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  • Paula Bilbao


Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Experience and reflection from Paula Bilbao about discovering her acting skills during ESC project. Go though the whole process of preparation of theatre play from learning of script until performing, seen from the perspective of volunteer actor.

When I first got the schedule for my project and read that we were going to film the famous Alice in Wonderland I could not understand what we were meant to do, and even less why we were filming such movie. However, I run to my mum full of joy and told her about the movie and how exciting that was. I did not understand my overexciting reaction until almost two months later when we started rehearsing for the big event.


Peter, the director and sort of coordinator of the project looked cheerful with the script in his hands. He handed out the scripts to each of us and then it was our turn to decide which we wanted our role to be. Even if I was not sure about myself I felt I wanted to be one of the characters, so I chose the white rabbit, as I though, it wouldn’t have so many lines.There were also people working on the scenography part, such as, make up, costumes and scenario, which without their help the product wouldn’t have been so amazing.


Four of the volunteers had to be quarantined for two weeks in the office apartment. Weird as it may seemed, we read the script altogether for the first time, quarantined people on one wall and all the rest on the opposite wall. The first reading of the script was the first contact we had with our characters. To be honest, I did not understand a word about what my character was supposed to do. I had watched Alice in Wonderland ages ago and surely I did not understand the meaning Lewis Carroll wanted to share with the world.


Memorizing the script was one of the things I was most afraid of as my previous experience with learning things by heart (thank you school for all the headaches you gave me) was terrible. So, the play was divided into two scenes. When Peter told us we were going to learn and get familiarised with the first scene first, I got much more relived. Plus, we had two weeks to learn our lines for the first part.


This was for me one of the most amazing activities from the whole project. As the majority of us were quite amateur in the theatre business, at the beginning we were tense and shy but as the time passed by, and I can only talk for me, I started feeling like a little girl full of innocence.

  • This first part of the rehearsal took about half an hour and its aim was to make us feel more comfortable with each other and let the shyness go. First thing Peter did was give us a little speech about the main object of the rehearsals and final movie: HAVING FUN.

  • Second, he gave us some hints on how to boost our confidence, mainly having to do with the corporal posture. I knew how important body language was, but with the rehearsals I realised it is way more important than we could ever think, especially when you are on a stage working with other people.

  • Third, we had to walk around the room without bumping with each other, at different paces and doing whatever we were asked to do. For example, blinking an eye to someone or showing different emotions.


After that first rehearsal I was waiting for more. Each rehearsal was different from the others. I found interesting analysing my feelings after each of them. Sometimes I would feel frustrated because my acting wasn’t as expected. Other times, I would feel like a Hollywood star as I had remembered all my lines and would feel proud with the acting of that day. Nevertheless, the best feeling for me was looking at the faces of the other volunteers and seeing how much fun they were having. There would be days when one or two people would stand out more than the others and this is exactly how it was supposed to be. Because a team is all about that, about having good and worse days but still being there for each other.


We split the filming in two days as there were two different settings. The first one in the park in the city centre and all of the rest in the attic, where we could find these amazing decorations. So, we met on a Friday morning with the director Peter, the camera Rico, Alice and me, the white rabbit, to film the very first and last part of the movie, which took place in the central park. I woke up early, as my roommate, who was in charge of the make up, had to make me look like a rabbit, and she did so well indeed. After that, I put my costume on, and met with the guys.

At the beginning I felt as if everyone was looking at me. Can you imagine someone walking with bunny ears? So there we went all four of us to the park and started looking for the perfect place. It was very cold that day, poor Alice, she was wearing a short dress with no sleeves.

We repeated the same scene a bunch of times. There I felt how hard being an actress had to be, doing the same thing all over again. People where looking at us and wondering what we were doing, Even the police came to us!!! A very funny fact is that there was a dog with his owner walking around the park who suddenly started to bark at me! Of course he did not know what sort of creature I was with those ears!


Thanks to the creativity and skills of the responsibles for the costumes we all looked astonishing. The hare and his creative ears, the cook and his incredible hat, the hatter, whose whole outfit was just indescribable are only some of the examples of their hard work. We were lucky to count with the help of Claudia, who knows how to saw and even brought her sawing machines to one of the rooms in the office, which looked like a real atelier. Each of the characters had to think about their costumes and share it with the costume responsibles. The main point was to make the character yours and feel completely comfortable with it.


The people responsible for scenography did a startling job. They made the forest out of old pieces of cartons they garnished with leaves and sticks. Everything was planned on detail. At the beginning the idea was to film with our shoes on, however during the last rehearsals we could hear the floor cracking more than our own voices.However, this would not be a big problem because they thought about putting down some cloth and carpet on the floor so we could film in our socks without getting our feet frozen.


Finally the day arrived. We met in the morning at the office in order to get everything ready: costumes, make up and last details. I remember that day I was completely exhausted due to the lack of sleep (for sure my subconscious knew something big was happening that day). I arrived into the office and could see how agitated everyone was. I had a weird feeling inside of me. I knew I had to act in about half an hour and felt as if I was not ready.

Two o’clock. Three, two, one, action. I don’t even know where I got the energy from but I felt powerful and big. Every single actor fuse together with their character, and telling by Peter’s face we did a tremendous job. I cannot explain how relived I felt once finished with the play. It was like giving birth to a newborn baby. Something you have been waiting for so long, is finally done.


During the rehearsals I understood that in theatre it is all about confidence and improvisation. If you don’t believe in yourself, let alone the public. It is necessary to understand your character in order to be believable. Apart from that, theatre shows us that whenever you made a mistake you should keep going, just like in life. Teamwork is essential. I learned how much you can say with no words, just looking at people’s eyes. Just like Cicero (106-43 B.C) said:

“The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter”.
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