On Studying at RADA: "Parting is such sweet sorrow..."

The cast of As You Like it at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in July 2015 (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

The cast of As You Like it at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in July 2015 (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

So many people have been asking me what it was like to study Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). If I could describe it in a few words, I would say that it was: tiring; fun; hard; and satisfying. 

Though the time was short, we worked on so much. We worked every day on scenes and speeches from most of Shakespeare’s plays, especially the more difficult and lesser known ones, and my acting toolkit has expanded exponentially.

During the course of the Acting Shakespeare program, we had a number of presentations (or showings) for the faculty and our fellow students, including: 

  • Period dance - We presented at least six different styles from the Renaissance under Dancing Master Darren Royston, focusing more on dances done during the reign of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
  • Sonnets - My sonnet teacher (and now one of my favorite people in the whole world), Zoe Waites, chose Sonnet #40 for me to perform: “Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all.” It was scandalous.
  • Stage combat - We presented the fight scene in Act 1, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Our particular scene was set in a school rec room where a group of nerds (Capulets) were playing an RPG, when suddenly a bunch of Jocks (Montagues) came in and started causing trouble. We had some wonderfully choreographed hand-to-hand combat thanks to Master of Combat Bret Yount.
  • Scenes - My amazing scene teacher Tim Hardy thoughtfully selected a role for me to work on; I played Helena in in Act 1, Scene 3 of All’s Well That Ends Well. It ended very well… :)
  • Singing - Our choir of 28 students sung two madrigals together under the arrangement of Andrew Charity: “Since First I Saw Your Face” and “Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis.”
  • Monologues - I chose to work on a Queen Margaret speech from Henry VI, Part 3. With the gentlest of touches, my teacher (Alan David) pushed me to test new boundaries within the character. Someday I hope to play this character on stage; Queen Margaret is one of my favorite females in all of Shakespeare.
The three Rosalinds. (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

The three Rosalinds. (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

Our last two weeks were devoted to producing an entire play, from a shortened rehearsal process to three performances. The director, Nona Shepphard, chose to work on As You Like It, which she set in Andy Warhol’s factory in the late 1960s, and I was absolutely thrilled to be cast as Rosalind. Due to the time constraints of preparing to put on a play in a week and a half, I shared the role with two other actresses, Amanda Gann and Shanna Sweeney. The role was broken up into thirds, and I got to play the final Rosalind who comes into her own and gets her happy ending.

It was incredibly tough to rehearse and perform a Shakespeare play on such a tight schedule, but spending 12+ hours a day on my craft was so satisfying. I’ve always wanted to work in TV as well, so I consider this training for my future series regular jobs.

Overall, I think the most beneficial things I got out of my training was an ease of stage physicality and a stronger confidence in my instincts and abilities. Though the program was difficult at times because I was learning from a number of teachers with conflicting views ranging from simple breathing to iambic pentameter, I also had teachers that trusted me with the text and let me do my thing. I was a bit like Dumbo learning that he didn’t need a feather to fly!

Rosalind prepares in her Ganymede costume. (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

Rosalind prepares in her Ganymede costume. (Photo courtesy of Nathanael Taylor)

In addition to the teachers mentioned above, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do Alexander Technique and Laban under the tutelage of Katya Benjamin. Though I had taken Alexander before getting to RADA, her classes were pivotal to my development. I’d also like to say that I wish I had more time with Alison Hardy, who taught the Character in Text class, and Nick Hutchison, whose knowledge of history was so detailed that I took notes on every word that came out of his mouth. All of these great teachers will be in my heart and mind forevermore; it was a life-altering experience to learn from such brilliant people.

At this point, I’m back in Los Angeles and excited about the future. I have a new work ethic and schedule that’s perfect for television, as well as a toolkit for Shakespeare that’s overflowing. 

I will miss you, RADA, but more than anything I’m grateful for the knowledge that you’ve given me.

brb... I'm studying at RADA!

It is my greatest pleasure to announce that I will be spending the next two months studying Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. I spent a lot of time preparing for this opportunity, and I was absolutely thrilled to be accepted. I believe very strongly in working hard and getting the proper training to achieve my career goals, so this is a giant leap in the right direction for me.

While at RADA, I will be studying every possible aspect of acting for Shakespearean theatre including Physical Performance, Alexander Technique, Stage Fighting, Period Dance, Choral Singing of the period, Voice, Voice into Text, Character in Text, Sonnets, Monologues and Scenes; as well as weekly workshop sessions. At the end of my course, I will get to perform in a play with my fellow classmates. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be surrounded by others who have developed a love for Shakespeare’s plays as much, if not more, as I have.

Since I was accepted, I’ve been reading a lot in preparation. My favorite book so far is A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, which makes a number of astonishing connections between what was happening in England at that time, both socially and politically, with the themes of Shakespeare’s plays written and performed that year. I especially enjoyed reading actual quotes from Queen Elizabeth I that just go to show that women have always been smart, bold and witty creatures. If she were around today, I bet her Twitter feed would be HILARIOUS.

Upon completion of this intensive course, I plan to return to Los Angeles to further reach for my dreams; going for more lead roles in theatre and working towards my life goal of playing a dynamic character in a sci-fi TV series.

I am infinitely grateful to my loving husband Rudy Jahchan for supporting me in this once in a lifetime endeavour, and to Armin Shimerman for his priceless mentoring on the works of William Shakespeare at Antaeus Academy.

No fate but what we make.
— Ancient proverb.

That time we got married...

On 10/11/12, I married my beloved partner in crime in the biggest production of our lives. The ceremony was officiated by the incomparable Ted Raimi, attended by all our besties, and written with love and nerdity by ourselves.

To honor our special day, I have compiled wedding photos, the official video, and our engagement story at RudyandCasey.com. Head on over to check it out now! Especially the video... it took me years to get it just right.

Now back to that happily ever after. <3

In case you didn't see Sight Unseen...

Last night we performed Donald Margulies' Sight Unseen at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood for the last time. It was a good run and I enjoyed getting to know my fellow cast members and stage manager. I especially loved working with my scene partner Jason Weiss and director Nicole Dominguez, who were both such a joy to work with that I relished every single rehearsal.

Though I was only in two scenes, the reviewers had some nice things to say about my performance as Grete, a German art journalist:

McKInnon’s cool understated presence also serves the story well.
— Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw
Casey McKinnon is a SASSY DELIGHT as an art critic, interviewing Jonathan about the meaning behind his body of work. She challenges him cerebrally with every question.
— Pat Taylor, Tolucan Times
[T]he best moments come in two pivotal scenes in which a smart and aggressive journalist (Casey McKinnon) puts Jonathan and his insecurities through the wringer.
— Les Spindle, Frontiers Media
The most interesting scene in this production of Donald Margulies’s 1992 play involves an encounter between Jonathan (Jason Weiss)... and Grete (Casey McKinnon), an art journalist of German extraction who is interviewing him.
— Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw

Playing the character of Grete was an interesting experience. There is so much conflict and anti-semitism present in my scenes that the audience response was always fascinating. There were nights when the audience was so absorbed and shocked by our scenes that we could actually hear them gasping and muttering "Oh, my God!" and "I can't believe she said that!" from their seats. And, though I don't have the blonde hair attributed so often to German nationals, there were nights when audience members would meet me outside and they couldn't believe that I wasn't actually German! It was fun, and I'm very grateful to dialect coach Adam Michael Rose for helping me pull it off. 

I'm also grateful to all my wonderful friends who came out to support me, like Sean Bonner, Tara Brown, Paula Rhodes, Charlie Bodin, Keri Safran, Paul Baird, Tina Molina, Rudy Jahchan, Cerina da Graca & Tim, Yuri Lowenthal, Tara Platt, Paul Whitfield, Lorelei Bunjes, Raya Yarbrough, Kyle Higgins, Emma Sleath, Jacob Sidney, Corryn Cummins, Desiree Mee Jung, Barrett Garese, Beth McDonald, Ulka Simone Mohanty, Nar Williams, America Young, Chris Rosa, Tom & Christine Ashworth, Eric Rudnick, Armina LaManna, Christine Sage, Erin Barnes, John Bobek, Cynthia Beckert, and Leslie Ranne.

Looking forward to telling you all about my next adventure soon... it's gonna be a doozy! In the meantime, here are a few behind the scenes photos that I took during our run.

Casey to play Grete in 'Sight Unseen' at The Lounge Theatre!

Jason Weiss as Jonathan Waxman and Casey McKinnon as Grete. Photo courtesy of director Nicole Dominguez.

Jason Weiss as Jonathan Waxman and Casey McKinnon as Grete. Photo courtesy of director Nicole Dominguez.

I'm happy to announce that I've been cast as Grete in Sight Unseen at The Lounge Theatre in Los Angeles. The play, written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies, follows Jonathan Waxman, a successful Jewish-American painter, as he revisits his past by reconnecting with a former lover and muse. 

My character, Grete, is a determined young German journalist with information that could potentially ruin Waxman's career. The role of Grete was played by Laura Linney at the Orpheum Theatre in New York in the early nineties. 

I'm really excited to be working with director Nicole Dominguez and the great little cast and crew that she has assembled. Even after only three rehearsals, I can see that it is shaping up to become something special.

Previews begin on Thursday, March 12th and we open on Saturday, March 14th. The play will run until April 26th. Tickets are available here.

 

My Childhood Crush Has ALS

Young, adorably embarrassing Casey McKinnon.

Young, adorably embarrassing Casey McKinnon.

The boy in the North Shore jacket was the cutest boy in all of Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

While the other girls in my school were busy fighting over which New Kids on the Block member they liked most and fawning over the lyrics to Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting," I was busy embarrassing myself over that cute boy in the North Shore jacket.

The other girls in my class teased me relentlessly about it, shouting his name and then hiding behind me, or calling his parents' house and handing me the phone, but I embarrassed myself the most.

Like REALLY embarrassed myself. More humiliating than that scene from Forever Young where Elijah Wood serenades a girl with "You Are My Sunshine." That was adorable. No, no... I can't imagine any of my actions were ever that endearing.

There was the time in grade 5 when I choreographed a dance routine and modded the lyrics to obscure 1950s song "Pink Shoelaces" to express my admiration in the schoolyard during recess. If you want a better mental image, the chorus went "He wore Converse, with white shoe laces, a North Shore jacket, and man-oh-man!"

Then there was the time when his cool older brother came to visit our elementary school and we break danced outside the gym; I did a sweet headspin which was probably waaay cooler in my mind than it ever was in reality.

Oh, and there was that other time in junior high school when my friends got me to sing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid while he was watching. I was mortified, but I did it because, y'know, peer pressure and all.

Needless to say, there were many other moments of dorkery that I have tried to forget over the years.

So, when my sister texted me at 6:24am last week to tell me that Dean Stock was diagnosed with ALS, it all came flooding back to me.

I feel terrible for the struggle Dean will face and moved by the support he's getting from his family, especially that cool older brother of his, PJ Stock. I wish him the absolute best treatment and I will be crossing my fingers for a cure. To help, I'm donating to the ALS Society of Quebec in support of Team Stock. My eleven year old self would have wanted me to. 

Join me by donating here: TeamStock.ca

Old Hollywood Photo Shoot

Just before the holidays, I did an "Old Hollywood" shoot with amazing photographer Nick Holmes. He used strong, dramatic lighting inspired by the work of George Hurrell, and I believe he succeeded in getting some very, VERY glamorous shots. Above are my favorite images from the shoot, but you can see more on his Flickr and Instagram accounts. If you're interested in shooting with him, you can book him through his official site.

Lady Stutfield's Wilde Ride

On December 6th and 7th I had the pleasure of playing the role of Lady Stutfield in Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance at Sacred Fools Theatre in Los Angeles. It was such a joy to step into the shoes of a proper lady, and slip into a British accent that I've been perfecting since childhood on those rainy days when I had no one to play with but the little girl in the mirror.

I was so happy to be cast in this production, especially after taking Geoffrey Wade's Shaw, Wilde & Coward class at Antaeus Theatre last Spring. I read a lot of Wilde plays at the time and A Woman of No Importance was my absolute favorite. I firmly believe that you can sit a chauvinist down in the theatre and he wouldn't notice it's a feminist play until the very end, when he's already on the female protagonist's side. If Geoffrey's class sounds interesting to you, he's offering it again in a couple of months. The class prepared me very thoroughly for late 19th century theatre, including dialect work, proper posture, interactions between upstairs masters and downstairs servants, and social dos and don'ts.

I had a great time preparing for the role as well. I did a lot of research on hair and makeup appropriate to the time period and ended up with a Gibson Girl updo, and wearing minimal makeup with a little, slightly period inauthentic eyeliner to make my eyes pop for the audience. I found this hair tutorial on YouTube to base my hairstyle:

Working with Sacred Fools Theatre was an excellent experience. I personally think that this theatre is one of the most cutting edge companies in Los Angeles and I admire their work immensely. In the past year, they have produced a stage adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a hilarious musical comedy about the life of behavioral scientist John Broadus Watson, and a cannibal play called Taste - based on real events - directed by horror master Stuart GordonA Woman of No Importance was their first Oscar Wilde production, and I felt very lucky to be involved in this lovely little anomaly. I met some wonderful people and I hope to work with them again and again, especially producer David Mayes and director Armina LaManna.

Special thanks to all my dear friends who came out to support me: Rudy, Barrett & Beth, Raya & Jenny, Priscilla & Thaine, Cameron & Arielle, Simone, Leslie, Crystal, Paul, Liz, Cerina, Paul 2.0, Yuri & Tara, and my "Canadian contingent" Teddy & Dave, and Diane & Bruce! Your applause were so loud at my curtain call and I was incredibly touched. You made this girl feel like she won the lottery. <3

Looking forward to doing more theatre in 2015. Happy new year, everyone!

Casey to play Lady Stutfield in 'A Woman of No Importance' at Sacred Fools Theatre!

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be playing Lady Stutfield in A Woman of No Importance at Sacred Fools Theatre for two performances:

  • Saturday, December 6th at 8pm
  • Sunday, December 7th at 3pm

Tickets are available online here.

This is my favorite Oscar Wilde play because it critiques gender inequality in such a clever way. By mocking women's issues at the turn of the 20th century, Wilde shines a comedic spotlight on the problems we faced - and, in some cases, continue to face - in our society. It has been interesting working on the play in the wake of GamerGate. Over a hundred years after the suffragette movement, we still face terrible threats and abuse for even daring to speak out.

I'm very grateful to Geoffrey Wade for his invaluable training in Shaw, Wilde and Coward at Antaeus Theatre. His class and his private coaching were priceless to me, and I feel so lucky to be cast in a Wilde play so soon after.

I am really enjoying the direction of Armina LaManna, who is truly a master (mistress?) of physical comedy, and I can't wait to get up on stage!

Hope to see you there!

Teaser for my next play!

Photo courtesy of Tifanie McQueen

Photo courtesy of Tifanie McQueen

Here's a little teaser from the first rehearsal of a play that I've been cast in that I haven't announced publicly yet -- I'm just waiting until I know the days I'll be going on, so everyone gets tickets for the right times.

Looking forward to letting you all know about it soon. And, if you're looking for me in the photo... I'm way in the back right sucking on a mint and concentrating hard on the script. :)

Playing Ashley in sci-fi play 'Celini'

Photo courtesy of Douglas Gabrielle

Photo courtesy of Douglas Gabrielle

Last weekend I had the pleasure of acting in Celini, a new sci-fi play written and directed by Aaron Francis, and staged at Sacred Fools Theatre Company as part of their Serial Killers series. I played Ashley, a biologist working to discover life on Mars, and worked with a wonderful cast consisting of Paula Rebelo, Jonathan Goldstein, Alex Suha, Adriana Colon, Aaron Francis, Lauren Esther Neal, Carla Toutz, Quin Sullivan, Tony Williams, and David Rodwin (pictured above).

I'm a lucky little sci-fi nerd.

Hamlet Max wrap-up

We just closed Hamlet Max at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, where I played Marcellus, Guildenstern, Second Player (Prologue, Player Queen, Lucianus), and Osric. I had a wonderful time, met some amazing people, and got to take part in something I believed in, so here's a little wrap-up about some of the great stuff that came of it.

Before opening night, illustrator Hillary Bauman, director and star Jacob Sidney, and I were interviewed by FringeTV. The play was also featured on Bleeding Cool this week, where Sidney delved deep into the production background and outlined his plans for the future.

We were reviewed by Broadway World and Bitter Lemons, in addition to all the great audience reviews we received on the Hollywood Fringe Festival web site. Here are a few highlights that I was very honored to read:

Other ensemble standouts include... Casey McKinnon’s delicately comic, pixie-like Osric.
— Kevin Delin, Bitter Lemons
Great work on the show. I especially liked your Guildenstern.
— Tweet from Ellen Dostal, Broadway World reviewer
[A]n interesting take on the character of Guildenstern and several fine performances make this show a solid choice for fans of the Bard and the melancholy Dane.
— Paul Hoan Zeidler, audience review
The female take on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was played out so well – I loved that choice! Every role those ladies took on was given its own life and seemed like an entirely different actress was portraying each role.
— Nicole Rossi, audience review

My fellow cast and crew were all wonderfully talented people that I will never forget. I count them all as friends, and I hope I get to work with each and every one of them again in the near future.

"Look at that! @caseymckinnon on top of the cast list of#hamletmax. Proud of my love!" - @rudyjahchan on Instagram

Special thanks to all my dear friends who came out to support me: Yuri Lowenthal; Tara Platt; Leslie Ranne; Nar Williams; Matthew Wrather; Fiona Sweeney; David August (& Kara); David Nett; Liz Miller; Paula Rhodes; Charlie Bodin; Brendan Bradley; Paul Whitfield; Robert Hewitt Wolfie; Celeste Wolfie; Cameron Daxon; Emma Sleath; Kevin Delin; Spencer Rowe; Ulka Simone Mohanty; and Rudy Jahchan, who has been my "Usul" through this whole process. I love you all.

Also thanks to whoever runs the social media at Sacred Fools Theater for giving me my own hashtag! I'm honored to be the #hottestguildensternever!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare!

The class.

The class.

At Antaeus Theatre today, Armin Shimerman's Shakespeare class celebrated the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare. The class started as usual with scenes from our favorite plays, and I surprised them at the end with a homemade chocolate cake with an icing outline of Shakespeare's face and 4-5-0 candles to top it off. The day was wonderful and memorable, just like the works of Shakespeare.

The cake.

The cake.

Casey to play Guildenstern in Hamlet Max at the Hollywood Fringe Fest!

Just in time for Shakespeare's 450th birthday, I have some exciting news: I have been cast to play Guildenstern in Hamlet Max at the Hollywood Fringe Fest this June!

Hamlet Max is a new adaptation of Hamlet set in post-apocalyptic Denmark. This unconventional setting gives director and star Jacob Sidney an opportunity to try new things and raise the stakes, while still maintain the integrity and power of the original story and text. I'm particularly excited about his casting choices, where a number of characters, including my own, will be gender bent. (Take that, Queen Elizabeth I!)

In addition to the role of Guildenstern, I will also be playing Marcellus, Second Player (Prologue, Player Queen, Lucianus), and Osric. To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement. After all my great theatre classes at Antaeus Academy, I am excited to launch my stage career and am so wonderfully happy that my first production will be an adaptation of Shakespeare. I am so grateful to the wonderful people at Antaeus for their support and tutelage, especially Armin Shimerman who has changed my life with his near-scientific method for approaching the rhetoric of Shakespeare, Rob Nagle for inspiring me and being my "trusty steed," and Ann Noble for her constant encouragement.

Please check out our IndieGoGo campaign to buy tickets, browse our special perks (including the option to have me read a sonnet on your voicemail!), or simply make a donation to help us fund this project. 

In hono(u)r of Shakespeare's 450th birthday...

This month marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. To mark this special occasion, my friend Brendan Bradley put together a wonderful challenge: to capture 450 monologues from the works of Shakespeare by April 23rd.

I am so pleased to participate and pay tribute to this amazing playwright who has left us with some of the deepest, cleverest plays that the world has ever known. As an actor, I don't always get a lot of lines or character development, so doing Shakespeare gives me great joy and satisfaction because he left us so much to play with in the text. The work of Shakespeare is a gift to humanity, so what better gift from we remaining humans than to continue performing it to hono(u)r its creator!

In addition to my own monologue from Henry IV Part 1, you can also see some brilliant monologues from a number of my friends including Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal, David Nett, Ashley Clements, Bradley himself, and many more!

Join us. Help us get 450 monologues on YouTube in time to celebrate the birth of The Bard! Click here for information on how to submit your own video monologue!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare! I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.