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Decisions are hard

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Decisions are difficult. Always has been for me, always will be. In my previous blogs, I referred to my major and acting BFA program. I somehow maybe lied to you and myself… More so, I omitted the whole truth. You see, my program at Boston University’s School of Theater within the College of Fine Arts is structured so that during your first year in the program, you complete a prescribed set of courses in interpretation or in design and production (without a specific ‘track’ designation quite yet). Performance students audition each year and are part of a cohort of 30-40 people called Performance Core (Perf Core) and Design and Production students participate in interviews and are accepted into their own cohort called D&P. I auditioned underperforming and am one of the 37 wonderful people that make up Perf Core ’25.

Throughout our freshman year, the Perf Core is divided into 2-3 smaller groups that share each class in addition to the required first-year college writing course each semester outside of our major. These performance classes are called our studio classes, which include acting, theater ensemble, voice and speech, Movement, and Alexander Technique. All 37 of us culminate into one large group for Locals and Drama Lit. At the end of our first year together, we formally declare our major and thus decide which type of theater performance training we will focus on for the next three years: BFA in Acting or BFA in Theater Arts (Tharts). For some, the decision between the two majors is easy, while for others (*cough cough…*me), it’s definitely not.

And so: the story of my difficult decision. BU’s School of Theater (SOT) has a beautiful curriculum that emphasizes new, student-led work and offers so much freedom, knowledge, and artistry at the fingertips of any performer. I was obsessed. Before coming to BU I spent endless hours researching everything about BU and Boston, watching frosh vlogs of people who are now elderly and having conversations with… I also knew how to get to every Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as local theaters within a 5 mile radius. It wasn’t just the city I fell in love with. I was also enamored with the endless opportunities to act, direct, write, and even produce my own work in a collaborative environment that the SOT program would provide me. As Major Tharts.

I know, I know, I’m an impostor. I’ve referred to myself as a major acting BFA this entire year and now I’m throwing that curve ball. So why, if what attracted me to BU was the Tharts program, did I keep telling people I was a BFA Acting major? Honestly, I’m not even sure I know. Maybe saying Act over Tharts was “easier” or maybe it was because I was going back and forth between the two before I even got to BU and kept flipping literally until the last day we had to make a decision. Yes. Undoubtedly. Did I originally come to BU for the Tharts major? Yes. Certainly. Nonetheless, I agonized over the decision and spent a lot of time making pros and cons lists, endlessly discussing the (relatively small, retrospective) decision with my mother, my peers, the students of upper class and faculty members, and to constantly alternate between Tharts and Acting. My main concern if I selected the BFA in Acting was that I would not be able to direct and write plays for shows at BU and that I would miss opportunities to do so. College is such an accessible way to understand what works and what doesn’t as a creator in all its facets – something I probably won’t have anywhere else in my life. On the other hand, if I chose a Bachelor of Theater Arts, I feared that I wouldn’t have the structured conservatory acting program that I thought I desperately needed and that I wouldn’t be able to further develop my self-confidence as a performer. ‘actor.

On the eve of Spring Break, the Perf Core was asked to email our two Program Managers, Kirsten Greenidge (Tharts) and Christine Hamel (Acting), a “leaning paragraph”, detailing our decision-making process. and what major we were leaning towards. And my paragraph was two pages long. In summary, I decided that I was going to be an acting major that used all of Tharts’ opportunities in directing, playwriting, etc. Kirsten immediately jumped in and suggested that I set up a meeting with my faculty advisor, Elain Van Hogue (who happens to be the former head of the Tharts major). It’s safe to say that this meeting caused a bit of a meltdown for me, because I really thought acting major was my best bet. However, as she pointed out to me, everything I said was Tharts at heart, just with the actor’s name plastered on it. After I was reminded of what I really wanted from my theater education, Elaine encouraged me to have a meeting with directing teacher, Clay Hopper, as soon as possible in order to foster this relationship, which-smart . So I did.

At this meeting, I received confirmation that I instinctively knew: I was a Tharts student who was afraid to say Tharts because I feared it might sound like I was lacking focus in my studies (oh yes contrary, because I knew what I wanted from my studies even before arriving at BU). BU faculty suggest that one of the main ways to choose between the two majors is to do so based on your learning style. They advise us to ask ourselves, “Do you want a structured learning environment or a buffet?” It is not useful to me. I need both at different times. I need autonomy as an artist as well as the ability to follow my curiosities, my instincts, my natural rhythms of creative growth and exploration, and to foster my innate ability to absorb large amounts of knowledge and experiences in something when it calls me. Yet at the same time, I also need something to control myself before I fly off into the clouds. I generally find that structure keeps me in check, but it also limits my creative growth at the same time. Clay said it in a different way and instantly after saying it, it all fell into place: “Choose based on your learning style…” Sounds pretty similar, right…? Then he asked, “Do you want to follow your curiosity or have information passed on to you?”

I immediately knew my answer: I need follow my curiosity, as an artist and as a person. Literally, everything in me is constantly in motion. There are times when I can’t think of doing anything but acting and there are times when I can’t stand doing anything but directing and there are times when I’m constantly stuck in whatever what a world where I write with fervor, etc. etc., etc. I’ve learned that I tend to grow more artistically when I follow my instincts and dive deep into an area when I’m ready to assimilate it while allowing myself to take a break from other aspects of my life. artistic side. During my teenage years, I took a few years of intense acting training, and the separation really made the heart grow fonder. I fell more in love and more enthralled with the craft, art, and practice of acting when I wasn’t so focused on learning how to act. And so, I realized that I could still get extensive acting training at BU while listening to what I needed as an artist.

That does Tharts provide; Tharts allows for times when my art wants to do more than play, but also allows me to play when I need to. This major gives me the time and energy to pursue all the opportunities SOT has to offer as well as to pursue my own ideas to my heart’s content. I think I always knew Tharts was the right specialty for me – and I think everyone knew that, but I just needed time and process to confirm that. And so-boom-a week after rendering my leaning paragraph, I rendered a new paragraph (this one was only a page and a half) confidently stating that I was choosing BFA: Tharts. I’ll be following the acting and directing tracks with a minor in social and racial justice – and I’ll more than likely include playwriting, dramaturgy and writing in general on that list, because why not? I will be able to create and play with my art for the next three years and I won’t let anything hold me back.

As a result of the decision process, I noticed that I was an artist and a very docile person in recent years. After so long of being pushed down in the name of models and “the way things are” (essentially a lot of ageism, elitism, ableism and outdated models that the industry can’t help to follow for the comfort of those in power), I unfortunately began to believe everything. I began to fully believe that I had no autonomy and no control over myself and where I would go with my art, resolving to a waiting game of when I will manage to make the art that I want to make. And while these ideals may come from some merit, they don’t necessarily need to be upheld in college. I think I’ll allow myself to dream while I’m here. I mean, my motto in life is literally “I know what I want, I know how to get it, so I’m going to get it.” So why don’t I just do it? *photo of the one and only Josephine Hannah Goldfarb