By Maxwell Bank
About a week after the ball dropped in Times Square and the end of 2020, I vowed to act on Zoom. It had been a good race. I hadn’t made the decision out of frustration or disappointment. I was just exhausted. From the start of the lockdown in New York to early 2021, I was working on my computer between two and nine times a week: improv shows, improv classes, sketch shows, character classes, a Shakespeare play, a black film radio play. -if I had the time I would. While these shows and classes were fun and stimulating, playing day in and day out in my room, on my laptop, was getting exhausting. I had planned to move away a bit to choose my next move. Enter: Atlantic Acting School.
I decided that after my break I would return to acting with a full curriculum. I had heard good things about Atlantic and decided to audition for his Conservatory full time. The hearing went very well. My listeners were amazing and made me feel at ease and I left feeling like I did my best job possible (which, if you’ve ever auditioned on Zoom, you know, it’s not a small victory). That week I received two news: first, my job was reopening with new hours, creating a conflict with the full-time Conservatory; and second, I had been accepted to the conservatory. So, with a heavy heart, I emailed Atlantic to tell them the timing wouldn’t work. Maybe next year.
From a school as well established as Atlantic, I expected nothing more than a brief confirmation that I would not be enrolled in the program. So I was quite surprised when Chris Booth, director of admissions for the Atlantic Acting School – and coincidentally one of the directors of an improv show I was playing in at the time (true story: until as I walked into the hearing room I didn’t realize both Chris Booths were the same person) – contacted me to let me know about another option that might be a better match on my schedule: a multifaceted actor conservatory from February. It sounded perfect! But then I saw its name: Global Virtual Conservatory. Virtual. In line. Act in a computer. As you may recall 376 words ago, I was done playing Zoom. Again, I politely declined.
Once again Chris responded. âThink before you say no,â the email more or less read. “It will be a very good program.” And the more I looked at what the program offered, the more I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could bear to act on Zoom a little longer. I gave in and emailed Chris again to accept the spot.
From the first orientation with Naomi Livingstone and Heather Baird, I was delighted to get to work. After switching between programs, I didn’t realize how complete the GVC was going to be: Practical Aesthetics with Melissa Bruder; industry & audition with Ricardo Coke-Thomas; performance project with Tatiana Pandiani; solo portfolio with Jacquelyn Landgraf; portfolio of films with Jessica Frey; and a global outlook with a rotating assortment of teachers (Llyod Suh, Heather Raffo, Ngozi Anyanwu, Arian Moayed, Todd Thaler, Gaye Taylor Upchurch).
The GVC felt like a full body workout, preparing us not only to tackle and act out written materials, but also to train us to write, lead and, perhaps more importantly, collaborate. Which brings me to my cohort (a word I’m not ashamed to admit I learned in this program). From the start, I was totally and completely blown away by the quality of my classmates: Jen Diaz, Alexandria Henderson, Faye Hiscock, JesÃºs M. Garibay, Jubilee Lopez, Rudra A. McBain and Cheryl Yang. Each brought a unique perspective and sensitivity to the work. I was so excited and, I admit, intimidated, that I always pushed myself to match the excellence they brought each week. 4.5 hours three times a week sounds intimidating, but working with this group more than once I found myself so captivated that I was shocked to look at the clock and see that our time was up .
So many of the courses I have taken in these times of a pandemic have made the mistake of being an in-person course reluctantly transmitted over the internet. The GVC was a program designed to be conducted online and it was successful. Instead of trying to fit ideas for the physical scene into the computer, I found myself challenged and excited about the possibilities open to me with technology. And, perhaps more importantly, I couldn’t wait to see what my classmates would bring. When the final presentation arrived, I had to lift my jaw off the ground more than once through a performance, writing, or using the technology of one of my cohort.
And then there was the lesson I didn’t even realize the GVC was teaching me about: intense and constant excitement to be created. Even while the show was on and my mug was bursting with work, I found myself writing, contacting other actors to put on shows, and learning monologues just for myself. The tools Atlantic has given me have been so useful and engaging that I am more enthusiastic about making art than I have been in the past few years. And that’s on top of everything I’ve learned!
So if you find yourself looking at what the GVC has to offer – their global community, their in-depth and extensive classes, their really amazing teachers – and you think that sounds good, but maybe you don’t. aren’t keen on acting in a computer, so think again. I learned so much from my time at the Global Virtual Conservatory, and even after I graduated, I’m still learning. And that is the mark of a world class program for me.
Maxwell Bank is a New York born / raised / based actor, writer and comedian. Once things get back to normal (every day now!), He can be seen every Wednesday night with his improv team, Good & Evil, and every month on Sundays with his sketch team, Rococo, both at the Magnet Theater. Max has also performed regularly at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, People’s Improv Theater and with Whiskey Stories. Digital credits from These Pandemic Times include Oberon and Theseus in Bill Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Digital Shakespeare Company), Nick in Emmett White’s The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (Original Idiots), and overall with the JMG International improvisation team (WG School of Improvisation). He also enjoys organizing and attending dinner parties and is excited to return in the coming year. If you are in the area you should come! MaxwellBank.net @thatmaxperson
About the World Virtual Conservatory
Rooted in multicultural perspectives on performance methodology, this distance learning program draws on the large and diverse pool of active artists from the Atlantic Acting School and the Atlantic Theater Company – from New York to Los Angeles, passing through Argentina, Australia, London and beyond! Over three concentrated six-week terms, students will develop three distinct portfolio pieces – a self-scripted solo project, a film project, and a collaborative group project.