Rising Star Aurora Adams: “If a story I tell speaks to one person then I will be happy, because who knows what that person will go on to do, or to create”

I think storytelling is extremely powerful. Jim Henson said ‘my hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there’. I think that’s a sentiment we can all aspire to. My personal sphere of influence is very small. But if a story I tell speaks to one person then I will be […]

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I think storytelling is extremely powerful. Jim Henson said ‘my hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there’. I think that’s a sentiment we can all aspire to. My personal sphere of influence is very small. But if a story I tell speaks to one person then I will be happy. Because who knows what that person will go on to do, or to create? I do believe that the smallest of stones can cause big ripples.

As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aurora Adams. Aurora is an actor from London, UK, specializing in puppetry, movement/physical performance, and voice over. As well as performing freelance on stage and screen Aurora also writes and creates her own work, and is currently working in lockdown on her third short puppetry film Fragile.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Asa performer, I focus on movement/physical work, puppetry and voice over. But my main passion is puppetry. I have had a love of puppetry since childhood- having grown up watching The Muppets and Jim Henson’s beautiful films The Labyrinth and Dark Crystal. But it took a long time for me to realize that puppetry was something I could actually do! It seemed like puppetry existed in this magical world remote from my life.

After studying art, English and drama at college I went on to university and studied English and film, as I knew that I wanted to write and to explore filmmaking/directing. After uni, I carried on with this intention and took an editing course and a filmmaking course. But I also came back to performing and took acting classes. For a while I tried what I call ‘straight acting’, but I never connected with it and didn’t enjoy it.

I knew I needed to find something else. And puppetry was starting to whisper in my ear. I discovered that the Little Angel Theatre in London, (which is London’s oldest purely puppet theatre) ran puppetry courses. So I booked myself onto their course and was instantly hooked.

Since then I have been performing freelance as a puppeteer and also creating my own work. Lockdown has had a massive impact, as all my paid work was canceled. But I have been using this time to continue working on my own projects.

I also do movement/physical work, which to me is like an extension of puppetry. Animating the body rather than a puppet. I am hypermobile so I enjoy playing with creature movement that is a little contorted or animalistic or not-quite-human.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

My first short puppetry film The Fishsticks was screened at the BAM Kids ‘Shortstack’ Festival of Puppetry On Film in New York in 2018, curated by the Jim Henson Foundation.

It was my first short film, we made it for no money and shot it in two days. Whenever I watch it now I cringe, thinking about things I would do differently (like not use nylon thread that I somehow thought would be magically invisible!).

But I was very lucky to have a small but fantastic crew: a filmmaker, a designer and a puppeteer that not only understood this crazy idea I had but were each happy to come on board with their energy and creativity to bring The Fishsticks to life! And not to forget my father who provided the narration voiceover!

I am so grateful to each of them, and I learned a lot in the process. Then to have the film screened at a festival curated by the Jim Henson Foundation was such an honor – being myself a massive fan of the continuing work of the Jim Henson Company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Hm, I’m really bad at recounting funny stories! Probably a combination of having a bad memory and feeling like things that have happened to me just aren’t that funny or notable. But yes, performing is all about making mistakes! And I don’t think that ever stops, as making mistakes is a part of the creative process.

But if I could go back in time I would tell my younger self to be more confident with jumping in, making mistakes and not worrying about looking silly or about other people’s opinions.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently working on my third short puppetry film called Fragile. It features small-scale puppetry and is very much from the spirit of lockdown. I want this film to explore the transformative power of imaginative play. I’m in the process of finishing off making the set pieces. I’m not usually a maker, so lockdown has been a chance for me to test new skills, and I’ve enjoyed the process.

I’m also about to finish editing my second short puppetry film Preservation, made in collaboration with visual effects graduate Emily Whiteman. It’s coming quite a bit later than planned as it’s unfortunately been on the back-boiler due to lockdown. So once Preservation is finally done I will be looking to enter it into festivals.

Aside from that I’m setting up my home voice over studio, and have been working on some new songs.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Puppetry people in general are all very interesting! That’s what I love about it! The world of puppetry draws people from all walks of life, countries and disciplines, with such different stories to tell, but each drawn together by a shared love of using puppetry to explore and communicate those stories.

In terms of movement work, I had the chance to meet the fantastic mocap actor Terry Notary (Planet of the Apes films and many others) when he gave a mocap arm extensions workshop in London just before lockdown, and it was so inspiring- his approach is very intuitive and insightful. Instead of jumping straight into what we think the movement should be, instead, he helped us to strip away our preconceptions of movement so that we could find a way of performing that is much more organic and truthful.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Stretch! In theatre, some directors will incorporate stretching into the rehearsal process, but others don’t, and certainly, in screen work or mocap it will be expected that you turn up performance-ready. In this case, I would always arrive a little early to give myself time to do my own personal warm-up. Focusing (if it’s puppetry) on fingers, wrists, shoulders, neck and back.

Puppetry involves holding uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, and repetitive strain injury is common. But doing a daily stretch can help, both before a performance, but also in terms of maintaining flexibility, joint mobility and stamina whilst waiting for the next job (as we all are at the moment!).

Whilst I haven’t gone fitness mad during the lockdown, I have tried to maintain my regular routine, which is mostly a combination of yoga, pilates and toning exercises. But I also like to go onto Youtube every now and then and try something new. Bellydance class- why not?! It’s good to keep things interesting.

Rest- in terms of getting 8 hours of good sleep, but also it’s important to always insist on getting the full break time that is allotted to you in your contract. It’s not easy as we all want to be accommodating and don’t want to appear to be difficult, but at the same time, the director/production needs to understand that you can’t maintain a good performance if you’re tired. This is true of all performance work, but especially movement/creature/mocap and puppetry work that takes a lot of physical energy.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I’m not sure that I can think of any specific self-care routines. I think during lockdown it’s easy to lose momentum, as time has a habit of melting together. So I find it helps to give myself a specific project that I want to achieve and then set myself goals each day so that at the end of the day I will feel I have achieved something. Even if the goals are as simple as ‘go for a walk’ or ‘tidy my space’. These simple things have immense value to the creative process.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

There are lots of things I’d change or tell myself if I could go back in time. It’s been a bit of a circuitous route getting to where I am now. But I’ve never been one to dwell on the past. I think it’s just as well that time travel doesn’t exist (yet!). If I could go back in time and give myself advice then yes I might have done things differently, but who is to say that that would have been better? I am where I am now because of everything that has led me here. As cheesy as that sounds!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘If in doubt.. always follow your nose’ as spoken by the ever-wise Gandalf. Sounds like a joke, but this really is one of my favorite sayings. I think what the wizard means is: ‘don’t overthink it’. Sometimes there isn’t a long cryptic answer. Sometimes we really should just trust our instincts and act on what we feel to be correct, rather than allowing ourselves to be influenced by negative thoughts, either our own or from other people.

Another of my favorite mantras is ‘keep on swimming’ ( from the equally wise Dory of Finding Nemo/Finding Dory films). It’s not easy being a freelance performer- never knowing what you’re next job is going to be. But you have to keep reminding yourself of the reasons why you chose this profession, that you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. Use that energy to ‘keep on swimming’ and stick at it!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to my family for continual support; performance work is very uncertain (even before lockdown!) but my family has never once said to me ‘why don’t you go and get a normal job?’. We are a creative family, so they have always understood and supported my strange ways!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think storytelling is extremely powerful. Jim Henson said ‘my hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there’. I think that’s a sentiment we can all aspire to. My personal sphere of influence is very small. But if a story I tell speaks to one person then I will be happy. Because who knows what that person will go on to do, or to create? I do believe that the smallest of stones can cause big ripples.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would have loved to have met Jim Henson. People who have worked with Jim speak of him with such genuine warmth and affection, that to have spent five minutes with him would have been such an experience. I continue to be inspired by the work of the Jim Henson Company. The Dark Crystal Netflix series was absolutely fantastic, and I would love to get the chance to audition for the Henson Company in the future.

And as a movement performer, I’d love to meet Andy Serkis! What he does is amazing. Watching the Lord of the Rings films so many times, plus all the behind the scenes footage; seeing the way Andy Serkis brought Gollum to life through Performance Capture made me want to become a creature performer myself. And I did have the chance to perform a mocap role of a demonic creature in a video game called The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan last year.

I was so pleased to see Andy Serkis recognized with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at this year’s BAFTAs. If Andy Serkis and The Imaginarium team ever run a performance workshop post lockdown then I’ll be first in the queue!

How can our readers follow you online?

Come and say hi! I’ve been working mostly by myself during lockdown. So if anyone would be interested in possible future collaborations, either physical or virtual, then drop me a line!

Instagram: instagram.com/missauroraadams

Twitter: twitter.com/missauroraadams

Web: www.auroraadams.com.

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX11-t1YbhlDFss9dkmVMPQ/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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