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Articles by Tyler Esselman

In Defense of Honors Students

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)







Showcase!

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 y​​​ears. One last hurrah is just what we need. And we’re going to do it in style.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Just trying to keep moving forward, ya dig?









What Is My DePaul Legacy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my legacy will be at DePaul. I recently heard somewhere that the only reason humans do anything in their lives is so that they will be remembered when they’re gone. And it makes sense to a certain extent. We want to make our mark. And hopefully it will be a positive mark!

In a literal sense, I’m very proud of having been a part of The Theatre School (TTS)​ as we moved into our new building last year. It’s been a huge shift in identity for us as a community and it’s been exciting, frustrating, and rewarding to be at this school during this time of transition. I’ll always be able to say that I was among the first students to work in this building as it continues to support artists for many years to come.

I’m also very proud of the student organizations I’ve helped start while at this school. I was in the group of students that started TTS’s Musical Theatre Collaborative our first year. We started out doing a small-scale cabaret in a tiny room and we’ve grown to doing full musicals in the beautiful studio space in The Theatre School building. The Mildly Rehearsed Players is another organization of which I cannot express how proud I am. We had so much fun putting up Shakespeare’s plays​ in a way that we connect to in a deep way and sharing it with our community in a fun, engaging way. I also never thought I would be able to play Romeo in my life and mildly gave me that opportunity. I will always be grateful that we brought that together.

DePaul’s legacy in me is perhaps even more interesting. I did so many great things in school and out of school during my time here. I had major life events come and go; I fell in love for the first time, I discovered the kind of art I want to do, and I started down a path toward the kind of man I want to be. I like to think that the lives I encountered and the art I made while here will live on just as much as the experiences will live in me. That means I’m doing my job.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
It’s warm this week! Thank god!




Abroaden Your Horizons

You know what I think anyone who has the means to do should do during their time in college? Leave the country for a bit! Study abroad​! Go somewhere and study your craft outside of the familiar landscape of the US. Or don’t study your craft. Maybe study something completely different. The point is that you shake up your perspective and challenge yourself by being in a new environment with people you’ve never met before and absorb a new culture. Just do it.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in France after my second year because of a scholarship I received when I graduated from high school. I didn’t do it through DePaul because the program I had my sights set on was an independent voice training program at the Roy Hart Artistic Centre​ in the south of France. 

After making my way across the pond and spending a few days visiting family friends in Lyon, I arrived at Malerargues; the home of the Roy Hart Centre. Two of my friends from The Theatre School​ were already there and we did our weeklong program together. The chateau at Malerargues is gorgeous in its simplicity. Originally conceived as a commune where a group of British expats gathered to explore the human voice and make alternative theatre, the collection of buildings has been restored by hand over the years and now yearly hosts hundreds of people from all over the world who want to explore their connection to the voice and the myriad ways they can use it. And even though my friends and I are actors, the vast majority of the people in our program were not. They were psychologists, microbiologists, teachers, musicians, roofers, and explorers. They were all there for different reasons. Some were having trouble in their marriages and wanted to improve their communication, some felt like they had never truly been heard, and for others it was medicinal. 

It was an incredibly inspiring experience for me because it offered me a completely different perspective on the kind of artistic work I want to do and made me feel like a fuller human being. I think about it every day.

I cannot recommend studying abroad more highly. DePaul has wonderful programs available to its students that will get you out there in the world and trying things you never thought you were capable of.  Do it. You won’t regret it.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
This song makes me smile. That’s a valuable thing.
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The Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Coming to DePaul

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.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Hozier's really been blowing up lately and this is my favorite cut of his that I've heard. Enjoy!

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So Much to Do, so Little Time

Winter is no longer coming, people. It’s here. Wow. It hit hard. It seems fitting that today, the first day of classes for my final winter quarter, would also be the first sub-zero day of the year. But, I must say, my spirits are high. I have a really good feeling about this quarter and what it could be. As such, I have been working on my pre-graduation to-do list. Pretty soon, I’ll be off in the big bad world and I intend to do some personally enriching stuff and some uniquely DePaul stuff before I get out of Dodge.

One, I plan to read all of Shakespeare’s canon, sonnets included, out loud by the end of winter quarter. My Bard craze is well-documented in this blog’s archive and I figure now is the time to really go whole-hog on devouring this rich text. I have my favorites, obviously, but I am excited to see what will strike me from the less-celebrated work in the canon. My dear friend and I hope to do at least two plays a week together. It’ll be a great thing to do when going out of doors is simply unconscionable.

Two, I plan on attending a Blue Demon basketball game. This is something I am ashamed to say I have neglected to do thus far in my time here at the university. Granted, it would have been difficult to fit it in before now, what with my schedule as packed to the gills as it has been these last three years. But, there’s still time! I want to make sure that I take in our school’s marquee sport at least once before I’m no longer a student. Whether it’s the women’s team or the men’s, I’ll do it!

And three, I want to perform at an open mic somewhere. Stepping up at an event like that has always seemed like a very prototypically college thing to do and it’s certainly something that interests me. I’m not entirely sure what I will perform. It might be poetry or an Irish drinking song something of that ilk. It will feel good to do a little bit of performance outside of The Theatre School and share my work with a different section of the DePaul community.

This list will keep growing and I’ll be sure to share if I add any particularly interesting bits. Stay warm, blogosphere!

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

I’m on another Andrew Bird kick lately and here’s a track of his that struck me the moment I heard it.




BFA vs. BA: It's Your Choice

​So you’ve decided you want to major in theatre, huh? As a wise professor of mine would say, welcome to the group. As you, you budding theatre artist, will find out, if you intend to major in theatre, you’re going to have to choose between pursuing a BA or BFA. The Bachelor of Arts versus the Bachelor of Fine Arts essentially differentiates between a non-conservatory program and a conservatory program. And they each have their merits. 

Let me just preface this description by saying that The Theatre School here only offers a BFA in terms of an undergraduate theatre major. We do offer a theatre studies minor but the BFA’s all we got for majors. Just FYI. Anyway, the inclusion or exclusion of that F in your degree abbreviation is going to denote the volume of curricular theatre work you do. In admissions, we say it’s about an 80/20 split. 80% Theatre School classes and 20% liberal studies classes. In a BA program, that split is going to be slightly closer to even. In addition, the BFA is more focused in a particular field. For instance, the BFA in Acting focuses nearly all of its curriculum in acting related classes with the same being said for the BFA in Lighting Design, Sound Design, Playwriting, etc. You get the picture. The BA is going to have a much broader scope of curriculum. You might have the option to take a lot of classes in a variety of different branches of the theatre. That presents one of the advantages of a BA: it is more flexible and if you want to have a broader education in theatre that might be the option for you. It all depends on the college theatre experience you want to have! 

I’m very happy with choosing the conservatory path because I knew I wanted to have a very focused, pre-professional education in acting and TTS has given me just that. One of the best things about it is that it is a combination of abstract and technical. I am taking a movement class right now that is focused in the Michael Chekhov acting technique which is based on how we move our energy around on stage and how we can use the dynamics of our body and energy to great effect on stage. I’m also taking an audition technique class where we do mock auditions and learn in a very technical sense how to best audition for professional productions. Both are essential to a theatre artist, but very different in terms of how they fit into the actor’s toolbox. 

So you’ll have to decide which path is for you. As we all know, many very important theatre artists come from very different educational backgrounds and some from none at all but, in my opinion, having the hunger to learn the craft is the most important part. 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

Some Blur for you this week. This one always gets stuck in my head for a good couple days after I hear it or think about it. Enjoy. 

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This One's for the High School Juniors! It's Your Turn Now.

​By now, most of the visitors we have been getting at the admissions office at The Theatre School are already admitted students or current juniors in high school since admissions decisions for this coming year have already come out. As such, I thought I’d throw out some advice for those current juniors, rising seniors, in high school who are interested in applying to The Theatre School. 

One of the things many people don’t immediately know about being a student at The Theatre School is that we still do have to complete Liberal Studies courses outside of TTS. These are things like the writing seminar WRD 104 and quantitative reasoning LSP 120. In addition to those classes, there are a certain amount of electives that can be satisfied in more diverse ways. You have a history requirement and a science requirement as well as a few others. Never fear, though. The general understanding is that, as a TTS student, if you take at least one Liberal Studies course outside of TTS each quarter then you will be able to complete those credits no problem. That being said, one of the best things you can do is take as many AP or IB or other college courses in high school so that you can get transfer credit. I was able to do this and, because of it, I have been able to take a lot of classes that were not required but simply interested me. Credit from high school transferring isn’t guaranteed but it’s absolutely worth it if it does end up applying. You’ll be able to individualize your college experience so much more. 

In terms of preparing to apply to The Theatre School specifically, now is the time to start searching for a monologue for your audition or putting together a portfolio for your interview. If you’re auditioning for the Acting major, it’s important that your two-minute contemporary monologue is as familiar to you as any monologue has ever been. You want it to mean a great deal to you and show off who YOU are as an individual artist. If you really, truly care about the piece you’re doing and do the requisite work to prepare it, then you’ll have a great audition no matter what. For those interviewing for the design/tech majors, you want to start compiling those portfolios of not only work that applies specifically to the given area of design but also includes your artistic endeavors in other areas. Are you a photographer? Do you paint? Or maybe build sculptures out of toothpicks? Include that stuff! That’s the kind of stuff that really shows who you are. Theatre Studies interview? You want to start thinking about that writing sample. What inspires you about theatre? Why do you want to live in it? Where do you see it going? Those are the kind of things you can keep in mind as you are applying to not only The Theatre School, but also any other theatre major around the country. They’re the most important questions a theatre artist must ask her or himself. 

It may seem early, but you can never be too prepared for an audition or interview! And you should definitely make the time to come visit us this summer and see what you think of the building. It’s good to have an idea of the place you’ll be spending four years before you apply. 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

This week’s Hot Track is courtesy of my great friend Addi, who will be joining us as a Blue Demon this fall! She introduced me to this up-and-coming band from Ridgewood, New Jersey. It’s perfect spring, driving-around music. Hope you enjoy! 

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Some Ideas for a Solid Visit to DePaul and Chicago

Ah, finally. The weather has decided to relent ever so slightly and give us Chicago residents highs in the balmy 40s. You know what that means? All you prospective DePaulians out there should come visit us! Yes, that’s right. Here comes my guide on how to best visit our fine institution and enjoy a little taste of the city as well. I’ll preface this by saying that a majority of my guide will be food-based. Hope that’s OK with all of you.

Any who, first thing you should do is schedule your visit. If you’re a junior or senior in high school, you most likely have a couple excused absences with which to visit colleges? Use at least one of them on us! If you can, make a weekend of it! Come up here on a Saturday and schedule your visit for the Monday thereafter. That way you can spend a good chunk feeling out the city and seeing the sights. If I were doing it all over again, I’d arrive on Saturday in the early afternoon and catch a show at the Steppenwolf that evening. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, they always have a production worth seeing. But before the show, I’d grab dinner at Pequod’s at Clybourn and Webster. My absolute favorite pizza in the city and a great place to watch a Blackhawks game if the stars align and there’s one on that night. On Sunday, I would go check out the Bean in Millennium Park. Totally cliché and touristy but entirely necessary. You then have an entire day to choose your own adventure. You could go to the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, go to the museums or the Art Institute, catch an artsy flick at the Gene Siskel Film Center, or shop on Michigan Avenue. The city is your oyster. If I were you, I’d hop over to Wicker Park at some point and browse through the shops over there. In particular, you should spend a good long while in Myopic Books, one of the best bookstores I’ve ever encountered anywhere. That evening, dinner could be at Topo Gigio in Old Town if Italian is striking your fancy or Longman & Eagle in Logan Square if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous. They have a unique take on classic American dishes and a wonderful atmosphere that will show you a side of the city you probably wouldn’t see if you stuck to the beaten path. Pay us a visit the next day and grab a classic Chicago dog at Chicago’s Dog House on Fullerton and no one could deny that you will have had a pretty stellar introduction to our fair city.

Visiting colleges is a very exciting time for someone in the latter stages of high school and can make for some great travel memories. Just remember to try to take in a bit of whatever town or city the school you are visiting inhabits while you’re there. It could be your home away from home for the next four years.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Spring always gets me in the mood for a road trip and here’s the song that will be the first one pouring out of my speakers when I inevitably hit the road sometime this spring or summer. Come on Spring, just get here! I know you can do it!