I'm going back to my roots! Years ago I started this blog to follow my journey through undergrad and catalog my professional career. Today begins my journey into graduate school. This has been a long time coming. I remember writing a list of my top ten graduate programs in my freshmen year of my BFA and I posted it on the wall beside my bed. I'm very goal oriented. Needless to say, I'm attending a program that would never have been on that list because I didn't know anything like it existed. But we'll get to that.
First let's catch up to now. When I moved from Seattle to Austin I suspected I'd have many experiences to write about, but as it turns out Austin doesn't actually pay their actors a living wage. I suppose I shouldn't blame the city itself, but the funding of the institutions there definitely has a long way to go.
I completed two separate tours with the National Theatre for Children in Minneapolis and I worked in the box office of the fantastic Zach Theatre in Austin itself, but honestly I wasn't enjoying my time. The only regional work to be had through unified auditions was children's theatre and summer stock, and the shows in Austin couldn't pay enough to justify the cost of living and commute time. In the end I decided to take another stab at the URTA auditions. Unlike my first foray when I went to Chicago, this January I chose to audition in New York.
I had some strategy this time, now that I knew how to play the game. In Chicago you had the advantage of being one stop closer to the end of the schools' audition process. You could possibly be more easily remembered. However, I thought this time around it would be more advantageous to be the first in line. In the end, it definitely worked to my advantage! The schools were invigorated because it was the exciting beginning of the process. They seemed to listen more in the auditions (which resulted in more callbacks than my first time), and the callbacks had more energy and enthusiasm. I had 23 callbacks this year, and out of all the schools I strongly considered several classic theatre MFAs. I'd always thought that I'd want to attend graduate school only if it was free because there are so many amazing programs right now that are paying students to go. But throughout the callback process and the auditions at schools I couldn't help but feel like these programs were continuations of my BFA.
I've always felt like my BFA was the best education I could have received. I judged this on the fact that I was personally and professionally fulfilled after receiving it. I've worked so much, and my resume is so broad. When thinking about taking myself out of the job market for 2 to 3 years, I began to believe it was a waste to receive the same kind of degree. I could justify it if my original degree wasn't getting me work, or even if I felt like I was losing the technique in the echo chamber of professional acting. I know some people attend graduate school purely because they want more time to focus on themselves again without the pressure of the outside world and really get into the nitty gritty of method acting.
None of these scenarios fit me. Instead I knew that I was unhappy with the growth of my career. Regional theatres had offered me several exciting roles, but without more connections I didn't feel like I would continue to get enough work at that level. Children's theatre and touring shows were becoming tiresome because I felt like I was taking those jobs just to continue to get a paycheck as a working actor. I wanted to feel more in control of my career. I wanted the skills to create work, build a company, and the opportunity to find an ensemble to flesh out the brave new world I was imagining. I wanted to learn about funding opportunities and how to build my own tour. I wanted to network with people that were creating work not just acting in someone else's show. These are things I'd dreamed of doing, and yet I felt like I hadn't met the right people to show me the way. Seven years out of school with a great professional resume and I hadn't learned how to be more than extremely hire-able. It was time for me to take a leap of faith and choose a program that fit the niche I was trying to carve out for myself.
I struggled at first with my decision because I was leaning towards a program that was extremely unique -- Devised Performance. I craved that quality in my work and my career and I knew what I wanted, but I had voices of reason that reminded me to look at all the angles before making such a life changing decision. Based on my reputation there were those who I looked to for advice that weren't sure this program would be the right fit.
It's day one of my Graduate School Career, and I'm positive I made the right choice. There isn't another program out there that could come close to inspiring me the way I've been inspired today or push me the way I know I'll be pushed. I'm going to be challenged and stretched, I'm going to fail and fall, and in two and a half years I'm going to come out the other side with opportunities I'd never imagined for myself because I'd never known where to look. I'm so grateful I found my fit, and that I'm relearning what it feels like to feel inspired. It's been a very long time since I've felt this way, and it's going to be a crazy few years in Philadelphia!
Today I had Movement Analysis, Improv, Creation, and Theatre History Seminar. Basically I spent the day stretching, rolling, falling, and catching. I played dead, led the blind, was the blind, fought the monster, became the monster, played at recess, and birthed a planet. I felt what it was to be silent and still, and found my forward motion. I also squatted too much. I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow.
Aside from all the amazing fun movement work and creation I experienced today, my Theatre History Seminar jumped right into subsidized theatre funding in Europe and the models that we haven't managed to recreate in America. This is what I'm so very excited about. I can't wait to delve into what's working in other cultures and societies and learn how to mimic it in a way that can successfully fund a company here. I have so many questions, and even though the class was two hours there wasn't nearly enough time to answer them. I'm so ready to have the class every week! Our Theatre History is more about studying other groups and players who have a hand in creating work similar to what my program is about. So we'll learn about how others have successfully done what we're attempting, and see the different forms that can take. Today we watched Inferno by Romeo Castellucci. It was a performance done at the Festival d'Avignon which is a huge deal. It had a $4 million budget. I think I'll be digesting the performance for a while because I've never seen anything like it. Castellucci specializes in non-linear or non-narrative forms of theatre. Which means that when you watch the ensemble work on stage it leaves you with impressions. It's about images and feelings and doesn't necessarily follow the arc of a character or story. There were many vignettes and so much going on: live animals, small children in boxes, death and destruction. And no speaking. An hour and a half of silence vocally, but so many sound effects. I'm excited to see more examples of other work in the future.
Tomorrow I begin my private voice lessons. And acrobatics. Did I mention how stoked I am for acrobatics? I'm exhausted in the happiest way! Here's to a great first week!