By Steven Correll
For Alice Allemano, acting is much more than just a job, it’s a way of life. To her, the energy, the emotion, and the experience of being on stage is one of a kind. Standing next to her in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, watching her cast finish up rehearsal for their upcoming show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I started to see what she meant.
It had been a long road up until this point. Having faced numerous set-backs, the actor turned assistant-director had found a venue, picked a play, and hired a cast, when her funding fell through. Undeterred, Allemano and her director, Chris Hirsh, forged forward, bartering where they could, begging when they had to and doing everything necessary to make sure this play happened.
With less than a week to go before showtime, I met up with Allemano to talk about acting, her experiences living in New York City and the wonderful things that can happen when a play turns into a passion-project for everyone involved.
Hometown: Northeast London, United Kingdom
Current Neighborhood: Crown Heights, Brooklyn
College: Stella Adler Studio of Acting (She went to uni in England, too!)
So, did you always want to be an actor? What was it that drew you to acting?
I didn’t always want to be an Actor, but I was always obsessed with theatre. When I was a kid I first wanted to be a pop star, obviously, like all kids do. Then I wanted to be in a band, then of all things, a fireman (haha), then an actor. Growing up, since I could read very well from an early age, I was always the one that did all of the speaking during school plays. So I kind of got used to it.
Did your parents raise you reading a lot of books? Were you surrounded by art as a child?
Yeah, I was a real book worm and headed to the theatre all the time, so I guess it’s their fault (haha). My dad is actually very into amateur theatre. He has always been doing amateur production, from acting to singing and everything in-between. He definitely played a role in my choosing acting as a career.
What is it like to be an actor?
It’s fun, isn’t it? It’s really, really fun. What’s really beautiful about it is the community that you create in order to put on a play. The level of trust between everyone on set is unique and crucial so that you can all preform. As an actor you need constant positive energy. Because you’re constantly faced with negatives. Like being told no’s over and over again. You need to bring out all the positivity from yourself which is very very hard. That energy affects everything. How you work by yourself, how other people see you and whether or not they want to work with you.
How has being an actor changed you?
It’s funny because the school I went to in NY, Stella Adler, their motto is: “The growth of the actor is synonymous with the growth of the human being.” It’s really true, because to be an actor you need to open your eyes to everything, the ugly and the beautiful in the world. And you need to store it somewhere in your body so that you can retell those stories. Because that’s what an actor is, a story-teller. So in that way it really helped open my eyes to the world around me.
How do you best prepare yourself for a role? Is there a process you go through?
I don’t have a process because it’s different every time. Sometimes you want to find where that character lives in your body. Like, do they move from their groin? Or think with their head? Are they slow? Fast? Are they always looking out? Or are they more internal? All those kinds of things feed physically. Often I find that if you start physical then it moves in, so that your physical body informs the inner workings of the character. Then again, it depends on what the play gives you, or what kind of a play it is, or if it’s theatre or film. To be honest, I just roll with it. The roles themselves are also living, breathing things. I find that my character changes throughout a run, with me it grows, with me it gets informed by different things. It’s just all about making the character come alive in any way that you can.
What would you say is a difference between the acting scene in London vs. New York?
To be honest, I don’t know what it’s like to perform in London since I came straight to the USA right after college. I do know that in London the professional theatre is more accessible in general for the public because it’s cheaper. And it generally seems to me that the quality is more consistently higher in London because they’re held to account more. While in New York broadway is so expensive that it’s really for tourists or people that only go to Broadway. I think there’s a lot more experimental and fun Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway productions here and that means there’s a lot more access for not-quite-yet professional actors with roles over here.
I have a couple of friends that are trying to break into acting, do you have any tips?
Just say yes. Just try things. Keep trying. Go to auditions, meet people. Everything that you do, even if it’s crappy and small, just do your best. Because there is always someone there who’s going to remember you and is going to see you do something, whatever it is, everything matters. Just be cool. Even if you’re starving and roaming around NYC in the snow because you can’t afford a metro. (haha) Be positive and forge your own path!
So, you’re the assistant director for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Why did you choose this play?
It actually came down to years ago, me and my friend were like: let’s put on a play in NY! A Midsummer Night’s Dream! I’ve seen it every year since I was a child in London, so it’s been a big play for me in my life. And this same friend approached me like 4 months ago and said, “I’m managing this space, let’s put on a play,” so I said “OKAY!” I was going to direct initially but I wasn’t totally comfortable so I brought in Chris, who I met through a Shakespeare class, and he’s super excited and ready to direct. So that’s the how and the why and somehow it’s all happening.
What has your experience been like as an Assistant Director for this production?
This has been a phenomenal experience. This play has come from combining both mine and Chris’s networks. We started with what was perhaps a great budget, to then literally having zero pennies. It was insane. And somehow all the actors agreed to do it. It’s become a passion project for everyone involved. I just started asking people for stuff, you know, giving us shoes to wear, getting sponsorships for booze, everyone is willing to make their own costumes, it’s a beautiful, collaborative experience.
Wait. Everyone is making their own costumes?
Yeah, because we don’t have any money! (haha) It’s been a real lesson that you can’t just sit around all the time and get upset and annoyed that you’re not getting jobs. You just need to get off your ass and make something happen.
What is crucial for a successful play?
The energy of the cast is so important. As long as the cast is enjoying it, it will affect the audience. Which is what’s kind of incredible about doing this. Because everyone is doing this for free. We’ve launched a Go-Fund-Me just to pay them! I believe that artists should be paid for their art so they can go make more art. Since they are all doing this for free, there’s crazy energy; this is something truly special because since money is gone, people are just like, “Well, I’ll stay ’til 5!”
And As For Roommates…
So you’re living in Crown Heights right now, do you have any roommates?
Yes, I have 5 roommates, a guy, a girl, and a couple. And a dog, sometimes.
How did you end up living there?
I met Addie who lives there when I was doing a play with her. I was talking about how I wanted to move and she invited me to take the spare room in their place. So I moved in!
What’s the house like?
It’s an amazing three-story house. In the basement is the Caribbean Cultural Center. Carnival starts from our basement! Our house used to be a museum and Shirley Chisholm, the first black female congresswoman, ran her campaigns from our house!
Do you have any horror roommate stories?
Well, typically my roommates have been good. However when I lived in Bushwick I did live next to a woman who had 20 cats!
A real life cat-lady??
YEAH! It was crazy! They never left the room and the place STANK to high heaven. I thought she had a dead person in there or something, it was that bad. They eventually kicked her out but had to gut the whole apartment because it was ruined.
Any awesome roommate stories?
This crew I landed with is pretty amazing. We go on trips, and do a lot of stuff together. They’ve become some of my best friends in the city. They are definitely going to be life-long friends.
Any tips for living in NYC as an artist?
Don’t take anything too seriously, not yourself or anyone else. It will be a lot easier. People get so serious here. Everything is an experience, especially in this town. Everyone has their ups and downs. Just roll with it.
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