Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Proud to be a Tischie

When I visited my brother and sister last week at Brown for their medical school graduation, I ended up talking to my sister's friend Libby. To give you the backstory, Libby is one of my sister's best friends. She was Skipper's roomie her frosh year and they stayed pals since. Libby now lives in NYC and works for the Clinton Foundation. Anyway, we ended up talking about college. Brown is sort of a little bubble in the city of Providence, a town known for it's cobblestone streets, townies, and mafia connections as well as water fires. Libby then asked me how NYU was and if I liked it. She told me that the thought of being in a campus so spread out was kind of strange in comparison to Brown.

I looked at the sprawling greenery and thought about what it would have been like to go to a college with a campus. After all, I had initially thought I was going to go the liberal arts college route. While I wanted to act, I wanted to write. Yes a conservatory would have been nice, but they only took a handful of kids and most folks I knew this a BFA came in one category: waiter. They had spent four years singing and dancing in order to get you napkins and ask if you wanted a refill. While I had perused the Ivy League route, I knew it was selective. Plus I thought I wanted to go smaller and have more options. I wanted to write, act, do some video stuff, and study lots of history. I love history and English in case you cannot tell. Plus my dad was dead set against me moving to New York because it was so dangerous.

So I switched gears. NYU was a reach anyway. Sometimes I didnt think I was talented enough. I liked school, but wasn't a school person per se. I wanted a place where I could have lively discussions, act, write, and indulge in my love for history. So I decided to go the women's college route. For me it wasn't about having guys in my classes, I was there to set up the groundwork for the next stage in my life. I spent the summer of 2002 touring the Seven Sister Colleges as well as other women's institutions. They were nice, scenic, and for the most part in New England. Some of the schools had walk in closets, a girl's dream. At one school it was so laid back the students walked to class without shoes.

This was fine and dandy until my dad went on one particular visit to one women's institution, and had to fill out paperwork for a man permit. Yes, there are some establishments that still require men to have permits to be on their campus. I thought my father's head was going to explode. After that, he met with some local femanazi's who had combat boots, shaved heads, and would probably generally scare any straight man. That is when my dad said, "April, if you want to do this want to do this for real you need to go to school in New York." The fates had spoken. My dad feared me turning into a militant femanazi and resented having to possess a man permit so much that he didnt mind me possibly getting murdered or killed in the big city. Dreams do come true.

I auditioned for NYU and got in early decision. Right away, the place was an awesome fit for me, because in the words of talent coordinator Patricia Decker, "NYU is a place for artists who like to think." The place was big enough I could have friends everywhere and in different departments, but small enough I could find my own community. NYU had an extensive mix of people. There were eighteen year old hot heads like myself as well as transfer kids with years of life under their belt. I had friends who were uber liberal, and then made friends with a former Iraq Marine who found himself in film school. I will admit my first year wasnt smooth but who's is?

Over time I discovered the place had a lot to offer. Although I was forced to take it, I ended up liking my Writing the Essay class. Psychology, while boring at the beginning, was even more interesting. While I thought Theatre History would kill me initially, I ended up not only loving my professor Ted Zeiter but also knowing where my craft emerged from. Sociology was an experience where I read about the world and society knowing more than what was outside of my bubble.

There were some classes that surprised me. At first I was ambivalent about whether or not to take Feminism and Theatre. However my teacher found out I did comedy, and gave me an article on Women in Comedy to read. Another class was a literature class where my teacher was fascinated by my love for ventriloquism. In there was a playwriting class with Jackie Allen which I learned true life makes the best comedy. Dispersed in there was stage combat. While I had my moments J. David Brimmer was a wonderful man. Lee Strasberg was a wonderful studio. I loved all my teachers like Ted Zurkowski, Bill Balzac, Lola Cohen, Jan Douglass, Madeline Reiss, Geoffrey Horne and the whole group. Lets not forget Richie Jackson, who taught me all I needed to know about the industry being a former agent. Stonestreet was awesome, too. Oh and then there was Mask Class. Didnt like speech so much but it was the class that I needed the most work in, nothing personal Erik and Scott. My teachers were not the drama school stereotype of people forced to teach because they were out of work, but rather they were artists who worked constantly and taught because they wanted to.

The beautiful thing about NYU was I could create my own path. It wasn't rigid like a lot of BFA programs, so it wasn't just focused on acting, acting, acting. At the same time, the acting training was wonderful. The academics were challenging, but doable if you put the effort in. While we were expanding our crafts we were also expanding our minds. Professors would answer questions, and counselors were readily available. This gave me the courage not just to be myself, but to follow the path after college. Being an artist who is trained to think has served me well. I don't feel the need to restrict myself to one medium and therefore, am having the time of my life not just as an artist but as a person.

While I have been bad about keeping in contact, I still have a lot of friends from that part of my life. I have worked with some on various projects or have seen them in passing, always a hello. Some are acting and have been quite successful. Then there are those who moved to production, behind the scenes whether it is producing or writing. Then there are those who left acting altogether, and decided to teach yoga, go to law school, and use their gifts in different ways to make the world a brighter place. One of my former classmates is now a drama therapist and helps troubled children express themselves. Bottom line, a good education builds the door and you can decide where to walk.

The cool thing is, when I see someone from Tisch who is doing well. It helps to know the training meant something. One of my most fabulous encounters was when I was walking down the street and saw an old friend who was rocking it out on The Great White Way. Apparently she had seen me on TV. We exchanged a hug. It was one of those, WOW, remember when and look at where we have come moments.

As of today my book has been added to their collection in the NYU Bookstore. YIPEE! By the way, I used the structure I learned in Writing the Essay. Oh and the audiobook is coming out. Produced and edited by frosh friend and studio mate Archie Ekong. We be rocking it.

I know I went to school where I was supposed to, and am proud to own my BFA. Tisch, Tisch, all the way.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
Portion of proceeds go to Greenpeace

No comments:

Post a Comment