★★★  Inter Act  ★★★
Moa Myerson
What are your current rôles/recent rôles and work since graduating?
It’s been a mixture of things. The classic pub job was just about sustaining me immediately after graduating. But during my first months out of Arts Ed, I filmed a Wonder Woman fan fiction short film and joined an all female theatre company (Titz Up), where I became the latest member of the spoof girl band they had established at the Camden Fringe that year. We have been building on the show with another new member and were meant to be going to the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals this summer, but obviously, that was not to be!

I took part in ‘The Spectacle of Light’ at Sudeley Castle over Christmas, playing Peter Pan as one of the interactive characters at the immersive light show. It was my second year of being involved and so much fun. I’m excited to be taking part again this winter as The Mouse King, with this year’s theme being ‘The Nutcracker’.

I’ve also been working on some projects with my network of friends and connections in Cheltenham; starting work on a Doctor Who fan fiction short and then a horror film project.

Alongside that I’ve been busking as regularly as I can in both Cheltenham and London and I started tutoring science and English as a side hustle.

Most recently I performed at Malvern Theatres in ‘Mooney and His Caravans’ by Peter Terson, starting their new season after reopening after lockdown. It was really special to be a part of! I’m now in rehearsals for their third production in their rep season. Playing Lesley in one of Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ monologues, ‘Her Big Chance’. We are about to start our second week of rehearsals, opening on 13th. October. I’ve never done anything like it before and it’s an absolute challenge and a treat.
What is your current singing load? 
During lockdown, it was actually pretty hefty, as I started busking online to keep me sane! So I was singing “publicly” every week through my social media feeds and rehearsing regularly. It was a bit of a lifesaver during the initial stress of lockdown. I still managed to turn it into a burden, of course. Putting pressure on myself to maintain a high quality of singing technique and coming up with different themes every week, so having to go in search of new songs and learn them in the time frame. But it gave me something to focus on that wasn’t the impending doom of the pandemic. It was a pretty natural transference of anxiety onto the thing I had creative control over (if we’re going to get analytical about it!).

More recently, my vocal load has been more specific to maintaining spoken control rather than sung, for projection on stage for the plays in Malvern. I’ve actually found myself really missing singing but having to restrain myself so as to not overload my voice.
What was your vocal activity (choirs etc.) during uni.? (Being on a non-music course - interesting)
I studied biomedical science at university but was determined to find the musical theatre society as soon as I could and took part in as many musicals/society singing socials as possible (possibly to the detriment of my actual degree!) and joined a couple of different choirs, also starting an a cappella society in my second year with a group of friends.

At the end of my first year, I got into a musical that went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2014) where we performed for a month. I had a belter of a song about dating apps! (‘Try a Little Tinderness’, if you wanted to know.)

So, yes, I would say my vocal activity was pretty substantial! However, I wouldn’t call it the healthiest. I was very concerned about my vocal health and was a bit neurotic when it came to looking after my voice. I held a lot of tension there (and still do!) and the stress of my degree probably didn’t help. (I got shingles at the end of my first year, stressing myself to the point of illness).

Singing definitely helped me get through my degree though. I honestly don’t think I would have made it if it weren’t for the musicals I was a part of and the spontaneous singing in my bedroom to sustain me. (Depending on the housemate, it varied on whether I was met with applause or a request to be a bit quieter whilst they napped).
Are there any particular aspects that stick in your mind from our lessons, that you use in your singing/acting?
“Sing from your *****!” is possibly the first one that jumps out at me. That was from a fairly recent lesson (not whilst I was at school certainly!) and still helps me today. I’m all about visualization combined with anatomy. The side effect of being a creative who likes science I suppose!

I think the earliest memory I have is from a lesson in maybe my first year with you. I was really stressed out with school and the different clubs I was involved in, homework and a bit of a difficult bullying situation. I didn’t mention it coming in, our lessons were my escape from all that. We started some warm ups and half-way through you just stopped and said, “What’s wrong?” And it all came flooding out, all the tears and fears of the pressures of a 15-year-old girl. The advice given was something along the lines of:
“Don’t worry about that.
You can’t change this.
That’s the more important bit to be concerned with.
She’ll get over it.
You’re stressing about things that shouldn’t be, can’t be or aren’t worth stressing about”

After what I imagine was 20 minutes of crying and venting (on my part) we then had 10 minutes of what felt like the most amazing singing I’d ever done at that point. I had to unlock all of my stress that was being held in my throat before I could let my voice out. There has always been an element of that in our lessons since I feel.

The 3rd. aspect I think only hit me in a lesson we had during lockdown when I was stressing out about one of my busking sets, as it was musical theatre and the genre I felt I had to “do really well”. I was trying really hard on a song (‘Requiem’ from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’). It means a lot to me for a bunch of reasons and I had already sung it on my first set but it hadn’t gone as well as I wanted. I wanted to do it again but better. You asked why I wanted to sing it and I gave a bit of a flippant answer. But you pushed a bit more and wriggled a proper reason out of me. You made me really think about the lyrics. I couldn’t get through the first chorus after that. It hit me so hard. Everything the song was about.

You made me reconnect with the words. And really think about what I’m saying and what the song is about. I need to thank you for that lesson because it was my first one in so long and reminded me of how important it is to keep checking in with your teachers and always be ready to be vulnerable in this job.
Is there any particular music that you are listening to at the moment to help your mood in these strange times?
There has been a significant amount of musical theatre to help me through. I find comfort in story and a moment in that story that a lot of songs from musicals give you. There’s also familiarity. I tend to flick from wanting something really empowered and “poppy” like ‘I’d Rather Be Me’ from Mean Girls’, to then wanting major ballad vibes and singing ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from ‘Waitress’. It totally depended on the day as to whether I needed a pick me up or a vent of any emotions!

My latest favourite song though is a mash up of ‘You Will Be Found’ from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Tonight’ from ‘Hamilton’ with Ben Platt and Lin Manuel Miranda singing. I have of course tried to sing both harmonies at the same time on full volume in the car.

I’ve also listened to a lot of podcasts. Re-listened to ones I’ve already heard – again, it’s the comfort of knowing the story and knowing I’m going to enjoy it! But also I’ve listened to new ones. Sometimes I just don’t actually want to listen to music. I went through a phase of revision at uni where all I listened to was the Harry Potter audio books - again, for that comfort in story and knowing what would happen. I used to listen to them to get to sleep when I was younger and I started again at university and have carried on since. When my brain won’t stop churning at night I put on a chapter of Harry Potter. Stephen Fry has a very soothing voice!
What is your favourite music in more normal times?
It’s probably still a significant quantity of musical theatre! But then also a mixture of acoustic, pop, folk and rock maybe. My favourite feature on Spotify is “Go To Song Radio Playlist”. Choosing a song that hits the right mood and then listening to a selection that I’ve never heard before but I love because they have a similar tone. I’m a sucker for decent melody and harmony. I’ve recently found a celtic rock band that I’ve been listening to a lot! The combo of story telling in the songs and amazing violin playing and melody pulls me in. I used to play the violin (badly) and stopped when I realized that my voice was the instrument I should probably focus on! I’ve maintained a massive admiration for anyone who can play it and you don’t get the sound of tortured cats emanating out.
What are the most interesting or unusual aspects of your current work?
The fact that I have any work right now is pretty unusual, under the circumstances. I am so grateful to be performing in two plays within a month of each other at a wonderful and respected theatre.

The cast size is new to me, having done musicals all my life with big ensembles and the plays I’ve been a part of have still had fairly large casts; being in a two-hander and then in a sequence of monologues is a new experience. With COVID looming we have to be careful about the size of the crew as well so there are only five of us working on the productions in total. It makes it a much more intimate and intense process.

I would say that zoom rehearsals/meetings with Titz Up are also fairly unusual. Trying to maintain contact and working on our script has been difficult with us all in different parts of the country. But we’ve managed to make real progress with it, now we just need to be able to perform somewhere!

I also started a podcast with a group of friends over lockdown playing Dungeons and Dragons. I had never played before so it was a double-handed learning curve of learning the game in real time and also learning about recording a podcast through software where we could play and record remotely.
Can you offer any tips for younger singers who are heading for auditions, etc.?
1) Know exactly what you are saying. Whether it’s a song or a monologue. Know the context and thoughts as you are speaking/singing/dancing, etc..
2) Have fun. Enjoy yourself and the chance to show these people what it is you love to do and are passionate about.
I still claim that the reason I got into Arts Ed (although I never did get it confirmed officially) is that I didn’t anticipate getting in – I was using this audition as a way to find out what drama school auditions were like. I came with a notebook full of questions (another good piece of advice – write down all your questions and tick them off as you ask them – definitely ask questions) and was relaxed and accepting of redirection when it came.
If you are yourself, engaging and malleable to direction, that’s all you can do.
3) Final tip – when it comes to rejection, don’t take it personally. Sometimes you just aren’t quite right. It doesn’t mean you’re rubbish. Maybe you’re just too tall (I’m anticipating that one in my future) or you don’t look like the mum they’ve already cast. There are SO many other things that aren’t in your control all you can do is control what you can. As a MASSIVE control freak … or rather, perfectionist, as I try and say now, it’s hard, but a big part of the industry.

Having said that, I am so early in my career right now – maybe check in with me in a few years and I might have something completely new to say!
What was/were the most interesting revelations/personal discoveries from your drama course, compared with your medical course?
After 4 or 5 years of training with Emma, pre biomed, I considered myself to be pretty knowledgeable when it came to vocal health and thought I knew best when it came to looking after my voice. Drama school definitely corrected me there! There is always more to learn – Be humble is a big lesson.

Completing the biomed course gave me a massive sense of achievement. I was so proud of myself that I got through it. I proved my own intelligence to myself, something I regularly doubt. That’s probably the main discovery of that one. Also, that maybe I’m not much of a scientist and more of a science enthusiast!

Drama school made me realise that the perfection I was always striving for was impossible to achieve so I was just building myself up to fail.

There is no such thing as a perfect performance; all we can do is improve.

My experience of performing before had always been through rehearsals once or twice a week over the course of months and then a mad one week rush of performing and wrecking my voice belting out the big harmonies in the final show because I didn’t need to worry about it for tomorrow’s run.

Drama school gave me more discipline and I think respect for my body and what it’s capable of. For instance, I would never have called myself a dancer. The fact that I have Bambi on the back of a uni society hoodie says it all. But after what I thought was going to be strictly an “acting” course turned out to give me so much more confidence with movement and dancing. I’m not saying I can crack out a full tap number now. But just generally feeling good in my body and not feel like a lanky, clumsy foal was a huge take-away from the one-year course.
How therapeutic do you feel voice use is and in what different ways?
Something I learned with Emma and continued to learn afterwards, is that my voice and my mental health and stress levels are intrinsically linked. I hold so much tension in my voice and becoming aware of that with Emma was the first step. Knowing to be aware of it. Then more training at drama school fine-tuned that awareness and I got more tools on how to warm up, use and understand my voice and it’s capabilities.

The thing is, I can chat away about technique and tools and drama school and all that jazz, but it’s such an individual thing. I know that when I get stressed, it goes straight to my voice and then equally, when I have a good singing lesson I feel amazing and like I can tackle all my other problems.

On the flip side, releasing the neurosis I had around looking after my voice and trying so hard to warm up and have good technique was a learning curve I had to go through. Trying hard doesn’t really work with the voice. Trying hard = tension. For me anyway. So is the opposite of what I needed. It was a loop I needed to get out of. Stress gave me tension that went to my voice and made me strain. Straining my voice gave me stress and made me try hard. But trying hard hurt my voice and gave me stress.

As soon as I unlock one of those it has a knock on effect but equally, they all need to be in balance.

Also – voices change. I was a soprano at junior school. I joined an a cappella group in year 8 and was the only one who could hit the low F so I was designated the base/alto for 2 years. Then I whacked out a verse of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do‘ when we were all having fun round the piano and we all suddenly realised I had range. That’s when I met Emma and was informed that altos’ voices keep developing well into their 20s/30s. Uni meant I lost some range (healthy range at least) then I got it back and then some after drama school. I talk about range because that’s how I defined how good my voice was, that and my obsession with nasality. Not about it’s tone or versatility or just it’s existence in that I could make sound and enjoy that. I also look at that timeline and see my stress levels in those times. It’s fascinating really. Our voices change and I know I got frustrated when I couldn’t belt the notes I used to and all those other markers that you judge yourself by. But even if it’s not the best rendition, I still feel goddamn amazing when I bust out my most open and honest ‘I Dreamed A Dream‘, when I’m busking or just in the shower.

Singing is such a therapeutic activity. I’ve cried and laughed in equal measure in my singing lessons with Emma. I’ve talked possibly more than I’ve sung in a significant number of our lessons. But that’s what was needed to access the singing (most of the time – sometimes it’s just hard to get me to shut up).
Finally, is there anything you would be prepared to offer any younger students e.g. e-mailed questions through me...and anything else which you may consider relevant?
Of course – I’m super happy to answer any questions that get sent through. About drama school, busking, all that jazz.

I didn’t delve too much in to the busking actually. That’s something that definitely had a big impact on my voice and my performing.

If you’re ever in any doubt about performing for an audience, get onto a street and sing to strangers who are walking past you and have zero investment in whether you succeed or not.

I’ve absolutely fluffed the words and had to start again, just as people stop to watch. Before I’d started busking, I would have been furious at myself. Now I laugh it off and joke with whoever’s watching.

I have sung my heart out and had no-one drop a penny. Then I’ve had days where I felt like I was singing dreadfully and should just pack up and go but felt like I needed to stick it out – and I’ve raked it in.

It puts everything into perspective.

The main critic is you and some days, people just don’t have any change.
I'd just like to thank Moa so much for taking time out of her busy rehearsal schedule and for passing on her experiences.

If you'd like to find out more, here are Moa's web details:

Web site: moamyerson.co.uk

Instagram: @moa_myerson

Facebook page: Moa Myerson
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8th. October, 2020