Travelogues: Ireland with Ming Montgomery

Senior Ming Montgomery.

Photo by Anton Zemba.

Lawrence’s 10-week terms are already intense, yet senior Ming Montgomery went even further by attending a 10-week conservatory-style term at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Ireland. Not only were Montgomery’s classes back-to-back from 8:40 in the morning until about 6:00 at night—unlike most study abroad programs, Montgomery spent all five days of the week attending the full-time classes.

Montgomery said, “Sometimes we had hour and a half or three hour classes. It takes a lot of patience to observe your fellow ensemble members working doing a scene and getting notes and doing it again.” Montgomery did add a small silver lining: “I guess the nice payoff is you’re not writing as many papers, but you are memorizing scripts for the next day and making your own meals.”

At the Gaiety School of Acting, Montgomery had the opportunity to pursue intense, conservatory-style classes on clowning, improvisation, stage combat and much more. Along the way, Montgomery noticed some marked differences between this conservatory-style teaching and Lawrence’s theatre arts program. “The theatre department at Lawrence is very holistic in that they want their students to get in touch for the scene shop and working on the set or the costumes, and so you have knowledge of all these things in case that might be helpful in the future for your career, whereas acting school is very much so for conservatory set up […] they train you in the mind set of an actor,” Montgomery said.

Examples of this were to be seen in the way classes were taught: “We had a class called stagecraft,” she explained, “in which you learn how to conduct yourself as an actor [and] who to approach when you have questions […] you get to know the jobs and the descriptions of each job and how a rehearsal would be run, what you do during tech week and then how to act in various performance spaces. So it’s really catered towards the actor. In tandem, the same teacher taught audition techniques, so how to approach auditioning and putting your best foot forward because you have three minutes to prove your worth. Its intense and competitive, but it’s what I love to do,” Montgomery concluded.

Despite this exhausting routine, Montgomery did have a positive impression of life in Dublin and an overall pleasant experience studying abroad. Living in her apartment complex across from the famous Guinness factory gave Montgomery the chance to see many slices of life in Dublin. “It is really a microcosm of international folks coming from all over eastern Europe and even Asia as well, there’s quite a few Japanese, Korean and Chinese folks,” she said. “It’s busy, its hustling and bustling, the city streets were made for horse and buggy and they’re very narrow, so it’s quite alarming to see double decker buses hitting those corners […] people aren’t as considerate about moving to the other side of the street […] so it’s a lot of dodging and figuring that out.”

However, after the workday is over, Montgomery experienced the more hospitable aspects of city life in Ireland. “I’d say pub culture is super friendly—people are there to have a good time and be social,” Montgomery said. She also encouraged folks interested in visiting Ireland to “go to bars to chat people up, because people have very interesting stories. As an adopted person, it’s kind of amazing. I kind of envy the amount of familial and long standing history that people have with the land, with their country and with their surrounding people because it’s such a small country.”

Aside from being sure to connect with the local population, Montgomery had a few other words of advice for hopeful visitors, starting with discouragement from acting on cringe-worthy stereotypes: “Never say ‘Top O’ the mornin’—that’s something they never like to hear,” she said. Montgomery also reinforced that pub culture is quite friendly. She said, “The Irish are very pleasant if you open up to them first.” Montgomery also encouraged tourists not only to visit typical destinations but also to explore the multitude of coastal towns and hidden gems along the island.

Indeed, though Ireland may be a small island, Montgomery found plenty to explore despite her busy schedule. Classic destinations such as the Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher and the Irish countryside, where she visited an abbey famed for its resident soap-making nuns, were some of her favorite adventures. Montgomery also took a week long excursion to Spain, as well as attended plays in London and visited Stratford-upon-Avon. Closer to home, Montgomery enjoyed the Bernard Shaw pub, a much more “hip, alternative, young place” up the street from her apartment, as well as visiting the movie theater with fellow ensemble members and observing the spectacle of Irish movie-goers. “The cinema is a more social thing in Ireland I think […] people get really into the movie.”

Overall, Montgomery felt that adjusting to life in Ireland was an easy transition, something she would be happy to do again. “I think going into it I was just open and ready to experience and learn,” she said, “and I think being willing to be that ignorant sort of American is really important because it really just shows you the value of other cultures and what you have to gain from living in that place […] I think the most shocking thing was coming back and normalizing again to the way we do things in the Midwest.”

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