Debut Performance

The latest of our signature New York Semesters takes students into the city’s rarefied theatre world, where they build confidence, creativity—and connections.

“None of us knew what we were getting into,” says Madeleine Blossom C’18 of an intensive six months with Drew new Semester on New York Theatre. Not only were she and 15 classmates on board for the very first run of program that connects Drew students with New York professionals in producing an original play, their partner, Tectonic Theater Project, works in a subversive style known as devised theatre.

“Rather than starting with a script and building the set, costumes and lighting from there, it is the other way around,” explains Professor Chris Ceraso, one of the program’s directors. “The results are surprising, unpredictable.”

Students spent the fall semester on location in New York, learning a creative process that Ceraso describes as “guided improv”—no script, no assigned roles— and developing an original play under the tutelage of Tectonic mentors. Over spring break, the students lived in the city to rehearse and perform the play at American Theatre of Actors on West 54th Street before bringing the production to Drew.

In the process, students became junior members of the New York theatre community, workshopping in the same facility used by two dozen professional companies. They also made connections that are already paying off with internships and auditions.

Most importantly, the aspiring theatre artists discovered the power of risk. Having grown up in an era of standardized tests and instantly accessible knowledge, they learned “to embrace a world of no right answers,” says codirector and associate professor Lisa Brenner. “It is scary and intimidating—but also liberating.”

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