Kiara is a recent graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, home to alumni Robert Redford, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd and Adrien Brody. Originally she had her heart set on becoming a ballet dancer, but after an injury changed the course of her interest, she enrolled to study at The McDonald College at the age of 17, and hasn’t looked back since.
Can you tell us about your time studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York?
I feel like I’m still processing about my time at the Academy, and it’s been almost a year since I graduated. It was an incredible whirlwind experience with lots of ups and downs. But luckily I had a lot of great teachers who were supportive and nurturing. They created an environment where I felt safe to try out crazy ideas and be myself. I think one of the things the Academy instilled in me is discipline. Often my day would begin at 7am and end at 10pm. It was exhausting at times, but totally worth it because now I understand so much more about the craft of acting and what is takes to be an actor.
How has your College training helped you to be industry-ready?
I love how the College gave us so many opportunities to perform. That practical experience is really invaluable. I remember an industry guest told us that we should read at least one play per week. I have kept up that habit ever since. It’s helped me tremendously in my career so far. There’s nothing better than getting an audition for a play which I’ve already read. Being familiar with the playwright, style, tone etc can make a huge difference. By reading so many scripts, I get a sense of the materials that I’m most drawn to. It makes finding monologues and scenes so much easier too.
What is the most valuable piece of advice that you’ve been given?
I actually read this in an interview with Jessica Chastain on Backstage.com. I recommend every aspiring actor to read it. It has definitely changed my daily routine since graduating from drama school. She says, “Success is when luck and preparation meet”, which means working on your craft everyday, and when the right opportunity comes along, you’ll be ready to take on the role.
Can you tell us about some of the roles and productions that you’ve worked on?
I recently appeared as the Chorus in the Greek tragedy Electra at Queens Theatre (Off-Broadway). Our director, Leonidas Loizidis, is originally from Greece. He used a lot of Grecian inspired-music in the production. I had to learn to sing in Greek, which was so much fun. My roommate from the Academy was also cast in the same show, which was a pure coincidence. I’m very happy that I got to work with her professionally this time around.
I also performed an original monologue in a production called Detention 45: Home for the Holidays at the Cherry Lane Theatre (it’s often considered the birthplace of Off-Broadway). I got to collaborate with up-and-coming directors and a playwright to create an original piece of work. When I was a drama student I would go to see plays there, and now I’m an actor performing on that stage. It’s totally a pinch myself moment.
What advice would you give to students looking to study or work in the U.S.?
If this is your passion and if the path of moving to the other side of the world is in front of you, then I say go for it. I think when you’re passionate about your art, it makes the obstacles easier to overcome (like being homesick or not getting to role you want), and you just keep going. Keep taking classes even after you’ve graduated.
The industry in the U.S. (being in New York in general) moves really quickly compared to Australia, so be ready for a change of pace. You’ve got to nail the American accent, so studying with an accent coach would help a lot.
Have some general knowledge of the industry by reading magazines and websites like Backstage and deadline.com. Make sure that you’re on time to auditions and rehearsals because there are literally hundreds of people wanting that job. I’d also recommend taking classes with casting directors as you learn so much from them.
Lastly, just be happy and have fun.