I have had my future planned out for as long as I could remember. Go to college. Get into law school. Work for the government. Do good for others. While acting, directing, and playwriting had been a much needed outlet for me for many years, theatre was never a part of that plan.
But by the time I got to college, I was no longer satisfied with that path. I was disillusioned and disturbed by systemic injustices and a political culture of division in need of healing. I turned increasingly to theatre, using it to channel my frustrations. In 2019 I directed a play I wrote about our flawed education system, and in 2021 I directed a production of Sarah Treem’s When We Were Young and Unafraid amidst mounting attacks on women’s rights. Theatre went from being an outlet to how I realize my sense of civic responsibility. I want to live a fulfilling life at the intersection of what I am passionate about and what allows me to advocate for the greater good. Though pursuing a career as a director comes with hard realities, I am committed to finding that intersection through theatre.
As an early career director, gaining more professional, academic, and artistic experience has been my primary focus. Over the last several years, I have assisted established directors and directed my own productions, gaining real world experience, making valuable mistakes, and creating my own opportunities where I could not find them. I have taken courses in theatre history, Western dramatic literature, acting method, and directing fundamentals, giving me the chance to understand and critique contemporary conventions of theatre and performance. I have also taken several design and technical courses, balancing my understanding of the production process as a whole. Hoping to learn from artists outside my community, I applied for and was accepted into the 2021 Yale Summer Session course “A Practical Approach to Directing”, the youngest member of that year’s cohort. There I learned tools to approach rehearsing, staging, movement, script analysis, and design. Here I internalized Peter Brook’s mantra to ‘hold on tightly, let go lightly’. Now, I make collaboration the focus of any rehearsal process I lead, trusting that whatever we create together is better than what one person’s vision would yield.
Because I see theatre as a way to imagine the world as it should be, it is vital that my work with actors aligns with the values I espouse. I am increasingly aware of the privilege I have, as well as the legacy of inequality and harm that BIPOC artists have faced. To implement better practices and create safer spaces for play and discovery, I recognize I need to take an active role in improving my theatre community. I was accepted to my theatre department’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility Council where I help advocate for actively anti-racist practices. Inspired by our work and recognizing the extent of learning I have left to do, I am writing my honors thesis on how to prioritize care in rehearsals and empower actors with unscripted and improvised exercises.
Given my academic and professional ambitions, I believe graduate school would be a transformative next step. The chance to study responsible, innovative artistry under experienced practitioners in a graduate program would be invaluable. Graduate training also offers the chance to work with peers who are making tomorrow’s theatre today. Whether I can collaborate with a Playwriting MFA program or connect with local dramatists, I want to continue working with the way aspiring playwrights are shaping theatre canon. I know that graduate school would be the perfect laboratory to build these experiences. While graduate school would help me navigate my journey as an early career director, it would also help me pursue my long-term ambitions. I hope one day to teach theatre and directing at an institution of higher education, galvanizing a new generation of creators much like my professors and mentors have for me. There is no better way to study best practices than from the experts already on that path.
While my plans have changed from just three years ago, what has not changed is my commitment to responsible citizenship and pursuing progress through art. If being a student and young director has taught me anything, it is that I do not have all the answers. What I do have is a lot of questions, questions I hope to explore further in a graduate program’s environment of collaboration and creativity.