DeBlogs > Tyler Esselman
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.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
Just trying to keep moving forward, ya dig?
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.
I’ve never been terribly into Toro Y Moi but this track may have shifted that. This is great springtime music.
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!
A couple years ago, when I started DeBlogging, I wrote a post called Homesickness: A Manifesto. In my opinion, it’s one of the better posts I’ve written because it was more personal and revealing than many of my other posts. I really had it bad back then. I just hadn’t found my rhythm and niche here in Chicago yet and it was really hard for me live with my yearning to be back home some days. Going into my final spring quarter of college, I can say that I’ve come a long way with my homesickness and have a much-changed perspective on it.
I definitely still miss St. Louis every day. I miss my family and friends and the special kind of familiarity that I will never be able to replicate anywhere else. I miss the way it smells in the middle of spring driving around with the windows down listening to Cake. I miss the open space and the sense of freedom. But what I’ve realized is what I miss is just that: the sense of what it was like before. I’m a nostalgic guy. To the point that I can get stuck there sometimes. But I’ve found that my homesickness has evolved into something that looks forward rather than backward. What I want now is to establish my own home. I want surround myself with a community of people that I love and care about in a place that feels right. This is one of the most exciting trains of thought I have had while mulling over post-graduate life. This is my chance to find my home for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong, St. Louis will always be home to me but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to establish roots just as meaningful somewhere else.
So my advice to all of you out there who experience homesickness is that I don’t think it ever really goes away entirely. It’s like when you fall in love. In my opinion, all the love you have for someone never really goes away completely. It will just live in you in a different way. So all you can do is figure out how to find your niche and make a new home for yourself. It won’t be the same but that doesn’t mean it will be worse at all.
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:My good buddy put this on his playlist for his trip to the Grand Canyon and it immediately grabbed me. I’ll have to put it on my playlist when I eventually make it to that big hole in the ground.
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!
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.
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!
Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:This week’s hot track comes from Eels. His album Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire is rad to say the least. Give it a good, hard listen. Enclosed is one of my preferred tracks from that joint.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.