11May/20

Toro Adeyemi

Hey!  I’m Toro, Drama Minor ‘12 and current New York City-based advertising and public relations professional who works at McCann and also runs Toro Communications, a boutique marketing and public relations agency with a focus on promoting theatrical productions.
I joined NYDAC simply because I love collaborating with Creatives!  I grew up in the theater, and I have consistently been impressed by the talent our alma mater produces.  I may not have majored in Drama (shouts to Tepper!) but I do know what it’s like to come to NYC after graduating and not being 100% established — so I am particularly interested in helping new grads feel welcome, in addition to helping more established grads feel connected, and EVERYONE knowing that NYDAC is here to serve. 🙏

05May/20

Sarah Battaglia

Hi all! My name is Sarah, I graduated in 2019 from the Stage and Production Management program. I’m so excited to be joining the NYDAC board to help recent grads get connected to the great resources available to them on the east coast, and to continue to cultivate a warm and supportive alumni community. Since graduating I have been working primarily in NYC, and living in Hoboken. Although now my full time job is rewatching the West Wing, and trying to do yoga every day as we make our way through this pandemic. Wishing you all a safe and healthy spring and looking forward to getting to work!

05May/20

Jimmy Nicholas

Hi! I’m Jimmy Nicholas and I’m a proud member of the Acting/MT class of 2014. I wanted to join the NYDAC board because I believe in the work NYDAC does to help alumni navigate the tough waters of this business. Our strength, as CMU Drama grads, lies in our network and there’s no better symbol of that network than NYDAC. As artists, there’s countless obstacles we face as we come to NYC to carve out a career, let alone the challenges we have to overcome as we continue in the field. I was blessed to have alumni help me navigate those obstacles and I continue to lean on our strong network frequently for support. So what better way to pay it forward than to hopefully help others in the same way, but it doesn’t just stop with me. In order for NYDAC to be effective, we all have to play our part. My hope is that every graduate, regardless of what you’re working on (yes, this includes if you are now working outside the realm of the arts, we want to hear from you too), what credits you have (or don’t have), or what are your pre-conceived notions of NYDAC, you know that you are important and vital to this organization. We are here for you, to help in any way we can, and the more involved YOU are, the stronger our network can be.

05May/20

Art in the Time of Covid-19


I am an optimist. I always have been. Even in the darkest of days, my brain has been wired to find the silver-lining of the situation and make the most of it. That’s just how I function. And that is how I always will be. 

When the Coronavirus started sinking into our everyday lives, I tried my best to keep a level head. I was monitoring the situation, saw how scary things were getting, but knew that panicking would do nothing but add stress to the already stressful situation. I self-quarantined, I wore (and still wear) facial protection whenever I left my apartment, I bought a bike to avoid public transportation, and, most importantly, I actively made the decision to put my physical, social, and mental health first. I knew the following days, weeks, and months would be some of the most difficult times we have ever faced as humanity, and in order to come out the other end in one piece, I knew adjustments to life were necessary.

I have come to look at these last several weeks as a break from reality, or a pause from normalcy, never really allowing myself to accept that this may be the new norm. I’ve been patient with myself, indulging in habits and activities that have helped me stay calm and not panic, whether that be numerous 1000-piece puzzles or facetiming with friends and family, or a bottle of wine at noon or perhaps never even getting out of bed on particular days. I find creative ways to exercise to keep up my physical health. I reach out to my friends and family, however distant, to maintain my connection with others. It feels like the weirdest summer vacation I never had during college–nothing to do, no responsibilities, just an ample amount of time. I started to wait for signs of normalcy to return. And because I was waiting, I myself went on pause. 

As this “pause” continues, an uncomfortable feeling has started slipping into the pit of my stomach. A voice that I’ve have always had, a voice that has motivated me to get to where I am today, and a voice that was amplified ten-fold during my time at school, is telling me to take advantage of this time, get to work, and CREATE SOMETHING!! And the louder the voice gets, the more uncomfortable I become because I know I am in conflict. Part of me knows I am tending to my personal health and needs. I am making sure I am okay. I need to take as much time as I need in order to maintain my sanity and health. But at the same time, with two, three, four weeks of no creation or work, the feeling of uselessness has begun slapping me across the face. I feel lazy. I feel hypocritical. I feel a series of emotions that are not helping my mental health.

So, what do I do? How do I alleviate these feelings? Something about being in unfamiliar territory in life has somehow convinced me that since nothing is familiar, I myself am not familiar. This pandemic is new to all of us, so I too am new. As the world changes around me, I fail to see familiarity. And that in itself has terrified me.

But despite it all, I am still me, just as you are still you. So, I turn inward. And reflect. And remember all the things that still remain true in these maddening times. I know I am an optimist. I know I am emotional. I know I have big goals and dreams that both inspire and scare me.  I know I have beautiful friends, and I know sometimes I take them for granted. I know I cherish my family, and they cherish me. I know that this will not last forever. I know that despite how I currently feel, I am an artist. And I know that no matter what happens, nothing can change that about me. 

Covid-19 has forced me to address many aspects of my life–where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I am going. With nothing but time, all those thoughts and ideas I never had time for are finding their ways to the surface. Finally, I have space to address the issues in my life that may not have had time to be focused on pre-pandemic. This reflection, this internal growth, this examination of who and what I’ve become, all of this is the art I’ve been missing out. I cannot worry myself about the success of my career or the moves I’ll make once we’re all free. We cannot thrust ourselves into the future, ignoring the overwhelming pandemic that has plagued our present. 

I am actively creating something despite the lack of a product. I am making something out of nothing here, and I’m discovering that this art is personalized for me. There is endless beauty all around and within each and everyone of us, and I’m finally seeing the silver-lining. Art never takes the back seat. It thrives on. It is a part of us all. It travels with us and gains experience as we see and learn and understand more about the world around us. There is art in everything that we do. 

Yes, I wish this was over. Yes, sometimes I wish I did more with my days. But each and everyone of us are doing what we can right now, and that will be different for each of us. The art that I’m creating is found in the resilience and the love that humans share. It is in the longing to hold hands and to march in the streets and to dance with a stranger and to love and to connect and to be with each other, in person, face to face, one day soon. 

This pandemic will end one day, and when that day comes, I cannot wait to gather in masses, share our stories, comfort each other,  and remember what really matters: each other. 

See ya on the other side. 

Zach Fifer is an acting graduate from the School of Drama currently living in New York City. Outside of the arts, he occupies his time with finding as many dogs to pet as possible, and diving into as much nature that can be found in the confines of New York. You can catch him serving tables at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green (whenever restaurants open again). A few of his favorite credits include the American Premier of Things I Know To Be True (Milwaukee Repertory), Confidence and the Speech (Off-Broadway), Twelfth Night (Pioneer Theatre), If On A Winter’s Night… (The Brooklyn Generator), Cindy (Project Y), and Lord Of The Flies (Dir. Caden Manson). See him on YouTube in the coming-of-age horror short Lucy’s Tale (Chelsea Lupkin). Learn more at zachfifer.com or on his instagram @zachfife.

05May/20

THOUGHTS FROM A CLOSET: ON THE THEATER IN QUARANTINE


It feels like I haven’t left my closet in several days. It’s not a big closet — four feet wide by eight feet tall, and only two feet deep. It looks a lot larger on video, which is maybe a trick of the camera, or perspective. But there’s no denying that it is a closet. 

When the stay-at-home orders began trickling in I occupied myself like most people, with binged television, elaborate recipes, household odd-jobs, yet another attempt to finish reading Ulysses. I was alone, though not unoccupied. My evenings were spent commiserating on Zoom over the loss of paid work and productions months, sometimes years in the making, summarily shut down. Rightly so, of course, flatten the curve, wash your hands, quarantine the virus. But for theater artists, whose entire industry relies on communal gathering, professional grief is compounded by an existential uncertainty. How long will this last, we wonder. When can we return to normal?

About a week and half into my solitude (alone and immunocompromised due to asthma) my priorities began to shift. Whether propelled out of boredom or curiosity, I decided to trade one confinement for an even smaller one. I emptied out and refinished one of the closets in my East Village apartment, applied a fresh coat of paint, threw an iphone onto a tripod, and lo and behold, I had converted the formerly coveted storage space into a white-box digital theater. More accurately, it’s a theatrical laboratory with the goal of understanding how theater might adapt to the digital without sacrificing the act of collaboration or any of our shared theatrical values, be they feats of liveness, collective experience, ephemeralness, or the protean empty space. How can we artfully push against the boundaries of this new social distance to theatrically embrace the limitations of remoteness?

At first, brief improvisational studies of movement and perspective emerged, all posted on-line in an effort to document the process. The perimeter of the closet makes for a fitting proscenium, while the camera’s fixed frame dispenses with the familiar Zoom close-up for unedited wide-shots accentuating the full-body. Within weeks these pre-recorded etudes yielded longer, rehearsed performances crafted over video-conference with remote collaborators, as well as expansive plans for future live-streams, all aiming to explore the ways live performance and video capture might make a hybrid form all its own.

After all, it’s sometimes helpful to reduce our palette in order to return to the fundamentals of our craft. In the past few weeks, I feel myself returning to curriculums of old, once again distilling my practice to the essential elements of drama, composition, rhythm, gesture and storytelling, all the while pushing myself to experiment each day with newer technologies, searching every available instrument for some method to more dynamically elevate a space once reserved for storing alternately my winter comforter and air conditioning unit. My living room has become a production studio, and every piece of furniture, every light bulb, every extension cord at my disposal has been co-opted and recruited for the cause.

There’s no better excuse than a stay-at-home ordinance to find yourself with imposed limitations, and in my 8 square feet, I’ve found myself uncharacteristically inspired. Yes, I acknowledge that the work made in the middle of this uncanny, morbid moment can only be reactionary. But there’s no shame in acknowledging that fact, or in giving in to your naturally addictive tendencies to make art when so many other coping mechanisms have been taken from us. Nor do I begrudge anyone who prefers to use this time for rest and reevaluation. But I have spent so long wishing for the gift of time. Time to continue growing as an artist. Time free of competition. Free of FOMO. Free of institutional expectation. Free of marketability. And, however unfortunate the circumstance, here it is. The time for experimentation. The time for play.

I hope I’m not piling on yet more pressure to be productive or generate (hated words) still more content. I have no interest in merely filling the void of the internet. But I am interested in living in it. I often think about Peter Brook’s invocation of the empty space when standing in front of my closet. How can this utilitarian container, so uncomfortably small, so disproportionate in its aspect ratio, become a stage for the imagination? And it’s here I find the central metaphor, and perhaps appeal, of the entire project — it’s about as obvious as you might expect — that my attempts not only to make art in this confinement, but to exist whatsoever is not so dissimilar from what any of us are experiencing. There is frustration, and boredom, and lots of loneliness. But there is also great potential and for once an expanse of time that we have the chance to fill not with mere anxiety but with thoughtful, rigorous creative impulse. 

04May/20

ART IN ISOLATION

or, yes, you too can be addicted to work when no one cares


Any op-ed I read that tells people to take a break, I agree with.  Walk 6 feet away from each other, smell the roses and purell after, pick up on a prestige drama you haven’t watched and then watch it 5 times over.  Take a break. Go to the mountains in your mind and pick up meditation.  Watch CHEER.   Relive the times that someone told you you were special (2009 Carnegie Mellon Audition, 2010 Freshman Play Projects, 2011 Huron Playhouse Audition…I digress). Look out the window and see the seaside.  Take a break.  The deadlines, the writing, and the creations are, in fact, futile at this moment. Put on a mask and take a break. Kick back in your hazmats.  Recline and gently ease the ventilator in. Take a popper to relax. Just let go and take a fucking break.

The best question I could possibly ask myself is who am I without work. At least, this is what I say to anyone who asks me.  I don’t think the mania to discover what version of Zoom will produce the best theatre feels like the activity for today.  The activity is to watch the West Wing.  Watch it 6 times. It’s a fairy tale, and the writing is so good.  I should ask myself who am I when I don’t have work. When I don’t have the illusion of work. When the work will be predominately changed in ways I don’t expect and am not ready for. The youtubers had it right. Just set up a camera and pretend you are in England (the England of a few months ago, not the England now).  Stream me, baby, stream.

However,  I am a work-a-holic. 

I can’t do nothing. 

Because I need. To work.

Thusly, I propose that for those of us who cannot take a break. Who will not and cannot. This is the time for your dreams. The screenplay that is fraught with issues, the play that will not sell. Work on the thing that you shouldn’t make time for.  “It’s bad! It’s bruised! It’s too personal!” cries your internal self,  “It’s immature.  It’s stupid.  It’s lame. People will make fun of me. It will not sell. It’s not a smart idea. I like embarrassing things.  My parents will think I’m an idiot. My spouse will feel betrayed. I don’t want to ever think about producing it, but I kinda wanna write it!”  The list continues, but this is the time to write the bad thing. At current, there’s little danger of having to get it seen. On attempting to sell it. On having to do the very dangerous work of marketing. 

Note:  I do not endorse marketing. I do not advise getting out your calender to pick the day to make the thing. I don’t advise planning too specifically.  “I do not belive in ‘isms,” said Ferris Buehler, and I say it too. 

The freedom of this exercise is getting to write when there is absolutely no immediate threat of the fucking thing getting made. This is the time for the unreachable, the bad, and the really, really, really bad.  Dust off the humiliating ideas from where you left them in your morning cheerios, and I dare you to write something horrendous.  If you cannot take a break, I encourage you to work on the thing that time, intelligence, and good sense cannot allow you.  There’s no time like the present to make the worst thing ever. 

If you cannot, of course, kick back.  Enjoy the sunset.  Think about the sun being your friend as you run through the park.  We’re in this thing together with the warm weather.  All the relatives all over the world feel the same way. It’s boring, it’s tiring, and we were tailor made to enjoy the laptops. Get on Chatroulette, fuck it, see the sights.  I don’t know where divinity is, but, the smart people say it’s everywhere. Soak it up and, if you can’t, at least do everyone the decency of writing something that may be absolutely asinine.

If you do write it, email me at alexandra dot spieth at gmail. I will be waiting. 

Alex Spieth is Brooklyn-based actor, writer, and director.  Her most recent work includes the original series, “86’d”, a dark comedy she wrote, created, and starred in.  The series was produced by the Emmy-Winning BRIC TV.  She’s the writer, creator, and star of the original series “Blank My Life”, which spans 4 seasons, 30 episodes, and features over 60 actors. “Blank” has been honored at Austin Revolution Film Festival, Brooklyn Webfest, and NYC Webfest.  Alex has acted in over 20 professional theatre productions, including work at Irondale Ensemble, Everyman Theatre, Quantum Theatre and NYC’s The Public Theatre.  She works with Ramona’s Talent and Take 3 Talent, tours a one-woman show about rape culture to colleges and universities across the country, and recently shot an AT&T spot.  Alex is also a member of Filmshop’s NYC Chapter and is slated to direct an indie pilot called “Grinding Doubt” which will be produced in late 2020. In 2013, she graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in Acting, where she was awarded the Adelyne Roth Levine Memorial Award. Read more at Alex’s Blog at alexspieth.tumblr.com.

Alex Spieth, headshot