The Clear Day Project

The Clear Day Project: To create a living theater project geared toward groups in NYC most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Less than a year ago, the dedicated team at Mount Sinai Hospital saved my life.

After two surgeries, including a thirteen-hour open heart procedure, and nearly 2 weeks in the hospital, I gained a first-hand perspective on the value of all hospital employees. The entire staff was critical in my surgery and recovery. Needless to say, I am indebted to their cause. When news of the recent outbreak started, I knew it was my time to return the favor.

I teamed up with two of my fellow Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama Classmates (Dan Amboyer and Kersti Bryan) to create a project that would help support the staff at a hospital that I hold close to my heart ( literally.) Tapping into an amazing network of artists and creators in different disciplines from all over the country, we started “Songs for Mt. Sinai,” which brings messages of hope, joy and thanks by the arts community to their entire hospital network of over 42,000 employees.

These messages of hope have reached Mt. Sinai hospital workers through screens located throughout the hospital system and through email, town halls, and social medias.

As that program launched, we knew there was a wider swath of the public who were also due recognition and some gratitude. So we took our idea and built it into something more ambitious.

We call it The Clear Day Project.

THE CLEAR DAY PROJECT name was inspired by the painting by William Orpen, “The Somme: On a Clear Day” which depicts the shocking beauty Orpen saw on the horizon after his return to the fields of the Battle of the Somme in World War I. Over a million men were killed or wounded, and yet, the fields and mountains in his painting seem glorious. His canvas almost made one forget what happened at that same spot only a few months prior. In the absolute darkness of war, through his art, he found light.

The arts have a special way of connecting us in difficult times. In these lonely and mournful weeks — where nearly 100,000 Americans have been lost (91,582 as of May 19, 2020 and at current rate, we will surpass 100,000) — Dan, Kersti and myself felt a sense of obligation to honor those who have been continually overlooked and under appreciated. So why not use the inherent creativity of our community to unite in new, creative ways?

Let’s create a living art project and send messages of solidarity to those who have been on the front lines in different fields all over New York City and the US. We’re talking about grocery store clerks, cab drivers, pharmacists and the like. If Art Basel is for the well-to-do and connected, The Clear Day Project is for the too often underpaid and forgotten. I am not sure anyone has had a “clear day” since this pandemic began.

Maybe a little art can get us one step closer.

Right now we are in partnership with New York City Center (NYCC) to create an event for graduating medical students at Mt. Sinai and for women and families in the maternity ward. Clear Day Project has received support from Broadway Cares and a number of other extraordinary resources. We are now brainstorming how else we can be of service.

We have had more than 20 Carnegie Mellon SOD folks join us in making videos of encouragement for “Songs for Mt. Sinai”.

In conversation with the hospital we have learned the high price these frontline workers have paid. They have lost friends and patients at an astonishing rate and their families are under increasing stress. They need comfort, delight and encouragement more than ever.

We are hopeful you, our Carnegie Mellon family, will be part of comforting those who need our gifts the most.

Contact us to see how you can help!

-Jordan Dean

To see more amazing videos that CMU alums and others have created visit us @cleardayproject on Instagram or https://www.cleardayproject.org/watch

Jordan Dean, Actor ‘07
Kersti Bryan, Actor ‘06
Dan Amboyer, Musical Theatre ‘06

Chekhov’s The Seagull

Chekhov’s The Seagull, a new online version by Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop, directed by Eleanor Bishop brings a landmark piece of theatre to the 21st century. Presented by Auckland Theatre Company.

Delivered in 30 minute installments over four weeks from Friday 8 May, Chekhov’s famous characters are reimagined with a Kiwi twist and congregate over Zoom. In a direct commentary of our world in lockdown, the characters are still searching for meaning in their lives while battling love, jealousy, dissatisfaction, dreams, hopes and plans – not to mention malfunctioning video calls! This drama all plays out in self-isolation and over virtual interactions with each other.

Eleanor Bishop, who has been referred to as “one of New Zealand’s most daring, intelligent, and political directors”, works across theatre and opera. Her work weaves classical material with documentary forms such as found text and filmed interviews, and it often features video and projection. Currently working between New Zealand and the United States, Bishop’s recent work includes Jane Doe, a participatory show about rape culture, first created at Carnegie Mellon and touring college campuses. She holds an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama.

Jacob Tischler IG

Hi NYDAC! Since COVID-19 hit NYC, I made it a point to use my down-time as means to keep myself engaged, and others entertained. To date, I’ve made 64 videos, averaging 1 minute in length for my Instagram account. The videos feature me and my Number 2, also played by me, and focus on a wide range of personal experiences I’ve had during this small apocalypse. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, I most recently created the Gettin’ Help series, paralleling my real life experiences seeking psychiatric support. I hope something in this little portfolio resonates with you, and helps get you through these exquisitely bizarre times.

Jacob Tischler graduated as an Actor in 2013. Has since been seen at the Walnut Street Theatre (Saturday Night Fever, Holiday Inn, Matilda), Olney Theatre Center (Singin’ in the Rain, Helen Hayes Nom), Northern Stage (Hound of the Baskervilles, Mary Poppins), and the New London Barn Playhouse (Spamalot, Forever Plaid, 39 Steps). He likes baking, gardening, fishing, and making silly videos.


Creative Interrogation in Isolation

So, Ms. Rona is on the loose and she’s got an attitude and a nasty lace front and bad breath and I do NOT like her. However, as an artist in the chaotic whirlwind of NYC, the one thing I have been craving is time. Time that just belongs to me. Time to work. Time to process. Time to sleep, sleep perchance to dream, dream perchance to kick this damn caffeine addiction. And this pandemic has at least given me that. So, silver lining! I snatch ‘em where I can. I’m gonna share a little bit about what my time in quarantine has taught me. I’m a writer/actor and will spend most of this piece talking about my experience as a writer, but I think it may apply to any medium of art, so here goes!

I started Ms.Rona’s reign thinking about what I actually should be doing with all this time. But should is such a stressful word. It immediately made me feel like if I wasn’t strutting out of my house in a couple months with a six pack and the next Angels in America on my laptop, I’d be a failure. Instead of being focused on product, on coming out of this with something tangible I could show people, I decided to try and take this time to reinvest in myself as an artist. If creativity is a garden, I’d spend this time watering mine. Recharging my creative batteries. Rediscovering my unique voice. Remembering why I write. What do I want to say? What do I have to say? Who is my work for? What is my mission? I’ve decided I want to come out of quarantine more sure. Not of what the future holds or that I have created the best thing since sliced bread, but more sure of why I do what I do.


I think the most important thing we can do as artists is ask questions. And I’ve realized that I often have no problem asking questions of others but very rarely do I take the time to turn inward and ask questions of myself. The hustle mentality of NYC can be a source of motivation, but for me, it has also been a distraction. I find that I often hop from project to project and saying “yes” to every opportunity without investigating what I learned, recapping what I liked and didn’t like, and really stopping to ask myself if I was truly fulfilled by the work I’d just done. I think taking a beat to interrogate our experiences brings us closer and closer to understanding our unique voices and perspectives, what we need in order to do our best work, who we work best with, what stories come most organically to us and which ones we are most excited to tell. I think it is great to have many irons in the fire. And sometimes, especially if you are a full time artist, you just gotta say yes to the dress and take what projects come along in order to put food on the table. I understand that sometimes choosing your own projects is a privilege and luxury but I really do believe that when we take the time to interrogate ourselves and our art, it puts us in a powerful position. We begin to create with specific intentions. When we know what we create and why, the right projects begin to find us. The right collaborators find us. We begin to find the right homes for our work. I believe that when we have a specific mission as artists, our creativity is unlocked and our productivity increases, simply because we are attacking the work from a more intentional place. This quiet time in quarantine has been a great opportunity for my own self-interrogation and reflection.

Your Mission = Your Framework

A while ago, I had the the awesome opportunity to write for a play festival called Rule of 7×7 (produced by the wonderful and hilarious Brett Epstein) in which 7 playwrights had to each write a play that followed the same set of 7 rules. I remember thinking “Ugh, this is gonna be SO hard. My creativity is STIFLED!” Of course, I experienced the complete opposite. My creativity exploded open. I had these guidelines I had to abide by, but I could tell whatever story I wanted within that framework. I ended up writing the play extremely quickly because I had very clear intentions and knew the bones of the story. Each play ended up being so vastly different and imaginative and I left that experience craving that kind of framework each time I sat down to write. I think proclaiming your mission as a creator can be like setting rules for the stories you tell, which, in turn, can help to kick your creativity into gear.

For example, if I say that my mission is to “lift people out of repression by writing stories about black and queer characters wrestling with identity and ultimately owning their authenticity”, then I know that is my framework. That is the story that I tell from my unique experience and there are an infinite number of ways to tell that story. Now I can choose projects by asking myself if they aid in my pursuit of that mission, I can search for collaborators who vibe with that mission, and I can sit down at my computer looking at that blank page and stressful ass blinking curser knowing that, at the very least, I know what I want to do with this story, even if the details have not revealed themselves yet. And at least having that jumping off point has helped me feel more in control of my creativity.

Creativity Kick-Starters

During this isolation time, I’ve been thinking about all the ways I gather inspiration that I usually don’t have the time to really indulge in because…life. 🙂 So, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been doing to stay inspired and generate creativity:

Catching Up on Some Art

Nothing inspires me like watching great performances and hearing great writing. I’ve been going through my list of movies and television that I haven’t been able to get to and finally crossing things off of my list. If you need a place to start, I’d suggest CMU grad Kyle Wilson’s WordPress article “50 Best films of the 2010s”. It’s full of awesome films and little blurbs about why they are great by artists who love them. Also, pretty much any entertainment publication you can think of (Indiewire, Rolling Stone, Variety, etc..) has a similar “best movies” list.

Additionally, many plays and musicals are now streaming online (some even for the free free!) on sites like Broadway HD.

I’ve also been catching up on reading which has been pretty magical. If you don’t already have a list, googling “Best books: of the decade/of all time/by women/by writers of color/etc” is a good place to start.


-Something that can be time consuming but an incredible learning experience has been watching movies I love and then reading the screenplays and investigating why they work beyond “Oh I like this”. It’s a good way to analyze and understand script structure in action and see how what you write translates to the screen.

-Listening to the advice of people I admire. Reading and watching biographies of artists is always a source of inspiration. Also, going on youtube and watching interviews with playwrights, actors, directors and filmmakers is invaluable. I’d say check out The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable series, SAG Foundation Conversations series, and the Academy Originals “Creative Spark” series.

-I know the news is horrifying right now and honestly I’ve been consuming as little of it as possible because I gots to protect my mental health. But I have found that when I have an idea, searching for past or current news articles relating to that idea can jumpstart my creativity. Especially because real life is stranger than fiction and you will find some WILD stuff out there.

Reviewing My Think Tank

I don’t know about y’all, but I have so many random half written scenes, one sentence ideas, play/movie titles, and all kinds of fragments of stuff written in my phone’s notes section and in random notebooks that I haven’t ever gone back to look at. I’ve been taking the time to comb back through these random ideas and see if there is anything there worth taking a real crack at now that I have some time.

Filling My Cup

Sometimes the best thing I can do for my creative, physical, and mental health is just taking care of me. Taking time away from forcing myself to be productive/creative and just letting myself be human.

-Meditation. I’ve been trying to meditate every morning. Sometimes I really feel like it and sometimes I really don’t, but, at worst, sticking to at least 5 minutes a day makes me feel proud of myself for setting aside that time. And at best, I keep going for upwards of 30 minutes and feel refreshed, focused, and full of gratitude.

-SLEEPING. Sleeping without setting an alarm is not something my body is used to but baaaaby? I’m a fan.

-Hobbies! I have been buying and caring for houseplants and it has been a saving grace. Having something alive in my room that I have to tend to gives me something to focus on and obsess over besides making art. And cooking has been amazing. Finding new food and drink recipes on Pinterest and trying them out has been very fun, delicious, and rewarding.

-Happy hours with friends. It’s good to talk to people. I am bad at reaching out and calling folks, even when I want to, but making virtual dates with people and sticking to them is wonderful. People need people, even when our minds try to trick us into telling ourselves we don’t.

Go Forth and Be Well!

I gotta be honest, writing this has been very therapeutic for me. If you’ve decided to read, I thank you for your time and attention and I hope you were able to get at least one helpful thing out of it. Really, the best thing we can do right now is continue to be gentle with ourselves. These are unprecedented times, so its fine to have unprecedented feelings. Our creativity is so intrinsically connected to our mental and physical states of being. So try things out, sleep, drink, eat, laugh, create when you’re feeling it, don’t beat yourself up when you’re not, and take this time to get to know what brings you peace and joy. Cus once you have that, you can start to share it with the rest of us.

Much love to you all.

– Harron

Harron Atkins (Musical Theater, 2015) is a Brooklyn-based writer/actor. He is a member of the Obie Award-winning playwrights group, EST/Youngblood, and his plays have been produced at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Tank, Dixon Place, Two Headed Rep, and Normal Ave. He has been a WGA Made in New York Writers Room Fellow, a Sesame Workshop Writers Room Fellow, a Sundance Episodic Lab semi-finalist, and a Screenwriters Colony semi-finalist.


Drunk Planet Earth

Drunk Planet Earth is a live show where a comedian who knows nothing about animals (Stephen Buckley) and animal expert with a very low alcohol tolerance (Brian Morabito) watch an episode of Planet Earth with drinking rules. They add jokes, supplement information about the animals on screen, AND if anyone in the audience has a relevant animal question, the hosts try to answer the question for a shot with our resident fact checker (Mick Szal) keeping them honest. Follow on Instagram @drunkplanetearth for daily stories of deep dive animal facts and watch on twitch every Thursday 8 pm at twitch.tv/drunkplanetearth 

Brian Morabito is a comedian and actor who has been featured on Comedy Central, the Oxygen Network, and multiple national commercials. A member of two house teams at UCBTNY, Brian hosts shows including Drunk Planet Earth and Pepper in the Jokes, a stand up show in the basement of a Thai restaurant.

At Home Artists Project

About three days into the virus becoming prevalent in New York City, a friend called me with an idea. The theatre and entertainment industry was just starting to feel the effects of Covid-19 and productions were starting to shut down one by one. He wanted to keep artists working and fill the void of live performances that we knew was rapidly approaching. After making a few more calls, we had assembled a team.

It was decided that this would be a virtual space for artists to collaborate on primarily new work. At Home Artists Project (AHAP) is a collective of artists cultivating work while at home. Our goal is to fill the vacuum of live performances and cultural gaps currently at hand, while supporting working artists of all kinds as well as resourceful charitable organizations.

By the second week of May, AHAP had produced 6 productions and 1 compilation video. We had worked with 36 different artists comprised of actors, directors, playwrights, musicians, visual artists, and designers, and raised over $200 to be donated to The Actors Fund. My part in these projects would not be fruitful if not for the equal efforts made by the other members of the creative admin team. They have been collaborators of regard and friends alike. One of my favorite things about theatre is that it works the same way everywhere you go. It turns out, this is true in the virtual realm as well. In a time when the community I love most is hurting, I feel very grateful to have landed amongst a team of go-getters who wanted to help by continuing to put some art into the world and offer a support system for artists in the meantime. My other favorite part about theatre is feeling apart of something, and that feeling has been invaluable at this time.  If you’d like to work with us or learn more, please visit https://www.athomeartistsproject.com/.

Jacquelyn Gutierrez

After graduating in 2016 with a concentration in Scenic Design, Jacquelyn moved to LA, where she freelanced across entertainment genres. She worked multiple times as a props production assistant for tv and film, as a props master and scenic designer for several 99 seat theatres, and regularly painted for Center Theatre Group and a few more commercial theatre companies. Jacquelyn relocated to New York in September 2019 where she began work as a digital marketing analyst for non-profit arts organizations and continued freelancing scenery work on the side, including painting Soft Power at The Public. Currently, Jacquelyn is part of the creative administrative team of At Home Artists Project, which was founded in the wake of Covid-19.

Grace Rao

Grace here! Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about us! For me, being a part of NYDAC comes down to providing community. I felt so overwhelmed moving to the city after coming out of such a structured, close knit system in the School of Drama. NYDAC is here to make NYC a little smaller and fill it with friendly, creative faces who are ready to listen and enthusiastic about serving. My hope is that NYDAC is able to deliver each of CMU’s Alum a sense of support. We are here to facilitate connection, help you build your network and spend time enjoying the art that brought us together in the first place.

Also, big shout out to the NYDAC Board who are always working behind the scenes to lift others up, volunteer their expertise and respond to my constant emails. Love you. You are gifts!


Ben Viertel

Hi, I’m Ben! I graduated in 2013 with a BFA in Directing and have been living in Hamilton Heights since then. I’m a freelance theater and film director, in addition to being the Artistic Director of Third Space, an artistic company that produces new work with CMU alumni that react to the world at large. I joined NYDAC’s Board because I want to grow and encourage collaborations across generations. My goal is to bring in alumni from older generations back into our community through providing unique programming geared for them and opportunities to connect and collaborate with alumni in new and exciting ways!

If you’ve got ideas or questions or want to be added to our d-list, don’t hesitate to email us! We’re here for you!


Thomas Moore

Hey there! I’m Thomas; I graduated from the acting program in 2014, and I work as a software engineer in Manhattan.Though I’m no longer acting professionally, I still feel a huge part of my identity is tied up with the community. I get a lot of joy out of supporting recent alumni through NYDAC, and I am writing and producing my own work whenever I can. I love immersive theater and other experimental modes of storytelling. Prior to going full techie, I appeared in Quantum Theatre’s production of Tamara, and I’ve worked with The Speakeasy Society in LA. Last year I launched a podcast called Thomas Tells a Story, the first season of which is a 12 episode science fiction epic set in a fantastical future. I’m also a huge fan of tabletop roleplaying games, and I’m currently in the playtest phase of a brand new superhero RPG I co-created called RooftopsI absolutely love working with Grace and Ben and the rest of the NYDAC board, and feel lucky that I can bring some unique skills to the table. I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @thomascmost. Say hi!


Zach Fifer

Hey! My name is Zach Fifer, and I earned my Tartan wings as an Acting major in 2016. I am currently a proud member on the NYDAC board, as well as the NYDAC social media coordinator. I find that there are many different ideas of what exactly NYDAC is, and the role it plays in our post-collegiate days. I joined NYDAC because of my love for the CMU community. Despite all the prep we received in Pittsburgh, when I graduated from school, moving to New York was a scary and intimidating process. Fortunately, I received guidance and support through my connections found in NYDAC. I turned to NYDAC for apartment help, job suggestions, agent and manager questions, farmer market recommendations, and countless other things, basically anything my brain would think of. I realized that the role that NYDAC serves is to provide the resources the community demands, and that is what I strive to provide for our clan. I believe that through a rich, healthy community, we can organize together to create an even stronger alumni clan, one built upon our love for our city, our love for our art, and our love for each other. The more united we become, the more capable we will be in order to provide for each other. There is no question we are already the CMU Mafia; however through a continued open channel of communication between NYDAC and our alumni community, we can continue to organize, strengthen our network, and provide the resources we the people need.