TK Studio Acting Blog

Congratulations to our Notable Students – Spring 2022

May 18, 2022

Student Images taken by Sarah Zaid in Industry City Courtyards

 

As we close in on many of our students completing their two-year conservatory program, we wanted to take this moment for our #TKSFaculty to acknowledge and vote for the students that they feel exemplify the #TKStudio spirit. These students have been engaged in class with passion and a commitment to excellence and their recent work has stood above the rest.

We wanted to officially announce and congratulate our amazing #TKSActors : David Afkham, Melissa Aquiles, John Backstrom, Katherine Banos, Samantha Callens, Erik Conover, Kaelen Harrison, Robert Spiker, Matti Steriti and Yuka Taga on being selected as Notable Students Spring 2022!

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 hard work and dedicated over this term. Help us send them some much-deserved love and congratulations!


We ask each of our Notable Students to share with us What being an artist ‘committed to excellence’ means to them while training at TK Studio?

DAVID AFKHAM

To be an actor committed to excellence is a choice. It’s deciding that you are going to organize—and orient—yourself so that the work, training, and your personal growth become a priority. 

It’s about having a set of principles and values, and making the decision to do the things I know are good for me on the days I don’t want to do them. It means being honest with yourself, and with others. Being open, and curious to a world of possibilities. It means being someone who other people can count on; but also being someone that you can count on. It’s the commitment one makes to themselves on a daily basis to do the things that, they know, will make them the best version of themselves.

To be an actor committed to excellence is a hard decision because at the end of the day, for me, it’s a high standard that you set for yourself; for no other reason than wanting to be the absolute best you can be and only you know if you’re doing everything you can to live up to that standard. 


MELISSA AQUILES

Aiming for full meaning, full depth, and bringing my whole heart every day is what excellence is to me. It’s about honoring my values and my sense of self-truth. Of course, it’ll shift daily, because I’m a little different every day. Some days it feels easier, and other days it takes more courage. It’s about braving all the risks, big and small. It’s about doing hard work, softly. It’s about working from a place of love for the work, for yourself, and for others. Showing up that consistently is hard, and I definitely don’t nail it most days.

However, the consistency of knowing what excellence means to me serves as my daily reminder. On the days where it doesn’t happen, it’s about kindness, compassion, humility, and bravely trying again without judgment. It’s about learning every day and staying open to receiving. To me, it’s about being relational and deeply human, both in the work and in everyday life. Oh, and a sense of humor really, really helps.


KATHERINE BANOS

To be an artist committed to excellence means to value process over product. For me, that means connecting to a sense of surrender to this valuable and meaningful journey I am on, rather than being fixated by the destination. In committing to a process and a way of working, I feel I am open to every grand discovery and every epic failure.

There is so much to learn from trying things out that push your boundaries, especially when those creative leaps and risks don’t go “well” or as “expected” in class or rehearsal. The ups and downs of this training have truly sparked a sense of curiosity, wonder, and play in me. I really believe if I was solely fixated on “getting it right,” I would be closing myself off to so many other possibilities of growth. I am only approaching the end of first year and I can feel how much I have changed as an actor and in my daily life.

I strive to be an actor that takes pride in my work– to be able to stand by what I bring to class, ideas I craft for rehearsal, and performances I build on stage or on set. I want to be able to look at what I bring to the studio and know that I threw my whole self as an artist into the work. To be committed to excellence is to have an obsessive appetite for imagination and collaboration.

I want to be like Kobe Bryant who is the first one in the gym and the last one out. Or like Steph Curry, who’s “bad” or “off” game is someone else’s best game. I’ve known Terry for nearly a decade, and I am beyond grateful to now have a commitment to excellence embedded in my DNA. It doesn’t mean being perfect or being hard on yourself. Rather, it means having a vivacious and imaginative approach in the work, knowing that none of this is worth it if you don’t put your best foot forward.


JOHN BACKSTROM

For me, I think it has a lot to do with creating a feedback loop of honesty and trust, both inward and outward, which is fueled by playful curiosity. The more honest I can be with myself, the more I can trust that the work I’ve done will be enough– and when it’s not enough, when I FAIL, honestly recognizing it.

The more honest I can be with my partner, the more they can trust me, and thus be more honest with themselves, which in turn will make me trust them more, ad infinitum. Part of that honesty is remembering and affirming why I do this whole acting thing: because it’s FUN. I want to approach even the darkest characters and scenes with a sense of gratitude and play, because through this work I can go anywhere.

To me there’s something joyous about experiencing painful emotions and then walking away with zero consequences, like one of those crash test dummies. So, yes, I’m serious about my commitment to the work, but that commitment is driven by the joy of mucking around in alternate realities.


SAMANTHA CALLENS

I’m not sure I know what being an artist ‘committed to excellence’ means, honestly. I’ve never quite exactly viewed myself in that way. I want to know that I’ve left everything out on the stage, that I feel proud of what I’ve done, that I know for myself that I have nothing left to give. I want to be able to do truthfully through imaginary circumstances and not get in my own way.

So, I remain hungry, curious, and open. When I craft and put together a circumstance I do so with an obsession. I don’t always get it right and I certainly don’t always even like what I’m bringing in but, hey, that’s okay. Everything’s okay.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the hustle or grind culture (is there an obsession culture or is that just a diagnosis?). I don’t believe that if you love what you do you’ll never want a break, or be creatively tapped, or even hate it, because you will. I do believe that if you really want this then you’ll be willing to dust yourself off and get back up no matter how many times you fail, you want to quit, or you think you’re not good enough.

As Tim McGraw would say, “Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Is it a fire that burns you up inside? How bad do you want it? How bad do you need it? Are you eating, sleeping, dreaming with that one thing on your mind? Cuz if you want it all – you’ve got to lay it all out on the line.”


ERIK CONOVER

Being an artist committed to excellence while training at TK Studio means having the courage to publicly reveal the most vulnerable, intimate, and grotesque aspects of who I truly am, all while embracing criticism and the strong likelihood of failure on a daily basis.

It means being obsessive, relentless, and consistent in my work for the pursuit of truth. Committing to excellence is a binary choice. There is no gray area. You either give every piece of yourself to your pursuits or you are left with the burden of regret. I have to look back at my opportunity here at TK Studio and be certain I showed up and demanded the utmost effort of myself.  

In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


KAELEN HARRISON

To me, being an artist committed to excellence means you’re invested in demanding the most of yourself. You have to recommit every time you walk into that classroom to demand more for yourself and from yourself. To be curious, to dig deeper, and further than you could possibly imagine; expanding the definition of who you are. Yes, it’s scary but that fear is where the magic begins. Sometimes passing through the fear can look and feel ugly. It’s up to you to remember that you will not fall apart right now. A few fragments might splinter off, but you’ll remain whole.

Part of demanding more for yourself means doing the field work too. If you can’t get your gears going today, maybe you need some extra nourishment. Look at something beautiful, go to a museum, search out the horizon. This is part of your creative process: put it on expenses! Oh & don’t forget to have fun!!


ROBERT SPIKER

A commitment to excellence is the utmost standard that every artist should be striving for. To me it means being able to listen. Listening to oneself, to partners, to teachers, to friends. Being curious about what is said. It’s realizing that human beings affect each other profoundly, and consistently.

Being committed to excellence means realizing that one belongs to something greater than themselves. And being curious about what are the responsibilities to that greater thing. Is it society? The studio? Your acting partner? What steps do I need to take to do the best work? How do I organize my life to commit to myself? To commit to doing deep and meaningful work.

Being committed to excellence is about remembering that I came here for a reason. I came here in search of truth through art. I came here to better tell the stories that I’m interested in telling. This is not an easy process, but I love to do this work. The beauty and the richness that this work can bring out is something that many people don’t get to experience. I would be selling myself short by not committing to excellence. 

Take the leap 

Laugh hard 

Love harder 

See 

And Feel. 


MATTI STERITI

I once had a dance teacher who told me to forget about technique during auditions. Her mindset was that whatever technique I had once it was my turn to dance was what I had. I didn’t have the power to change that or suddenly have better technique than I have had every other day. I just had to let go and dance, because if I was too focused on my technique then I wouldn’t be able to show my full self in the audition. The lesson I took from this was that I have to do a lot of the work on my technique outside of the audition in order to really give it my all in the audition.

It feels almost counter intuitive, but for me, the biggest commitment to excellence I have made is letting go and riding the wave. For so long, I worked so hard to be perfect, always wanting to get everything “right” but then I did very little work on my own to really become “perfect” (whatever that means).

Over the past semester, I have learned that most of the work has to be done outside of class using the lessons I learned in class. It has been tough for me, because I love to be lazy and procrastinate. But as I slowly learn to fight that natural tendency, I am able to bring my best work to class when I feel properly prepared. That also requires a great deal of trust in the method and the teacher, but why would I sign up for a class if I wasn’t willing to trust the method and the teacher!


YUKA TAGA

Being an artist committed to excellence means to wake up each morning and choose to face my work with love at my baseline. Being an artist means I show up with meaning in my work. Being committed means I show up with consistency. Being excellent means I show up for others and myself with an open heart; stay focused on my desire to understand humanity; let myself be inspired by people; trust myself; be gentle and curious about myself, because only with self knowledge and a strong empathy for others, can I rise to someone else’s humanity when I am called to embody their character; be forgiving on the rainy days; embrace failure because she is my partner in crime; fearlessly let my inner child have the fun she deserves.

And I can’t do any of this without love. If I can choose to do it all out of love, I can be strong in the face of fear. I can get through the hard days; the days I am overwhelmed by perfectionism, self-doubt, generational trauma, or whatever curveballs that may come as life goes on. Not just get through it, but generously show up to it with vulnerability, honesty and a willingness to change. With love at my baseline and maintaining a commitment to excellence, I can let the world change me; and my work can change the world.


Want to be more like our Notable Students?
Terry Knickerbocker Studio offers a Summer Intensive Program rooted in the Meisner technique, in a state of the art facility in Brooklyn, New York, and Online.
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