Alumni profile - Marissa Landy
Being an actor is the most thrilling job imaginable. The fact that I get to travel around the world whilst always doing new projects is luxurious. It is a very tough and competitive environment but the moment you get into that rehearsal room or on stage, it all becomes worth it.
What does a typical working day look like for you? As an actor I predominantly work in the musical theatre and experimental theatre world. After completing my MA at Mountview Academy of Theatre and Arts, I was lucky enough to sign with an agent and, since then, I have been fortunate to work in wonderful theatres such as Teatru Manoel in Valletta. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, my acting career has had to be put on hold as theatres have inevitably closed, but of course, when things are back up and running, the audition process will start again.
I am also a Screenwriter, Playwright and Director. For me, all these roles are interrelated. I started writing during my time at Queen Mary and, since then, I have gone on to work on a huge range of projects. I have written and directed two plays at the Edinburgh Fringe (Same Old, Same Oldies and The Cat’s the Thing). Before Covid-19 I was writing and producing a full-length multimedia play to take place at The Vaults for a month but unfortunately this has now been postponed. I am now in the process of writing two sitcom pilot episodes for TV and have recently embarked on writing and composing a new musical.
I just graduated from my MA in the summer of 2019 and, even in the small gap between then and lockdown, I have been working as an actor and a writer pretty consistently. As a writer, it is all about your motivation and goals. I have pushed myself to reach for the heights with my writing projects. When you put the effort in, eventually exciting things happen for you in this industry.
A typical working day doesn’t exist in the theatre world. If I am cast in a show, I would normally be rehearsing every day between 9am-8pm. If I am between acting contracts, I will exercise every day to keep my fitness up for musical theatre auditions. I will then write for a few hours and finally I go to my singing ‘day job’ where I perform in a bar. I also teach singing privately throughout the week and I have started working in universities as a guest lecturer.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary? What sparked your interest in your chosen course? I chose Queen Mary firstly due to its incredibly high ranking for Drama. It was 1st in the country for Drama when I was applying and I knew that the standard was extremely high. When applying I knew I wanted to perform but I felt, and still do, that going to acting school at 18 can be quite detrimental to a person’s wellbeing and ego. I wanted to gain valid life experience through university first before I embarked on acting training. I only applied for one university and that was Queen Mary. I really liked how strong the course was and how forward-thinking the staff and course content were. I knew that I would not just be learning about theatre, but would learn about how theatre affects the world culturally, politically and socially.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development and how did you get to where you are now? Queen Mary opened my eyes to so many aspects of theatre. Learning about performance art and experimental theatre meant that my mind wasn’t totally focused on musical theatre. I studied a wide range of modules, my favourite being Visual Culture, which focused on fine art and photography. I was able to see Drama in its broadest sense and then analyse my work in a whole new way. There was also a module called Performance Comp in which we had to make a new show every week and perform it. This fueled the group to work quickly and find creativity in everything. It has inspired me, and so many of my peers, to go on to make our own work rather than always relying on other writers and makers. I cannot tell you how many people come out of Queen Mary and become performers, writers and artists! It has a great track record of producing some of the best creatives in the field.
Queen Mary Theatre Company (QMTC) was possibly the best aspect of Queen Mary that I got involved in. I directed my first show in my very first term, which seemed absurd to some people around me, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do, so I did it. I then had the chance to direct Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and, in my final year, I wrote my own show that QMTC took to the Edinburgh Fringe. I got to perform in so many shows throughout the years, and, although I wasn’t gaining acting training, I was constantly working creatively and forming my own practice.
What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Queen Mary? What was your favourite place on campus? I have so many fond memories from Queen Mary, ranging from wild flat parties - one that involved a lot of talcum powder that covered my entire kitchen and managed to somehow trail all the way outside getting my flat into serious trouble with the cleaners, but is always a hilarious memory - to directing my first show at the university. I think the top memory has to be when I pitched my play, Same Old, Same Oldies, to all of the QMTC members and, out of many plays, mine was voted as one of the four to be taken up to the Edinburgh Fringe. It was a breakthrough for me. I knew that my writing career would start from there and I was completely surrounded by some of my closest friends which continues today. It was a moment that not only showed that my play was worth it, but also, I had proven my directing skills over the years; therefore, being chosen was a kind of celebration of all that hard work.
My favourite place on campus would have to genuinely be my flat in Feilden House. I have so many memories of that communal kitchen and probably too many poker nights. I lived in a flat with 9 people, which may seem like a lot, but I still live with a couple of people that I lived with in that first year.
What do you love most about your job? Being an actor is the most thrilling job imaginable. The fact that I get to travel around the world whilst always doing new projects is luxurious. It is a very tough and competitive environment but the moment you get into that rehearsal room or on stage, it all becomes worth it. As a writer, I love the freedom most. I can write about whatever I want whenever I want. I am first and foremost a comedy writer, so whenever my shows are performed and I see the audience laughing, I cannot describe the joy that makes me feel.
What are your hopes and plans for your career going forwards? Once lockdown is over and theatre goes back to normal, I have many plans. In my acting career I want to continue as I was pre-lockdown. I was performing in some really interesting devised actor-musician work and would love to continue the trend. I also will continue to audition for musical theatre work. As a writer I am planning to pitch my TV shows for broadcast consideration over the coming months. I am also going to complete my musical and start to pitch that to theatres across London and focus too on the project in the Vaults.
What would your advice be to students applying to study Drama at Queen Mary? How can they make the most of their experience? Staff at Queen Mary always say this anyway, but this is not an acting course. You should come to Queen Mary if you want to have your ‘mind blown’. You will cover so many subjects across your degree. My advice is to take the modules that interest you the most, not the ones that you think you need the most. I believe a BA is about expanding your knowledge of a subject and an MA is your opportunity to focus and specialise. I chose so many modules completely unrelated to my career but those modules have hugely informed my creative life nonetheless.
Working hard is an obvious one but Queen Mary really is a top university for a reason. You will only gain something out of this course if you push yourself to do the extra reading and research. When you are looking into things no one else in the room is looking at, you start realising your own potential. The staff are truly amazing at what they do, and they really respect the students. If they are giving you the freedom to write about what you are interested in, just do it. Think about anything that has ever bothered you or that you have always wanted to learn more about. This course gives you the opportunity to research whatever it is that fuels you or makes you angry. For example, I have always been so intrigued by sense memory, in particular, smell memory. For my dissertation I was able to focus for a whole term on smell memory within theatre. I loved being able to focus on the science of it all as well as linking it to the field. You really can write about whatever you want - not every course offers that luxury. Also, if you are like me and want to be a performer or creative afterwards, join Queen Mary Theatre Company. This will be the space for you to connect with so many other like-minded people and give you the opportunity to experiment. You’d be silly not to join.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Marissa or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.