Writing this last blog right now is the thing above everything else that’s making me emotional this week. Not striking my thesis show, not submitting my final Performance Research Archive, not planning where my cohort is going to lunch after graduation. It’s this blog.
I wish I could write 60 more entries about this program, truly. There are so many topics I didn’t cover, so many faculty members I’d love to interview. Maybe I’ll do that anyway. I’ll start my own blog called “Life After the EDPP”, which sounds like a post-war memoir. It kind of is. I feel like my cohort and I have been through war together.
Starting a graduate program like this was never going to be easy. It’s kind of a stupid decision, really.
There was no one to ask for advice, no alumni to follow. When we encountered problems, the reason is almost always, “We didn’t know this would be a problem,” which grows frustrating, and then we have to help create the solutions. We set the structures and expectations. What’s more is that we will not be the beneficiaries of our founding work. Future cohorts will. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and it is even more so given that our degree is the first of its kind in the U.S. I also took out student loans for the first time to get this MFA. On paper, it looks like I made a very risky choice.
Even the field I’m going to work in has no guarantees. In creating original theatre, there’s not often a clear division of labor, and so much work goes unlogged and unpaid, especially in the U.S. For those thinking about getting an MFA in any kind of theatre, you know this lifestyle probably waits for you.
How, then, am I not having a complete meltdown right now with my impending graduation?
If I know how to do anything, it’s how to create theatre in the most challenging circumstances possible. How do I know? Because we did it. And we made good theatre—ground-breaking theatre for Columbia, certainly. I feel so empowered by the work that my cohort has already made, and it will only improve. With our training, we have personal practices to rely on, an infinite number of ways to find inspiration, and we can begin a collaboration process with artists from a wide array of backgrounds.
The best part? There’s 10 of us, and we have each other.
So, to future cohorts, I say:
We are starting a movement not just for Columbia College Chicago, but for the city of Chicago. This MFA program will draw people from all over the world— next year already has. I hope you fall madly in love with theatre-making and this city, and when you graduate, I hope you’ll want to stay. I hope we all help make Chicago a hub for provocative, physical, original work. I hope the future collaborations between the Masters of Art Management candidates encourage them to stay here, too, so that more business-minded individuals understand and support devised theatre. Cherish the people you work with in Chicago and worked with in Berlin. As many disagreements as you may have, you all now have a common experience that can never be replaced. You’re family. And you’re our family, too.
Two companies, The Whisper Theatre Collective and La Vuelta Ensemble, are coming out of this year’s cohort. The professional business collaboration has started as well—two of the MAM candidates are working with The Whisper to help our company get off the ground. We’ll be here, waiting for you to come play with us.
And some advice, because I can’t resist:
—Go ahead and make a rehearsal schedule for room 602. Use Google Sheets.
—Start rehearsing for your thesis projects in the first semester of your second year! Even if you don’t know what it’s about, reserve a room once a week to move in the space.
—Don’t forget your daily practice of making marks.
—You’re better together. (Thanks, Michael Brown.)
—To my Columbia cohort, I say: Way to go, Squad. Let’s spread our “little wings”
See you around. See you soon.