DeBlogs > Tyler Esselman
In high school, I was an honors student. Like, I mean the textbook definition of an honors student. Anxiety-ridden, stressed and overloaded with positions on the executive boards of student groups. You know the one. That was me. The long-term effects of my honors-induced anxiety is a subject for a novel of Russian proportions, but the benefits I have reaped from the AP/IB/honors seeds that I sowed in high school are undeniable.
The later years of high school consisted of a combination of AP and IB work that helped me take care of a goodly amount of liberal studies requirements during my first couple years of college. I didn’t even get the highest scores on any of those exams and DePaul was still pretty generous with accepting the credit. I was able to complete all of my liberal studies requirements by the end of my second year. This opened my schedule up to take classes that I wanted simply for the fun of it. I took an Islamic studies class, a couple French classes, a German class, and a creative writing class. I was very glad for the opportunity to diversify my class experience outside of The Theatre School. But beyond that, the time gifted to me allowed me to see more shows, get to know more theatre companies, experience more around the city and figure out what my real goals are after school. That’s the biggest benefit. You have to have breathing room in school to be able to build relationships and just wander.
In essence what I’m getting at is that if you’re in the thick of an AP or IB course load in high school right now and you want to pull out your hair, stuff it into your textbook and eat it with mustard, you’re going to survive. And you will reap some reward from the experience. I guarantee it. If nothing else, you’ll know that you can accomplish something you set your mind to and that’s a feeling worth its weight in gold.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
Future Islands - Seasons (Waiting on You)
One week from today, I will be in New York City doing the first part of one of the major closing events of my time at The Theatre School: Graduate Showcase. During the first two weeks of June, my class and I will showcase our wares in New York, Los Angeles, and here in Chicago for industry professionals. It’s our chance to blast off into the professional world as a team.
Since the beginning of spring quarter, we have been presenting scenes and monologues to our showcase director Lisa Portes to find a piece that works best to showcase our strengths as performers. The people that will be in attendance are agents, casting directors, and alums in the respective cities. Once they watch our pieces, there will be networking events where we can introduce ourselves to those people as human beings. In addition to the actual events planned for showcase in each city, there will be plenty of time for us to explore the cities and see shows. It’s a great opportunity for us to get a feel for the place and see if we could actually see ourselves there. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends in both cities and also taking a little road trip up the coast in California. It’s going to be perfect to see the ocean in all its vastness before graduating and starting the next chapter of my life.
Ideally, some of the agents that see our work in any of the cities will call us in to audition specifically for representation but it’s best to go into the showcase just focused on the work. In my opinion, this event is going to be great because it’s one last chance to work with this ensemble with whom I’ve gone through so much these past four years. One last hurrah is just what we need. And we’re going to do it in style.
Just trying to keep moving forward, ya dig?
This quarter, my class has a tandem of two weekly classes at the Acting Studio Chicago. The Acting Studio is a center for classes focused in acting technique and also the business side of the entertainment industry in Chicago. The classes we are taking are an acting for the camera class and also an audition technique class. They present an interesting one-two punch every week introducing every week to what it might really be like to work as an actor in Chicago.
In acting for the camera, we go through scenarios every week that resemble an actual on-camera audition that we would go on. We read commercial copy and learn how to most effectively use our training to make this sometimes dry text unique to us and boil down what will help us get callbacks on these auditions. It’s a subtle technique and looking at yourself on the screen once we’ve filmed the segments is very weird at first. I’m getting more used to it with each class but it can make you pretty self-conscious. It really just comes down to practice, I think. Doing this kind of material is something very few people in my class have ever done but we’re getting better. In addition to reading copy, we’ve gone through scenarios for auditions with no written text and worked in pairs. We are certainly getting an advantage because so many other actors our age not coming out of a program such as ours don’t have this opportunity to learn the industry and the technique before jumping in to an audition.
Speaking of auditioning, our audition class on Fridays is an extension of the audition class we had last quarter. We are learning what it takes to get in the door with agents and do our best work when we get in the room for those auditions. I guess the biggest thing that I’m taking from all of it is that there is no right way to do it, really. The most important thing to me is that I don’t feel like I’m compromising any part of myself to get work that I think I “should” get or “have” to get. I want to and will do it my way and I am confident that, because of that, I will do the work that I want to do. Rock on, amirite?
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:Say what you will about Beck, but the dude can really write a jam.
For those of you have never done a play, tech week is the time during a play's production where all of the design elements are incorporated before opening. As such, it necessitates going through the play moment by moment and folding in lights, sound, and transitions. I personally love tech because it demands a high level of focus as an actor and allows you to feel out, in a deep way, what it will truly take to perform the show each night. The key is to take care of yourself, especially during the winter. You have to make sure you have enough food at home to sustain yourself because you probably won't be making it to the grocery store any time soon. It also always helps me to have my room clean and laundry done for the sake of my mental state. That way, even if I'm stressed about rehearsal or class or whatever else, at least I know that I have clean clothes and sheets waiting for me at home.
I'm very excited to open this show and share our ensemble's work with the community. It's a wacky piece that I think will be very interesting to perform for The Theatre School.
Tyler's Hot Track of the Week:
I'm a big fan of Bon Iver and have also started taking in Bon Iver creative force Justin Vernon's other work as well. This song from his band Volcano Choir called Byegone is particularly good and I hope you'll give it a taste.
The fourth year of the BFA Acting program here at The Theatre School is largely an exit year. We take classes like audition technique, acting for the camera, and voice over to help prepare us for the realities of being a working actor in Chicago or elsewhere. Important stuff like how to format headshots and resumes, and how to interface with agents and casting directors is covered. All of this in addition to some more acting technique. One of the pure acting technique classes this quarter is Advanced Meisner and it is a fascinating course.
Many of you have probably heard, at least in passing, of actors using Meisner technique. It is a study of the teachings of a man named Sanford Meisner. The idea, as with most acting training, is to help the actor personalize text to a high degree and be able to fully exist with his or her scene partner in the moment. The training starts with what is known as “repeating”. This is where two actors will sit across from one another, observe each other, and state what they see. For instance, I may say to my partner “You have a blue shirt.” And then he or she would repeat, “I have a blue shirt” and I would say my statement again until one of us made another statement. Eventually, the goal is to be able to make statements about what your partner is doing or feeling and the partner can agree or disagree with them and make observations about you.
It is an excellent tool by which to drop in to meaningful presence with your partner. Another aspect of the training is personalization and emotional preparation. This uses the given text of a play and helps the actor make it mean something very deeply to him or her in preparation for a scene. Ideally, this preparation takes the actor to a vulnerable place in some way and then when they enter the scene, they do not have to consciously think about it. It will be there in them and they can be fully present with their partner and the circumstances of the text.
The emotional prep stuff can be scary. It leads to some very strong reactions during the training but, as far I have seen, can also lead to some decidedly truthful and vulnerable work if handled in the correct way. We’ve only had one class so far but I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this training. It’s a great class to have at this stage of my training.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:I’ve been feeling sentimental this week and Marvin Gaye always has a way of encapsulating what I am feeling or what I want to feel. Here’s the real jam for the week.
Well, it's nearly arrived. I'm just about entering rising senior status here at DePaul. That's a scary thought. It's one of the biggest cliches but it really does feel like just yesterday I was standing on Clifton with several plastic tubs full of stuff that I thought would allow me to survive on my own, waiting to move into University Hall. A lot has changed since then, obviously, but perhaps just as many things have stayed the same. Im now thinking about how I want to make my senior year the best it can be.
For starters, with all my non-major required courses fulfilled, I'm going to fit in as many extra, personally interesting classes that I can. I'm slated to take a German class in the fall, which will be a great help in pushing me down the path of knowing as many languages as possible. I also intend to take as many advanced stage combat classes as my schedule will allow. I took one advanced combat class this quarter and it was truly awesome. I learned a more refined level of unarmed and rapier & dagger combat, which I had started in the basic combat class, and also learned quarterstaff combat, which I had never done before. Quarter staff, a six foot long redwood staff, is a weapon designed for guys like me. It was a blast to use the full length of the staff and alternate between very rapid and slow and deliberate passages of combat. This coming year, the featured weapons, in addition to more rapier & dagger and unarmed, are broadsword and knife. I freaking can't wait.
Among my other goals for the next year are to write an at least ten minute play, learn how to play guitar, and take a significant camping trip with my buddies. But, in a less concrete sense, I think this year will be especially important in figuring out how life after college will be. What it will look like and how I will handle it on a day-to-day basis. What's fortunate is that The Theatre School does a great deal to prepare its students for life as theatre artists after college. And, ultimately, I know it won't be that different besides the fact that I won't go to class everyday. Instead of that, I'll go to my job. Weird. But just the natural progression of things, I guess. As someone who worries quite a lot, I just need to keep reminding myself that I know how to survive and finishing school is something I can totally handle.
So, for the next year, I hope to soak up as much experience as I can from DePaul and my status as a student in Chicago and then figure out that whole being a functioning member of society thing. Piece of cake, right?
Tylers Hot Track of the Week:Heres a moody lil one for you. Foals hail from Oxford, England like another English band that I sort of like a little bit (cough Radiohead cough). This one's perfect for expressing that early summer angst that might be boiling right under the surface for many of you. Enjoy, friends.