told to sing a simple Lloyd Webber tune. However, saying that I only really enjoyed two fifths of the music provided doesn’t mean the course was a waste of time – much the opposite – it means that I found the other music much more difficult, and I purely felt comfortable in the two specified above (despite one or two particularly high notes in the Ragtime number).
As for Janice’s course, I decided to take that because I knew that one of my weak points was directing, as I’ve had little experience of it up until now. I didn’t expect it to go seamlessly and indeed it didn’t. We were put through some emotionally strenuous exercises and sent off to work in pairs, and at one point I had to work with a couple of people alone in a Share, which I found particularly difficult. What I did find, however, was that this course was a massive learning curve for me and that it was in this course that I learnt the most useful pointers for directing, most of which we had Janice admit that she herself doesn’t use.
In total, each class had about 10 students (allowing the tutor to work as inclusively as possible), and all were enthusiastic and hard-working, but even after the long and exhausting days, everyone finds the time to retire to the bar for a couple of drinks before their nightcap, often staying up much later than originally intended. There was only one accident during the week which was luckily not too serious, and there was one class which was found to be so emotional for the participants that they decided not to share their work; however, almost everyone made use of the garden space in which to sunbathe during the rare breaks so, all-in-all, it was a relatively calm and happy week. I wouldn’t say that this was the best of the 6 years I’ve been attending LEATSS, but I loved it nonetheless, and I fully intend on returning at the earliest possibility. For those of you who are interested in acting, singing, directing, or anything vaguely related to theatre, I do recommend trying LEATSS just for one year to see whether it’s something you might find useful (and please bear in mind that the courses change dramatically from year to year). Even if you do then decide that it’s not your cup of tea, I have no doubt that it will have benefitted you in one way or another.