Spring is upon us and there is a light at the end of this long dark tunnel we’ve been in for the past year. Once again, I am deeply moved reflecting on all that our community has weathered; and how, in both small and big ways, you showed resilience, reflection, patience, passion, vulnerability, bravery, artistry, & so much heart.
We wanted to officially announce and congratulate TKActors: Joseph Basquill, Monique Gabriel, Becky Granger, Lilianna Hogan, Jo Quiles, Kim Savarino, David Kaverman, Tom Colford, Nicole Catania, & Dylan Murphy on being selected as Exceptional Students — Spring 2021!
These 10 students continually bring the utmost courage, joy and authenticity to the room day in and day out. We’re so grateful to honor their unique & powerful growth over this term.
Help us send them some much-deserved love and congratulations.
Finally, an enormous thank you again to #TKActor Gabrielle Bones for being our Virtual Photographer and capturing all of these beautiful shots.
What does being an artist ‘committed to excellence’ mean to you while training at TK Studio?
To me it starts with taking a risk, being all in on it and not letting fear dictate how you make your choices. Whether that’s in a scene or how you approach the work; take a risk, make a choice, and let it fly. Since training here I’ve been invited by every teacher I’ve worked with almost to the point of excruciating persistence to go all in and take the f**king risk (in some framing of the phrase or another).
The stagnation of growth that comes from avoiding risk whether it’s out of a fear of failing or a fear of not getting it right or a fear of embarrassment is palpable. I’ve come to find this can only be remedied by jumping out of the airplane and skydiving through a scene or an exercise with a big smile on your face and the knowledge that you will land with your two feet safely on the ground because this work and these teachers have helped you create the best damn parachute there is.
Reevaluate your relationship with fear, change the narrative. I’ve learned so much here at TKS I can’t begin to list the number of things that have been instilled in me but something I think I’m well versed in is constantly being in the pursuit of letting go of fear and embracing risk.
I’ve learned that being committed to excellence is about giving myself the space and the structure to live my priorities. It’s humbling to accept that we can’t do everything. But we can absolutely do everything important.
I’ve learned that humility is the difference between perfection and excellence. Perfection is an abstract ideal, but excellence is very human. Anyone can find it in the work. None of us are too perfect to practice or get better. I know this because I’ve seen it in the efforts of my classmates and in the work of other artists I admire. Every time I take responsibility for my work, I see it in myself too.
Being committed to excellence has meant giving this art and this practice my attention, respect and love. I approach it all with a growth mindset and I have faith that if I do my best, I can only keep getting better.
For me, being committed to excellence means being committed to honesty with yourself. Meisner work doesn’t allow you to hide. It radically asks for your unfiltered reaction. Once I realized how deeply ingrained my hunger for external validation was, I tried looking inward. Being committed to excellence means embracing intrigue in yourself. What does this (situation) mean to you? Are you angry? Did that hurt your feelings? Meisner work has taught me to examine my instrument, to value my own experience, and to try to stop molding myself for the sake of others. When I’m unsuccessful, I try to kindly investigate it rather than judge myself for being human. Being committed to excellence means crafting carefully, being curious, getting uncomfortable, and honoring myself from wherever I’m at.
I have never held excellence itself in my hands; I just know that when I wake up in the morning, my quest for it begins again.
The word excellence brings up memories of times in my life when I failed so much I couldn’t take it anymore. It also brings to mind times in my life where my joy and love gave me superpowers that completely annihilated all the superfluous things that “get in the way.”
I’m not really sure if I have achieved the level of excellence I think I can achieve yet. I’m not really sure if my search for excellence will end with me finding it. I am, however, obsessed with the journey. If you’ve read this far, dear reader, please pray for me, and I will pray for you. May we have fruitful journeys. Let’s be altruistic, joyful, leave no stone unturned, and lead with our hearts.
When I decided to take the Meisner Intensive at TK Studio, I did not know what to expect. It has been a roller coaster of emotions and an incredibly thrilling journey. Being an artist ‘committed to excellence ‘ is showing up to every class prepared to explore, grow and learn. It’s being committed to your craft, the class, and your partner. It’s arriving to class emotionally accessible and vulnerable. I have always been a person who tries to achieve perfection, so I took early feedback personally. I quickly learned that you grow from failure, not only when you succeed. Peter has taught me to let go of my ego and helped me understand that every failure encountered brings me closer to success. It is only feedback; it simply shows you what’s not working so you can figure out what will work. Learning from our mistakes is critical and we need to embrace them, not run away from them. In class, I am constantly reminding myself that it is not what you see or hear, it’s what you feel. In order to succeed, you must be prepared, work hard and learn from others and mistakes. I am looking forward to my growth as an actor with every class at TK Studio.
Excellence to me looks like the accumulation of thousands of actions, small and large, in which I commit to my work, show up with curiosity, and move towards what I love (instead of sprinting wildly away from what I fear). It means embracing the days where I fail, struggle, and bang my head against the wall as much as the days where things are easy and smooth. Ultimately, I’m developing trust in my process and intuition, and defining success on my terms instead of rooting my self-worth in old patterns and external validation.
I’m untangling the idea that excellence is a static goal or landmark that I’ll pass once and check off my to-do list forever — rather, it’s exploring the unknown with groundedness and trust, and moving into the space beyond my current limitations and knowledge with self-compassion and humor. It’s expansion, and it’s rest. It’s recognizing the people around you who make your excellence possible — make it visible to you and reflect back to you — and that you do the same for. Excellence is not possible in isolation.
This work offers an ongoing invitation to imagine myself beyond who I currently am — to be expansive, open, and full of heart. I want to take that invitation and apply it externally (and hope you do the same!): to imagine what the world could be, beyond what it is now.
Imagine being at the edge of a pool. You know the water is cold and deep and you don’t totally know how to swim but still you have to jump. There are no stairs. There is no shallow end. Only your teacher–standing on the side with a life-preserver. So you have to jump in and see what happens.
Being an artist committed to excellence means summoning the courage to jump with both feet into the deep-end of the pool. Sometimes the discovery is shallow. Sometimes profound. But what I love about TK Studio is the strong encouragement of my teachers to keep jumping in, letting go of the habits I’ve known for something new. To be curious each time I submerge myself in the present moment.
And the more I jump in I realize the pool is actually an ocean of creativity. It’s vast and undiscovered. I find deeper sides of myself and discover those aspects that have been in the dark.
And so I continue to jump in.
Being at TKS, working with teachers like Terry and the ENTIRE faculty, is a privilege, a joy, and the greatest opportunity I have ever been given as an artist to date. Everything I have wanted to learn, and hoped was possible to be learned, is at my fingertips. Actively inviting me to jump in whole heartedly.
That invitation is as generous as they come. So my commitment to excellence is my commitment to embodying that invitation. To bring my all to every class. Diligently and devotedly integrating what I’m taught into my being, at every opportunity in and out of class. When I do this with my body, heart, and soul I’m also forced to bump up against that which I’m clinging to, but doesn’t serve me, and discover what I’ve avoided looking at and hidden from myself. Liberating my habits through the gift of choice.
For me it’s all in the invitation. And I know there is so much more in it than I am currently able to accept, but the persistent pursuit of its fullness meeting my fullness motivates and excites me endlessly. And I think the beautiful thing about TKS is the more I understand what I’m being invited to, the more I understand how to invite myself to it, and that the invitation isn’t TKS’s; it’s the craft’s and the scale of what it desires and dreams for us – if we can be brave enough to accept it.
When we were able to be in person at the studio, I had a small ritual where I would physicalize taking my heart from my chest and giving it to the space and everyone present before entering the classroom. I think that’s what excellence means to me — giving your whole heart to the work and everyone there with you.
Being an artist committed to excellence means approaching the work — every moment, exercise, scene and interaction — with radical love, empathy and humanity. It means developing a sense of humor and laughing at yourself when you (inevitably!) fail, as well as resilience when laughing is hard. It means letting go of getting things “right”, giving in to what makes you human and exploring what feeds you and encourages you to grow. It means being willing to expose the messiest and innermost parts of yourself. And it means developing a sense of grit and relentlessness in your pursuit.
I’ve been spending time really connecting with what inspires me to be an actor and artist lately. I’m reminded that art, at its best, reaches out to people and reflects life back at us. It inspires empathy. It inspires change. It makes people feel less alone. It heals. It certainly heals me. Even just writing this, I’m in tears with how remarkable that is. I feel a fire inside me burning to get back to work. What a beautiful thing to give your whole heart to. And how lucky I am to do it alongside this community and with the guidance and care of Terry and this whole faculty.
I thought for a long time I knew what it meant to be “committed to excellence” simply by my understanding of the two words “commitment” and “excellence”. “Commitment” seemed pretty self-explanatory; you do the things you say you are going to do. Whether that be showing up everyday to class (on time), doing the assignments you were asked to do, meeting with your rehearsal partner between every class, learning your lines if you’re doing scenes, etc. Whatever you are asked to do, you do, plain and simple. “Excellence” was a little harder to concretely define but I knew that I’ve seen excellent work by actors who I admire and my goal was to be at their level. Since I knew I wasn’t, and still have ways to go before I can say I am, I came to TK Studio in order to learn the craft I love like all those great actors who I think consistently do excellent work.
So by “committing to excellence” I was promising to be “excellent” in everything I was asked by my teachers. Anyone reading this who has or is currently doing this work knows how unattainable of a standard that is to set for yourself.
I realized from this training that I would be someone you’d consider a “perfectionist.” I was more concerned with “getting it right” than actually learning and growing from failure. This was something I consistently struggled with, especially during my First Year. After an exercise or a scene, if it didn’t go well or how I wanted to, which was regularly, I would shut down. I would start attacking myself or I’d get on the defensive about the work I did, as if that would somehow change what Terry saw in my work (advice for new students: It doesn’t so don’t bother). So going into my Second Year, I knew that I had to make a change if I was truly going to grow into the best actor that I could be.
Then I stumbled upon a Ted Talk that Ethan Hawke did, a Ted Hawke if you will, called “Give yourself permission to be creative”. In the talk he said “I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good, and if history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic. Right?” I don’t know how or why this was the moment, but hearing him say those words was when it clicked for me. Worrying about whether or not the work I did was any good was only going to stifle the possibilities of what the work could be. I realized that I can’t be afraid of failure, I’d have to look at it as a gift and embrace it and look at it as a necessary part of the journey towards excellence.
So this year, I told myself I would be kinder to myself and my work and whatever happens, I’ll laugh about it, learn from it and hop back on the theoretical horse and try again. And guess what? I still did some bad work, and that’s okay! Because with this approach, I was able to grow as an artist in ways I didn’t think I could and I did work that I’m proud of because I allowed myself to try things and explore parts of myself I hadn’t before. So as a long-winded answer to this question, I would say being committed to excellence while at TK Studio means leading with an open heart and mind in order to do meaningful work while also embracing failure as a gift and a necessary part of the artist’s journey, which thankfully lasts a lifetime.