Sandra Elsfort – “my favourite bit of unwinding is kissing my boyfriend”
January 28, 2016
Entertainment is in Sandra’s bones. She grew up in a house where her father played a lot of music and her mother had aspirations to be an actress. She followed both her parents dreams and became an actor, a singer and a dancer. Educated at the prestigious Lee Strasberg school in New York as well as The Danish Musical Academy, she has trained with the best and has rubbed shoulders with some true masters of her craft. She is a very warm person and you’ll enjoy reading her words. TBUR welcomes Danish treasure, Sandra Elsfort.
Hello Sandra and welcome to TBUR. Please introduce yourself to my lovely readers.
Hello Munir, thank you so much for such a lovely introduction and for having me here on TBUR. I am very happy and honored to share my story, thoughts and experiences with you and your lovely readers. Hello Everyone! I am Sandra Elsfort, 28 years old, Danish girl. I have a bachelor in musical theatre. Educated from The Danish Musical Academy 2010 and trained at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, and further more studied with some of the greatest teachers that I could find…just trying to become the best I can be.
The last 3 months I have actually started to draw and paint again – I haven’t done that for years – And I looove it – it totally clears my head, but still keep my mind creative and inspired just from another perspective.
How did you get into the Lee Strasberg school?
I remember I was doing The Three Musketeers at Fredericia Theatre one year after my graduation from The Danish Musical Academy. One of my co-stars at the play attended the Institute in NY and talked very fondly about it. At the same time I was doing a short film, which ended up getting a nomination for the Cannes Film Festival and in that film the director started talking about me having similarities of a method actress.
To see Sandra in Action click here *Please note contains nudity.
So I put two and two together, did some research, applied for a scholarship which the Danish Actors Association granted me even though only two scholarships are given each year – after that I was accepted by the Institute and I was on my way to New York – very greatful. The actual process of getting into Lee Strasberg for an international student is rather technical so I won’t dwell too much on the paperwork haha..
One of two scholarships given yearly? Well done! You clearly have a gift. Does it feel
the same to you?
Oh, thank you very much. Well, a family gift I would say. I grew up in a home with a lot of joy, love and passion for music, acting and dancing. Music has been running in my family for generations, so luckily I had the opportunity and support to develop my craft for what I loved. I was 2 years old when I was out with my dad on a gig where his band was playing. My dad has told me this story many times and calls it “The story of the little girl in the pink rainy outfit” haha, and I came to him and asked if I could sing in the microphone like I did at home when he was playing the piano teaching me how to use my voice..oh gosh.. I didn’t know there was 3000 people watching – I just wanted to sing. So he said yes, but on one condition – that I could sing the whole song through.. I smiled and nodded and he lifted me up to the microphone..So there I was, being on stage for the first time singing “Oh My darling” acapella for 3000 people 2 years old hahaha…I love when he’s telling that story. It always reminds me of where I came from, what I was given and who gave it to me. And I have always felt like singing more than talking. Like a need. It simply heals my soul. So for me it wasn’t just an idea to go that way. That music and singing came into my family, even long before I was born, is just such a gift for us and I am so thankful that my parents unwrapped that gift and chose to invest every little part of it and then carried it on to my sister and I. It took me a while to really believe in myself and to be brave enough to walk into the business, ‘cause being a professional has a completely different discipline. But today it feels very natural and I am happy that I choose this way no matter what’s gonna happen in the future. What I know is that I have learned so much from it and I still love it with all my heart.
I guess that’s also why I love acting so much, to understand a character / a human… like a psychologist.
That’s such a cute story about the gig. You have done some very impressive work, which would you say you’re most proud of?
Thank you very much. That is so hard to say. The word “proud” for me is one of the biggest forces in the universe and the “general” pride in my life is a rare thing which, when there, I value tremendously and then there is the professional pride which I search for every single day and try to reach for every single day in doing the best I have in me to develop my song, my acting, my sincerity, my teaching etc… Preparation, preparation! I do not find myself “proud” that often – its more a gratefulness of the times I am totally present throughout or when I work on a part that can turn out to be the best work I have ever done – preparation is the word for me. And I always think about what could be better, because it always can. To be proud of yourself can have different faces. For an example when I was shooting a movie and I had to be in very cold water in the middle of the night with only bikini pants on lying still in the water for 5-10 minutes and I thought my body was going into shock – I was proud afterwards that I actually could be able to do it, but to be proud of real work is a whole other thing. If I should think of one time I was proud of my work it was when I was doing Chess The Musical at a big theatre in Denmark and I was understudying a great musical star Maria Lucia Rosenberg who played Florence Vassy. I remember how much I was rehearsing everyday, watching the videos, keep touching the character every day even though I was in the ensemble playing a whole other part. Florence is a mezzo soprano and as the ensemble track I was singing soprano top notes every day. So I knew it would be a great challenge if some day I had to go on as her understudy with minimal rehearsal time and without the orchestra. The day of the re-premiere she was called in sick and I was on that day – they called me in around morning for rehearsal with the assistant director and the ensemble. I rehearsed till only hours before the premiere, then make-up and before I knew it I had my very first show as the leading part at the second biggest theatre in Denmark. I didn’t really have time to be nervous because I was so focused and its not that easy to fill in for a great star that everybody is expecting to see on stage. I ended up playing 7 shows throughout the playing period and got very fine reviews. I was happy that I made it through without any crazy struggles and because I took my time to rehearse everyday it went fine for my own expectations.
Preparation is definitely the key, well done you. There are different dimensions to your art (acting, singing and dancing), do you have a preference in which you like to do or are they one and the same?
Oh Yes. Well I would say that it is pretty easy. Singing is definitely my number 1 preference! If I should present myself I would say that I am a singer-actress with good dancing skills or that can move very well. The connection between them is – you have to be fully connected – emotionally to be good at it, otherwise you are just a machine singing notes or doing steps. So they are all connected in the same way. For me singing and dancing opens up the heart and from here feelings can be easily released if you learn how to it. Acting is the keyword. If you are connected to the story – you can really make a change, and make people believe. The past few years singing and acting has been in the topic for me – doing singer-actress roles in musicals such as Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers and Betty Schaefer inSunset Boulevard, I have been a lead soloist and musical performer on Cruise Ships learning 14 shows in 2 months, I worked with cartoon dubbing and I have parallel worked on film productions and commercials, which I would love to do more. Also I have been writing music through the years, keeping it to myself though… waiting for the right moment to feel ready to present it, so hopefully in the near future I would be very grateful to break through with it. Dancing has been a part of my life since I was 6, my mom danced ballet for many years, acted cabarets and did puppetry – so she was the motivator for acting and dancing. For me it was never ballet but other genres as standard, show dance, street and salsa before I went to the Academy. Simply loved to dance always! But like many other dancers I got an injury which happened 5 years ago doing a split just before I had to play Janet Van De Graff in The Drowsy Chaperone at our graduation showcase. I remember I was doing Guys and Dolls at Aalborg Theatre at the same time. One evening the muscle pulled. I kept on playing for a month. I felt like I had a Ferrari that had turned into a Volvo. Just after graduating, I got my first professional contract being in Sweeney Todd 2011 at the Aarhus Theatre and after that I started to get roles where I didn’t have to dance that much. I tried to relax and do exercises when I had the time. I went to New York to work on my acting which is one of the best things I have done for myself in my life, and in the middle of a Feldenkrais Technique Class I felt my whole body in a way that showed exactly where the pain was and what I needed to work on seriously, so luckily for that class I couldn’t put it aside anymore. Since then I have been taking it very seriously and working on it with great physiotherapist and osteopaths. In a way it was a gift because I had a chance to rebuild myself again. I was happy in the spring when I did my Fair Lady, I was hired to be in the ensemble and understudy but I ended up dancing almost the same as the dancer-track with great choreography from Alistair David and Director Timothy Sheader.
And I have always felt like singing more than talking. Like a need. It simply heals my soul.
What sort of pressures made you continue going even though you had the injury?
It wasn’t really a pressure. It was more a serious need to be free and without pain and tensions so that I can do my “job” in good shape and with love and no worries. Maybe if I had a “normal” life and I wasn’t so aware and sensitive about my body and how I feel, I could lived with it. But when you work with performance art your body has to be relaxed and free without any “hard” tensions that works against you or stops you from being creative or doing what you are asked to do with your body. I am very passionate about what I do, and I hate when there is something in the way and keeping me from being the best I can be when working on my skills. But the injury was doing that. Everytime I was dancing it made me sad, because I was compensating and it was hurting. So I had to listen. Its tough when something is keeping you from what you want most in the world and of course there will be things from the outside that you cannot change, but the things that comes from yourself – there’s no excuse not to work on that. At least try. I am always working on myself – to become a better daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, person etc..but also to understand other people close or not close. I guess that’s also why I love acting so much, to understand a character / a human… like a psychologist. I think it is so interesting how the human mind and body work. Why we are as we are and why we see things differently.
You were introduced to method acting and really embraced it. What made you such a big believer?
I have always been a very curious person, open to new ways of thinking, understanding or living. Then I got experienced and became and adult haha..and through the years of course I have grown more sceptical about which things work for me. But luckily It’s easy to believe in a method that works. Thanks to them I am a believer! “To believe” is something that comes and goes to me from time to time. Some periods you really believe in yourself and other times you don’t, I think it’s about finding out how you can stay believing most of the time in your life. By finding your right spot for an example. I’ve been introduced to a lot of things that wasn’t me, and I am glad I tried it otherwise I wouldn’t know. But if you do method “correctly” its simply going to make you the best actor you can be, and how could I say no to work on that? It was like I was introduced to the secret of acting when I went to The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, and I am going back there every time I am in New York just to say hi or take a class and I am going back again in 2016. That school opened my eyes, my heart and mind to something very important in my life and I am truly grateful for the time I was there. Working with real masters that have worked with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and many others, you can just feel their fibres cooking with passion in a room every time they speak – it’s a very serious way of working. No applause, no laughs, no nothing only the perfect amount of questions and constructive criticism when you are working on a scene – because the actor has to not be coloured by friendliness. You are there, working on your craft, doing at least 4 scenes a week with different partners, getting to know new material by reading manuscripts and so on, very serious – like it has to be. At the same time being in a city that never sleeps where you are running into directors and artists on every corner trying to work their ass off trying to become best they can be, is to me amazingly inspiring! If I got the opportunity I would work and live there. To become great with help from some of the best teachers/masters in the world is very easy to embrace. I remember the first thing, my lovely method acting teacher, Irma Sandrey said in her opening speech in my first method class with her was ” If you are not wonderfully sensitive and emotionally open, this place is not for you” – and that’s when I knew – I am home.
You got to love New York and everything it has to offer. What would you say are the downsides to the creative industry?
Yes indeed. Well, I would say that one of the downsides is that you never know what’s going to happen or who the creative team is going to pick. You can only give your best shot – like Phillip Seymour Hoffmann said ” Act, when you can act”, ’cause at the end of the day you have no idea if the roles are already taken or if they just have a certain way of choosing people and so on. Sometimes you just get the part, because they know they want you -they call you and done (I really love when that happens haha..) other times you walk out just after the first round and then there is the times where you have had many callbacks for a part and in the end they took the other girl because of height or another petite thing. And that’s how it is for most people. But you’ve got to love the “never know” -thing otherwise it will be too tough to stay in the industry. Another thing is that it’s very much about who you are as a person. Are you easy to work with, do they know you from before and so on.. and of cause we just work better with some people than others. And “The first impression” can be your worst enemy if you really have developed or worked on something and no matter what you do – you cannot change their opinion about you. The best you can do is to really think about who inspires you and whom you would like to work with. And most important – finding out what you are great at and where you would fit perfectly. It has taken me some time to know who I really love working with the most, the ones that I admire and are inspired by and that makes life on stage so much easier – If there’s a part I could really see myself in but didn’t get it forces me to pull myself up by the boot straps, believe in myself and think about what could be better at – and as Meryl Streep said ” ‘They’ are just one opinion in a sea of thousands” When that is said, I will always support the theatres I like. For me theatre is more than getting a part – I love to watch a good show! Although they didn’t pick me I love to see what the person ending up doing with the part that I was up for, did with the part – maybe I will be inspired, maybe not.. Cause It’s really about what you do with the part after you get it. One of the downsides is that, a lot of people say yes to a smaller salery than they should have, because they just want the work – that’s a big issue and the producers are well aware of that. If we all knew what we are worth that wouldn’t happen, but its hard when the one thing you love the most is right in front of you and you have to say no. In this business, people only treat you with respect if you do the same.
You’re right in many aspects, how do you unwind when you’re away from the stage?
Uhhh. That depends on the mood. When I am home – most of the time I would spend time with my friends, family and my lovely boyfriend but I could also be watching a movie, cooking a great meal, going to the gym or taking a walk in the on the beach or forest. The last 3 months I have actually started to draw and paint again – I haven’t done that for years – And I looove it – it totally clears my head, but still keep my mind creative and inspired just from another perspective. I would totally recommend it. Traveling is high on the list of really unwinding – it sets the mind free from everything you could do, or feel like you should do when you are at home. After traveIling, I get home reloaded and with new inspiration to the work. So therefore I travel as often as I can. But my favourite bit of unwinding is kissing my boyfriend!! Haha… Love within the sense of the body is for me the best happiness and energy charger. Definitely.
You’re good at unwinding. What does 2017 hold for you?
Well, thank you. I haven’t always been good at unwinding, but through the years I realized how important it is. For 2017 – I haven’t planned yet, I am auditioning for that period at the moment, so I am very exited to see what will come. And for 2016 it’s starts very well in January and a lot of other interesting things that I am very excited about.
Finally, what would be your dream role?
hahaaa.. the classic question. Well, I don’t really have ONE. I like playing different genres, different characters. I have many roles I would love to play. For me its more about the whole production – ’cause you might be playing your dream role in a production that turns out to be a really bad experience, production wise, or maybe you couldn’t connect with the other actor that was important for your scenes or something and then you end up hating the part because every time you think of it, it will remind you of that experience. And of course the opposite – you might have had a part that wasn’t your dream role but turned out to be really funny and challenging to play – so that might be the role of your life because it was a great experience. I have tried both and definitely know which one I like the most. For me It is about the whole production, the creative team and the cast – at least those who affect your work the most. I remember when we had a school project at The Danish Musical Academy and I played Fosca in Sondheims “Passion” – I would never have imagined myself playing that part – I thought wow – this will definitely be a challenge till I got to work on the part and it ended up being my favourite part of all time. The director Thomas Agerholm who is one of our very talented musical theatre directors in Denmark at the moment I would say – he made me love it and I still wish to play her again some day. So my dream would be to play one of my favourite parts within a great production, a great cast, a great creative team so that you can enjoy being on stage every night feeling that all the hard work is really worth it – with a smile.
Although they didn’t pick me I love to see what the person ending up doing with the part that I was up for, did with the part – maybe I will be inspired, maybe not.. Cause It’s really about what you do with the part after you get it.
Love that last sentence. Sandra, Thank you so much for hanging out with me and best of luck in the future. I’ll keep my eye out for your shining star.
You are such a sweetheart. It was a pleasure and an honor for me to speak with you at TBUR. Thank you for having me Munir. The best of luck to you and your readers as well. Much Love.
SEE THE INTERVIEW AT TBUR HERE: