Yes, I’ve been a ghost, and I’m honestly a different person since the last time I shared my brain with you. It’s been quite a journey, so buckle up.
Back in August 2021, I moved from Bergen County, New Jersey to Baton Rouge, Louisiana on purpose. The purpose was to attend Louisiana State University. Almost two years later and I graduate with my Master of Fine Arts in Acting (in case you didn’t know what the letters MFA stood for, and let’s be honest, you didn’t) in less than a month. That’s right, baby, get ready to call me Master!
Getting a degree in higher education is totes a viable excuse to ghost.
I’ll be honest, these were two of the hardest years of my life. Acting ain’t all fun and games all the time, though it absolutely consists of those things sometimes.
I needed this challenge. I needed to start something and finish it for myself. I needed to be taken out of my New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area comfort zone and live life in the South away from all my family and friends, and all the dickstractions.
I didn’t study Theatre in my undergraduate years, so for me, this was a second chance at my education. And if you know me, you know I thrive in academia.
You might be thinking, “Why Louisiana?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
How I wound up in Louisiana aka The Other LA
What we gonna do right here is go back.
Way back. Back into time. – (Blackstreet. Shoutout.)
Okay not that far back.
I’d recently finished a Filmmaking Masterclass with James Franco – yup, that one – Michael Warner, one of my acting senseis, and Pamela Romanowsky – a director who be directing her ass off including on the new Gossip Girl, P-Valley, and Riverdale to name a few. The class itself entailed all the processes of creating a feature film, i.e., pre-post-all of the productions.
So when our lives didn’t change after the film was produced, which duh they weren’t, I didn’t know what to do with myself next.
I knew I wanted to keep acting. I also knew I needed more training. If I really wanted to do this “acting thing” (as people liked to say for some reason like it’s a disease) I knew I was going to have to put in some serious work and not just on a part-time basis.
I decided, screw it, let’s audition for an MFA program. What else are we going to do? We’ve already invested this much into this thing – and by this much, I mean time, money, blood, sweat, and tears literally – I might as well see how deep we can go.
I prepped for the auditions with a couple of coaches to the best of my ability.
I did the Julliard audition.
Then I go audition for URTA, the University Resident Theatre Association, in New York at what I believe was a Hilton hotel, maybe Marriot, I can’t find the email. It was definitely on the West Side if that is useful to you.
URTA hosts auditions for dozens of MFA and professional actor training programs from colleges, universities, and other institutions of learning all over the world. There was a clowning school from Italy there. I’m pretty sure there was a school or two from the UK. Well, I guess just those two other places, but still very cool.
The best part is that the initial audition is for all of the programs at once in the same room, which in this case was like a banquet hall. Then callbacks, which are the next round of auditions if you’re offered any, are done in individual hotel rooms with the indivudal programs, which sounds creepy but I promise it’s not.
I wound up doing the URTA auditions in both New York and San Francisco because I thought that UCLA was attending the session in New York. They were not. Yale was going to be in San Francisco at the same time as the URTAs, so I wound up attending those auditions too.
I go in for Yale.
No callback for Yale. I’m 0 for two.
It was a blur. I did meet a really awesome actor friend who was a Michael Jackson impersonator in LA as a side hustle.
The San Francisco URTAs were actually quite successful. I got way more callbacks in SF than I did in NY, which I personally found fascinating. Of course I would, it’s a new discovery about my favorite subject, myself.
I did get a callback from the clown school, in case you were interested, and also UCLA.
Yaay! I was one for three.
I met with the head of the program and wound up having a follow-up conversation with him when I went back home to Jersey.
He candidly said if you don’t want thousands of dollars of debt, don’t come here. If money is an issue, don’t come here.
I was so grateful for his honesty. I think it’s irresponsible for universities to let students of the arts go into so much debt. It’s negligent. Hello, everyone is on strike right now!
Out of both rounds of URTA auditions, the only other school that piqued my interest was Louisiana State University. Mostly because of the Head of the program’s vibe. He also laughed audibly and consistently during one of my monologues at the auditions. I felt like he got me and, of course, he deposited into my self-esteem bank with his giggles. They were pretty great ones too.
Also, LSU offered a Graduate Assistantship, aka a job for you to work in exchange for free tuition plus a stipend. I didn’t even know programs like that existed. I felt like the only pendeja. Google it.
I got a callback from LSU.
That was it.
I ultimately didn’t get any offers in 2017.
What I did wind up getting in 2017 was sober.
That story is an entire memoir of material that will be published one day, but for now, we’ll skip to the good part.
Shortly after I got sober in May 2017, I:
- Signed with new representation
- Began Personal Training, which eventually replaced waiting tables as a survival job
- Co-created and produced a web series that got a second season produced with BET Digital
- Was selected as a US Finalist for the ABC Discovers Digital Talent Competition out of tens of thousands of actors
- Booked my first two roles on television
- Joined SAG-AFTRA
- Went into business personal training for myself, among other things.
None of that would have happened if I was in Grad School during that time.
So, how did I finally wind up in grad school at LSU?
The short answer is MailChimp, comedy and COVID-19.
At this point in my journey, I’d been very active in a couple of all women-identifying comedy collectives, namely The HERlarious Show, a variety comedy show, and DMXX, a hip hop improv troupe. If you’re not familiar, think if Whose Line is it Anyway and Wildn’ Out had a baby. We’d perform improvised scene work interwoven with rap songs, and the occasional slow jam, all with the accompaniment of a beatboxer. It’s pretty sick not gonna lie.
Whenever I had shows to promote, I would send out an eblast.
During quarantine we self-taped and edited a virtual Herlarious at Home Girls Show, and, of course, I sent it out to the masses.
What else was everybody doing at home?
Included in the masses was Nick Erickson, the Head of the MFA Acting Program at LSU.
He replied to the email campaign about the virtual show and thanked me for keeping him updated on my progress these couple of years, which I hadn’t even known I was doing because I had no idea he was on the list! He then asked if I wanted to have a conversation about potentially taking the opportunity to get some training during these precarious times.
We arrange a conversation, and knowing him, it was a long one.
After some follow up emails, the eventaul presentation of the offer, and a few discussions with mentors and management, I made the decision to join the LSU Acting MFA cohort of 2023.
That decision absolutely changed my life.
During my time earning my MFA I:
- Took 20+ credits every semester, aka way more credits than necessary
- Performed in 5 plays:
- The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson in the role of Marianne
- SWEAT by Lynn Nottage in the role of Tracey
- Hiya Dolly by Vince Licata in the roles of Karen and others
- Operating Systems by Corinna Schulenburg in the role of Bel, and
- Craters a new work by Dr. Femi Euba in the role of Helen in case you were interested.
- I taught 2 semesters of Undergraduate Acting at a University level
- Performed stand-up hundreds of times at hundreds of venues including:
- Louisiana: Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, Lake Charles
- Houston, Texas
- Atlanta, Georgia – where I had overwhelming support from Upsilon family and an appearance from a classmate from third grade, shoutout to you, Andrew!
- New York, New York
- Plus in the UK, in London and Edinburgh where my inner sixth Spice Girl was living her best life.
- Performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as both a stand-up comic and an actor in the musical comedy Hiya Dolly about cloning Dolly The Sheep
- Sang a parody of “500 Miles” about Dolly The Sheep on Scotland’s BBC Radio
- Got passed for Chocolate Sundaes so I’ll be performing at The Laugh Factory in LA in 2099, just kidding. I’ll be there December 2024 though, for real, might as well be 2099 for my impatient ass
- Wrote and performed a one-woman show for my thesis which I am continuing expanding called The Diary of a Recovering Catholic School Girl
- Discovered my artistic voice and evolved as a multihyphenate performer
- Learned to make my shame my superpower – which will be a Ted Talk
I’ve done everything I came to do and some.
On the first day of school, we were asked:
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“In 10 years, I plan to be unavoidable.”
I’m well on my way.
I’m grateful for it every day.