Lessons Learned: Changing Perspective

As graduation rounds the corner, I have been reflecting a lot on what I have learned in my last few quarters of college, and the new changes that are occurring in my life. I thought I would take this chance to share with you some of the things that have come up for me, in hopes they may help you in your reflection on your own journey to, through, and after college. 

Lessons
One of the biggest lessons I am learning is to begin changing my perspective when it comes to my accomplishments. This is admittedly a huge challenge for me. I can be a very “big picture” thinker. The way I think about things always includes the larger frame of reference in the world, and in my life. With that, the things I want out of life both professionally and personally, are, in a way, big. I have big dreams of an illustrious acting career, the type of work I’ll do, the places I’ll go, the people I’ll meet, the money I’ll make—all of these things are indeed “big.”

However, I have found over the past few months that not everything I do is as “big” as I can imagine. For years I had always imagined myself on a rocket to success come graduation, while in fact, the grind is much slower than I had once thought. There is a lot of hard work and a lot of challenges and failures that will occur on my road to the success I seek – and that’s okay. I have started to realize that the things I once thought about as “small” are actually victories, and for my own mental well-being, I should honor them as such. For example, I may not be on Broadway yet, but I am understudying at a great theatre company in the fall. While in my mind there are more amazing things I desire, I have to recognize that this is actually a great accomplishment, that will lead to other opportunities in the future. And while I do not have a talent agent before graduation, I am still auditioning and booking work to do post-grad. These are wins, and I am learning to find satisfaction and pride in these things, that help me keep my spirits up as I move forward. 

Lessons
I am learning to be grateful for the challenges I am facing in the transition out of school, because I know they are making me stronger and more resilient in the long run. I’m also learning that the seemingly small things add up to a big picture that I can call success. 

So, to anyone who may be down on themselves when it comes to your accomplishments, be it the schools you did or didn’t get into, the jobs you landed or missed, the opportunities that presented themselves or not, know that even if your successes aren’t as big as you imagined, they are still successes and you should value them as such. You are still working hard, and you are still moving forward, even if the path doesn’t look exactly as you thought it would. Stay strong, be proud, and keep working. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that little steps add up to big moves. 

Wig Out!

The latest show to open on the mainstage this spring was a fabulous play WIG OUT! This wild and unique show features a super talented cast of BFA and MFA students from our acting program here at DePaul, and directed by MFA director Nathan Singh. This play dives into the world of an underrepresented community of queer people of color, it is a story that doesn’t often get told, and for this reason it was a very welcome addition to our mainstage season.

Wig Out
Our website describes this play:

Welcome to the underground drag scene, a place where many gay men create families for themselves. The legendary House of Lights is one such family. As they prepare for a competitive ball with a rival house, each member confronts their identity within the family. Wig Out! is an electrifying tale of community, queer sub-culture, and sexuality by Theatre School alumnus Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Themes: How far will we go to feel loved, accepted, and celebrated?


This play was written by Academy Award Winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, who is a Theatre School alumnus. It is an honor to be producing a play written by a member of our own TTS family, not to mention such an amazing artist.  As part of the programming for this show, Tarell came to The Theatre School to join the post show discussion for this play as well as speak to the students of TTS about his successes since leaving DePaul.

The cast features Vincent Banks (Venus), Michael Cohen (Lucien), Matthew Elam (Wilson/Nina), Kayla Forde (Faith), Keith Illidge (Deity), Tia Jemison (Fate), Michael Morrow (Rey-Rey), Skylar Okerstrom-Lang (Loki), Isaiah Rush (Eric), Nick Trengove (Serena), and Sola Thompson (Fay).

Wig Out
The production team includes
scenic design by Maggie Armendariz, costume design by Hailey Rakowiecki, lighting design by Emmaleigh Pepe-Winshell, sound design by Connor Ciesil, dramaturgy by Cassandra Kendall and Patricia Mahoney, and stage management by Ben Gates-Utter.

Come check out The Theatre School on the corner of Fullerton and Racine. As always, student tickets are $5, and $15 for the general public. For ticketing info visit our website.

Stay Fabulous DePaulians!

My Last Show: Cinderella: The Remix

Now that spring quarter has rolled around I am currently working toward the opening of my spring quarter show at The Theatre School. Being that I am getting close to graduating, this is my final show of my undergrad career, making the experience very bittersweet.

Cinderella: The Remix
A rehearsal shot of Hunter Bryant playing Chocolate Ice in Cinderella: The Remix
The show I am working on is called Cinderella: The Remix. This play is part of our Playworks series for Families and Young Audiences. This play will be performed at the Merle Reskin Theatre, DePaul’s performance space in the Loop. This large proscenium theatre will welcome hundreds of young elementary school aged children and families this spring. 

I am really lucky to be part of such a fun show for my last production of undergrad. This hilarious play is a new twist on the classic Cinderella story. The play takes place in a fictional land called Hip Hop Hollywood. The protagonist Cinderella wants to be a DJ, but unfortunately in Hip Hop Hollywood, girls are not allowed to DJ. She and her best friend Chin Chilla (yes, you read that right) disguise themselves as boys in order to follow their dreams and DJ for the hottest rapper in town. They encounter challenges and triumphs on their way to empower young girls to follow their passions and realize their potential. The play includes music, dancing, rapping, and is a blast for the whole family. While it is odd to know that this is my last play here, it is heartwarming to go out on a high note.

Cinderella: The Remix
Chanel Bell shows off her DJ skills as Cinderella in rehearsal for Cinderella: The Remix
I play two characters in this show. First, I play Cinderella’s stepmother, named Bad Ma’amajama. She works hard to push her other son, Chocolate Ice, toward success as a DJ, and discourages Cinderella from auditioning for the famous rapper J Prince. I also play the fairy godmother of the story, who comes in the form of a entrepreneurial media queen named Hoperah, loosely based on Oprah. She shows up to give Cinderella and her bff Chinchilla the confidence they need to overcome obstacles and believe in themselves.  I have had a blast creating these larger than life characters, and rapping my way through a story that really means something. This cast is completely made up of minorities, and gives us the chance to represent the populations of young kids who come to see this play who are also from those communities. I really believe it is great to send a message that young girls are smart and capable, and if they believe in themselves, and persevere, they can overcome the odds and be successful. I am proud to be part of a show that can do that for its audiences. 

Themes: Fairy Tales; Gender Roles; Girl Power; Hip-Hop; Identity; Pop Culture; Sexism

Cinderella: The Remix
The cast features Chanell Bell Copeland (Cinderella), Hunter Bryant (Chocolate Ice), Mariana Castro Florez (Chin Chilla), Samantha Newcomb (Bad Mamajama/Hoperah), and Nosakhere Cash-O'Bannon (J Prince).

The production team includes scenic design by Angela McIlvain, costume design by Emilee Orton, lighting design by Richard Latshaw, sound design by Madeline Doyle, dramaturgy by Yasmin Zacaria Mitchel, and stage management by Emily Mills.

This show opens April 20th, and runs Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as Saturday afternoons until we close May 27th. If you or a youngster you know if looking for a great way to spend 70 minutes this spring, come check out Cinderella: The Remix! For more information check out our website

Say "Cheese": The Importance of Headshots

Over here in The Theatre School, members of the graduating class are focusing on preparing themselves for the professional world. This means securing jobs and internships, preparing portfolios, and for the actors in the house, getting professional headshots.

Headshots
In many of our exit classes (those that help us prepare for the real world), we’ve had many discussions about the importance of good professional headshots. For those who need a little clarification, this is the image of your face that will be stapled to your resume and submitted at every audition, casting call, or agent meeting you have as an actor. But there is more to it than just a pretty picture, or whatever you use as your latest FB profile pic.

There are a few key qualities in a good professional actor headshot:

1. It looks like YOU. This is where we steer away from glamour shots or anything that takes us too far away from the real, everyday you. The picture should look how you look on your best day, and should look how you would appear when you walk into an audition.
2. It tells a STORY. There are plenty of great pictures one could take. You look fabulous, you’re smiling wide, the lighting is great….but what else? What are you saying in this picture? What glimmers of personality are we seeing? Where might I see you in the world I know and the world I am imagining?  It is crucial that your shot not only say “I’m cute” but also says more about you and what you bring to the table. If you are known for your fire, confidence and sass, and can play lots of characters like that – I should see a glimmer of that in your eyes and in what you chose to wear. If you play more of the shy or goofy person, then I should see a bit of that humor behind your eyes as well. It’s about telling people what you want them to know about you before they get to meet you.
3. There is versatility and variety in your shots. Different shots can be used for different things. For instance, on one hand I can play a lot of commanding roles – people who are in charge and know what’s going on, but I can also the shyer, sweeter, offset-of-ingénue type. Now, when I am auditioning for different roles, I want different photos that showcase those qualities. You only need a couple great shots when you are starting out. They should capture the couple sides of your “type”, and when you nail those down, you’ll be able to use your shots for a variety of roles, projects, and companies. Realize that styles are a bit different in each city, so knowing what you need ahead of time and planning is the best way to go.
I recently got my headshots done in preparation for showcase and I can say I am quite pleased! There are a ton of different headshot photographers in Chicago, and each one has a little bit different style, energy, and way of doing things – there is no one way! When choosing a photographer it is important to go with someone whose work you like, and who makes you feel comfortable. You will take your best shots when you feel the most yourself. Everyone prefers a different vibe, so go with your gut. It should be a helpful experience and most importantly FUN.

Bring on Spring!

If you would look at a calendar, you would see that it is now technically springtime. If you would look outside however, you might not get the same idea. As soon as spring hit, Chicagoland took a dip in temperature, forcing us to break out our winter coats once again. The stereotypical sunny and bright springtime is nowhere to be found at the moment. Yearning for the flowery springtime I love, I looked for a way to find spring in the city. Lucky for me, the Chicago Flower and Garden Show came to Navy Pier the other weekend.  

Chicago Flower and Garden Show
Finding a deal on my favorite site, Groupon, I was able to get a cheap deal for tickets to the event. Using my handy dandy UPass​, I took the red line and the bus out to Navy Pier, making the whole trip easy on my wallet. As a flower and garden lover, arriving at this event had me like a kid in a candy store! I got my stamp, walked in, and was greeted with the fresh aroma of flowers, and a wide array of exhibits. There were a dozen different gardens set up in the exhibit hall, each showcasing different kinds of plants, flowers, furniture arrangements and more. After spending so much time in apartment buildings in the city, it was quite refreshing to see the layouts of these bright and fresh displays. 

Further into the hall there was a flower market showcasing deals on tons of potted and fresh cut beauties. Beyond that, there was a large marketplace with dozens of vendors, selling garden supplies, small fresh plants, food and treats, home goods and more. I ended up spending nearly four hours on the Pier, walking around, eating and enjoying the gardens and perusing the market. I walked away with some delightful springtime goodies fit for my college budget. I picked up a bouquet of roses for $4, two tulip plants for $4, as well as two small succulents and ceramic pots for my apartment, also for a great deal. My goal was to find small and practical pieces to liven up the gray and gloomy days, and bring some freshness to my city apartment. I would say it was a rather successful day! 
Flowers

Living in the city affords residents a wide array of activities and things to enjoy, but sometimes I miss small things about the more suburban life or different climate I had at home growing up in Portland, OR. The plant life is one small piece of that.  As always I love finding new and different ways to spend my free time exploring Chicago while sticking to my student budget. The Chicago Flower and Garden Show was the perfect way to get my springtime fix, without leaving the city or breaking the bank, allowing me to bring a little life back to my apartment to hold me over until the weather warms up. It is the simple things that really make a difference. For me it’s flowers, but whatever your interests may be, I think it is always important to bring little bits of joy and fun to balance out a busy and stressful life in college. 

My Annual Trip to NYC: A Bittersweet End

As a college student, there are many different organizations that can become an active part of your 4-year experience. Over the past 4 years I have been lucky enough to be a part of a scholarship organization called The Jackie Robinson Foundation. This is a foundation comprised of young students of color at colleges across the country, dedicated to academic excellence and carrying on the legacy of Civil Rights Activist, Jackie Robinson
 
Debate
A scholar debate discussing living wages.
Each year of the program, the scholars make a trip to New York City for a mentoring and leadership conference. For one weekend we are immersed in workshops, panels, and networking opportunities related to career success. This is supplemented by cultural outings a fun events that make it truly memorable. This year the theme of the conference was Financial Savvy. There were career panels, off the record sessions with industry leaders, a scholar debate, guest speakers and more, and I spent the weekend overwhelmed with information and trying to soak up as much as I could. Being in my last few months of college, it is important to me to be able to best prepare myself for life after school, so I appreciated this conference even more than I did last year, knowing that everything I was learning would be applicable sooner than I think. 
 
Jitney
My playbill for JITNEY. It was awesome!
Some of the highlights of the weekend included cultural outings. Each class (freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors) goes to a cultural outing in the city, to appreciate another aspect of a well rounded education and life: art. For those who know me, as a theatre maker, this is my jam and therefore one of my favorite parts. I was able to attend a performance of Jitney on Broadway. This is a play written by one of my favorite playwrights, August Wilson. The play was directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, an acclaimed director of Wilson’s work, who I met in my time as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival two summers ago. Two actors in the show I also met and worked with in my time at WTF, including Andre Holland, who was recently a part of the academy award winning film Moonlight (starring previous DePaul student Ashton Sanders). It can be such a small world sometimes, and you are reminded that you are only a few degrees of separation away from your dreams. The play was fabulous and I was so glad I got to see it. 
 
Dance
Me, at the Annual Awards Dinner, with Jackie Robinson's iconic number, 42.
After soaking in the knowledge about Financial Savvy over the weekend, on Monday night came the chance to dance the night away at the Annual Awards Dinner. Andre Holland, above mentioned actor, was the emcee of the night and hosted the award ceremony. We all got dressed in our best black tie attire, and shared in recognizing industry leaders and game changers in their accomplishments both in business and in philanthropy. After a delicious dinner, and some musical entertainment, the scholars were able to dance it up at the scholar after-party.  
It truly was a fun filled and informative weekend, and I left with bittersweet feelings. As graduation approaches, I remember that this was my last conference with JRF, and my last year as a scholar. It is a strange feeling to note something that has had such a profound impact on your college experience in coming to a close. I have very fond memories, and will use the knowledge and inspiration I’ve been given here as I move forward and tackle the world post-grad. 
 

Victory Gardens Black Beauty Festival

Being an acting major in a wonderful theatre city like Chicago gives me endless opportunities to explore the art scene. I love to visit the local theatres, watch plays, and attend events. This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend an event that combined many of my interests of theatre, identity, empowerment of minorities, and beauty. Victory Gardens Theater, conveniently located within a short walking distance from the DePaul Lincoln Park campus, held an event this weekend that they called the Black Beauty Festival, which accompanied their production that took place in a black beauty shop in Chicago. When I received an email inviting me to purchase tickets to the event, I was intrigued. When I read further I found out that the event included vendors from local black owned beauty businesses, a champagne cocktail to sip while you peruse the event (hey, I’m 21, it’s okay), a Victory Gardens swag bag (with offers from local businesses and a couple of sample products), as well as a ticket to the performance of A Wonder In My Soul, the latest show on the mainstage. I was SOLD. An evening of supporting black beauty, local black owned businesses, and theatre all at once – now that’s my jam! 

Victory Gardens Theater
When I showed up to the event, I was excited. In my own experience it isn’t very common that there is a celebration of this type in Lincoln Park, let alone on my radar at all. Additionally, it can sometimes be tough to support local black owned businesses, as there aren’t as many apparent ones in this area. When I walked in, I picked up my ticket to the show, and was given a bag with flyers and a sample hair product inside. I went upstairs into a separate space where most of the vendors were located. Several booths were set up, manned by black business owners, selling their products to visitors. There were items such as handbags, jewelry, clothing items, makeup, and skin care items for sale. It was kind of small, which I suppose is to be expected, but enjoyable nevertheless. I cashed in my ticket for a mimosa to sip while I walked around and chatted with the business owners, enjoyed the fruit and sweet treats that were out, and tried the different products. After a short spin around the room, I walked away with some pretty handmade earrings, and a jar of delicious all natural and handmade rose scented body butter. It was nice to walk away with some nice products, but even better to support a small, local, black-owned business in the process. 

Following my walk around the festival I saw the evening performance of A Wonder in my Soul​, starring an all-black cast of awesome local actors. The play took place in a beauty shop, owned by two of the main characters, and revolved around the themes of community, following your dreams, the cultural significance of a place like this beauty shop, and the empowerment of black women to love their own unique beauty. At times I was moved, not fully realizing that I needed to hear some of these messages myself. 

I consider myself lucky to be in a place where I can take advantage of opportunities like this, both to be in a city where that can happen, but also to have the means to engage in them myself. I was also inspired to create environments like this in the future, combine my interests and the power of art to bring people together, celebrate culture, and inspire others. 

Lights, Camera, Action

One of the coolest things about the 4th year of the acting program at The Theatre School is the sprinkling of really fun and less common classes. By now we no longer have the same quantity of intense acting technique classes, but have a few different classes that give us a taste for other kinds of techniques. 

One of these classes is an On Camera acting class taken in the winter quarter. This one-quarter course is taken once a week for 3 hours downtown at Acting Studio Chicago. Our teacher, Rachael Patterson from Acting Studio Chicago, guides the class through audition technique and scene preparation for on camera work, helping us all to become more confident in our ability to tackle that aspect of the industry post-grad. 

On Camera
We began the quarter working on commercial copy. Students would receive various pieces of text from different kinds of commercials and work on preparing them for commercial auditions.  From pasta to health insurance we worked on making specific choices to make an impact when you only have a couple sentences, or a couple of words to work with. We then moved on to working on scenes from TV and film, and we learned what it takes to prepare for those. The quarter was topped off with scenes selected from various films and TV shows that we have prepared and will take in to audition for Gray Talent agency​

It has been a really interesting to learn about how the on-camera acting and auditioning works. The main focus during this course has been learning how to bring more of your own unique personality to the work. We’ve also been learning how to simplify your choices, and modify your actions to fit the frame of the medium.  I am appreciative that at this point, after 3 years of working on transformation in acting, we are coming back to ourselves and bringing ourselves to the party. After taking this class I am really looking forward to working on TV and film work in the future and putting these new skills into practice out in the real world! 

The Final Round: Auditioning My Final Time

As spring quarter rapidly approaches, graduating students are now looking straight ahead at their final quarter of college. Spring quarter will be a whirlwind of changes and mixed emotions. This will be the time when I take my last college classes, participate in the last events of my collegiate experience, and perform in my last show of undergrad. Now, at the end of February, we here at The Theatre School​ are in the midst of casting the spring quarter productions, which are the final shows of the year, and for me, the final shows of my time here at TTS.

Today I arrived on campus, highlighted scenes in hand, ready to audition for the last round of shows of my undergraduate experience. The audition process for the casting pool was the same as usual. Each member of the acting company split up into groups, and sent into three different rooms to audition with scenes from our three main stage productions.  We were greeted in each room by the smiling faces of students and faculty working on each of the shows, and were encouraged to have fun auditioning for each role we read. While the day had a familiar feel, putting it in those term s- the “last time”, really took me aback. 

Auditions
This is the last time I’ll go online to DePaul’s Backstage domain to check out the audition sides. This is the last time I’ll find a partner in the hallway who would be willing to read with me in the audition room. The last time I will walk into the room full of my classmates, colleagues, and cohorts, to audition for a play that I will help to create within this learning environment. 

Along with my final set of TTS auditions comes the realization that this spring will be my last TTS show. With this in mind, it makes me determined the make the most of whatever process I am in for the next few short months. I want to be able to learn as much as I can before I leave, and really enjoy myself in the process. It is also really exciting to think about what lies ahead. If this is my last show of my undergraduate career, the work that waits beyond is many wonderful experiences creating my own work, and working in the professional world! While it may feel a bit strange to know that this last show means something is coming to an end, it also means a very beautiful beginning to a chapter of life that I’ve been thinking and preparing for for a long time. Finally I can say I’m almost there, and finally I can say I’m ready.  Here’s hoping I’ll break a leg!  

We Are Proud to Present

The last show to open on the mainstage this winter was a unique and impactful play with a title to match the description. We Are Proud To Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the years 1884-1915​ was the last show to hit the Fullerton Stage this quarter. 
 
We Are Proud To Present
Photo credit to Michael Brosilow. 
This contemporary piece written by Jackie Sibblies Drury, is an intense and thought-provoking play within a play that challenges topics of race, identity, violence, and storytelling. What stories do we tell? Who has the right to tell them? How do the complexities of our own identities influence these stories and how we fit in them. The characters of this play, a group of young passionate artists, wrestle with these questions, coming in and out of the world of their own presentation, until the lines between reality and the story their inhabit become blurred. 

The TTS website describes this play:

“An ensemble of eager, well-meaning young actors devises a play about a nearly forgotten African genocide. When their artistic director suggests they should not read the German letters that make up the core of their presentation, the group must come to terms with the fact that they can't tell a new story until they have unearthed the original one.” 
 
We Are Proud To Present
Photo credit to Michael Brosilow.
To give you a little insight into how this play operates, the list of characters gives us a hint. The 6 character cast includes characters named Black Woman, White Man, Black Man, Another White Man, Another Black Man and Sarah (played by a white woman). These characters are played by actors who fit those descriptions.  I was lucky enough to see this play on opening weekend, and was insanely proud of the students who came together to create this play. A play that deals so personally with such tough topics and images requires a huge amount of bravery from each of the artists involved. This is an extremely relevant and well-acted play that punches you in the gut and forces you to face the realities of your actions and your history. 
 
We Are Proud To Present
Photo credit to Michael Brosilow. 
The cast features Ayanna Bria Bakari (Actor 6/Black Woman), Tuckie White (Actor 5/Sarah), Keith Illidge (Actor 4/Another Black Man), Michael Morrow (Actor 2/Black Man), Sam Straley (Actor 1/White Man), and Arie Thompson (Actor 3/Another White Man). 

The production team includes scenic design by Jessica Olson, costume design by Olivia Engobor, lighting design by Joseph Clavell, sound design by Haley Feiler, dramaturgy by Hampton Cade and Lauren Quinlan, and stage management by Erin Collins.

For more information on our season of shows, visit the TTS website!
 

BIG NEWS: The Theatre School Announces its 2017-18 Season

Big news has hit the halls of The Theatre School, in the form of the 2017-2018 Main Stage Season. The announcement was shared with the TTS community at an event in the Merle Reskin lobby of the new theatre school building on Fullerton and Racine.

TTS Season Announcement
A large crowd of students and faculty gather around with attentive ears to hear which shows had been selected for next school year. There was a general buzz of excitement from the students who will in the casting pool next year, each thinking about what the future holds for them and where they will end up. Over the past couple of years, it has become a new tradition for each director of the upcoming shows to present the show they are directing at a special event. They share with the community their reason for choosing the show, their thoughts and concepts about the production, and why it matters to our community. Each show chosen for the upcoming season was chosen because of how relevant it can be to the current social and political time we live in, and how the story may matter to our community and the world at large.
 
It is a very special time to see how our school is recognizing the current atmosphere and responding with art that fits in with our thoughts, feelings, and actions of the moment.  As a school, we still have not completed our current season of kick-ass shows, but we all have much to look forward to next year. Honestly, as a soon-to-be graduate, it was a little surreal to talk about the upcoming season knowing that I will not be a part of it.  I will be moving on to a world of unknown things, but will no doubt come back to visit and see what they do with this new season of shows. It’s all so exciting!
 
SO, without further ado, I am pleased to share with you all, the 2017-2018 season:
 
ON THE FULLERTON STAGE
 
Into the Woods
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim * book by James Lapine
Directed by Barry Brunetti * musical direction by Mark Elliott
November 3-13, 2017 (previews 11/1 & 11/2)
 
Frankenstein
By Mary Shelly* adated by Nick Dear
Directed by Micharl E. Burke
Frebruary 9-18, 2018 (previews 2/7 & 2/8)
 
Three Sisters
By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Jacob Janssen
April 13-22, 2018 (previews 4/11 &4/12)
 
New Playwright Series
Title, Playwright, and Director TBD
May 18-26, 2018 (previews 5/16 & 5/17)
 
IN THE HEALY THEATRE

Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England
By Madeleine George
Directed by April Cleveland
October 20-29, 2017 (previews 10/18 & 10/19)
 
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
By Anne Washburn
Music by Micharl Friedman * directed by Jeremy Aluma
January 26-February 4, 2018 (previews 1/24 & 1/25)
 
MFA18, Title TBD
 An emsemble performance created by MFA III actors, directed by Dexter Bullard
May 4-13, 2018 (previews 5/2 & 5/3)
 
CHICAGO PLAYWORKS FOR FAMILIES AND YOUNG AUDIENCES
 
Augusta and Noble
By Carlos Murillo * directed by Lisa Portes
October 5-November 11, 2017
 
Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
By Allison Gregory * adapted from the book series by Barbara Park
Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker
January 11-February 17, 2018
 
The Cat in the Hat
By Dr. Seuss
Directed by Jeff Mills
April 19-May 26, 2018
 
STUDIO SERIES, Titles/Playwrights/Directors TBD
 
 
For those joining the DePaul Community next year, it is already time to get excited about the many good things in store!
 

The Latest and Greatest: Richard III

Now is the winter of our...Latest show! Get it? That’s a play on the famous opening line of my current production! It’s another round of Shakespeare for me this winter at The Theatre School. This quarter I have been cast in Shakespeare’s Richard III​. I am taking on the powerhouse role of Queen Margaret, a noble woman scorned, as well as rounding out the ensemble of actors as the Lord Mayor of London, and a member of the opposing Army. This is an ensemble driven piece, meaning most cast members are playing multiple roles and helping to create this piece together. Having just finished Romeo and Juliet this past fall, and growing my love for this classical writer, it was exciting to me to try my hand at one of Shakespeare’s fiercest female roles. A mature woman, who had her Kingdom stripped from her uses curses to exact her revenge on the guilty parties involved. It has been a blast to explore this language and my more powerful qualities. 

The TTS Website describes our show: 

“Richard, Duke of Gloucester, conspires, manipulates, and murders his way onto the English throne, making more than a few enemies along the way. Can Richard rule England? Or will his misdeeds undo him? This Shakespearean classic explores the effects of morality, or lack thereof, in a political state.”

Richard III
Our show will be produced in the Healy Theatre, our large black box theatre within the TTS building. Tickets are now on sale with the opening of the show January 27th running until February 5th. Directed by second year MFA director Jacob Janssen, the goal has been to bring this politically charged play to our modern American audiences who are also experiencing the transfer of power, and have to deal with the aftermath (current election/inauguration anyone?). The neat thing about our production? The title character of Richard III is being played by a female actress! Yes to untraditional casting! 

For those in the Chicago area, come by and see this dramatic and powerful play. As always tickets are only $5 for students and $15 for the rest of the public. For info or tickets visit our website.

I am pumped to see how the show turns out, and the reaction from the community. And I am always glad to know that whatever the end result, the process and learning experience is always worth it to me. 

Be well DePaulians! 

Night Runner: Making History Exciting

With the start of a new quarter, comes the start of a new round of shows here at The Theatre School. The first to open on the Main Stage in 2017 is an exciting new play, NIGHT RUNNER. This action packed show has generated a lot of buzz for being a brand new play by hot Chicago Playwright Ike Holter. Part of our Playworks series for young audiences, this show is performed for Chicago public school and families downtown at our Merle Reskin Theatre, a space with a history of its own. This play takes place in South in the mid 1800’s, and revolves around a huge part of our nation’s history at that point - slavery. Essentially a thriller about the heroism of Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad, and the path to freedom, this play takes a look at history through the unique lens of a comic book superhero. The Theatre School website describes this impactful tale:
 
Night Runner
Designed by Megan Pirtle.
 
“Join us for the story of Cora, an enslaved 12-year-old, and the Night Runner, the mythic but dark figure who shows her the way. When a cruel slave owner arrives and snatches Cora's brother Marcus in exchange for debt, Cora flees to find him. In steps the legendary Night Runner, a fierce, fast-talking female superhero, who helps Cora escape to freedom and discover her own inner strength.”

This play opens this week, and I will admit I am more than excited to see it. The Theatre School’s program with Chicago Playworks ​brings a different children’s show to the students and families of Chicago each season. Hundreds of kids from across the city come and are exposed to the magical world of theatre, and are immersed in a story that asks them to use their imaginations and learn new things. Frequently these students don’t get to go on many field trips, or are new to learning about plays and theatre, and this is what makes it so special to share with them. This is a unique and special moment in their week, and in their lives. 

Night Runner
Personally, as a young woman of color, I know how important it is to see yourself represented in the art, literature, and entertainment that surrounds you. Having been in a kids show myself, I have seen the large and diverse audiences with children of many different backgrounds. Many of these students are young people of color, and I see myself in them, 10 years ago. Wide eyed and expectant, they are taking in everything around them, which makes it extremely important to consider what kind of stories you share with these young people. As a young black woman, the reason I am so excited for this show is that it shows my history. OUR history as Americans, in a way that empowers and celebrates the strength of my community. It is important that those hundreds of kids of all colors and backgrounds learn about the horrors of American Slavery, the heroism of Harriet Tubman, and the strength that all people have inside them. By seeing people like them on stage, or seeing their history in this light, we can have a profound impact on the learning, and the empowerment of these young kids. With the incorporation of beautiful new music, and exciting rhythm and dance, a scary and uncomfortable topic transforms throughout the story that will leave audiences cheering as our young heroine makes her way to freedom. 
Due to this serious subject matter this play is recommended for audiences 9 years of age and older. To find out more about our shows at TTS, or ticketing ( only $5 for students- yay!) visit our website

Welcome back and here’s to a passionate, and meaningful new year! 

Post Election at The Theatre School

It has now been over 2 weeks since the United States elected their next president, Donald J. Trump. As with all changes in power and administration, it can be a hard adjustment. As college students we are of an age where our political opinion matters more than ever before in our lives, many of us exercising our right to vote for the first time in an election of this nature. After the crazy campaign season, the election early this November took many by surprise, and no matter where they stood on the matter, caused a great deal of emotion to stir up amongst the student body - only a microcosm of the nation itself. There seemed to be a mix of fear, anger, excitement, sense of empowerment and a sense of powerlessness in various forms spread among citizens, including the students at DePaul, and in The Theatre School. 

The days to follow the election were raw at TTS, many students having various conflicting feelings about the results. Never minding which candidate students voted for, either way it was evident the student body needed, and still needs, a way to process this event, to acknowledge their feelings positive or negative. They need a way to talk about the ways their own lives have been and will be impacted. Most importantly they need a space to do these things. At The Theatre School, specific classrooms were designated as spaces open spaces for students to come and express their feelings, to be heard, or simply to feel safe to process. Faculty opened up office hours to students who needed support, allowing them to have resources in a turbulent time.

They need a way to talk about the ways their own lives have been and will be impacted. Most importantly they need a space to do these things. They need a way to talk about the ways their own lives have been and will be impacted. Most importantly they need a space to do these things.

In many ways a time like election season can really seem to divide people. And in this divide, we as a community can be pulled farther apart, and truly give in to the fears and sadness, or other overwhelming feelings we have. For the students at TTS involved in politically charged plays, it was quite a trying time, and left many students feeling emotional about what this material means now that the election is over, and a decision has been made. Many students did not want to come to class, to complete their shows, to keep on working. But in this time of uncertainty, this is the time when we go to work. This is the time we come together, and build each other. This is the time when we as artists are needed most, to reflect on the climate, to imagine a future, create light where there is darkness. This is when we have to answer the call to action to protect all of our students, to encourage them to find their voices, and to respect others in that process as well. 

Democracy
In this call to action this past week, a few events have happened signifying this transformation of alarm, into art, into action in the face of adversity.  First and foremost, we carried on. Two casts closed shows that focused on elections and political themes, we went to class and completed our finals, allowing ourselves to be empowered and not diminished. On walls of the school questions have been posted, and students have posted notes beneath them describing how they feel, what they think and want, and what comes next. Additionally, lighting design students set up a final project exhibit called the Unity Wall in the lobby of the Theatre School using student responses to the election and thoughts of inspiration and good will and displayed them, suspended and lit for all to see on a wall labeled “democracy”. After the showing these messages will be sent to our state senators. Students have left saying they feel as if it is more important than ever for them to get involved in the causes they believe in. They feel the change that this makes to the drive behind their art, and their activism. From putting up political work that highlights our differences and histories, to taking a step back to work that focuses more on common humanity and love across culture, we are feeling the pulse of the people come alive.

In these small ways, we as a student body are able to come together in a time of divide, confusion, and change. As a community we do benefit from a variety of differences in identity and opinion, but we do not benefit from these being used to diminish others, or segregate ourselves entirely from those that are different from us. Seeing these small steps in action, and making attempts to bring us all together for collective growth lightens my spirits in an uncertain time. 

I know that this is only foreshadowing for greater things to come. 

Acing the Audition

For many students in their last year of undergrad, in addition to finishing up their studies, and enjoying the last moments of their college experiences, a lot of time and energy is spent planning the next steps. For some this means making connections, learning about possible career paths, securing jobs and internships, making plans for graduate degrees, travel, and more. As I have mentioned before, the 4th year of the acting program makes a lot of moves to prepare graduating students for the professional world of acting. One way to prepare students for the profession, is preparing them for the real job of an actor - auditioning. 

For actors, auditioning is the way to get in the door, get in the room, and get a job in the world of professional theatre. This is a time for you to make an impression with casting directors, directors, producers, and the creative team of a project, or particular theatre. It is of extreme importance to make the most out of your auditions, those few minutes in the room make a big impact on those watching. For those watching, ideally, they get to meet you and get a sense of who you are, see your work, and find out if you might be right for their project or season. 

Auditions
Additionally, it doesn’t always matter if you book the specific role you are auditioning for. What I mean by this is that sometimes those watching may not find you a perfect fit for the project at hand, but if they like your work, and you as a person, they are likely to call you back in the future or recommend you for other projects. You really never know what they can lead to in the future. This is the reason why it is important to work on getting confident and comfortable with auditioning. The best way to do this is through practice, and luckily the 4th year of the acting program gives you the chance to do just that. 

In the BFA performance program, students take multiple quarters of audition classes, to learn how to prepare, practice coming into the room, and presenting material. Over this fall quarter, 4th year students participated in an audition class that took the practice to the next level, by inviting guests to come watch. This class met once a week, for 2.5 hours every Friday. The first few weeks of class were spent searching for monologues that fit your “type” or personality well, and rapid fire working them to presentation readiness. Other classes focused on cold-reading scenes, presenting scenes without much preparation or information. Many times when auditioning for a role, you will be sent ‘sides’, or short scenes to prepare to bring in. The goal is to come in with strong choices, even under a time crunch. Later in the quarter, guests were invited to come in and watch our auditions and give feedback. Professionals from various theatres around Chicago, including Timeline Theatre, Writers Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre​, and more, watched us all perform our monologues and gave their honest feedback to help up reach our best potential. Then they sat down with us and spoke with us about the industry, auditioning in the future, and shared some tips and stories about their experiences working in Chicago theatre, and more. This was extremely informative and it was helpful to get an outside perspective on our work so far, and get some really helpful advice moving forward. This is a great way for us to learn, but also to make connections with professionals in the city, that we may be auditioning for in the future. Classes like this make me look forward to getting more experience and practice over the next quarter, and then taking on the real world! 

Preparing for Winter

Finals week is finally a wrap, and we are headed into the long winter vacation, before returning for classes in January. It is time my annual rant about the importance of self-care, especially during the harsh winter months. I want to share some things I plan to do personally to prepare for winter quarter, and why I find it important.

I want to keep things honest. Last year was really hard for me. I made it through, I got good grades, I learned a lot, but there were many times during my junior year when I felt overwhelmed, and helpless. It can be hard for me to admit that I had a hard time getting through it and that I don’t always have everything figured out. I can be the type of person that doesn’t admit they need help, because of my independence and need to figure things out for myself. It can be embarrassing, but I have learned over the past year, to admit this about myself. I share this personal information because I know I am not alone in this.
 
Winter is Coming
Many college students over the course of their 4 or so years encounter hard times. Yes, sometimes college can be Frisbee on the quad, great friends, loving your classes, living care free, but in control of your destiny. I have had countless great memories and moments like those we hope for in a college experience. But sometimes college is overwhelming, hard, and lonely. Especially in the harsh Chicago winters. Everything seems a little bit harder in winter. When it is so cold outside, it can be hard to want to go walk to train to get to class, go outside to run errands and more. When it is darker, colder, harsher it can really effect on us in various ways. Winter quarter of my junior year, I was overwhelmed by the role I was playing on stage, my coursework, and personal life. It took a toll on my physical and mental well being, as well as my personal relationships. I didn’t know exactly how to express how I was feeling, or how to ask for help. I made poor health decisions by eating my feelings and skipping exercise. It took me a few months, and some distance from those situations to finally feel like my awesome self again, but I know that it was rough for a while. Thinking back on this, I know that I do not want to let myself fall into an unfortunate place like that again this year. I have too many things to do, and want to get through my last year of school loving life. So I have decided to draft a game-plan of sorts, to make sure I make it through winter not only surviving, but thriving. 

When speaking to a dear friend, I mentioned that I was creating a game plan for myself, and asked for any input or suggestions on how to craft this. While everyone should think of their plan as highly personal and specific to oneself, he gave me a couple things to think on. He suggested I focus on 3 main goals: something physical, mental and personal. I take Barre ​classes, so focusing on fitness goals there is something substantial to focus on, where I can see tangible progress. Also, learning something new, with some books of choice, practicing my Spanish or teaching myself to cook new recipes. That way I can feel that I am working toward something real, and enjoyable. And personal things are leaving room in your life for things that personally bring you joy and a sense of accomplishment. For me this might be trying new food, new music, creative tasks and writing that bring me a sense of peace, but also push me forward. 

Of course, when coming up with these tasks, they are to supplement and fill out my life, so I can still balance schoolwork, plays, and more. These are things that can give me a well rounded sense of self. I would recommend to anyone thinking about the upcoming quarter and winter season, to take a few moment to think about what they can do as preventative care and planning to make it that much easier and more enjoyable. Winter is hard but I am determined to make it through, and you can too! 

The Theatre School Drag Show

The students behind Support Tomorrow’s Rising Stars (STR*S), are back at it again with another ridiculously fun event, the Drag Show! This is a quarterly event, that STR*S has been holding the last couple of years that is fun for all involved. Hosted by the BFA 4 class, the Drag Show is an event where theatre school students of any year and discipline can sign up to perform in front of guests in the The Theatre School's main Lobby. Students create their own Drag characters, complete with costumes, makeup, wigs, a stage name, and killer confidence. 
  
ST*RS
Daniella Mazzio and Arie Thompson swap gender roles in an exciting scene together at the Drag Show 
A few Fridays ago, we kicked off our first of 3 Drag Shows of this year, but this time, it had a little twist - competition. Traditionally it has been a show for all to participate and enjoy, but this time, all participants were competing to be crowned winner of the Fall 2016 TTS Drag Show. There were 8 competitors in total, both men and women creating a complete cast of fabulous characters. First each competitor in the line up was introduced by a fierce host “Ayabria”, STR*S member and 4th year actor Ayanna Bakari. When each performer took the stage, they were illuminated by the glow of gorgeous pink lighting and bright spot lights. The music was bumping as each performer went on to Lip Sync to a self chosen track, dancing for their lives, while the audience cheered, clapped and danced along in their seats. The energy in the room was alive as the hour long show went from serious to sexy to surprising, the audience and participants as equally invested in the moment. It was a-ma-zing. 

 
ST*RS
Host Ayabria (Ayanna Bakari) struts her stuff down the runway
 
The event was truly a success, creating a decent turnout, and even better turn UP, supporting STR*S fundraising goals, but also supporting each student’s ability to express themselves in a way we often don’t get to see in our day to day lives at school. Some guests were skeptical, as some of the most noted performers from past years have graduated, and they wondered what would happen with this new generation of the Drag Show and its participants. However, guests walked out singing the songs they heard throughout the night, and talking about their ideas for ways they could be a part of it next quarter. This is exactly the goal in mind when STR*S host an event of this nature. To bring the school together to have fun and let loose, with events that get the student body excited about ways they can also be a part of the action, and look forward to what’s to come. 
​​

Opening Night: Eurydice

Midterms have come and gone, and life in my little part of campus is just as busy as ever! The last couple of weeks have been a blur running from here to there, rehearsal to tech to performances, juggling class work, homework and just plain life work. But at the end of this very crazy workweek, the community at The Theatre School was rewarded by seeing another work of art come to life on stage. This past weekend marked the opening of yet another TTS Mainstage production, this time in our versatile Healy black box theatre, located inside the new Theatre School building on Fullerton and Racine. Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, was the second of three Mainstage productions to open this Fall quarter at DePaul. I was able to attend opening night of this gorgeous show, and while it took a lot of hard work to put up for all involved, it certainly was something to be proud of. 
  
Orpheus
Orpheus, played by MFA actor Keith Illidge sings at the gates of hell in Eurydice. Photo by Sophie Hartler 
Eurydice is a modern play with a twist on the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice; it is a beautifully written and poetic story of love, everlasting bonds, and the mysteries of the afterlife.   Our website describes the tale: 
 “Eurydice and Orpheus are young and in love. On their wedding night, Eurydice meets a man who claims to have a letter from her deceased father. She pursues the letter but dies in the effort. Orpheus descends into the Underworld to save her, and Eurydice must choose between a life with her husband and the certainty of her father's unconditional love”

This play is one that I have seen many times and know very well. For me, this is unusual, as I typically see a lot of plays I have never read or do not have any preconceived ideas about. I have seen this play 3 times in the last few years, and even performed in it myself during my high school years of acting competitions and festivals. The lovely thing about Friday night’s performance, was that I was able to see the play in a new and exciting way, seeing my ideas of the characters and the (under) world they inhabit in a fresh way that may have challenged how I thought about them before. The design of the show was stellar in my opinion, and created really striking memorable and moving moments, that I am still thinking about. Especially for myself, as a very visual person, the images I witnessed in the show were quite striking. I was so proud of the work I saw on stage that night, and really impressed to see the growth by many of the artists involved.
 
Eurydice
The lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, played by MFA Actors Keith Illidge and Sola Thompson. Photo by Joseph Clavel 
The production team includes scenic design by Joy Ahn, costume design by Emilee Orton, lighting design by Simean Carpenter, and sound design by Connor Ciesil.

The cast features Edward Hall (Big Stone), Keith Ilidge (Orpheus), Sarah Serebian (Little Stone), Kiah Stern (Loud Stone), Michael Stock (Father), Sam Straley (Man/Child), and Sola Thompson (Eurydice), all directed by MFA director Michael Burke. 

To any and all around the Lincoln Park area, looking to see an unusual, and undoubtedly gorgeous piece of theatre, I encourage you to come see Eurydice now through the end of October at The Theatre School at DePaul. Student tickets are always $5. For more information about our season visit our website and stay tuned for info on the last mainstage of the Fall season, Romeo and Juliet, coming next week. As always, stay great DePaulians!
 

The Kid Who Ran for President

The Theatre School mainstage season has officially begun with this week’s opening of the Chicago Playworks production, The Kid Who Ran for President.  The Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences series is a wonderful DePaul tradition.

These shows are fully produced each quarter just as our other mainstage productions, with a team of dedicated student actors, dramaturgs, designers and technicians for the lighting, set, sound and costumes, and often headed by a faculty director. These shows take place downtown at the historic Merle Reskin Theatre, now a venue specifically used for these children’s shows.  The stories told on this stage are often adaptations of well-known books for kids, or spins on popular characters and important figures, creating a mixture of classic and new material. Chicago schools and families are then invited to join us for 90 minutes in the magic of theatre.

This election season is kicked off rather appropriately with The Kid Who Ran for President by Jeremiah Clay Neal, and directed by Chicago Playworks Artistic Director, Ernie Nolan. This is a stage musical adaptation of the children’s book by the same name written by Dan Gutman. Here is a short description of the play:

“When sixth grader Judson Moon runs for President of the United States under the guidance of his campaign manager and best friend Lane, the campaign trail is turned upside down. Can Judson deliver on his promises once he is elected? This musical comedy full of hope and song brings some common sense and a rockin' pizza party to the White House, if only for a few days.”
The Kid Who Ran For President

This play hopes to engage its young audience in the conversation about our upcoming presidential election, the importance of good leadership, the power of privilege, and will explore what would happen if indeed a kid ran for president. Throughout the show, the kids in the audience are asked to be a part of the action by voicing their own political opinions, cheering along, and by seeing other “kids” engage in politics on stage, we hope to show them that they can in fact, change the world.

With its catchy songs, and interesting characters, audience members young and old are in for a wacky and rather relevant morning of theatre. I have already heard the songs and cannot wait to see it this weekend! With young characters, a striking parallel to our current election, and both kids and grown ups will appreciate, “Kid Prez”, can be enjoyed by a wide audiences of theatre goers. It is always the goal of our productions to stay current and relevant to the our community in Chicago, and by picking themes that align with a current climate, hoping to draw the most crowds and have the most impact on our audiences.

This show is now open and runs through November 12th, 2016. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:00am and Saturdays at 2:00pm. There are plenty of chances to see it, so do not miss out!

For more information about this show, our season, ticketing and more visit the TTS Website.

ST*RS Have a Ball

ST*RS
Each year, the graduating class of The Theatre School has the opportunity to be a part of a unique organization called ST*RS (pronounced “stars”). This stands for Support Tomorrow’s Rising Stars. Each year the graduating BFA 4 and MFA 3 class in a variety of majors may choose to join this organization in the hopes of helping with the many costs of the transition into the professional world. The main objective of ST*RS is to raise money for all of the students involved to pay for costs related to flights to showcase, headshots, portfolios and more. As a graduating student, there are many of these costs to consider, and it can be quite overwhelming. By joining ST*RS, students can plan and facilitate events throughout the year, where the proceeds can then be collected and divided among it’s members at the end of the year. Our organization has created many different ways to earn some dough, from holding a pop up Café in the lobby, to dances, to Drag Shows, game tournaments and more. The goal has always been to host events, and, yes, collect the proceeds, while simultaneously creating unifying activities for our school, and a chance for students of all disciplines to come together and have fun. Having been in TTS for the past 3 years, I have been to many ST*RS events, but now have the chance to be a part of the action making these events become a reality for us. 

ST*RS
Now that Fall is officially upon us, ST*RS kicked off the season with their first major event, Fall Ball. Fall Ball is fun night of dancing and socializing at TTS. A dance is held in our Healy Theatre​ on campus, complete with lighting, décor, and a rockin’ DJ. Guests are invited to dress up, bring dates and friends, to dance the night away, enjoy delicious refreshments, and celebrate the start of a new year in style. As a junior I attended the Fall Ball of 2015 and had a truly wonderful night, and could not wait to be a part of it this year, this time as a member of ST*RS. On Friday evening, students and guests were greeted in the Lobby of the Theatre School, and directed to our versatile Healy Black Box Theatre, on the 4th floor. There they were met with harvest themed décor, a TTS Step and Repeat where they could pose for pictures taken by our student photographer, and refreshments out on the patio. Upon entering the theatre, attendees enjoyed fun playlists supplied by our DJ, and an open dance floor waiting to be torn up. The changing colored lights of the Healy set the mood for a lovely time, and pretty view overlooking Fullerton Ave. I know for myself as an acting major, I frequently spend most of my time in movement clothes, yoga pants and sneakers for my classes. So it was so enjoyable to get dressed up with my friends, and (with the risk of sounding dorky) have a night of good clean fun! While there were not as many people in attendance as the year before, I believe the students who attended had quite a fun evening. I know that ST*RS is looking forward to more fun events throughout the rest of Fall Quarter and the rest of the year - I’ll be sure to keep you all updated as well! Until then, the Fall Ball was a great way to usher in the Fall Season, to celebrate the new school year, and bring our school together in a fun and exciting way.

Health and Fitness in College

Today I want to talk about something sort of unrelated to life in The Theatre School, but connected to college life in general. You my have guessed it by the title of my post -- it’s Health and Fitness in college. I’d like to be open and honest about this subject, in hopes that it may help other current or prospective students. 

Personally, health and fitness have not always come easily to me growing up. Before college I never really played sports regularly, or learned great nutritional habits. Even when I arrived as a freshman, I was intimidated by the Gym - a place I’d never been before - and unsure how to navigate the dining areas in the healthiest ways. In fact, when I came to college I encountered the infamous “Freshman 15”. Before college I had always heard this phrase, a colloquialism for the time when many new college students gain weight (in this case a theoretical 15lbs), due to poor food options, choices and more.  After a few months of college, and hibernating through the harsh Chicago Winter, I found that my clothes didn’t fit anymore, and I wasn’t feeling good in various ways. While it is embarrassing to me to admit that I have dealt with this, I know that at colleges all over the country, many students deal with the challenge of staying healthy and fit in college. Here at DePaul, the Student Center - where campus dining is located is open very late, and with your meal plan only a swipe away - food, snacks, and sweet treats seemed always available. While I had access to the gym, I had never had a regular fitness regimen, and was intimidated to go in the first place. For many students starting college, added to lack of sleep, and more, it can be easy to put on a few pounds. Or, at least it was for me. Now that I am a senior, I have a more consistent health and fitness regimen that helps me stay feeling my best - although it hasn’t been easy to get here. Here I want to share some resources that DePaulians can take advantage of to make healthy choices that are right for them. 

The Ray
The first resource to take advantage of is the Ray Meyer Fitness Center​ on the DePaul Lincoln Park Campus. While I was quite intimidated to go to “the Ray” my first year, I encourage any student to go (your student fees get you all access with your student ID)! For those who are already fitness experts, and those who are new to it like I was, the Ray is the place to be, I swear. With rows and rows of fitness equipment and machines, students and members can find almost anything to add to their workout. The Ray also holds scheduled daily group fitness classes from dance to interval training to cycling, as well as opportunities to connect with personal trainers staffed right here at the Gym. The Ray had endless resources for fitness and fun, with intramural sports, camping equipment rentals, special events and classes and more all designed to help students and members stay active, healthy and happy. 

The second place to keep an eye out for is the Student Center, affectionately called “The Stu”. This is where dining services is held, with all the food options for students who live on campus. There are many different options available, from salad bar to burgers and fries. Having so much available was not so great for me my first year, but I admit as someone who knowingly struggles with nutrition and weight, I should have gone in with a plan. Getting pints of Ben and Jerry’s and late night curly fries are undoubtedly part of anyone’s college experience, but finding balance and making healthier choices on the regular can sometimes be a challenge. I advise anyone new to their dining hall, who wants to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15, to go in with a plan, do what makes you feel your best, and enjoy all things in life and college in moderation. 

It took me well into my college years to really figure out how to make choices to be my healthiest and best self, and is something that still takes a lot of work. For others it may come easier, but for any students current and future who wonder or worry- know that the struggle is real, you are not alone, and DePaul has some awesome resources to help you enjoy college in the healthiest and happiest way. 

To learn more about the Ray Meyer Fitness Center, visit their website here at Campus recreation.


Daring to Dream

​Many have said that as young college students yet to enter the “real world,” that a great unknown lies before us. The world is our oyster, the possibilities are endless, and our whole lives are ahead of us, waiting to unfold in amazing and surprising ways. When you really think about it, it is pretty true. College is the small chunk of time in the transition between adolescence and adulthood where one can explore and learn about the world, themselves, and what they want for the future. Being in my last year of undergrad has made me become very reflective on my true passions and desires, and well as contemplating the many possibilities for what can happen post-grad.

As a 4th year acting student, I am currently taking an audition class, where we learn how best to prepare for the world of auditioning for professional theatre. Within this course we discuss the realities of the business, and ways to be successful. One required text for this course is the book, “The Actor’s Business Plan”, written by former Theatre School professor and acting coach, Jane Drake Brody. This book guides the reader through preparation for the business of acting, and life. The first assignment I had to complete is creating a list of dreams. This seemingly simple assignment has really had an impact on the way I am examining the possibilities for my future, and has made me reflect on the importance of dreaming big.

Textbook
In this assignment, you create lists of your biggest, truest dreams in many categories. The dreams are broken down into categories for Career, Personal, Financial, Educational, and Community Service dreams. Your task is simply to begin listing your dreams for each of these areas of your life.

Growing up, we were often told to dream big, but as you get older, there is sometimes a pressure not to admit what your truest, grandest dreams are because they might not be realistic, they might not come true. There is an aspect of practicality that makes it hard to say what would honestly be your dream. This assignment took the pressure off and allowed me to truly evaluate my ultimate dreams for the future. In the days since I completed it, I have been noticing the importance of dreaming big. Before I wrote them all down, I didn’t even realize that some of these things on my list were dreams of mine at all! I believe that the bigger you dream, the greater success you can have. Even if your accomplishments don’t turn out exactly as you had them on paper, it is still important to name the dreams you have. To paraphrase what my audition teacher tells our class, don’t prepare for failure! There will undoubtedly come times when you fail at things in life, but don’t count on that. Count on making these dreams a reality.

I want to encourage all young people to take a good look at your dreams, and write them down. No one else has to see them, but if you are honest with yourself, you set yourself up for the possibility of them coming true with hard work and determination. Be great DePaulians!

Interested in learning more? Check out The Actor’s Business Plan: A Career Guide for the Acting Life by Jane Drake Brody, available on Amazon.

Welcome Back Blog

Happy fall, DePaulians! For those who don’t know me, my name is Samantha Newcomb, and I am a senior majoring in Acting at the Theatre School at DePaul

Holy cow, that may be one of the first times I have introduced myself that way (as a senior), and it is blowing my mind just a bit.  
School is back in session and I have already experienced a huge milestone. Wednesday was my LAST first day of school! It sounds crazy coming out of my mouth, but now that I am in my senior year of college, this is the last time I will experience the thrills of “back to school” (yes, okay, maybe some day I’ll go to grad school but not right away). Simply remembering that this is my last year of school –ever really puts things into perspective. For the last 17 years I have focused on nothing but school. Putting all my efforts into my studies and getting good grades, all the time and energy spent on getting to middle school, high school, choosing a good college. The time has certainly flown by, and while I consider myself a life-long learner, it really is amazing to me that I am facing my very last year of consecutive study. Next stop, getting my degree!

DePaul Campus
This year is really unique, because it is focused on the transition from academia to the professional world. For my course of study, this means focusing less on the “how to” of acting itself, and shifting toward the business aspects of the arts industry. Topics include auditioning, compiling good resumes and headshots, getting agents for representation upon graduation and more. Of course as many people put it, we are facing entry into the “real world.” I am both nervous and excited for this process, and hope to share my experiences with you all along the way! 

Other things I am looking forward to this fall:

Typical autumn things - changing leaves, fall clothing, warmer beverages and cooler temps 

Reuniting with my frie​nds and classmates - 3(ish) months apart is a long time!

My new classes -  I am taking a mixture of classes on familiar and new topics including Musical Theatre, Meisner Acting Technique, Movement to Music, Auditioning, and Rehearsal and Performance. Now that I am in my last year, my classes are entirely focused on my major. 

My Fall Show - Updates on this to come! 

I can say that I am genuinely excited to begin my senior year, and really soak up all I can in my last year at DePaul. I can already tell that it will be an eye opening, challenging, and growth-filled year. I have many goals for myself academically, professionally, and personally, that I hope to accomplish. I want to do well and work hard in class, and on stage, but I am really trying to keep in mind the need to have fun and enjoy it along the way! I know that I can often be too focused on doing the right things or on the goals I have, that I forget that college is supposed to be an enjoyable time to learn, explore, and have FUN! Life is about the journey.

Welcome back to all in the DePaul Community, I hope you are as excited to start Fall Quarter 2016 as I am! Stay tuned as I fill you all in on the happenings at The Theatre School, my life as a senior and more. 

Until then, be well and do good! 

Design Tech Showcase

​Being a part of the performance program often limits my view to all the things going on in the performance department at TTS. However, there are so many different majors in The Theatre School, all working hard every day to learn and create in their prospective disciplines. The Design/Tech students make up a great portion of the student population, all studying design and construction in their  specialties in lighting, scenic, costume, sound, dramaturgy, directing and more. Now that it is summer, the design/tech students have finished many of their large projects and designs that they have been working on in their classes and MainStage shows all year long. 

During finals week, the many students proudly display their work in the lobby and scene shop of The Theatre School building. Each student has their own board displaying their research, concepts, process, and representations of their final product, including photos, drawing, models, and fully constructed items.  The school can tend to be very separated, not allowing students of other disciplines to see what their peers have been working on for so long. Being in such an open and accessible area as the Lobby, surrounded by windows and natural light, it is easy for all to view the wonderful creations made by the talented students of DePaul. 

TTS
Personally, as I walked through the exhibition, I was inspired and in awe of all the work that it takes to bring all of these designs to fruition. I have seen many of the shows and final products on stage, but I find it fascinating to see the process that one goes through before it comes to life. Seeing the mini models of sets I've walked on, or renderings of dresses I've seen in plays really makes me appreciate the talented and hardworking students all working toward one common goal. It reminds me to step outside my little bubble and appreciate what goes on all around. 

Combat Scene Showings: A Different Kind of Final Exam

The first two weeks of June are a much anticipate time at DePaul, as we come to the end of the year it is indeed time for FINALS.  There is so much energy both mental and physical that goes into the preparation the of final papers, projects, exams, and more. Here at The Theatre School, we absolutely have tests and papers to complete, but here finals can come in many forms. For the performance classes, given the content of the curriculum, a written paper cannot be enough to show how to the work is applied. This is where final scenes and monologues come into play. 

One class that all performance majors (and a few other theatre majors) take is Stage Combat. This is a class to learn the skills of fighting on stage. This includes hand-to-hand skills, like slaps, punches, kicks, and more. We learn Rapier and Dagger as well - yes, sword fighting is required here! 

In your second year of the Acting program, you learn all of these techniques in a special class designed to help you learn how to apply all of these to scene work. The point is not to learn how to fake punch someone, or sword fight for fun. The point is to learn how to do these things when they are in service of telling the story in a play. We then know how to safely execute these things, so they look convincing to the audience, to tell the story, but keep all involved safe from actual harm. As an upperclassman, acting students may take Advanced Stage Combat class as an elective. This is to sharpen the skills already learned sophomore year, and to learn new techniques with different kinds of stage weapons.

combat
Senior Sam Krey and junior Michael Edward Cohen practice their rapier and dagger skills in an intense classical scene
At the end of the quarter of stage combat class, there is a final scene showing, where the students pick scenes from plays to including hand-to-hand or sword fighting. The goal is really the acting work, the necessary staged fights are not simply a duel for all to watch! The students are tested on the execution of their skills in class, and then have an evening showing that the school is invited to come and watch.  

Last night I attended the final combat scene showing and had such a great time! The scenes ranged from silly to scary, featuring very convincing sword thrusts, face slaps, and gut kicks. It is always so fun to come together and celebrate the hard (and sweaty) work of the students as they show their skills in action. It has been over a year since I took that class, and watching the scenes I was wondering if I was getting a little rusty! Overall it is an interesting hour packed with creative, hard work from the students. 

While this isn't a 10-page paper or written exam, it takes just as much hard work to learn, practice, and present. These may seem like unusual, cool, or easy finals compared to many other classes or programs, but they are skills that are just as valuable to our careers and our safety in our craft.   

Closing Reflections: My Last Show of the Year

The end of the year marked the closing of a very long run of Peter Pan and Wendy, the show I was in during Spring Quarter of this year. This was the closing of my last show of junior year, and it has left me feeling very reflective of my experiences this year, all the things that I have learned, and facing Senior Year (whoa). At TTS only junior and senior actors (as well as 2nd and 3rd year MFA actors) can audition and perform in the many official productions. This time last year I was just thinking about how crazy it felt to finally be facing junior year, and finally be in the casting pool for the MainStage shows. There was so much uncertainty and nervousness and excitement around what it would be like to be an upperclassman, and be in a real show.  Now, a year later, I have just finished my third MainStage show, and looking straight in the face of my last year of undergrad, and my last 3 shows. It is an equally exciting and nervous place to be, but for different reasons. I now have an understanding of how the process works and of the work I need to do to be successful. 

Here are some things I've learned from the three shows I was in this year, and greatest memories. 

Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson-on the Fullerton Stage: 

Play 1
What I learned: This was my favorite show experience this year, and will always remain very special to me. A lot of this is due to the fact that it was my very first real production in college, and my first MainStage show. During this process and in exploring the role of Zonia Loomis, an 11 year old living in 1910, I learned to follow my instincts and really have fun in the work. They call it a play for a reason! This show taught me that I can have a truly safe, collaborative, fun, and wonderful experience creating a piece of theatre, when all involved truly love and care about the work in the same way. 

My favorite memory: The connections I made with the entire team are so special to me. Also, in the rehearsal process we explored rhythm, singing, and dancing  in a way that was improvisational and came from the heart. 

In the Blood by Susan-Lori Parks- in the Healy Theatre: 

In the Blood by Susan-Lori Parks- in the Healy Theatre:
What I learned: In this process I played a young homeless mother of five, struggling to beat the odds and create a better life for her family-but is ultimately destroyed by the forces around her. This role was very challenging to work on, given the size of the role and circumstances of the story. I will admit that I was very scared to work on this role. But after the process I learned that while it is okay to be scared, the only way to get the work done is to face it head on, and proceed step by step. I learned to be an advocate for myself and that I need to work on communicating my needs as an actor in the process. I learned that I can do things I didn't know I was capable of. 

Greatest memory: The bond I created with some of the cast members of this show. Also, on opening and closing night, sharing with each other the ways in which we were proud of each other. 

Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie - in the Merle Reskin Theatre:

Peter Pan and Wendy byJ.M. Barrie- in the Merle Reskin Theatre:
What I learned: In this play I had two ensemble roles of the Neverbird and one of Captain Hook's pirates. During this process I was able to apply some of the things that I had been learning in the classroom over the last couple of years in some different ways. The Merle Reskin Theatre, located in The Loop, is the largest stage and theatre that we perform on at TTS. Such a large space and large audience demands you fill it up and send the story up and out so everyone in the audience can receive it. I got to play with my voice work to be heard in such a large space, and play with different voices for a bird, and for a pirate. I got to explore my movement work also in exploring bird-like movement, and playing a scruffy male pirate. Also, I took the acting lesson "Never let yourself get bored" into account and always switched up my point of view or actions on stage as a pirate. Because I was in the background and still serving the story, it was fun to play around with different things, just for myself. 

Greatest memory: Wearing awesome costumes made by the students at TTS! 

I have learned all of this in process, even more in the classroom and even more outside of the classroom. Being a part of these has taught me about acting, about life, and about myself. I look forward to many new learning experiences in the shows next year! 

Wrights of Spring 2016

Now that spring quarter is in its final few weeks, most of the productions at The Theatre School have closed, but the hard work and creativity is still full steam ahead. 

It is now the time of year for Wrights of Spring, a special event showcasing new work created by students here at TTS. Playwriting students have been working hard writing and revising new work throughout the year. Wrights of Spring is the moment these writer get to share their work with a larger audience of students, faculty, and guests. 

These pieces range from shorter one-acts, to full length plays that are presented in staged readings. The playwrights cast other students from across disciplines in the roles they have created and often team up with student directors to come together to share their stories. 

For nearly two weeks there are daily showings of these brand new works. At any of these readings you will see dozens of audience members crowding into classrooms and theatre spaces. Each playwright sets up the space differently, perhaps with suggestive set elements, some with a bare stage, with fully staged action or actors standing behind music stands delivering the playwrights words. However it may be, audiences witness the actors, scripts in hand, present these new works. Often it is the first time the playwright gets to hear their piece outside of their classes. They have been working tirelessly to craft their plays throughout the year, and finally get to see how their play is received by a wider audience. This is a chance to hear what is working, and what is not, so they can continue improve and sharpen their writing. It is also a celebration of the talent we have among us here at TTS. This is a fun, supportive and amazingly creative event, with dozens of new plays showcased during these two weeks. 

The culmination of this event is the opening of the New Playwrights Series showcase production. This is when a student playwright’s work is chosen to be fully produced on the MainStage. This season that show is "The Women Eat Chocolate" written by 4th year Caroline Macon, starring BFA III and IV actors, and directed by Heidi Stillman, who among many things is known for her work at Lookingglass Theatre ​here in Chicago. 

On the TTS website there is a description of this World Premiere play:

"At age 13 Alexandra Appleton is certain she's a poet. Her life spirals out of control when her younger sister, Dot, passes her in the race to womanhood. After a psychedelic trip, Alex struggles to distinguish fantasy from reality. Are the adults in Alex's life out to get her? Is her poetry teacher more than just a friendly mentor? And most importantly, will Alex's body catch up to her brains?"

This is a beautiful written play that I am truly excited to see it on stage. 

Spring is undoubtedly the season of growth and here we are see some budding new work! 

On Campus Jobs

If there is one statement that goes without saying, it is that college is expensive! No matter where you go, public or private, trade program or 4 year university, it all costs big bucks. DePaul offers many scholarship, grant, and loan options to help finance your education, and make getting a degree affordable. But what about the other stuff? 

It is always nice, and often necessary, to have a little money on the side to take care of other costs related to school or your personal life. Depending on your schedule at school, the possibility of internships or paid part-time jobs can vary a lot. For me, I have a very busy class and rehearsal schedule from 8am to about 10pm every day. This makes it difficult to squeeze in an outside part-time jobs that work with my student schedule. I am sure this is true for many students. But we still need to make money, gain skills and experience, and build our resumes, right? That is where on-campus student jobs come in. There are a variety of campus jobs that students can have. At The Theatre School, I have a position as an office assistant to my Voice and Speech professor. I help with clerical duties such as copying and filing, organization, scheduling, and any other tasks my teacher needs help with in order to go teach her classes as efficiently as possible. This position is great for me because I get to spend time with a professor I really like, doing simple work throughout the day. The best part about it is that it works well with my crazy schedule. I can spend my hour breaks in between classes and rehearsals performing my duties, because I often don't have many consecutive hours to work. This position was offered to me by a professor, and I know that many professors throughout the entire university have students who help them with their office tasks. There are, however, many different jobs that one can hold on campus here at DePaul, at any campus location. 

A great way to find out what is available is to visit the DePaul Campus Job Board. This is a webpage managed by the DePaul Office of Student Employment​. To do this simply visit the Student Employment webpage and login as a student using your school-issued Campus Connect username and password. Next click on the tab that reads "Jobs" on the top of the page and you will see a new page that looks like this:

This page lists all of the student jobs that are available now. On the right hand side of the screen you will see options to refine your search. This page enables you to look at student jobs by department, campus locations and more. Some jobs require more experience than others and are clearly labeled here as to whether they are entry level to experienced job opportunities. By clicking the link to each job you will see the description of the job, and the requirements to apply for the position. Need an entry level job on the Loop campus? No problem, able to take a more experienced position at the Lincoln Park location? You can find that here, too. On-campus student jobs are great because since they are made for students, the schedules are often very manageable around your class schedule, and there is a limit on the number of hours you can work in a week, because DePaul believes in giving opportunities, but that studies come first. ​

Finding a job off-campus is not too hard to do either. Being in a busy city, there are numerous businesses that hire. If there is a particular business or company you would like to work for, I recommend visiting their website or calling to see if there are positions available. Other ways to find part-time work to supplement your class schedule are to visit job search engines, such as Handshake, Snagajob, Indeed, and more. Or visit the DePaul Career Center. And never doubt the power of word-of-mouth. Put it out there that you are looking for work, spread the word, and often you will come across someone who knows of a position that is available and might be the right fit! 

College is expensive and students are busy, but trust me, using this handy Job Board site, and keeping your eyes open can absolutely lead to part-time jobs that will work for you as much as you work for them!

Shakespeare Celebration at Navy Pier

The first week of May commemorates the anniversary of the death of an amazing literary figure: William Shakespeare. I recently attended an event to celebrate this anniversary out on Navy Pier. Navy Pier, a common tourist location in Chicago, is home to the renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Year round, CST honors the legacy of the most famous writer in the English language, by producing his classic plays. This year, however, is something special. 2016 marks 400 years since the death of this amazing poet and playwright. When you think about it, it has been 400 years since Shakespeare has last written anything, and yet, four centuries later, the English speaking world still studies, performs, and cherishes his work as some of the best ever created! Now that’s a legacy.

On the anniversary of his death, and in celebration of his April birthday as well, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre set up a large fireworks display in his honor. Of course, when my friends and I heard this, we knew we had to be there. Shakespeare? Fireworks? FREE? I’m there. We took advantage of our handy dandy UPasses, and took the CTA ​directly to Navy Pier. When we arrived we saw hundreds of people, families, groups and individuals of all ages, congregated outside on the steps of the pier overlooking the water. Employees of CST handed out masks with Shakespeare’s face on it, we each took one, and entertained ourselves as we practiced reciting out Shakespeare monologues and sonnets disguised as the Bard himself. 

At 10:15 sharp, the pyrotechnic display commenced, to the awe of everyone there. The fireworks were exciting and beautiful, and over the loud speakers they played music from movies inspired by Shakespeare stories. It truly was dramatic. I was surprised so many people were in attendance, and wasn’t sure if everyone there even really knew Shakespeare’s work. However, it was a fun way to spend a windy, late-April night in the city, celebrating beautiful art, watching beautiful fireworks, and taking enjoying the cultural events Chicago has to offer. 

Admitted Students Weekend

When spring rolls around students all over the country are going through the same thing: making college decisions. The acceptance letters are in, the financial aid packages have arrived, and now there is one thing left to do: CHOOSE. While I am now in my junior year of my undergraduate career, I remember this time of year vividly, my senior year of high school trying to choose the right college to attend. I've briefly mentioned some of my experience choosing a school, but there is an event coming up at The Theatre School that is has got this on my mind. That event is Admitted Students Weekend. I remember as a high schooler going on countless college tours, reading endless pamphlets, and surfing around too many college websites. Sometimes these would be an overload of too much information, and sometimes not enough information, but the tours and pamphlets and websites don't always let you know what the student experience is really like at a college or university. Enter Admitted Students Weekend. I remember once I had received my acceptance letter to DePaul, I was beyond excited. But I had a big choice to make whether to attend DePaul, which had been my first choice at the time, or choose one of the many other options I had. A big thing to consider is fit - do I think I can fit here? Will I get not only the education I desire, but also the student experience I want? 

The Theatre School at DePaul hosts an awesome event to allow students to get a taste of just that. Students who have been accepted into one of the many different degree programs at TTS are invited in April to come to campus for Admitted students Weekend. This is a 2 to 3 day event where students who have been admitted get to truly experience the student life of people with their major. These prospective students get to spend the night in the dorms with current students with their same major, seeing for themselves what it is like to live on campus. They get to watch classes attended by current students to see what they are learning, and get to attend a demo class themselves to try out some of the work. This is a chance to meet some of the other students who may attend, meet current students, ask questions and feel the energy of the school. There are panels with current students and panels with alumni, answering any questions, addressing concerns, and sharing their own experiences. 

As a girl from the Pacific Northwest, who had never really been to Chicago other than to tour the schools, it was important to me to know more before making a huge decision to move all the way across the country. Also I knew that the other school I had visited really didn't feel right to me. In April of 2013, I got an invitation to attend Admitted Students Weekend, to come see what it is like to be an Acting Major​ at DePaul. I can honestly say that it is one of the best decisions that I made. With some objections from my parents, I found a way to get a ticket to Chicago to visit for the weekend. When I got here, I got to tour the school (this was not the beautiful 73 million dollar facility we have now), meet the students, ask questions and get a feel for it myself. I really had to ask myself, based on what I have seen and heard here, could I see myself here? I think that is a CRUCIAL question to ask yourself when picking a school. There are many factors to think about, for me they were location, cost, curriculum, diversity, and more. To be honest, cost was a huge one for me, coming from a single parent home. But to be even more honest, it was important to me to put the cost aside and ask myself is this where I see myself for the next 4 years? For me, the answer was yes. I loved the idea of conservatory style training paired with a well-rounded liberal arts education. I loved the idea of being in Chicago. I loved what I saw as a collaborative environment with committed students and artists. I loved the values DePaul has regarding service to our community and using the city as your classroom. These appealed to me greatly. 

I just received an email today saying that this coming weekend is Admitted Students Weekend at TTS, and to be on the lookout for ways to make the students feel welcome, and help them with their decision. It is crazy to me to be on the other end of the experience this time around, as I have the last few years. I am so grateful that DePaul hosted a weekend like this, as it really helped me make one of the biggest decisions in my life. My advice to anyone currently making their own college decision is to definitely attend any event offered such as the one I have just mentioned. But if you have only experienced the tours, and the photos and paragraphs that are scattered across the website, really ask yourself, "Can I see myself here? Will I get what I want out of my education and my experience?" Answer honestly, and go with your gut. Everything else will work itself out. 

This is a very exciting time of year, and I am very excited to see who decides to become a Blue Demon next fall. 

Peter Pan and Wendy

Spring quarter is in full swing and it is that time again for me to announce the current show I am working on, and tell you all a little about it! I am currently a part of the company of actors working on Peter Pan and Wendy. Each quarter, among the many shows produced at TTS, we also put up a children's show, or as we call it TYA - Theatre for Young Audiences. These are fully produced shows that are showcased at the Merle Reskin Theatre in the Loop. Before the new state-of-the-art Theatre School building was erected on Fullerton and Racine in 2013, all Main Stage shows were performed at the Merle Reskin Theatre downtown. Now that we have two new stages right here on the DePaul Lincoln Park campus, the Reskin is just for our Chicago Playworks Series, made up of plays for young audiences. Chicago public and private schools are invited to bring their students to see these magical productions as field trips on Tuesday and Thursday mornings throughout the week. In addition to these more formal outings, families across Chicago attend these wonderful plays as well. 

Right now we are in the middle of the tech process for Peter Pan and Wendy. This is the point of the rehearsal process where all the pieces come together. This includes lighting, sound, set and props, and costumes, all coming together to elevate the play, and bring it to life. Peter Pan and Wendy is a stage adaptation of the well-known children's book following the story of a young girl and her interaction with a young boy who simply won't grow up, together they take a magical adventure to Neverland, complete with flying, danger, and lessons learned in the process. 

While creating the show, the cast and director had the tricky challenge of creating the flying sequence, where Wendy and her siblings fly to Neverland with Peter Pan and his fairy friend Tinkerbell. This involved the whole cast, as we are using our bodies to create the magic illusion of flying. This involves a serious of lifts, and highly choreographed sequences to fly the characters through this magical world. This had been a high energy, exciting - and sweaty - process! 

Peter Pan and Wendy opens April 21st and runs through May 28th. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10am, and Saturdays at 2pm. If you are in the Chicago area, take advantage of this brighter weather and make your way downtown to see this magical world come to life at the Merle Reskin Theatre at 60 E Balbo Ave Chicago, IL 60604. 

Visit the TTS website​ for more information about this show and the others running this Spring. 

Here is my fellow cast member Kayla Raelle Holder being flown by other cast members.
 


Here I am, trying out some of the fun flying moves, with two strong members of the cast.
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The Art Institute and Chicago History Museum

Anyone who knows me knows that I love new experiences and learning new things. But anyone who knows me even better knows what I love more than that: Free Things. One of the great things about being a DePaul student is being able to take advantage of the connections throughout the city. One great opportunity for students right now is free admission to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago History Museum. These two great places offer free admission to DePaul students with your student ID. You better believe I have taken advantage of the opportunity! I have already gotten in to The Art Institute a couple of times, and have yet to scope out the Chicago History Museum - that is next on my list.

The Chicago History Museum
The Art Institute of Chicago​ is an art museum and school located downtown on Michigan Avenue. It is the second largest art museum in the United States, in fact. Walking through the museum, there are a countless exhibits and galleries displaying art from all over the world, ancient to contemporary. A friend and I went, taking advantage of our DePaul hook-up, and couldn't even make it through most of the exhibits in the hours we spent there. Our plan is to keep going back and tackling one section at a time, so we can really take it all in. There is so much about art, and the history of the world to learn by walking through the halls. Art, of course, is an expression of life, and it is always so interesting to me to see what is shaping or influencing the creation of these works. With free admission until this Fall (to my knowledge) any DePaul student should stop by and take a look at some of their favorite works, and learn something new as well. 
The Chicago History Museum​ is located in Lincoln Park - also home to DePaul! This museum, as you may have guessed, was erected to study and interpret the history of the city of Chicago itself. The museum houses many exhibits that hold an extensive collection of objects and documents detailing the history of Chicago over the last couple hundred years. Permanent displays such as one dedicated Abraham Lincoln's leadership and American conflict during the civil war, are balanced out with temporary exhibits that detail Chicago's LBGTQIA population or Chicago Fashion. This is a great way for students to learn more about this city's rich and complicated history. 

DePaul University always uses the City as our Classroom. And this is a great way to do just that. Whether you are from Chicago originally, and want to learn more about its history, or whether you are new to the city and just now putting the pieces together, the Chicago History museum is a great place to visit. Of course, I recently learned that DePaul students can get free admission with their student ID​ so this is definitely an opportunity to take advantage of. 

These two locations are great ways to learn more about the city we are in and the world around us, past and present. I am a believer in spending your time and money on new, enriching experiences. Being a busy and broke college student can sometimes make it hard to get out and do new things. However these two locations within easy reach of campus are great places to start. And lucky for us, and our DePaul connections, students can visit for free. What is better than that? 

Turning 21 in the Windy City

Before spring break I experienced a milestone of my college years - my 21st Birthday. Shout out to any other Pisces ​out there! 

This was the first time I got to celebrate a birthday with my friends and classmates in the city. Birthdays are always a great time to celebrate another year, and the possibilities that lie ahead, while spending time with special people. 

This year, turning 21, was a milestone that brings with it a sense of freedom and possibility. For me, the most exciting thing about turning 21 in Chicago was the new place I could now go and experience. This city has endless cool things to do, and see, and experience. But some happen to be limited to a 21 and over crowd. Some things I have been looking forward to is visiting venues for music and comedy. 

Personally, music and comedy are two things I really love to hear, and in a way related to my interest in theatre and storytelling. However, many comedy clubs, locations with open-mics, jazz clubs, and other music venues, happen to be limited to the 21 and over population because of the beverages they sell at such venues. Now that I am 21, I have the ability to check out such places, and be exposed to a whole new scene of music and comedy that I had not seen before. There are often different small store-fronts that advertise comedy shows, open-mics, music shows, or poetry slams that I am interested in attending but did not have access to. 

This past Wednesday, I was able to go catch a comedy club open-mic night, at a club called Jokes and Notes. My friend-who is trying to break into the comedy scene in Chicago, and I paid our $5 admission, grabbed a Hershey bar and some Sprite and sat in the front row. Some of Chicago's great comedians, or people who have found career success all over the US have started in this club. Because anyone could sign up to perform we saw quite a mix of different men and women performing. Some were quite good, very funny and seemed to have experience, and some were just learning the game, were a bit awkward or had jokes that didn't quite land with the crowd. Both ways we had a great time. As theatre majors, we know that there is just as much to learn by watching as performing. By observing what works, and what doesn't work, we were able to learn more about the delicate art and timing of effective stand-up comedy. I am looking forward to attending more locations to hear new and interesting comedians, musicians, poets and more as I get to explore Chicago in a whole new way. 

*DISCLAIMER- I, and those at DePaul University, do not condone or encourage the consumption of adult beverages or content that may be present at the kind of venues mentioned. However, I personally do encourage knowing what interests you, what your city has to offer, and how you can go out and take advantage of them, while learning along the way! For me, turning 21 just opened up a new way to do just that. 


Wellness Day at The Theatre School

As students prepare for finals, they can often wear themselves thin. With various projects, papers, and performances, students are very hard at work this time of the quarter, and can often be stressed out to the max. Over in The Theatre School ​building, The Theatre School Student Government Association, or TTSSGA, saw the students overworked and unable to take time to destress or take care of themselves. They came up with the idea to have Wellness Day, and event during the lunchtime hours in the TTS lobby. Needless to say, the overstressed students of TTS were very excited for this. 

On the day of the event students swarmed the lobby during their lunch breaks. As you walked into the lobby there was a table to the side giving out information on various health topics such as drug use, mental health, nutrition and more with a prize wheel giving out personal care items such as chapstick. The Box Office of the building had been transformed into a smoothie making station. Students from the TTSSGA surrounded by fruits and vegetables, were behind the counter blending up healthy smoothies for a long line of students. I sampled the mango-ginger and it was quite refreshing. Further into lobby was a station for students to get neck/back massages. Two professionals from the Ray Meyer Fitness Center brought massage chairs over to TTS and students signed up for 5 minute slots to rub away some of the tension they had been feeling preparing for finals. The last component of wellness day may have been the best - PUPPIES! Yes, you read that right, puppies! 4 registered therapy dogs of various sizes were stationed with their humans corners of the Merle Reskin lobby, and students could come and sit with them and pet them to their hearts content. I think many students would agree with my opinion that this was the most fun part of the event. It was so sweet and comforting to spend time with these sweet dogs. It really did calm and destress me to spend time petting my favorite canine visitor, who goes by the name Dude. 
During such a stressful time it is always nice to take a short moment to yourself to de-stress and recharge, do something that recharges your energy, even if just a little. Needless to say Wellness Day at TTS was a greatly appreciated and very successful event to lighten everyone's spirits as we prepare to get back to work to the hard work we all do. This is a great example of one of the ways Student Government can do good things for the student body. 


My Trip to New York: Jackie Robsinson Conference

As a college student, it is important to create networks of people to support you. While I have a wonderful community of people here at DePaul, I also believe in expanding your network. 

I currently am a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar. This is a scholarship foundation created in the legacy of the legendary black baseball player and civil rights activist, Jackie Robinson. 

I have been a part of this foundation since I applied for this award before entering college. The Foundation is made up of college students across the country studying various things. Each spring, the scholars attend a Mentoring and Leadership Conference. 

This is a four day event in New York City where all the scholars come together with professionals to learn about career readiness, professional skills, networking and more. The weekend is full of guest speakers, workshops and seminars where students get to interact with other students and industry professionals. This conference takes place the first week of March each year, and I have just gotten back from attending my third conference of my college career. 

While I was there I attended social justice panels, sessions on interviewing skills, financial planning, networking, being a career focused woman (the men attended a session of their own) and more. These were all so informative and I learned a great deal from listening and practicing these skills. 
While I was there I entered the JRF's Got Talent competition with a monologue I had prepared at school, and won 2nd place! I had a great balance of business and pleasure, also getting to attend a black tie formal gala and the ballet during my stay. 

Here is a photo of me and the other scholars from the Pacific Northwest, last weekend at the conference.
While I learned a lot and had great fun, one of my favorite things about attending is simply the people I get to be around. As an ambitious college student of color, it was great to spend time with so many other smart successful and talented students of color. The group of students involved in the Jackie Robinson Foundation are some of the best and brightest young minds in our society, and I am always so grateful for the opportunity to be in their presence and learn from them. What is especially amazing is just how supportive, encouraging, curious, and uplifting they all are. They are all individuals destined for greatness, who want everyone else to be successful in their prospective fields as well. That is the key. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. This is what JRF gives me. 

It is essential to your own well-being and your success in whatever you do to have people around who will lift you up, encourage you to strive for more, and inspire you along your journey. As I move closer to the professional world and my adult life, I am learning that there will be some people and places that do not foster the kind of growth you might want. So I am learning to create a network of people near and far that I can learn from, be supported by, and will be interested in my goals regardless of their own success. And I can do this for them. 

This past weekend in New York really has given me a breath of new inspiration to keep working toward my goals. I think everyone should create that network, and maintain relationships with people who help you to grow. 


Financing Your Education

I submitted my FAFSA for 2016-2017 last month, it is the LAST time applying for financial aid in my undergraduate career!  Looking at the cost of attendance, and what kind of aid I’m eligible for has got this topic on the brain, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all.

Everyone knows college is expensive. This is true at any institution of higher learning. And without sugar coating anything- it is true at DePaul. While I can only speak from my own experience, when I was applying to college, cost and financial aid were of upmost importance. While it had always been my dream to attend a great private school, one with a fantastic arts program and career opportunities, the price tag often made it seems like my dream college was out of reach.  DePaul had always been my first choice school, but the cost was overwhelming. To my good fortune, DePaul is also one of the schools I applied to that offers the most scholarship and financial aid to its students, and in my 3 years has continually tried to help me pay for my education.

When paying for your higher education, whether at DePaul or elsewhere, it is important to cover all your bases, and know what resources you have available to you.

1) FAFSA - this is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is an application that all students must fill out before being offered any kind of aid. This form is for the government, and schools use it to determine how much aid you will be offered. When I was in high school, there was a rumor that FAFSA was just money they give to students. NOT TRUE. FAFSA is simply a way of measuring your “need” to see if you are eligible for government funding grants and loans that will be paid to your school.  Remember loans are the ones you have to pay back!

2) Know what kind of scholarships and grants your school offers. DePaul offers a MULTITUDE. In fact a great majority of students at DePaul receive scholarships and other aid to cover costs of tuition, housing, and more. Be in communication with the financial aid department of your school.  There are ALL kinds of scholarships available, from academic to talent, to even ones based on service. Weighing what is available against cost of attendance is a great way to measure if a school is affordable to you.

3) Know there are outside scholarships available. I have spent many hours of my life applying for outside scholarships, and believe me there are tons out there! I am fortunate to currently have a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which gives me scholarship dollars to supplement the aid I get from DePaul. There are scholarship search engines that help you find ones based on the criteria you specify! The internet is a glorious thing for finding help paying for college.

4) On campus jobs and work-study. Many schools, including DePaul, offer on campus jobs, and work study jobs that you can apply for to help get some extra cash or cover educational costs.

The key is really about being strategic, being thorough, and knowing for yourself what is doable. I knew coming to college that I wanted to keep my debt to an absolute minimum. Weigh your options! Paying for college is hard, but luckily I have been adamant about knowing the resources available to me, and DePaul is one of the most helpful institutions I know! I will graduate with an arts degree from a great private catholic school, with minimal debt! That’s absolutely something to be grateful for.

 

Check out these links to learn about Financial Aid and scholarships to finance your degree!

 FAFSA - The Government Website can be found here​

 DePaul Financial Aid Department info located here​

 There are many scholarship search engines out there. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Fastweb​

Cappex  ​

Scholarships.com ​

And of course there is always good old fashioned Google! 


College Night at Goodman Theatre

As an acting major, I always want to see the theatre that is happening throughout the city. Simply watching is a great way to learn about acting, theatre, and what I want to do professionally. Lucky for me, The Theatre School has all kind of hook ups with discounted or free tickets to various shows throughout the city. Unfortunately, when rehearsing for my own shows, I never have enough time to see them all! One awesome deal that I love to take advantage of is College Night at the Goodman Theatre. 

The Goodman Theatre, located in the Loop, has been hosting College Nights for local students over the past couple of years.  For the small price of $10 you can expect to be served pizza in the lobby of the theatre, with a social hour to meet and chat with the other college students there. Then, a cast member from the show will come out to speak with the students and answer questions from them as well. This is always an interesting event because many of the students there are also studying theatre, and it is a great way to ask the cast members about the starts of their careers, the professional world, and for advice on how we can make it there ourselves. Then, of course, you get to see the play. So, dinner, and a show (with some interesting conversation between) for just $10. That is absolutely my kind of deal for a great night at the theatre. I have attended about 4 college nights at the Goodman over the past few years, seeing a few of their shows, and I always have an enjoyable time.

This past Wednesday a classmate and I went to go see their current show, Another Word for Beauty by Jose Rivera. We took the train straight from campus to the loop, and were able to seek refuge from the cold in the warm and inviting theatre. By showing our DePaul ID’s we were able to pick up our tickets and head upstairs to feast on the various kinds of pizza laid out on the long table of the lobby. I always know to get there early so you can get enough pizza and a place to sit! We munched and mingled until it was time to hear from the guest speaker. Not to our surprise, it was Stephanie Andrea Barron, an actress who graduated from DePaul about 2 years ago. It is awesome to see a TTS Alum out there and working in one of the major theatres in the city, only 2 years after graduation. We listened to her speak briefly, then she left to get ready for the show and we were ushered into the theatre. 

On college night, the students are given tickets up in the mezzanine and not on the floor, but we were pretty close and still had a great view. This was a brand new show about a beauty pageant held in a Colombian women’s prison. The show was full of music and dancing, strong anti-war political statements and some silly things thrown in for good measure. I am always extremely interested in stories about people of color, written by people of color, so this show intrigued me for sure, and the cast was full of beautiful powerful women.

I am looking forward to the next college night held at the Goodman, as a college student I am always looking for a good deal and a good time!  Check out their website ​to see Another Word for Beauty, and their upcoming shows.

DePaul certainly has got the connections, you just have to look for them. 


The Theatre School Announces 2016-2017 Season

On Thursday evening a special event took place in The Theatre School. The Theatre School Student Government Association (TTSSGA) hosted an event to celebrate the announcement of the 2016-2017 Season! In the winter of each year, there is an announcement of the plays we will put on in the coming school year. Now typically this is sent out in the form of a school wide email. This year, however, member of the TTSSGA, wanted to bring the school together as community to announce next year's season of plays. 

At 5pm, students from all disciplines filed down the stairs and into the Merle Reskin Lobby of the school. This was the first time ever that there had been a collective event to celebrate the great work and great art we have to look forward to next year. The Dean of the Theatre School, Dean John Culbert, gathered in front of the mass of students along with the artistic directors of our theaters, and directors of next year's shows. 

The Dean began with some opening remarks about how we choose the next season of productions. He talked about how the subjects and themes of our Main Stage shows reflect what we as a school are thinking about. These production are how the world knows what is important to us. It was great to hear from the leader of our school, and know that he and the team he works with has us, as students and young artists, in mind, as well as the issues of our current world. I had always wondered who chooses the next season, how they decide and of course, what the shows will be. One by one, the directors of next year's shows got up to the microphone, announced their show, and answered a simple question, "Why here, Why Now?" The directors shared the themes of the shows they had chosen and why they think they are relevant in the community and world we live in. 

It was a great event to get the whole school excited about the season, and to be on the same page about our collective goal as a school. I cannot tell you how excited I am for next year’s season, and excited to share it with all of you. Next year's season is as follows: 


On the FULLERTON STAGE: 
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Cameron Knight 

by Jackie Sibblies Drury
directed by Erin Kraft

Wig Out!
directed by Nathan Signh
 
New Playwrights Series
Title, Playwright, and Director TBA

In the HEALY THEATRE

by Sarah Ruhl
directed by Michael Burke

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jacob Janssen
 
MFA17 
An ensemble piece to be performed by MFA III actors
 
CHICAGO PLAYWORKS FOR FAMILIES AND YOUNG AUDIENCES

by Jeremiah Clay Neal
directed by Ernie Nolan 
 
Night Runner
(developed through The Theatre School's Cunningham Commission for Youth Theatre)
by Ike Holter
Directed by Lisa Portes
 
book and lyrics by Psalmayene 24
music by Nick tha 1Da
directed by Coya Paz
 
This coming season touches on so many relevant topics, such as election and new leadership, race, sexual orientation, gender roles, violence, family dynamics and more. I am so excited to explore these important topics on these amazing stages next year! Good things ahead! ​

Black History Month 2016

​​​February is here, ya’ll. I have always loved when February rolls around, because for me that has always meant, Valentines Day, my birthday (the big 21 this year!) and of course Black History Month. February is a month full of celebration of love and culture. 

Most Americans, by our age, have come to understand what Black History Month is, and why we have it. But for those needing a little refresher, as History.com describes it, “Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.” 

Black History Month is a time for our country to recognize the true influence of African Americans in our country’s history and evolution. While February is Black History Month, it is important to remember that African American History is AMERICAN History, and the two do not exist separately. While I am always grateful for February to roll around, it is important for all of us to remember that History doesn’t belong in just one month, Black Americans shouldn’t have to wait until February to have their heritage honored, and Black history is happening RIGHT NOW.  


Below I am sharing some simple ways busy students like us can still take the time to celebrate Black History Month, empower the black community and educate ourselves: 

Things to DO:

Know your History:
 
Support black business:

Know The DePaul Community 

Register for ABD Classes: 
Spring Registration is just around the corner! I recommend taking an ABD (African and Black Diaspora) class! See the department here. ​

Go See some Theatre written by and about black Americans:




Here are a few of my current reads you may also find interesting involving the black history, the current state of the black community and also (in honor of Valentine’s Day) Black Love:

Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts ​
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates​
Salvation: Blacks and Love bell hooks​
All About Love by bell hooks

By embracing the past and educating ourselves, we can use the present to make history, enabling a brighter future. 

Happy Black History Month, friends! 

My Favorite Course This Year

As I have mentioned before, I am currently in my third year of the acting program here at DePaul.  As is true for many programs, there are a string of courses one must take in order to complete the major, and earn your degree. For the acting program, there is a planned out sequence of courses we take in our years of training. The third year of the program is when we get to finally tackle Shakespeare ​in our coursework.  This class is an acting class for us, meaning it is not simply a literature analysis of Shakespeare’s work, but it is geared toward performance majors and our goals to be able to speak and perform this wonderfully challenging text.​

          

This course has been a two quarter sequence, and lucky for my class, it has been revamped this year. The Theatre School​ has hired a new faculty member this year, Cameron Knight, who now teaches acting and Shakespeare to the undergraduate and graduate acting students. We began with part one of the sequence in fall quarter of this year.  The students in my class were all coming to begin this learning process with various experiences and knowledge of The Bard and his writing. By this I mean that some students came to the class already loving Shakespeare, some hating it, some having read many of his works, some never having read it at all, but we all started from the same place with the work.​

The first quarter began with form. Learning all the conventions of Shakespeare’s writing, starting with reading analysis and scansion of the text.  We then moved onto speaking the text and clear communication of the text. While analysis is great and essential, as actors we must learn how to be effective and clear in the speaking and communication of the text. We then moved into scene work leading up to our final, which was a presentation of these scenes for the performance faculty. This winter, we began the second part of the sequence. This quarter we jumped right in with scene work, paired with partners to work on different scenes, as well as monologues and group scenes.

I have really loved taking this course and have learned so much. Reading Shakespeare, and preparing it for performance really is like learning a new language, and a new way to approach language of any type. My professor was right when he says, if you can handle this author, you can handle just about any author/playwright. Once you learn the form, you get to "play Jazz" he says. He is truly a great teacher, and has facilitated this learning process in an individualized way. My class has gone from tentative and cautious with this challenging language, to truly understanding, loving, and now playing with these complicated and beautifully written stories. It has changed how I view this author, and how I see my future with this author as well, giving me a sense that I really could, with more work and practice, work confidently and well on Shakespeare and classical text during the rest of my collegiate career, and professionally. I love taking courses that directly apply to the skill set I desire to have for my career and this course has definitely done that. 



In the Blood

​​​​I am excited to announce the latest show I am working on for The Theatre School. I am currently cast in a play called ​​In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks. This is the second Main Stage production I have acted in during my time in the casting pool and what an experience it has been!

In the Blood is an intense and beautiful story of family, struggle, and triumph in the face of personal and systemic adversity. On The Theatre School website there is a description:

"Hester la Negrita is a homeless single mother of five who dreams of finding beauty and love for her family despite her poverty-stricken life. As she struggles to defy the odds, she runs into a series of harsh and unexpected obstacles. 
In this modern day riff on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks asks who has the right to the American Dream. Directed by Nathan Singh, MFA Directing, Class of 2017. 
Is poverty inescapable for individuals already in the cycle? "


The characters of the play include the protagonist, Hester, which is played by one actress. We also meet her five children, Jabber, Bully, Trouble, Beauty, and Baby. The play is written as such that the five actors who play the children also double as five other adults that Hester interacts with, her doctor, reverend, welfare caseworker, her best friend, and her first love. The play explores their relationships and the way these individuals may be in positions to help Hester, but may not help her the way we would hope. 

I have been cast as Hester, the mother and main character that this world surrounds. It has been quite a challenging role, and the ultimate test to apply my training to performance. It is a mammoth of a role, and such a deep and important play, I am really lucky to be working on it. It is a beautiful piece of writing written by a black woman, about a black woman's experience with the powers that be, wrestling with race, class, gender, and the system that controls them.  While we are getting close to the performance dates, and it is a little nerve wracking, I am excited to see how it turns out! 

The show opens January 22, and runs through January 31, 2016. I encourage anyone to come see this important work of art! Student Tickets are $5, and $15 for the general public. The cast, crew, and design and technical team are all made up of current BFA, and MFA students here at DePaul, with the assistance of TTS staff. 

Please come see In the Blood and support the art of students like you, and as always, be well. 

To find out more about the show, other current TTS Shows​, and ticketing follow this link.​

Musings of an Out-Of-State Student

The show I was in at The Theatre School closed on November 15th. Since this is my first mainstage production of my college career, my most generous mom came to see it! We are from the West Coast, and being so far away my parents, family, and friends don’t visit often. While I have been working away at my acting training here at DePaul, my mother has not been able to see me perform since I was in high school. Needless to say, this was a really special event, and one I know will not happen often. Since I was preparing for her visit, my out-of-state status was on the brain.

Most DePaul students I know are not from Chicago. This is probably in part due to the fact that this is a private school. Most of my friends are from various states across the country, with most being from the Midwest followed by East coast residents, with a smaller smattering of southerners and West coast kids like me. Mind you this is just based upon my own observations in the group of students I interact with the most. Moving to Chicago from my little Oregon hometown was one of the scariest and most eye opening things I have ever done. I would argue it was the best decision I have made for myself as a young adult person of the world. While I have not traveled the world, or lived in many places, leaving my hometown to experience a new area of the country, to live and breathe a major city, a more diverse city, a region and area with very different culture and values and issues and advantages is really eye opening, and changed the way I view life in this country. While I cannot speak directly on any epiphanies I have had, I cannot stress how important I feel it is to experience a new place, especially in your college years. I would not be the open minded, educated, socially aware person that I am becoming if I had not left my origin of the suburbs of the Pacific Northwest.

When I was applying to college, I knew I wanted to go to school out of state, and many of the members of my family I looked up to also wanted this for me. When debating whether to move away or stay close to home for school, my aunt (who was raised in Portland like me, but went to the east coast for college), she said to me, “Samantha, you are lucky enough to have family here, and people here who will welcome you home. But you need to go away for college, and experience a new place with new people.

You never know until you go and try it out, and don’t worry because you can always come home”. Two and a half years later, I know she was so right. Moving away from the place I spent the first 18 years of my life really gave me a new perspective on the world, just by experiencing a new culture, and new people, a new climate, and seeing new things happen around me, both good and worrisome. It helped me to learn what things from home were important for me to keep, and what new things were important for me to find, including a community of people that were headed in the same forward direction as I am. 

For anyone who is looking to go to college, or simply visit a new place for a short while, I would absolutely say DO IT. Even if you decide to return, even if you don’t leave for long, or even if you decide never to go back, leaving the environment you grew up in does a world of difference to the way you see and think about the world around you. While moving 2,000 miles away may not be feasible, spending your college years in a new city, state or region can really help you learn about yourself as an adult. For me, Chicago and DePaul was the place to do just that.

To anyone thinking about coming to this great city from afar, or even in this city looking to go away for a while, just remember you never know until you try it. If your experience is amazing, or less than ideal, you will learn so much about other places and yourself, just remember to do it for yourself. While my aunt was right, and I can always come home, I am discovering that my new home may not be the place I am from, and I would have never known that if I hadn’t taken the chance, and left the comfort and familiarity of my hometown.


Take Care of Yourself

DePaul is one of those schools that uses the unique quarter system​. This means the year is sectioned into ten-week quarters, fall, winter, spring (and then optional summer). This makes time in class really fly by, and within a moment, midterms and then finals are approaching rapidly. Many students bear a full course load, work, involvement in student organizations or volunteering, or rehearsal and performance stacked on top of social and personal time as well. Most of us are crazy busy, and keep it that way, whether we handle it well or not. While this can be a productive and exciting thing, it can sometimes prove difficult to keep up with all of the demands of busy student life, and take care of yourself. 

There are many times I have experienced, or seen students around me let their personal well-being go by the wayside in order to accomplish all they had to do. While it is very admirable to get those things done, it is always important to practice good self-care. I couldn’t tell you the number of times my fellow classmates and I have had to skip meals, skip sleep, let laundry go untouched in the hamper for far too long, buckle down and get to “the grind” in order to turn out finished products and meet deadlines. While everything gets done (or maybe not), all we do is wear ourselves down! There is one thing that I really believe in, and that is self-care. With a crazy schedule, I too have trouble practicing good self-care.  However, I want to share one simple but important thing that we often discuss in my Acting classes. As actors, we put our minds and bodies through so much, and while the work is so important we have to remember to take care of the person doing it! This applies to any person accomplishing any feat. You cannot do your best if you cannot take care of your best self.

By my third year of college, I know that if I do not get a reasonable amount of sleep I will get sick, and if I do not eat I will not be able to make it through rehearsal, and many other things. I really do recommend listening to your body, and your mind and spirit to know what it is you need. While many people learn the hard way, there are also ways to be preventative and proactive in this pursuit. Time management and planning are key. Just asking yourself what small thing can I do to feel better about everything I have to do? Is it taking a short nap? Is it carrying more healthy snacks? It is taking time to meditate? Creating a cleaner/more peaceful environment to work? Asking for help? While I cannot tell another individual how best to go about this, I can only recommend giving yourself permission to think about these things, and realizing how important it is to take care of YOU.

DePaul has some resources to take advantage of, to help with a variety of problems that may be preventing students from finding and taking care of their best selves:

Some of these include Academic Support and Tutoring, University Counseling Services, Health and Wellness, Economic Distress and more. You can check these out on the DePaul Support Services​ site. 

The Career Center offers help with resumes, job seeking skills, and more!

I also found this really neat Time Management Planner ​on the DePaul website.

Continue to do great things DePaulians, and take care of yourself in the process!


My Current Show: Joe Turner's Come and Gone

As a Theatre major, life can prove to be extremely busy. While all college students have a lot on their plates, juggling classes and work and enjoying the social life of college, theatre students at DePaul seem to have a unique kind of schedule and academic experience. Lately I have been running from classes to rehearsals to study sessions, not really finding a moment to take a breath. However I have really been loving the projects I am working on at the moment. I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you all about the show I am currently working on here at The Theatre School.

As an acting major, you are required to perform in various productions during your time here, and are even evaluated for a grade. The goal is to gain experience performing, learn from these experiences, and also apply what we have been learning in acting classes to actual performance. Junior year is the first time that we have the opportunity to audition for the mainstage productions. I am so excited to be working on my first Mainstage here at TTS, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone!

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson is an American drama set in 1911 Pittsburgh.  Written by legendary African American playwright, August Wilson, this story is one of a cycle of plays Wilson wrote to catalog the black experience in America in each decade of the 20th century. The action takes place in a boarding house in Pittsburgh, and we see the interactions of the various characters who meet there, on their journey through life in America post-slavery.  It is an intense story about finding each other, and finding ourselves as a culture and as individuals.

Joe Turner Poster
Here is the show poster! 

This show has been so fun to work on, and not to mention so rewarding and inspiring. The production is a rarity for The Theatre School, as there is a nearly all black cast, performing in a show written by an amazing black playwright, directed by the only black female performance faculty member, with stage management and design teams who also include POC. Diversity and representation in schools and in the arts is so important, and as a woman of color, it is such a gift to me to be able to be a part of a show that is exploring, celebrating and showcasing my own culture and the complexity of human life.  I am currently sharing the stage with many MFA (graduate student) actors, as well as other BFA (undergraduate) actors as well. And it has been such a learning experience just watching my peers work as well.

This show opens November 6th and runs until November 15th. Student tickets are only $5 for any show. If you’re already a student at DePaul, or are in the area I highly recommend seeing this show! For more information about this show, tickets, or our 2 other mainstages currently in performance, Esperanza Rising in the Merle Reskin Theatre downtown, and The Lady from the Sea in the Healy Theatre on campus, please visit  The Theatre School website.​

 


​​

Visitng DePaul

​​​​​Hello, again friends! 

As some of you may know Fall Visit Day​ is almost upon us!  While I myself never got to attend a Fall Visit Day when I was applying for college, I highly recommend visiting any college you are interested in, including DePaul University! Scheduled visit days and other campus tours are an excellent way to get to see a school, learn what it is like, and get your many burning questions answered. When I was in high school, I went on about a million campus tours of various colleges and universities (at the insistence of my parents, ha!) and I can honestly say it is well worth the time and effort it takes to make it happen. 

For those who are not as familiar with Fall Visit Day, or what happens during a campus visit, let me lay it down a little for you. Visit Days and campus tours are a way to introduce prospective students and their families to the college or university they may be interested in. It is essentially a time when prospective students can learn about the unique qualities of that institution, view the campus, speak to admissions staff, and ask those questions that we all have when searching for the right school. Here at DePaul, fall visit day is a great way to tour campus, learn about admissions, housing, dining services, resources on campus, ask questions to current students or alumni about their experience at DePaul, and find answers to anything you have been wondering about. It is a fantastic way to sample what DePaul has to offer, and fall is the best time to do it, when the weather is nice, classes are in full swing and you can get the real experience. 
This is a picture of me, the summer before my senior year of high school. The new Theatre School​ building was still under construction!

While I mentioned before that I had not been to Fall Visit Day, when I was applying to college, I was able to take a campus tour during the summer. When looking for colleges I knew that I was very interested in coming to Chicago, and applied to a few schools here in the city. I was lucky enough to be able to take a trip out here to visit them, and that was the first time I was able to visit DePaul. There was an informational session about DePaul, it’s mission and values, a guided tour of the campus and facilities, and I even had a meeting with someone in admission of The Theatre School. It was nice to be able to see where I would potentially be eating, studying, working out, having classes, and learning about what makes this school unique. While summer worked out for me, I wish that I could have visited for the first time while school was in session. It is nice to get a sense of the vibe on campus, and see the facilities in use. I didn’t get to see the dorms, or see the students, which was something I was looking for. Fall Visit Day is the perfect time to check out what the school has to offer. 

My few tips if visiting a college are:

1) Plan ahead and check the weather- you may be walking around in unfamiliar surroundings and varying weather, so wear the right shoes, bring that umbrella, and be prepared. 

2) Do not be afraid to ask questions! Asking questions is a great way to learn! Big or small, it’s okay to ask about anything from tuition to laundry! No question is stupid. 

3) Write it down: if there is something you want to ask or want to see, write it down so you don’t forget when you are there. Also, if you are like me, and visit many schools, take notes of how you felt on campus and the answers you got so you can refer back to them later. 

To learn more or register for Fall Visit Day, visit the DePaul Website:


A Fresh Start and a Fresh Face

​​​Greetings lovely people of DePaul! My name is Samantha and I am your new face of The Theatre School at DePaul! I am so excited to be sharing my experiences with you current and prospective Blue Demons this year. Over this coming year I will be sharing with all of you my own thoughts and experiences of college and campus life, my life in The Theatre School​, my ascension into adulthood and everything in between. Before we get started, I wanted to take this time to let you know a little about me, where I come from, and my whole perspective coming in as your new Theatre School blogger. 

Who I Am: They call me Samantha, sometimes Sam for short. I am currently a junior here at DePaul. I am majoring in acting in The Theatre School, where I am halfway to earning my BFA.  I value honesty, a sense of humor, hard work, and having fun. I’m a “the more you put in, the more you get out” kind of girl. I find myself to be a life-long lover of learning, and have accepted making mistakes as part of that. I love to eat, explore the city, watch some good ol’ Netflix in my downtime, and be surrounded by good people and good conversation. 

Where I’m From: I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, and was born and raised in Portland, OR, and the surrounding metro area. I am from rainy days and hot tea, recycling and “liberal” thinking. This is now my third year living in Chicago, and I love the city! I grew up an only child, and therefore the first of my parent’s children to go to college. For me, college was an expectation, although I did have support to choose a course of study that interested me and brought me joy. DePaul was the perfect place for me at this time in my life. 

My Point of View: I believe that every person’s journey to and through college is unique, because every life is different and unique in its own way. I will say a little about what makes me unique in my way, and what shapes the way I view the world around me and what colors my experiences. First, I am and identify as a Black woman of color. There is a certain perspective that gives me as I walk through campus and through life as a woman, and as black. That intersection is an interesting one, and gives me my own particular voice and point of view. Also, I am from out of state, nearly 2,000 miles away, so as I get used to my life here at DePaul I am also getting used to life in the big city of Chicago and all that comes with it, from amazing opportunities to blistering winters. Lastly, I am a theatre artist, and an actor. I love what I do, and have found the place at DePaul where I can explore this fully. I think truthful storytelling is a powerful and necessary part of human life, and a great responsibility of mine as an actor and a person of the world.

My Hopes for You: I hope over the coming year, you all can get to know me a little better, and by sharing my story and my experiences, I hope that I can encourage others to find the next setting for their story. If that’s DePaul, The Theatre, Chicago, or anywhere beyond I hope that anything I have to say can entertain and stimulate your own reflections on where you’ve been and what’s to come.  

Be Well and Shine On, Samantha