As my senior year winds down I find my future heating up. Since November, or really since the moment I began undergrad, I have been looking towards the future, specifically towards Grad School. I have traveled all over the country in the last year to look at different schools and options. In the fall I had my first grad school visit to Arizona State University (“ASU”). I was positive that it was the one. I was visiting for a program in Performance Design, or the art of the total picture combined with devised theater. On paper it was incredible, it was everything I needed, but in reality it was far from it. It became apparent that I was not right for them and they were not right for me.

So I moved on to what I was sure was the next right option. I wanted to be a director. I had just completed two devised performances, both of which I wrote, directed and designed. One in Poland at Teatr Arka, an integration theater for the mentally handicapped, and one as my senior capstone project called Murder of Simplicity. Both of which made me feel like a true artist. I was in control of an idea, a thought, and I was having an intellectual dialogue of energy with my audience.

I began chasing directing grad schools through the URTA process. I had to do an incredible amount of writing including, but not limited to, directorial philosophies, cover letters, artist statements and many more specific to schools. I had several interviews, and at each one it was reaffirmed that I have very interesting ideas, and a strong grasp of image, but that I am very young, and that taking me would be a risk.

I continued my hunt by applying as a Scenographer, the art of the total image, to the URTA design schools as well. Originally I was doing this just as a side to my directing schools to see what would happen, but it became swiftly apparent that to become a powerful designer of image I had to go to school for that, and could always go back to being a director. Then being able to utilize the tools an MFA in design would hand to me.

Following URTAs I had three major schools I was looking at, California Institute of the Arts (“Calarts”) – where I had also applied as a director, Ohio University (“OU”), and University of Missouri-Kansas City (“UMKC”). All three seemed to be a good fit with excellent mentors whom I could see myself learning under for the next three to four years of my life. At Calarts I was being looked at as a Costume Design student, at OU I was being looked at as a Scenographer, and UMKC I was being looked at as a Costume and Lighting Designer.

My first visit was to UMKC. I had a four-day visit there, three days with the lighting department, and one with the costume department. It was scheduled to snow, but being from Buffalo I thought nothing of it. The school closed for two whole days. It snowed two feet and the entire city shut down. I had forgotten that other cities weren’t as prepared for snow as Buffalo, but luckily I still was able to have my visit and get to see the facilities, meet the students, and talk to the professors.

By the fourth day I was completely enamored with what the school had to offer. Between the sheer artistry present in every rendering the students make, to the volume of work they create, to the international network the school has created for itself, and even the city (who know I would love Kansas City?- not me that’s for sure.), everything just felt right.

Leaving the school I had made my decision. If they were to give me an offer, I would accept. Within the week I had received an offer, and without visiting any other schools, with the guidance of my professors, peers, and colleagues, I accepted. I just knew it would be perfect, it felt right, and much like dating- when you meet the right person you don’t need to go on a first date with the other three potentials.

I sent out my “Thank you, but I must end our conversation” emails to OU and Calarts, and moved on, back to finishing my senior year. For the first time in months I felt able to relax about my skills, ideas, abilities, and of course my future.



Epilogue: I received an acceptance letter from Calarts shortly after sending my email declaration of non-intent to them. It was like looking at a life that could have been. What it made me aware of was that I had made the right choice, as I felt only a momentary twinge of regret in not visiting before moving on and remembering how incredible it felt to be a future UMKC student.




Addendum – My Directorial Philosophy


A major life goal of mine is to create theater in the way that Pilobolus creates modern dance. Their company works circularly, starting with a wide basin of material from which they devise a performance as a group, spiraling to a central focus of the work. This is what appears on stage. Their company begins working with a huge amount of information, but presents only a small amount of it to the audience, creating a concise and clear idea, or message. Pilobolus’s hierarchy is based entirely upon experience.  The younger performers’ opinions and ideas are given significant weight, but the eyes and ears of the more experienced performers shape the impulses of the ensemble.

This approach would, I believe, also create the most powerful theater, a theater that is always fresh, yet polished. This is what it means to bring together generations of artists. There is a loving harshness in all critiques, to help each other grow rapidly. I hope to work in several such companies and eventually found and develop one.
In Murder of Simplicity (, a work that I conceived, directed, and designed in collaboration with an ensemble of performers, we employed this type of circular, spiraling creative process. Such work is difficult to separate into individual design elements because they affected each other heavily, guiding each other’s development. This world, in which performers, directors, and designers are the same people, readily giving and taking from each other, made us all aware of the intimacy of our work, resulting in total pictures and the most intense observer experience.


My approach to Murder of Simplicity differs greatly from the more conventional notion of distinct separation of each facet of design that I encountered as a student designer. For example, in my junior year of undergraduate study at the University at Buffalo (“UB”) I designed costumes for a production of Hedda Gabler ( This production seemed somewhat disjointed, as if the elements of the design had never come together, which was largely the response from the KCACTF respondent. When each part of the design was presented separately at regionals, the designs were very well received. Each designer created a finished whole, but we never found the same center point. Had we walked the circle together, I think we could have covered more ground and discovered new material, gestures, and shapes cohesively instead of separately.
I have found that when my work has been most effective in communicating feelings and ideas to the observer, it has always started with images. As a director, I begin building a show like I begin working on a design: I look for inspiration from other artist’s pictures. Whether it be young artists whom I know personally, or experienced artists whom I have found through magazines or the internet, other artists exert a strong influence on me. Throughout my process I use images for many different purposes. They will, of course, inspire my designs, but they may also suggest shapes for actors, lines for movement, and even feelings for entire scenes. I will often ask my performers to draw with me or make collages to share a concrete sense of what we’re feeling, beyond words. The use of image as communication inspires me as a person and an artist, yet image is only part of my creative approach.
Music exerts an equally powerful influence on my process. Music incites my entire body to inspiration, in a way that I would not be able to capture otherwise. It fills me with ideas, and I use it throughout the entire rehearsal process and in performance to help create mood and stimulate thought for the performers. This gives my work a cinematic presence in the way the action moves from one moment to the next. A finished production could feel like a concept album we have created from other people’s musical expressions. I frequently sample and mash up music to create tracks for rehearsal and production in order to amplify the emotional arc of a theatrical experiment.
In my work, the observer experience, while created and intensified by picture, sound, and music, is always grounded in the intensity of the performer. The energy of the people on stage is the most important part of theater: its pulse, its rhythm, its core. For this reason, every time I direct, I aim to unlock the active core of the actor’s body. I focus on relaxation, movement, and impulse, aiming to expand the performer’s personal movement patterns. In rehearsal, I do not use the word “character.” I prefer my performers to take the person they are becoming to heart and not think of them as a distanced notion of a “character” on a page, but as a living, breathing entity integrated into their own beings. If the core is active and the actors have put themselves into the performance, then they will always be the most interesting element of the picture.

For me, the audience is a performer who hasn’t been overtly asked to perform. By breaking the imaginary fourth wall, I give them permission to make choices within the performance. They may be touched by performers or talk to performers.  I sometimes take away comforting conventions such as bows, to create a more immediate and active observer.  In the tradition of Epic theater, I see it as my job not to mesmerize them with entertainment, but to force them out of their comfort zones. This may create unease in the audience, which I sometimes seek. I aim to create emotion in everyone that participates in or with my work. I aspire to create conversations through dissonance.
I spent the summer of 2012 working as a director and scenographer of new work at Teatr Arka in Wroclaw, Poland – already achieving one of my life goals of working in Eastern European theater. I am currently in negotiation to return to Teatr Arka in summer 2013 with another project. Part of their approach is to follow their instincts and ideas from beginning to end before making a decision on whether or not the impulse was worthwhile. They treat themselves the way a painter does.  They plan for a while, but when rehearsal or the artisan process takes over, they abandon plans in favor of new impulses. Working with this company has helped me grow exponentially. This company has developed my ability to have full trust in my instincts while remaining open to the strong constructive critique of my collaborators.

In the production that I created for Teatr Arka, Silence (, we removed a curtain call, and the audience would applaud at the end, hoping to call the performers back on stage.  Finally the audience would concede, realizing that their applause could not force the actors back into the “real world.” The story would stand alone, untouched by the performer’s reality. The art of ending a show cleanly, yet without conflicting with the spirit of the performance, is something that I aim to craft and shape seamlessly. I do not believe that conventional bows are required; instead, I look to close the book on the characters and their stories, and allow these narratives to end as if they were real.  During the time they are on stage, they are real and true, so why break that illusion in the name of convention?

I am interested in working with the strongest designers, directors, actors, and collaborators that I can find; people who wish to devote their lives to art. Ensembles and collaboratives comprised of such committed artists may produce huge failures as well as huge successes.  This suits me, as I am uninterested in being safe, average, or mediocre. I believe that if a work of art pleases everyone, with rare exception, it has not taken enough chances; it has not fought hard enough for a goal or vision. I seek to make theater that is complicated, controversial, and frequently ambiguous.  Not everyone will appreciate all of my work all of the time, but I hope they will always have something to say about it.