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Articles by Tyler Esselman

Grad Showcase Part 1: COMPLETE

Part one of graduate showcase is in the books! My class just returned from doing our showcase in New York City​ over the past several days. It was a very exciting, exhausting trip and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to see the city in this new light.

Until now, I’ve never seriously considered living in New York. I really like the city itself but I’ve always thought that it wasn’t really a place in which I could see myself living. The bustle and cramped spaces always seem claustrophobia inducing and that was my over-riding image of the city. However, this time around I was able to get out of Manhattan ​a bit to see Brooklyn ​and Queens​, and see that New York is not only Manhattan. There are slower paced neighborhoods where people live their lives at a pace not all that dissimilar to Chicagoans. This pleasantly surprised me.

I never had any qualms about not being able to do the kind of work I really want to do if I moved to New York, but the alumni panel that we attended as part of our activities made it clear just how empowering the city is for artists. Almost universally across our panel, the individuals wore many different hats as actors, writers, producers, and directors or some combination therein. What I take from this is that if you make it be so, you don’t have to be put into a box as one type of artist in New York, and that people are really driven to make their own work which is also my main desire artistically as I move past graduation. How awesome is that?

Beyond the official aspects of our time there, I also enjoyed seeing some old friends, visiting some really cool bars and restaurants, and taking in an Upright Citizens Brigade​ comedy show. New York treated me really well. Now we have a few days back in Chicago for the hometown version of our showcase before leaving for LA where I lived for several years when I was younger. I can’t wait to continue to share our work! Let’s go get ‘em.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
Since we’re headed west soon, here’s a warm weather throwback for y’all.


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I'm a Lifelong Learner, Baby

I’m a cheesy guy. I’m a sappy, nostalgic, hopelessly romantic dude and what I’m about to say is cheesy but true: I love learning. So, as my formal education comes to a close (at least for the foreseeable future because I don’t currently see myself going back to get a grad degree), I’ve started to think about what I’m going to do next to continue my education in theatre and just as a person in the world. The options are endless.

From an acting/theatre perspective, I’m fairly certain the next training on my agenda is take improv classes. I’ve been doing improve since I was the president of my high school’s improv ​comedy troupe (What what, Improvability!). This past quarter we had an improv class with Noah Gregoropolous​ from iO​. This was definitely one of my favorite classes at DePaul. It was less focused in comedy than it was in using the training we have for written text and applying it to improvisation. The only real rule was that we wanted to always be truthful. The excise this provided was great because it encourages you to always mean what you say on stage no matter what which can be harder than you think if you’re not relaxed and focused in the moment. This practice was super inspiring to me, especially at this stage of my training. As such, I’m definitely planning on taking classes at iO ASAP. I feel like it will be just the kind of practice I need to keep my enthusiasm for acting alive.

My to-do list of post grad hobbies outside of theatre is crazy long. I want brew my own beer, work wood, play music, write poetry and short stories, cook delicious food, work on an organic farm in Norway, backpack everywhere, learn a million languages, build houses, and plant a killer garden. The way I see it, to be a quality actor you have to be a real human being. You have to appreciate things outside of the theatre that inform you in your theatre work. And at this point I just want to hit the ground running. I’m young and I want to squeeze every bit of opportunity out of my day. I want to learn something new constantly. And I will do it. The work never stops.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
You just have to sing along! YOU HAVE TO.


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Formulating Some Goals and Stuff

I can’t stop thinking about the movie Whiplash. By now, many of you out there have probably at least heard of it. For those of you who haven’t, Whiplash is a remarkable film about a young jazz drummer at the nation’s top music conservatory being pushed to the limit by a supremely demanding conductor at the school. It’s such a beautifully done film; masterfully acted, shot, and edited. And it asks an important question: what makes the great artists truly great?

As I inch ever closer to graduation, the constant daydreaming about what kind of work I want to do as an artist and human being is becoming ever more pressing. I’m in a really fortunate position, I can pretty much go anywhere and do anything I want, but it’s tough to figure out what my path will be. I know what I value and I know the kind of people I want to work with, but it’s a matter of putting myself in a position that will allow me to be free to do exactly the kind of work I want to do. 

One of my immediate goals is to continue to do a great deal of quality classical work, both Shakespeare and otherwise. Thus far the performances I have done that I enjoy the most and from which I learn the most have been performing Shakespeare. I’m going to continue on this track because I believe that if you can perform classical text well, you can do it all well. It’s also becoming more and more of a desire of mine to write and produce some killer short films with my buddy. I’ve been learning more about what it actually takes to produce a film and it seems like something we can actually do. I have no doubt that we can make some honest, personal films and I want to get it done! The wheels are turning!

In Whiplash, our protagonist takes to heart the idea that the great jazz musicians in history became great because they were relentless and never, ever took no for an answer. While I think one has to take care of themselves and have a healthy separation from their work, I do think that it is so important to go after artistic pursuits with single-minded determination. It’s the only way and that’s how I plan on working from this point on.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

I saw The Districts on Seth Meyers​ this past week. Great energy and killer sound for such a young band. I mean, come on! They just graduated HIGH SCHOOL!




Getting All the Nuts and Bolts

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. 





Showcase Is Just around the Corner

This past week, I attended the first planning meeting for one of the most exciting and daunting events of senior year for us acting majors: Graduate Showcase. Our Showcase is where we travel to New York City and LA to do a performance of scenes and monologues for industry professionals like agents, casting directors, and managers. Oh, we also do one here in Chicago, by the way. In addition to doing the Showcase itself in those cities, we also attend alumni networking events that can put us in contact with alums of TTS (The Theatre School) that might be able to help us get settled in those cities should we decide to move there. And the crazy part? We do all three performances within the span of two weeks! Nuts, right? So, this first planning meeting was mostly to talk logistics. We covered things like budgeting, getting headshots printed, transportation, and lodging. It’s all very overwhelming and absolutely exhilarating.

Many of my classmates have pretty much already decided if they want to move away from Chicago right after Showcase and graduation or not, but I’m in a very flexible spot. I always thought that I would want to leave Chicago for LA right away but after these past four years, my thoughts on it have definitely shifted. I want to do different kinds of work than I did before and that could lead me anywhere.
I have no idea where I will be six months from now but I’m leaning towards probably staying in Chicago for the time being and maybe even going overseas for a while. I’d love to see what the UK might have for a young theatre maker such as myself, especially if I had some collaborators who also wanted to head over there. It’s always been a dream of mine to live overseas for at least a while and soon might be the best time to do it.

Ultimately, I will have to see what the next several months hold for me and what opportunities Showcase might present, and then go from there. It’s very exciting to have all of these options ahead of me. I’m just going to have to go with my gut.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

This week is "Towers" by Bon Iver. My favorite song off their self-titled second album. I could listen to it any time, any day.