Contributed with awe by #TKStaff Emma Welch
What a fruitful & meaningful summer it has been. We made it through our first ever Online Summer Intensive with, I must say, immense success. We are so grateful to have such a giving and wonderful community. It keeps us going.
What does being an artist ‘committed to excellence’ mean to you while training at TK Studio?
I believe that committing to excellence is a process; a process of choosing daily presence, no matter the state of your emotions or being; a process that never settles for mediocrity. Achieving excellence is no small feat. I notice myself having to peel away layers of judgment and fear, having to breathe through my imperfections. I try to listen to my body and ask what it needs. All of this is done in preparation for the work because I know if I’m not prepared, Terry will know.
Everyday we are expected to treat class with respect and passion; to walk in prepared and simultaneously be open to failure; to watch our habits; to celebrate them, but also, to challenge them. Terry created a safe space for me to finally see my power. He created a space for all of us to be seen. What a gift! I feel like I was given the opportunity to commit to every exercise with no regard for the outcome because what he celebrates is our process. He celebrates our daily growth, our daily commitment to listening.
Terry pushes for the truth and because of him I have developed a closer relationship to my practice. I no longer question my ability to act, or my ability to create genuinely and passionately. I have a better understanding of my character and my choices. I feel like I have welcomed back a part of myself that I have shut out for years. In a sense, his class has made me feel so much more whole. I could not be more grateful for the TK community and what it offers its students. This studio fosters feelings of support and love and I look forward to continuing my studies under the guidance of such a fierce faculty.
AUSTIN MICHAEL YOUNG
When I was in college, I had a meeting with one of my professors. It was a mid-term meeting to discuss my progress. We met after class. I sat down in her office for the meeting. The very first words she uttered were: “You are not living up to your full potential.” At the time, I felt offended and disrespected. But, as I have grown and time has passed, I can see that there was truth in her statement. I am reminded of this as I reflect on the question of what being an artist committed to excellence means to me.
At this moment in my actors’ journey, I believe being an artist committed to excellence means recognizing our gift and doing all that is necessary to fully actualize that gift. It means having the drive, determination, discipline and courage to cultivate and realize our fullest potential. I believe we have a responsibility to do so. To become our best. To give it our all. I believe becoming the very best we can be, in any endeavor, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and to the world. Because when we realize our fullest potential, we inspire others to do the same. That’s what being an artist committed to excellence means to me.
GARLAND RAY DANCE JR
Up until the pandemic forced us to sit still, I was someone who never could. If I wasn’t planning or actively moving from task to task, from appointment to appointment that had a sense of tangible return for my artistic career – I wasn’t doing enough.
After years of grinding, somewhere along the way the clear delineation between a strong work ethic & literal exhaustion had melted away and I adopted the misconstrued idea that they were synonymous. The relentless reminding of an unforgiving industry with impossible odds had me pushing up against the question of: was I doing enough? Was I enough? I struggled for an answer. I had no idea how to verify I was enough without notable validation of some kind – I hadn’t yet learned that it didn’t have to be given to me, but that I could claim it for myself.
Perfectionism made my exhausting work ethic justifiable. It provided a sense of accomplishment and restored a sense of control where I often felt I had none. I was meticulous. I approached everything I did with a well-orchestrated plan. There was such a necessity and expectation for efficiency and accuracy, so much so that the joy, the love, and the pleasure that I found in being an artist became more and more elusive. But starting to receive the praise and recognition I was looking for reinforced this practice and I just thought it would be the price I’d have to pay to “make it”.
At TK Studio, I slowly saw that this mentality wasn’t going to make me into the artist I see myself becoming. The work we did couldn’t be attached to a perfect or vivid end result. I had been exhausting myself trying to construct a perfect performance and this focus on a singular specific result put me in a box. I was limiting myself and my art by what I thought was possible for me or desired from me. However, I was reminded that the captivating beauty in what we do as actors comes from the untampered, the unpredictable, and the organic rather than the skillfully manufactured.
To me, being an artist committed to excellence is the devotion to meeting every moment with a child-like curiosity, a burning desire to learn, the conscious decision and patience to unlearn, the courage to experience the full spectrum of your emotion in its robust entirety, and continuously choosing to surrender all your expectations to invite the magic of the unknown.
At TK Studio, being an artist committed to excellence meant relishing in the imperfections and confusion in my work. It was learning to grow with the questions I had instead of becoming frustrated by them. Six weeks isn’t enough time to get this work — it’s all about how I use the time I have. How will I spend my free evenings: watching TV or reviewing and thinking about the notes I took last class? How can I go about my day while keeping in mind that I should have my eyes open for a new independent activity? How can I make this situation more meaningful to me? You can’t put the work down once class ends and pick it up when it begins again two days later. Being committed to excellence means you are COMMITTED. It’s every day. You get out what you put in. And by putting everything I had into my work, I begin to see the difference between appreciating art and actually making it.
I distinctly remember the first class in which Terry brought up this concept. The discussion stuck with me long after class ended that day. Terry stressed the importance of being committed to excellence even if we fall short, even if we fail. After class, I was in my living room making my way through a workout and I found myself taking stock of how far I had come as a person and an artist who has always been committed to excellence in every aspect of life.
The person I am today strives to be the highest version of myself that I can be in every moment. But, fully committing oneself to excellence is not an easy task, and it wasn’t always so “sunshine and rainbows” for me. For so long, a commitment to excellence was a self-deprecating voice that I would use to punish myself if I didn’t meet my own personal expectations or goals. I tried so hard to be the best at everything I did; anything less was a disaster. It can be stressful, overwhelming and even scary striving for such elusive grandeur. Failure is still seen as a weakness in so much of mainstream society, but, after committing myself to my own healing and growth, I now see failure as a tremendous opportunity.
Now, a commitment to excellence for me is knowing all of this and loving all of it: loving that self-deprecating voice, loving my failures, and loving my weaknesses. Committing myself to excellence in my art means breaking down my personal walls and limiting beliefs. It is lifting myself up with loving kindness after a failure and getting right back to it. A commitment to excellence for me is believing I have the ability to do anything I set my mind to, no matter how long it takes or how many roadblocks I encounter along the way. In the classroom, excellence is a commitment to growth and evolution in whatever way it chooses to occur. Excellence is knowing that with each step I take, I am improving whether I succeed or fail. And finally, it is knowing that my journey is unique from everyone else I meet and that where I am right now is alright.
I am so very blessed for having witnessed the commitment to excellence embodied by the many artists at TK Studio. Even in this world of online learning, I found myself training in a space filled with trust, compassion, and authenticity each and every day. The opportunity for us to be together in a gathering of intimacy and artistic integrity was never missed or squandered by the backdrop of a pandemic. On the contrary, my teachers and fellow actors allowed me to see in each of them an expression of true courage that spanned beyond any barriers or distance that may have been placed before us. In a time when our world may seem so disconnected and isolated and uncertain, I found a studio space filled with a love of craft, an investment in each individual’s journey, and a desire to really see one another — and, in turn, to really allow ourselves to be seen.
A commitment to excellence for me carries with it an unbridled passion for learning and a lifetime dedicated to the ongoing process of endless discovery and child-like wonder. A commitment to excellence means a desire to live and love deeply — to embrace the fullness of my own humanity while celebrating the humanity that we all share together. A commitment to excellence is a willingness to show up knowing that the work is hard, that I may get it wrong more often than I get it right, and that it’s all still worth it. A commitment to excellence is an invitation to let go of fear and judgment and to be curious once again — curious about myself, my partners, and the world around me. Open and available. A commitment to excellence for me is a journey of optimism. It is quite simply the act of saying yes.
For years, my work as an actor had been dominated by fear — fear of rejection, fear of not being enough, fear of doing it “wrong” or making a mistake. And with fear, there so often comes a need to control, which, in itself, makes for a joyless existence. But in Meisner’s approach, I find a chance to be released from such fears. Meisner teaches me that what I do as an actor doesn’t depend on me, but on what my partner induces in me. And for that, as Meisner says, I need to be wide open. Perhaps it can be scary, but with that wide openness comes the promise of real freedom and, in turn, true joy. At its core, Meisner’s work serves as a reminder to me that we require one another, need one another — and that we are never alone.
Terry, Sinead, and the entire Studio are incredible vessels for Meisner’s traditions. A commitment to excellence is all about what it means to live a life that is truly free. I am so grateful for this experience and for the generous spirits that have been shared with me by my partners and fellow travelers these past months. And I take with me the inspiration that every moment has a beautiful meaning all its own; that I can always be in a place of new beginnings and endless possibilities; that joy is essential in this work and in this life; and that, in the end, there truly is nothing to fear.
We are enough.
When this pandemic started, there was and continues to be so much confusion and uncertainty. I think the initial inclination with this crisis might be to go inward, shrink, or keep everything going on internally close to your chest. But as an actor, specifically an actor housed in a Black woman’s body, I felt challenged to keep my heart open and to allow myself to keep expanding. This, I feel, is an act of resistance in a world that prefers someone who looks like me to stay silent about my feelings. My thoughts. My pain.
So for starters, committing to excellence is giving myself permission to show up to my life every single day. Even when it’s hard. Even when I’m exhausted. It’s allowing myself to be reminded that life is so precious and that every moment counts. It’s making the bed. It’s making gratitude lists. It’s arriving at the yoga mat for my practice. It’s savoring the laughs shared during a virtual game night with friends.
Committing to excellence also means that I challenge myself to be my own best advocate in terms of my career. To recognize that my journey in this industry is specifically mine and that everything unfolds or arrives in my life to further reveal more of who I am as a human and artist. To stay kind and gracious to myself as I do for others.
To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure how an acting intensive was going to work in a virtual format. So much of our work as actors emerges from being in physical proximity to one another. What finally pulled me in was the realization that this was new territory for everyone involved – including the Studio. We’re all in the midst of trying to acclimate and yet still thrive despite the current circumstances. Over the course of the 6-Week Intensive, it repeatedly dawned on me that what matters most is telling the truth in your work, allowing yourself to be emotionally exposed even in a different training format. To allow yourself to be fully seen. Fully imperfect and yet whole. Excellence is showing up for the work as an act of love and bravery. The world needs storytellers more than ever to keep us engaged, inspired, and challenged.
My hope going forward is that the world at large will fully commit itself to excellence – and that to me means full equity and justice for Black people in this country, as well as the full acknowledgement, protection, and celebration of other marginalized communities. There is no more time to be passive about the many plagues that have impacted all of us for centuries. We must now discover how to be truly excellent to one another.
MARIE ROSE BARAMO
Being an artist committed to excellence at TK Studio means connecting to your inner being and allowing your true artistry to emerge. It means coming to the work each day with your fullest, best self and committing to your journey as an artist. It means not allowing the noise of the outside world to throw you off course, but instead staying grounded in who you truly are and your passion for the work. Being committed to excellence at TK means being committed to one’s self and the responsibility you have to yourself to be as great of an artist as you can be.
Personally, I feel that I am still on the path to being an artist committed to excellence. If anything, I have barely scratched the surface.
For me, being committed to excellence is failing as many times as possible and looking forward to that failure. It is knowing that each rehearsal, audition, or class is a completely new experience: a time and place where you forget about the past and trust yourself to perform truly from within.
It is knowing that it takes time. Time that not all of us have but that we give ourselves to grow and learn and strengthen our craft.
It is also knowing that you can’t settle for work that is “okay”, or safe, or in your comfort zone. It is the long hours every day that one takes to search for reasons that will really put them over the top, emotionally and physically.
It is being relaxed and trusting yourself to do what is right for you. It is giving yourself the ability to feel and letting go of the control that holds you back from experiencing.
And thanks to TK Studio, its wonderful community, and my classmates, I know I am on the right path. I look forward to the struggle, the failures, the successes, and what this insane journey holds for me.
I think I just try to measure my growth day-by-day, class-by-class by how willing I am to let go, fail up or down and try again.
Class to me represents a safe space where I can take bolder swings and get feedback. It’s not a final performance, or even a performance at all. I show up and resist as little as possible to impulses, feedback, or whatever if I can help it. Maybe that’s naive or simple, but I think I’m improving in my craft.