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. 

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. 

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. 
​​

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.


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! 

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. 

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. 


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. 


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! 

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.​

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.​

 


​​

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