Juilliard at the Oscars

“There’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered—one place—and that’s the graveyard,” Oscar-winner Viola Davis said.

Viola Davis, Group 22, won best supporting actress for her performance in Fences, and host Jimmy Kimmell (rightly) quipped that she deserved an Emmy for her acceptance speech. “There’s one place where all the people with the greatest potential are gathered—one place—and that’s the graveyard,” Davis said. Listen to her speech below.

Davis’s acceptance speech also included a shoutout to Fences castmate Stephen McKinley Henderson, member of Group 1 and a master class instructor.

Another nominee was pre-college alum Nicholas Britell, for his work on the score of Moonlight.

Another winner, Tarell Alvin McCraney (best picture winner Moonlight’s adapted screenplay writer), was once rejected by Juilliard.

Drama Division Director Search Nears End

After months of deliberations and interviews, the search for a new Director of the Drama Division has entered its final phase. Jim Houghton’s legacy has had a profound effect on the goals of the committee, helping them to establish a mold for the ideal new Director. Dean Guzelimian, students, and alumni shared their thoughts on the future of the Drama Division.

After months of deliberations and interviews, the search for a new Director of the Drama Division has entered its final phase. Jim Houghton’s legacy has had a profound effect on the goals of the committee, helping them to establish a mold for the ideal new Director. Dean Guzelimian, students, and alumni shared their thoughts on the future of the Drama Division.

Since the job was posted on the Juilliard website on September 20, 2016, the committee has been working tirelessly to whittle down the list. The initial pool consisted of those who applied to the job posting and individuals who were contacted and asked to apply, as a recommendation from faculty, staff, theater professionals, students, and alumni.

“Some of those contacted expressed interest but could not pursue the position because of professional commitments, personal and family reasons, etc.” Dean Guzelimian wrote in an email to the Drama Division earlier this month. “But many of those contacted did indeed express their desire to enter into the conversation and submitted applications.”

For the first round, the committee interviewed, via video conferencing or in person, a “manageable number” of candidates; the semi-final round involved in-person interviews in New York. Once the committee finishes with deliberations, they will invite back one to three candidates for the final round: a series of structured meetings with “faculty, staff, and representative groups of current students, as well as alumni, trustees, and other Juilliard staff members,” according to Dean Guzelimian’s email.

“It’s like callback weekend,” said Dean Guzelimian in a recent interview. “It’s for both parties to determine if this is the right fit. It’s for the candidate to say, ‘Ah, I can see this.’ And for us to say ‘Yep, that’s a fit.’”

As this is an internal appointment at Juilliard, President Polisi has been managing the process. Members of the board of trustees will weigh in at the final round; given their focus on more macro-level decisions, they will remain relatively uninvolved until that point.

Jim Houghton’s huge impact on the trajectory of the Drama Division has played an essential role in deliberations.

“Jim is such an inspiring model that everybody came in with a fairly clear view of what we want the next person to be,” said Dean Guzelimian. “I see us now evolving from what Jim has built rather than going back.”

“I think it’s an opportunity to make a strong statement.”

That evolution includes a continued commitment to diversity, new works, increased scholarships for Drama students, and renovations to the existing spaces.

“It is our wish that the new Artistic Director of the Drama Division be an educator, an active and practicing member of the theater community, with a profound dedication to the growth and development of the young actor and playwright, and a deep commitment to broadening the diversity of voices in theater and to nurturing the citizen-artist,” Dean Guzelimian wrote.

Guzelimian expanded on this description, saying that the committee was in search of someone “who understands that this is first and foremost an educational experience but it’s an educational experience constantly with a foot in the professional world.” He said the Director should also be comfortable in speaking to donors and potential funders about giving to the Drama Division, be dedicated to the playwriting program, and have demonstrated skills in fostering community.

Drama students and alumni weighed in on the search, with a particular interest in forward-thinking and culturally conscious leaders.

“Somebody who is aware of how things are changing in art,” said Brittany Bradford (Group 47), “and is trying to be on the front edge of that instead of trying to stick to some traditional mode of teaching.”

A commitment to diversifying the faculty, particularly acting teachers, emerged as a common theme among students as well. “I think a really important factor for the Director, like Jim, is somebody who can embody a lot of people from a lot of cultures, a lot of ethnicities, a lot of countries, honestly,” said Keshav Moodliar (Group 48). “It’s a statement you’re making. I think it’s an opportunity to make a strong statement.”

“I also hope, for current students, faculty, and guest artists, that the new Director will have an open-door policy, and be approachable and understanding.”

“As an alum, I’m hoping the new Director will have the same focus that Jim did in reaching out to alumni and making us feel like we are still an active part of the Juilliard family,” wrote playwriting alumna Chelsea Marcantel. “I also hope, for current students, faculty, and guest artists, that the new Director will have an open-door policy, and be approachable and understanding.”

Dean Guzelimian offered his own experience in the process: “I think, on the personal side, you know, this begins out of sadness because of the reality of coming to terms with the loss of Jim. But knowing how Jim himself was so focused on the future as we’ve gone through the process and we’ve begun to dream about what the next phase of the division can be, I think the feeling is really positive.”

For now, the names of committee members and candidates under consideration remain completely confidential. “What we’re trying to protect is that it not turn into a horse race of any sort,” said Dean Guzelimian. Given the high profile candidates involved, as well, the committee does not wish to jeopardize candidates’ current positions or alienate those who may not be right for the school at the moment.

“We’ve got some really terrific people. It’s very exciting, I have to say,” said Dean Guzelimian. “I’m very optimistic.”

Save ARTreach & the NOLA Trip

Did you know that for 10 years, Juilliard students went to New Orleans during spring break? … Unfortunately, the program was cut in 2016 because the Office of Student Affairs had a challenge finding enough student leaders on time. According to Sabrina Tanbara, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, three student leaders are required to reinstate the NOLA trip, and five are required to reinstate ARTreach as a student organization.

Get involved: join the Save ARTreach & the NOLA Trip Facebook group or post in the comments section below to connect with other students.

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Did you know that for 10 years, Juilliard students went to New Orleans during spring break? Jeffery Miller, 3rd year jazz student, remembered last year’s trip very positively, saying that “there were great moments all around.” Jeffery had participated both as a local student in New Orleans, and later as a visiting Juilliard student. “It was a beautiful trip,” he said. “When I found out it wasn’t happening anymore, I was just crushed.” Unfortunately, the program was cut in 2016 because the Office of Student Affairs had a challenge finding enough student leaders on time. According to Sabrina Tanbara, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, three student leaders are required to reinstate the NOLA trip, and five are required to reinstate ARTreach as a student organization.

ARTreach’s NOLA trip included a wide variety of exciting activities, from leading arts immersion projects and providing free arts education to giving public performances and rebuilding homes. Juilliard students visited the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the school Jeffery had attended as a high school student. Visits were paid elsewhere, including the Dryades Y.M.C.A., to work with elementary school– through high school–aged students.

All of this was possible because of ARTreach, a Juilliard student organization generally focused on social change and community service. Originally designed to support survivors of Hurricane Katrina, ARTreach’s NOLA trip combined artistic work with hands on effort to build homes for those who were left with little to nothing after the hurricane. But the exchange didn’t just help hurricane survivors; the program was incredibly enriching for Juilliard students as well. They would come back from the exchange inspired by the creativity and resilience they had witnessed in New Orleans.

Why aren’t we going back? Are there really not three student leaders who would be willing to lead this trip?

Jeffery spoke fondly of Juilliard students coming to his high school. “I saw the level that the musicians were on,” he said, “and I befriended both of the jazz musicians that came to our high school and did the masterclass. It was inspiring to see the level that I could be at.” How many more artists like Jeffery could we encounter and benefit from, if we continued this trip?

There is serious student interest in going back; former leaders and other participants have expressed their enthusiasm to continue. It is always refreshing for artists like us to be able to use our skills to directly impact our audiences. “It was so much fun,” former leader Allison Mase recounted. “It was really what music was about. We were teaching people who just really wanted to learn. And performing for people, who really wanted to listen to us.”

Sabrina Tanbara was also saddened by the trip’s discontinuation. “I’ve gone every year,” she said. “I love this project, so I was, like, crying. It was hard.”

Students have always led this trip to New Orleans. All we need now to make it happen again is a new team of student leaders. In the past, leaders had been previous participants of the program, but maybe we can get some newcomers to gain interest as well. It would take only three students to lead the NOLA trip. It would take only two more students (five total) to re-register ARTreach. We would just have to go to the Office of Student Affairs and inform the staff that we want to re-register ARTreach as a student organization. “The school actually does quite a lot to try to support student projects,” said Tanbara, who also suggested a second possibility of a shorter trip. “If the students wanted to try to do that, they could. But a project only sustains itself when the students want it. I can’t force them.”

 

So, if the school is on our side, what are we waiting for? If you think you may be interested in restarting ARTreach or going back to New Orleans, join our new Facebook group or post in the comments section below to connect with other students.

 

Juilliard alums represent at Golden Globes

Juilliard represents in nominations for Golden Globes

Two Juilliard alumni were honored with Golden Globe nominations on Monday—Viola Davis (Group 22) for her performance in Fences and Jessica Chastain (Group 32) for her performance in Miss Sloane. In addition, many Juilliard alumni are currently staff writers and/or producers on nominated shows. Drama alum Bryan Cogman (Group 30) is a writer and producer on Game of Thrones. Playwrighting alumni Kate Gersten ’13 and Aurin Squire ’15 are staff writers on nominated shows Mozart in the Jungle and This is Us, respectively.

Juilliard Community Confronts Trump Presidency at Polisi Forum

As the mixed emotions of post-Election Day reached an unmatched level, Juilliard’s Office of Student Affairs invited the community to a forum facilitated by President Joseph Polisi on November 9 in the lobby of the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on campus. As far as most current students and faculty could remember, meetings like this were rare. Similar gatherings coincided with faculty and student deaths, the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the Vietnam War. Students and faculty filled up the lobby of the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, sitting on the floor, stairs, and all the way up to the mezzanine. Dr. Polisi stood in the center of the room speaking and responding to numerous questions and concerns.

Polisi opened the floor to passionate exclamations of fear, anger, pain, confusion, and desire for action from both students and faculty.  “People were upset, scared…overwhelmed, and I guess that’s to be expected when something this difficult for people to handle is happening,” said Joshua Elmore (BM ’20). At moments, it was difficult to find a single dry eye in the room as students struggled to predict what the future of this country or even each individual person’s safety entails. “Right now, I don’t even feel safe enough to leave this institution because I know that my body as a black, queer woman is in danger every day,” expressed Sekai Abeni (BFA ’20).

Polisi encouraged proactivity, emphasizing the step forward it would amount to “if every one of you, or half of you, for that matter, decided to become more politically active.” He also asked those present to try moving past the election results and consequently find ways to affect change during the reality of a Trump presidency. However, this solution appeared to be easier said than done for some. “I see somebody who’s just been elected to the presidency who has publicly been endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan, who has publicly spoken out against queer people, who has publicly been a racist figure and has been elected to the presidency,” said Abeni, explaining the difficulty of moving past this result.

One purpose of this gathering seemed to be to come together as a unified community and to console one another. As such, the meeting could not provide any reassurance of the post-election effects, which left some still feeling uneasy. “I really thought it was going to be a place that we could talk about what the next steps were, specifically in ensuring [Juilliard students’] safety and well-being,” Abeni told The Citizen-Penguin after the meeting, noting “how beautifully diverse this school is.”

Polisi addresses the Juilliard community at post-election forum. Photo: Manon Gage
Polisi addresses the Juilliard community at post-election forum. Photo: Manon Gage

Still, while many students despaired over Trump’s win, their sentiments were not unanimous. “Damning” conservative voters and blocking them on social media drew ire with student Brendan Thomas, especially given the Democrats’ message of tolerance. In a Facebook post quoted here with permission, Thomas said, “If you are pissed because they don’t have the same views as you [then] you are in return guilty of the same character flaws you are projecting onto your rival party voters. Food for thought.”

Many students believed that the meeting accomplished a strong sense of unity within the Juilliard community. The gathering felt “sad, angry, tense, yet cathartic,” Mitchell Kuhn (BM’17) said. “It was a beautiful moment in that it unified the voices of Juilliard. It provided a safe space to air out grievances, to feel upset, to show support.” To have such an opportunity to speak up, students were reminded of how they can unify as a community and as artists to stand up for what they believe in. The discussion turned to peaceful demonstrations, using art as a powerful tool.  “In six years, I’ve never felt more like I’m a part of a Juilliard community,” said Zach Green (MM ’17).

At the gathering, Dr. Polisi offered a call to arms for students to organize, saying Juilliard students “may be a new generation of leaders that we haven’t seen since the seventies.” He continued:

“Juilliard is here to support you and protect you and educate you. We care about you. But ultimately, the most powerful way that you can make a difference is to empower yourself. And once you have that discipline and power and match it with your abilities as artists, that can be a very powerful process. But it’s not going to be a quick process, either.”

Why Showing Up Matters: student counter-protest (photos by Daniel Davila)

Leaning up against her own picture outside the school, Jayme Lawson, a second year Drama student, tilts a curious head towards the sight of the day.

“I heard about this protest yesterday, and thought it was absolutely ridiculous that some people felt the need to spread hatred to our school. Luckily, a couple of students decided to have a protest of love, and I’m all about that. I don’t understand why anybody would seek to hate the arts. It seems like another reason to incite hatred in their own lives. And I don’t understand why anybody would choose to hate, ever.”

We all know that the Westboro Baptist Church came to picket in front of Juilliard this past Thursday. Three Caucasian women claimed a few squares of sidewalk in sweatshirts and wooly hats, American flags beneath their feet and the church’s infamous signs in hand. Besides the homophobic and Anti-Semitic proclamations, others held flashy phrases such as “The World Is Doomed” and “Mourn For Your Sins.” These women didn’t raise their voices, hand out pamphlets or attack pedestrians. They stood, garbed in slogans, and waited. One woman had headphones in and bounced to her WBC music while people passed by. Half a block away, Ruaridh Patterson, recent alum, bore the scene with instrument in hand and a rainbow flag caped around his back.

“I want to give a voice to the other side of the argument. The Westboro Baptist Church is picketing the Juilliard School and they equate what we do with vanity. I don’t think any of us do it for vain reasons, or the audience of whatever medium we’re in.”

Naturally, the message of the organization provokes anger, which is exactly what they want. The Kansas-based Church has made more than a pretty penny off of lawsuits regarding physical assault from bystanders over the past decade.

Rowan Vickers, drama alum, chose to stand his ground and shouted lines of Shakespeare in retaliation. I asked him what inspired him to come back to school that chilly morning. “I am here to stand in protest of the WBC and in solidarity with my brothers and sisters, gay, straight, black, white, artists and non-artists. We all need to stand in unity and brotherhood and sisterhood and stomp out the hate. I think that one of their claims is the vanity of the arts and that we all need to submit to God and to use our time on earth to worship him and carry out his will. If his will is what they say it is, he is not God. He is the devil. I don’t know specifically why they’re here today but I know why I’m here today: to step up to them.”

My initial response to the WBC was disappointment. Where were the oversized crucifixes and megaphones? Where were the demonizing screams telling me that I was going to burn in hell? Curiosity finally got the better of me and I approached the youngest of the three, who was probably the same age as me. Her response to my questions were as mundane as the phrases on her sign, verbatim straight from the church’s website.

“Go read Romans 9, or I can read it to you, it’s amazing, just a part! He’s God! He can do whatever he wants! Romans 9 Guys! I’m not telling you that your life is vain. If this is what you’re going to make your life about, this is what God says, if you’re guided to keep his commandment, use what you’ve got to serve God.” When I asked her about her mother who was still bouncing to her hymns, she explained: She’s using an art to serve God. That’s what we’re telling you to do. That’s that. One hundred percent of your duty is to serve God.”

Perhaps this is something greater than a small demonstration of a hate-group. This raises questions of how we can politicize our art to create good in the world, as citizens, performing artists and as decent human beings. That morning, I saw the politicization of art for good; I saw the unstoppable defense of a wall of sound that permeates through hate; how a pirouette or a verse of Hamlet can become a valiant resistance to the ambiguities of discrimination. Music brings us together-whether you’re playing the pit or holding up the sheet music for a friend.

Dean Adam Meyer stood from afar among many faculty members:

“I think it’s sad that we live in a world where three people and the Internet have the power to spread such a hateful message—what a waste of energy! In a way, by showing up and counter-protesting, we gave this horrible group what they wanted, which is attention. But in the end, the positive student response greatly overshadowed their bigotry, and Juilliard proved once again that love trumps hate. Personally, I was very moved that the protesters were met with music, kindness and generosity of spirit, which only served to bring the community together in a unique and powerful way.”

Disregarding all cheesiness, I guess you could say I saw what it really takes to be an Artist as a Citizen. To quote Joseph Polisi, the man that coined the phrase:

“On the west side of the building entrance we saw hate, bigotry, and ignorance. On the east side and just inside our building we saw hope and empathy, accompanied by music.”

We are all trying to grow up. We all want to be the next star of our field that Juilliard will brag about. Seeing a bunch of young artists huddled on the sidewalk reminded me of our youth, and that our powers lie not in our fame or our money but our talent, our raw, unclean passion.

That morning, we skipped breakfast and sacrificed an hour of sleep to stand up with our weapons of craft and waited, unshaken but trembling together.

Daniel Hass and Leerone Hakami contributed material to this article.