Name: Helen Cespedes
Major: Drama — Diploma student
Hometown: Boston, MA
How many years have you studied at Juilliard?
I'm in my fourth year at Juilliard.
What age were you when you had your first acting class?
I must have been about 15 or 16 when I took my first acting class in high school. Aside from that it had mostly been elementary school performances (memorably one where I played a lost boy in Peter Pan, and fell down after an elaborate spin and spent the rest of the performance in tears).
What do you love about drama and who is your biggest inspiration?
I love the ability to transform and communicate. I think my biggest fear is not being able to make myself understood. I love language and learning foreign languages and finding new avenues of expression. For me, the fun lies in the details. So, I'd say my inspiration comes from the characters I have observed in my own life: family members, neighbors, strangers in passing. I've always been an old soul: growing up watching Judy Garland movies with my grandparents. So, I look to the starlets of the 30s and 40s: Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck. I so admire those fast-talking dames who could turn on a dime and make you laugh and seconds later make you cry. That's the kind of scope and versatility I mine for in every character I play.
What is your favorite part about studying drama at Juilliard?
I came to drama school because I wanted to be an athlete as an actor — physically and imaginatively prepared for anything. The training at Juilliard has provided just that. The rigor and attention you receive from the faculty is, I believe, unparalleled. The teachers were receptive to my strengths and idiosyncrasies and constantly pushed me to go farther, expand, and challenge myself.
Did or will you have any performances this semester?
Earlier in the semester we did Williams in Transit directed by Jonathan Rosenberg, a series of five short plays by Tennessee Williams. I got to play four different characters ranging from a fading actress, dying of tuberculosis, to a money-grubbing landlady in the French Quarter. Although I haven't graduated yet, I am already rehearsing for an Off-Broadway play at the Mint Theater, directed by someone I worked with in my second year at Juilliard, Gus Kaikkonen. It's called A Picture of Autumn, May 23-July 14.