Monday, February 16, 2015



Let's take a trip down the memory lane. Rewind to four years ago, during my first semester at Stella Adler, when I was assigned my first scene. I remember feeling both that it was a brilliant casting choice for me, and that I was ill-equipped to take it on. (In hindsight, this is probably why I was in school in the first place.) I don't know what I expected from my first scene, but certainly not what I got. It was emotional, and it included a monologue that back then felt endless. At any rate, I had no idea how to approach it. Further, considering this was just one of many assignments I had at the time, and that I was also adjusting to New York, I was a little overwhelmed.

Maybe because I am an optimist at heart, as I tackled my monumental task, I had a moment of revelation: someone thought I could do it. I mean, they wouldn't have assigned me the scene in the first place if I couldn't do it to some extent, right? I was aware that what was being asked of me required a stretch, but I implicitly trusted that I wasn't being set up for failure.

I don't remember the outcome of this particular scene. My guess is that I achieved some things and failed at others. I was aware of my shortcomings, but fired up to bring my best game and keep on learning. And as I continued to juggle increasingly complex assignments, I also became more grateful for the faculty, because I knew the alternative: feeling that nothing was expected of me, or getting infinitesimal tasks that wouldn't allow me to grow.

There have been many times in my life when I felt the weight of the expectations of others. I haven't always gotten along well with that feeling. I now know that I owe many of my achievements to those who dared to imagine better things for me. Self-fulfilling prophecies can work for better, too.

We are all very good at self-preservation. We shy away from risks, lest we should disappoint others or, even worse, ourselves. Often we are encouraged to settle, and we do so because it is safe. So here is a challenge of sorts: what would happen if we chose to expect more instead? If we raised the bar for others and for ourselves? I am sure we would know how to deal with imperfect results. What we couldn't do anything about, though, are the risks we never took.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Elephant in Our Pockets

WRITTEN BY THEATRE EAST COMPANY MEMBER JULIA RAE MALDONADO Be it Puritans or the Plague, the theatre always seems to be under threat. I’ve been thinking a lot about one of Today’s dangers - a highly insidious foe which attacks the artist’s very ability to Dream.

(You may even have one in your hand right now.)

Certainly, it’s important to keep abreast of current events, sure. It’s probably important to answer that e-mail. Immediately. That cat is doing what? I better just click on that.

Whenever I have ten minutes, I start gobbling up little niblets of information. Stories reduced to bullet points, “25 Things That…”, 140 Characters! Don’t get me started on all that candy that needs crushing. I tell you, when I have time to kill, I kill it. I really kill it. My forty minute commute? Every minute of it is dead.

This little machine means not a second has to go by without my mind being occupied! This is great. I hardly know myself anymore. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and do nothing?

I remember about a year ago, I went through a horrible experience. It was this sort of artistic “cleanse” I read about in an actual book. It’s called “Reading Deprivation”. Pretty scary stuff. I hear Julia Cameron has now expanded the exercise and rechristened it Media Deprivation.

The idea is you don’t read anything, watch anything, or click anything. For an entire week!

Because apparently, to dip into the unconscious, that spring of unbridled creativity, an artist needs downtime. Like, real downtime.

And drama is a medium fueled by conflict and connection. Well! At least we’ve got plenty of conflict. As a society, we seem to feel isolated and crave attention. If you don’t believe me, glance at your Facebook feed.

But before you get too depressed, consider that this barren cultural landscape may be the perfect environment for the theatre to flourish. The success of immersive shows like Here Lies Love, Then She Fell, and Sleep No More prove that theatre-going audiences are starved for direct connection like never before.

As long as we can keep that device in our pockets, sit still, and Dream.