This semester opened its curtains with a rich and chaotic amalgam of experiences.
For the first time in decades, as second-year drama students, we toured our Shakespeare plays to schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Meanwhile, we were devising an entire piece with the resources of storytelling theater.
Simultaneously, I have been very busy co-producing an entire season for my theater company, Teatro Público, a nonprofit organization based in Puerto Rico. With both curricular and extracurricular activities, this semester has become a test on how to balance passion and love for the work with self-care and smart time management skills.
Here are some of the goals this semester (and maybe my lifetime) has written for me:
1. Strengthen technical skill set and push into the unknown: In terms of the artistic work, I have found a healthier way to engage with the work, based on real curiosity, playfulness, and allowance to mess up. This has opened the door for me to walk down uncomfortable creative paths that have proven very rewarding. One thing I love about acting is the ability to engage fully with imaginary circumstances and to shape-shift into other human beings from a vivid internal experience. For this semester and the rest of my Juilliard training, I really want to strengthen my technical skill set to be able to transform into anything without external or internal obstacles while allowing this newfound playfulness to keep leading me into the unknown with grace and sense of wonder.
2. Develop my own theater company: I founded my own theater company in Puerto Rico in 2017, but the project had fallen into a indefinite hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Since contributing to Puerto Rican theater occupies a big portion of my heart, I decided last summer to reactivate my company. Now, my partner, Raquel Vázquez, and I are the heads of an entire theatrical season, featuring the world premiere of a new Puerto Rican play, a production of a Chekhov classic, a Puerto Rican tour for a theater piece on gender violence, and workshops. I am in love with the project and invest a lot in it.
3. Find healthy balance amid the workload: This semester, I am organizing a performance show and an exhibition on Pioneer Women in Theater and Film to celebrate Women’s History Month as part of my role as a Diversity Advocate. Also, I lead the Alliance for Latin American Students, I am a member of the Juilliard Student Congress, and I work as a library assistant and an usher to be able to meet my financial demands. Finding the time to invest with passion, discipline, and creativity in all these ventures is quite challenging. The priority is to take care of my mind-body health. I started to put this classical combination into practice: sleep seven to eight hours a day, have a very balanced diet, drink plenty of water, exercise, meditate, and set restricted times to be on the phone.
4. Engage with the community: In our second-year student Shakespeare tour of local schools, when we were addressing crowds of 300 middle school students, there was nowhere to hide. I found that experience so liberating. Truthfulness, playfulness, and not taking myself too seriously were key in order to tell the story with the focus and energy on. But mainly, I loved to connect with the community outside this conservatory, especially by contributing our art to others (some of the kids had never watched a play before). I experience a similar feeling when, as part of the Gluck Fellowship program, my fellow students and I connect with audiences in hospitals, senior centers, psychiatric wards. These have become such memorable experiences, filled with joy and generosity.
5. Explore diverse artistic experiences: For our ensemble project this quarter, we are working with Israeli guest artist Ruth Kanner on storytelling theater through a collectively devised piece. At first, I felt out of place, but as I allowed myself to really engage with this new experience, my creativity expanded profusely and I found many common threads among our traditions. Truth, actions, variety of experience. I want my journey to be filled with these explorations.
6. Get to know the city and my neighborhood: I remember when I used to escape to New York on weekends, with a small backpack and a gigantic, open heart, ready to take in every wonder the city had to offer. Now that I live here, partly because of my hectic schedule, I have fallen into a pattern that has prevented me from really appreciating the beauty of a city I once dreamed of. With patience and care, I want to rediscover the city, explore new places and really make my neighborhood my home.
Attend a student performance on campus.