DeBlogs > Tyler Esselman
I’m a guy that thrives on structure. It’s my default when I don’t know what to do in a situation. As such, I have been trying to embrace more chaos in my life simply because it puts me out of my comfort zone and helps me go to places in my acting work and in my personal life that I rarely expect. That being said, as I graduate and lose the structure of going to class every day and knowing where I will be at the beginning and end of each season, I have to build at least a little more structure for my daily, post-grad life so that I can stay sane.
As an actor starting my professional career here in Chicago, I’ll have to supplement my income with a day job or two. I have managed to secure one at the Chicago Athletic Club already. This job is great for many reasons including the fact that I can work early mornings so I can go on auditions during the day, I get a free gym membership, and it’s easy to trade shifts with coworkers. My hope is that I can also secure another job in the evenings serving at a restaurant. This way I would at least have the experience serving that I could use at any restaurant and get to interact with people. At some point, my hope is to get a job working at a brewery here in town. Beer is another of my major passions outside of theatre and being able to help brew beer for my day job would be absolutely ideal. The key that I have gathered about how to make it for the long haul as an actor is that you cultivate a life outside of the craft. If I can brew beer, write my own material, exercise, spend time with my friends, and make time to get out into nature regularly, I think I will be in the perfect headspace to do my best acting work.
The structure that I’m trying to create for myself will ideally be flexible enough that I can follow my impulses when new opportunities present themselves for me. Is there a chance to work in Milwaukee or another city that attracts me? Well then I hope to be able to go for that with no qualms. I’m getting more and more excited for the life I can live after graduation with each day that passes.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
I’ve never been terribly into Toro Y Moi but this track may have shifted that. This is great springtime music.
For a very long time, winter was my favorite season. I loved the gray skies and the skeletal vegetation and dependability of the cold. What was I thinking?? All of those things I loved about winter before are pretty much always replaced by January with dreams of clear skies, light breezes, and trees and flowers bursting with life. Spring is a chance for new beginnings and the spring in Chicago is a unique, beautiful animal.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts or bio, you’ve probably gained an inkling as to my deep love for baseball. And to me, spring and baseball are inextricably connected. When the weather gets warm, I immediately start dreaming of bats cracking, the organ churning at Wrigley, and even just listening to a game on the radio on the porch back home in St. Louis. This year, thanks to the generosity of a good friend of mine who is a Cubs season ticket holder, I was able to attend Opening Night at Wrigley to see the Cardinals and Cubs play the very first baseball game of the regular season. It was a tremendous night. My boys played well and soundly defeated the Cubs. I can’t think of a better way to start my spring than with an evening at Wrigley.
Spring has an amazing effect on how Chicagoans interact in the city. During winter, everyone curls up into themselves. They zip their collars up to the tippy top and put their shoulders down into the wind to be able to make it down the street. But when the flowers bloom, many Chicagoans do too. The clear air and even smallest modicum of warmth causes people to actually look at each other on the street, smile and spread a bit of good cheer. It’s also liberating to know that you can actually walk places rather than having to figure out the best covered form of transportation. The possibilities exponentially increase when spring comes in Chicago.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:I’ve been busting my way through the first season of True Detective and this bit of music caught my attention. T Bone Burnett coordinated the music for the show and he’s one I can always count on to match music perfectly to a film or television show.
Entering college, it’s important to remember that everyone is starting fresh. No two people will have exactly the same experience. That’s the beauty of it. My best overarching and admittedly cheesy advice is to thine own self be true. You want to be the most genuine, real version of yourself. It’s the only that college will really be a time during which you can figure out your own personal philosophy and how that will feed your future. So with that in mind, here come my three things I wish I would have known before coming to DePaul.
The first one is pretty technical. When moving in to the residence hall, you probably don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. I understand the idea that you want to have anything you might need at your disposal, but those rooms can get real crowded real quick. To my mind, you want to have your living essentials like clothes and all that jazz, and some comfort stuff like mementos from home, and then build from there. You don’t want to have an overstuffed room because then you’ll just feel claustrophobic and it won’t feel like a home away from home. Focus on making it feel homey over time rather than expecting it to happen right away.
Second, it’s important to have alone time. There is a typhoon of socializing when you first get to school. Endless recitations of your hometown, major, and what you did over the summer. At least for me, it was overwhelming. It can feel like you need to make best friends with people right away or you’ll be behind the eight ball. It’s just not the case. Your friend group will present itself over time as long as you are participating in the experience to some extent. But you need to have some alone time to decompress and actually process the whole transition to pseudo-independent life. I recommend taking a walk to the lake a couple times a week. It doesn’t take too long from campus and it’s a great time to think and then appreciate that beautiful lake we have here.
Finally, choose one person from back home and correspond with them in letters. This is definitely something I wish I had done. Letter writing takes practice and concentration and is very different from sending emails. It makes you a better writer, teaches you how to organize your thoughts, and is so satisfying when you seal that envelope. This will also create a tether to home for you. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in college life but, if this is something that you desire, having a specific point of contact and communication back home will be incredibly valuable.
Maybe these seem obvious but, in my experience, sometimes the most obvious things that can make us happy are the first to fall by the wayside. Be good and true to yourself and college will be a really transformative, enriching time.
Hozier's really been blowing up lately and this is my favorite cut of his that I've heard. Enjoy!
The other day the warmth came out, if only for a moment. It was glorious. I didn’t even have to wear a hat. Of course things cooled down again as the day went on but it got me to thinking about how exactly we Chicago residents survive each soul-sucking winter.
I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to live in Chicago. You have to be tough. First you have to be physically tough. You have to have the stamina to make it through the long, dark nights from November to March. And you have to be able to trudge down your street to the train even when the wind and snow are trying their hardest to bend you backwards. This winter, I’ve discovered just how important staying active during the cold months is. If you can do a lot of strength training at this time, then it won’t feel like you’re at so much of a disadvantage in the battle against the cold. You must be like a Viking or a 20s-era boxer. Bruised, weathered and built to last.
You also have to be mentally tough. You have to choose to be happy and positive because if you don’t then it’s a long spiral down the rabbit hole of seasonal depression. It’s important to take time to quiet your mind and center yourself. I’ve been trying to incorporate at least fifteen minutes every day of just being still. I don’t take in any information and I don’t move. I just sit still and swim in my thoughts. Any form of meditation can work so long as you are in the moment and honest with yourself. You’ll be amazed at how drastically it can affect your mood when it feels like the sun will never come back ever.
Carl Sandburg wrote a famous poem about Chicago and I think it paints a truly evocative portrait of our city. We’re fighters and we don’t take no for an answer. That is what makes this town beautiful and why we manage to survive winter after punishing winter. Stay warm, friends.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:The Bad Plus is a great contemporary jazz outfit that I have been grooving hard to lately. This one never fails to give me feelies. Enjoy!
For those of you high schoolers who will be visiting DePaul on your respective spring breaks this year, I have one recommendation for something to do. It is, in my mind, so quintessentially Chicago that you simply must not miss the opportunity to experience it.
I have talked about TJ and Dave before but for those of you have not heard me sing their praises to this point, Tj Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi are two improvisers here in town who are the artistic directors of iO’s Mission Theatre in their new space on Kinhsbury. In addition to moderating the shows that play at The Mission, they have their own 90 minute show that they do every Wednesday night at 10:30pm eponymously titled TJ & Dave. They come on the stage, introduce each other, drop their trademark line of “Trust us, this is all made up”, the lights go down, the lights come up, and they tear into 90 minutes of improve right off the tops of their heads. They don’t take suggestions, they just look at each other and the scene grows from whatever behavior is happening in that moment. It is quite honestly the best theatre I have ever seen. These two men are such incredible quality actors that them just existing together creates some of the funniest, poignant, and thought-provoking theatre being done anywhere. Most people are familiar with the sketch-based improve that Chicago is known for thanks to Second City and iO, but this longform work is also a hallmark of the Chicago improve scene. The space is very intimate and the audience is always rapt because they know just how special the material unfolding before them can be. It’s only $10 but make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time because this show sells out every single week. If you’re interested, here’s a trailer for a documentary recently done about the guys that can whet your appetite.
Improv and storefront theatre are what make Chicago’s theatre scene the beautiful cacophony that it is and nothing encapsulates that spirit more than TJ & Dave.
This song is love, people. “I’d rather be working for a paycheck, than waiting to win the lottery”
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.
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.
I’m on another Andrew Bird kick lately and here’s a track of his that struck me the moment I heard it.
One of those college stereotypes that I never thought I would fall victim to was the college student as the coffee addict. My parents are both dedicated coffee drinkers and it never really caught on for me before or during high school. But after a year of college, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I started drinking coffee before my 8:00am LSP-120 class and have since been hooked. I don’t drink it every day but it’s at least once every other day, and I must say that I love it. Part of what I love about it is the ritual of either making it myself or going to a café and grabbing a cup. The warmth and spark it gives me on an early morning are invigorating and sometimes indispensable. And thank goodness I decided to fall in love with coffee in a city that is so rich with coffee opportunities.
Your first stop should be Bow Truss Coffee Roasters. These guys are down-to-business coffee folk. I have been to their Lakeview location. The utilitarian space is geared towards showcasing the process of bringing coffee to your cup. They have some seating available but no Wi-Fi. So bring a book/magazine/newspaper and enjoy the fantastic cup of coffee they will brew for you. Their coffee has also been featured at Brownstone’s at DePaul’s student center!
Next, shuffle up Broadway to Intelligentsia. A very similar atmosphere to Bow Truss but with Wi-Fi and a bit more traffic. I would say that Intelligentsia is likely the most popular coffee in Chicago outside of your more commercial options. They do a very good job of rotating their selection so the more you visit, the more things you will be able to try. Plus, the painfully trendy employees are always kind and helpful, even for the less experienced coffee consumers.
Now for something a little quirkier! If you find yourself in the vicinity of Wicker Park, make a stop by The Wormhole. This place is for those of you truly nerdy coffee connoisseurs. It is decked out from head to toe in sci-fi paraphernalia, retro video games, and even a real-life DeLorean. This is a favorite of my roommates’ and mine. They also do a great job of bringing in brews from all over the world so that your palate can marvel in the diversity of coffee available to us. Truly wonderful times in which we live!
So make sure you bring your mug with you if you’re coming to visit Chicago during this sure-to-be brutal winter. You’ll have no shortage of fantastic coffee options right at your fingertips.
It’s been too long since I shot a Radiohead B-side out into the blogosphere. Take this! A true classic, in my opinion.
I love cooked meat. That's just my truth. I love animals, and I am all for their humane treatment, but if we are going to eat them, then we need to do it in the right way. But ultimately, I just love eating cooked meats of all kinds. To that end, if you are a meat eater in Chicago, you must be familiar with the hot dog and sausage scene. I've talked about some of the better spots for these succulent treats in previous posts but there is one place that I have been wanting to try and have not had the opportunity to do so yet. And what's more, my time in which to do so is limited.