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Taking New York by Storm

Orientation 2015 was an action-packed week of activities for the 236 students getting used to their new home away from home. First-year drama student Hannah Rose Caton gave us a glimpse of her Sunday, September 6.

Group 48 at "Curious Incident"

Juilliard first-years were given a backstage tour by alum Alex Sharp after attending a matinee of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.


The energy, warmth and care from the students who attend Juilliard, not to mention everyone else here, is beyond what I could have imagined. As a born-and-bred Londoner, obviously I haven’t found a huge language barrier, but there have been a few important cultural adjustments, such as how the toilet doors in New York don’t touch the floor (so strange); how cling film is called Saran wrap; and that “How’s it going?” just means “hello and goodbye.” College orientation has been a time of meeting interesting new people and having great memories that we will most likely need to hold on to as we progress in our crafts. Sunday was particularly awe-inspiring.

1pm Having bought Intelligent Life magazine at the airport, I finally get round to reading an article about director Sarah Gavron’s new film, Suffragette, with Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep. I watch the trailer of this poignant story of the early feminist movement and have goose bumps—a film that can do this story justice has been a long time coming.

1:30pm Girls round in my room to do [fellow first-year] Jayme’s hair! A skill I have from years of practice of doing my sisters’ curly hair.

2pm An excited Group 48 meets outside Lincoln Center and heads off to watch Alex Sharp’s (Group 43) performance in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Broadway. As we walk (slowly) to the theater, we notice the effects of Darryl Quinton’s workout class two days earlier. Go Group 48?

3pm We sit down at the Barrymore, and after the reminder to turn off all electrical items and the space-like music starts, the show begins.

4pm It’s the interval, and we talk about how in awe we all are of Alex’s phenomenal performance. His embodiment of his character, Christopher, is quite astonishing with his fast rhetoric, physical transformation, and the ability to handle vast amounts of expression on varying levels. We’ve already developed a strong empathy and understanding for the way in which an extraordinary mind has to cope with fragmented surroundings.

5:20pm The show finishes with Christopher asking, “Does that mean I can do anything?” It’s a difficult question for a character who has conquered the near impossible, and one that’s especially resonant for Juilliard students. A friend suggests we all read the novel!

5:35pm We wait outside of the stage door while Alex signs autographs. When Alex is done, he generously welcomes us and takes us on a backstage tour! I think our favorite part is standing on the stage, where a sense of awe comes over us all. Alex is gracious enough to talk to us about his experiences and gives us words of wisdom for the journey we will soon be embarking upon. He explains that he had the least amount of agent interest out of all of his classmates, but after landing this role, they’ve been knocking on his door. He also stresses the importance of trusting our own journeys as they will be unique to each artist. Alex’s performance is particularly impressive as this is an incredibly demanding show, plunging into at times what seems like the unknown. He has had various injuries but has kept going after doing more than 430 performances! Before each show, he tells us, he spends four hours warming up his body and voice for this life-changing role.

6:30pm Dinner at Ollie’s (42nd Street). A classmate says he spent his childhood at Ollie’s—jealous!

7:15pm We pay the bill frantically before legging it to the Signature Theatre to see our next show.

7:30pm Feeling stuffed, we settle in to watch John [which is by Annie Baker and directed by Juilliard directing alum Sam Gold]. The red curtains are slowly being dragged open by a frail elderly character. What seems like an ordinary couple arrives. What are we about to watch?

10:30pm The show ends, and I’m surrounded by a mostly stunned audience, which of course, doesn’t happen every day. We comment on how impressive the vividly realistic and at times magical combination of effortless writing and acting was. An integral part of the play and what keeps us yearning for more is the suppression of insecurities, loneliness, insanity, and inability to communicate until the absolute boiling point which is what fuels the enigmatic silences. Interestingly, both plays explore feelings of isolation in life. Plus Maggie Gyllenhaal was sitting a few rows in front of us!

11pm Walking home full of questions, we’re aware of our own desire to start work, but first we have hot chocolate and pancakes—and then sleep.

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By Peter "Finn" Wittrock

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