Lockdown does not mean giving up now is the time to fine tune your skills or/and learn a new skill. The Sutara Academy at the Hackney Showrooms founded by actor Lorna Gayle really pushes the boat out with classes being taught by industry names coming with a wealth of experience, you can learn acting singing, drumming and meditation and more. Lorna teaches Creativity meets Spirituality – self exploration and improvisation. A much needed tonic in these Covid times as the course attempts to take you “deeper into your craft and discussing what matters to you”. Gayle who is a graduate of Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art credits include many of British TV’s much-loved programmes: The Duchess (TV Series) Seleena, Anthony (TV Movie), Doctors (TV Series), Gracie Davies / Gracie Fields / Mrs. Adeoye, Bounce (2017) The Plane (Short) Danny’s Mum 2017, The Rebel (TV Series), Holby City, to name a few. Sutara Academy is a performing Arts Sanctuary where adults can express themselves, using a more holistic approach. ALT caught up with the actress over a socially distanced cup of coffee and smoothie as part of our new Creative Careers section. Book a place on the course or find out more here.
What would you being doing now if the pandemic had not hit us?
I would been doing a play called Paradise (Director Ian Rickson) for which I was cast early this year, at the National Theatre which would have run up to August. But lockdown is making people deal with what is important there has been some good news and bad. But overall is has been good. On the other hand, it has been an absolute blessing.
Tell us a bit about what made you became an actor?
Well, being an actor was something I always wanted to do, and I used to go by the Italia Conti drama school and press my face up against the window seeing actors; like Bonnie Langford there. I knew it was something I wanted to do. I came from a very religious family, so I was not able to go to drama school at a young age or anything like that, but it never left me. Throughout my younger years I became a musician and a singer. That was my way of being on stage I had to go on stage somehow and I enjoyed the sound systems. I went to drama school at 37 and graduated when I was 40. When you have a passion it never leaves you until you fulfil it. It never left me.
Talking of passion what is the Sutara Academy and why did you decide to set it up?
I actually started this back in 2006; when I left drama school, I started a drama group called G Up. It is only because where I grew up in Brixton, I was born and raised in Brixton. And when I looked around, I didn’t see anything that would cater for young black youth at that time. I just could not see anything that would help them express themselves I remember how it was when I wanted to express myself. I rebelled, I was a rebellious teenager and I’ve got myself into all kind of trouble. So I know what it’s like I don’t want to blame anyone but I know what it is like when you don’t have anywhere to channel that energy, that creative energy that you have, I know what can happen. So that’s what drove me to start this group and that’s exactly what I did.
I just found a place in Brixton and actually we were at different centres around Brixton, including The Brix, wherever they would take me I would set up. Working with a group of young people we would discuss and write and about talk about how we were and from that we built stories and we would perform giving people a chance to showcase their work. That is how it all started When I went to India in 2011, I had a profound experience and I received the name SUTARA from my Guru, Mooji. It means divine star and it was there I decided to change G Up to the Sutara Academy and kind of take it more seriously.
You mentioned, working with young people, is the academy aimed at a specific demographic in terms of age?
Normally we work with fifteen to twenty one year olds, that was how we started out and who I’ve been working with, you know, but because what’s going on at the moment, I’m only working with adults until we’ve got some kind of normality and we know what’s happening. You know what I mean? And then we’ll be able to be more flexible with the age groups. But at the moment, we’re just working with adults.
What acting advice would you give to the 20-year-old Lorna that you have learnt along the way?
I would say don’t chase it. There is no need to chase, it’s yours. It’s already marked out for you. All you need to do is just be focused and be open and be humble. That’s what I would say to the 20-year-old. Don’t chase anything. Because we feel like we’re doing the doing but is it actually the higher power. We spend so much time doing doing doing as human beings. So, I would say relax more, focus your attention, and know that all is well. But what’s your goal? So, don’t be so fixated on the outcome and you will have less stress and your life will be happy. that’s what I would say.
What makes you excited about a role when you get a script?
It’s funny you use that word excited because a script has to be exciting for me to take any role. I read quite a lot of scripts and I have been very very blessed to get some good parts but what excites me about a script is when a character is presented with an arc comes with different emotions, you know, something that rings true, like humans sometimes we are happy sometimes we are sad. A character that will have some kind of an impact on others negative or positive, but will have some kind of impact that will make you think, The character must have some substance when you get all that in that is what makes true art .
What would you like to see happen now: is the BLM protest enough? I would like everyone to treat each other equally.
If you could do any role what would that be? I would like to play Angela Bassett’s lover.
Do you think roles for black actors have progressed since you started out are you optimistic?
I am very optimistic. When I started out, I would look to America at actors like Cicely Tyson and Whoopee and as that is who I had been seeing on the TV. But now we have great actors here, we have Letitia Wright, John Boyega, Chucky Venn, Ellen Thomas, T’Nia Miller, Martina Laird so many I could go on we have all these great actors right here. It gives me great hope and yes, I am optimistic because we are great people, and we have an abundance of stories, great stories. And so now people are waking up to what we are capable of doing, only now it is coming through. But you know something? My mother used to say nothing comes before its time. So there no point in wasting energy on what we can be doing because I know what we have, people are more confident to show themselves, people who have been hidden and have been hiding for a long time.
Tell us about some of the talent you have teaching the classes?
We have the wonderful Martina Laird who will be teaching Unlock your Potential, Carroll Thompson doing a Singing Masterclass – and the great Angie Amra Anderson doing African drumming, and, in the mornings, we meditate with her. Angie Le Mar doing a Comedy Workshop two-hour session. Carroll Thompson has worked with us before. It is so good to have people with an immense level of experience we have also had Adrienne Warren who has worked on broadway, Ellen Thomas, Chucky Venn, and Wil Johnson. We only work with industry professionals; we have people with 30-years plus of experience.
Tell us a bit about the holistic approach? Everything starts from that: so, you want to be an actor, who are you whatever character you play you have to be vulnerable. The same principles you need as an actor are the same principles that you need for life.
All classes take place at Hackney Showroom, 4 Murrain Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 2BN
7th Oct – 9th December 2020
Wednesdays 7pm – 9pm https://sutara.org.uk/