As we finish the Summer Semester, many of our students completed the first year of their two-year conservatory program in July 2022. 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 : Dante Antonio, Alec Dahmer, Sadye Elizabeth, Seika Iwao, Mario Montes, Estefanía Soto Reyes, Dana Stern and Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. on being selected as Notable Students — Summer 2022!
These 8 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?
For me it comes down to being able to walk out of class and say “I didn’t hold back.” And these are the times I can’t eat beforehand, the times I’m so nervous I can barely sit and basically need to go first in order to retain any semblance of physiological equilibrium. (Which is to say, I tend to use my own nerves as the barometer for whether I’m pushing myself far enough: and if I’m not having some sort of visceral experience in my chair before class starts—be it excitement or terror—it’s probably not a good sign.)
It’s also about knowing that it’s not about me. That though I may be the one preparing (and paying) for the classes, it’s not actually about any of that. That what it’s really about—the reason for not holding back, what it is the commitment is for—is to give to the art, and to those with whom you make the art, completely: is really, in the end, a profession of love. And I think that’s a prerequisite. And I also think it’s what allows for any subsequent commitment. Because I don’t think otherwise I’d be willing to consider so many alternate (and seemingly contradictory) conceptions of who I am.
This space invites me to not just be myself, but to be able to experience the full range of myself. I can walk into any class with zero expectations and leave having laughed as hard as I can for twenty minutes straight (true story) and have a slightly damp mask from the tears that fell onto it (also true story). To be able to walk into any room and have both those extremes of being is what excites me about acting and is what this space not only lets me do, but invites and welcomes me to do everyday. So that leaves it up to me. It’s up to me to accept those invitations and let myself go down those invitations and water slides of myself to experience the fullness of me. It’s about not just being okay with being uncomfortable, but looking for where I’m uncomfortable and going there. I don’t always succeed at going there, but I continue to try.
Speaking of not always succeeding, I think it’s also about being committed to generosity towards myself while simultaneously striving for said excellence. Terry has mentioned in class that you will not be able to learn if you feel under attack. Terry is committed to making the space safe and does an amazing job at it, so he does his part, but then he mentioned that self attacks are still attacks. I was shook. How could I push myself to be better if I didn’t have the belief that I currently suck? That was the dialogue inside my head, but the more I tried class by class to shoo away those negative self beliefs and try to operate from a place of generosity, the more space I had to explore and the more freedom I had to explore that space. And I struggle with this too, but continuing to strive for that excellence and continuing to strive for that generosity towards myself is the only way I can move forward and is what it means to me to be committed to excellence.
To be honest, my understanding of “commitment to excellence” has changed completely since training at TKS. Before starting my journey here I would have answered that, “commitment to excellence means striving for perfection”; but I am ever so grateful for the realization through this work that striving for perfection can actually be a hindrance to my growth as an artist.
I’ve learned that striving for excellence means committing daily to learn more about myself and my truth so I can bring that into my work. It is the commitment to learn where my edge (the place where I start to feel uncomfortable) is and the courage to go towards that edge, pushing it just a little further each time. Giving myself permission to live truthfully and fully in my work, allowing ALL sides of me to be seen. Especially the messier inner parts of me.
It is inevitable that there will be days I experience failure. But rather than letting the perfectionist inside of me take me towards self doubt or disappointment, I’ve learned to search for the gift in that failure. To stay curious as to why it didn’t go so well and stay committed to discovering what I can do better the next time. STAY CURIOUS! That’s been so helpful to me.
My commitment to excellence is now all about becoming more aware. What is most meaningful to me? What stirs my heart? And staying committed to discovering more of myself
It means I’m accountable for my craft. To take it seriously. To show up engaged, present, and prepared to work. To strive for quality and consistency.
The goal isn’t perfection. Whatever discipline I may have is rooted in enthusiasm for the process and potential, without anticipation for the output.
It means I remain curious, especially when it’s challenging. It’s not always easy, but especially when I’m challenged, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. By being curious about what challenges me in class, I’ve experienced more openness and responsiveness in my work.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the summer intensive what artistic excellence was, I would not have been able to give you a cohesive answer. I would have muttered something about commitment or etiquette–a response showing my inexperience as an artist.
Being at the TK Studio has quickly sharpened my knowledge of myself and my goals. I have matured enough as an artist over the six weeks to provide this working definition for myself: A commitment to excellence means bringing everything you have and more to the table. It means giving 110% of your awareness, attention, and freedom to yourself, your collaborators, and the space around you. It means bringing all of it on the good and the bad days. While it would take a college-length essay to fully express what an artist committed to excellence means to me, I believe this is a strong foundation.
It is a demanding thing to ask of anyone. My definition could be completely different than others in my cohort. It can be daunting knowing there are no guidelines or hands to hold. But I take comfort in learning that the power of achieving artistic excellence rests only in my hands.
ESTEFANIA SOTO REYES
For me, excellence goes hand in hand with cultivating a curious mind and having perseverance. Curiosity is constantly asking myself why I like or dislike something, why am I bored or entertained, and, most importantly, asking myself if my opinion can be changed. This attitude has led me to be inspired by the subtleties of everyday life and find wonder in the simple moments. I find wonder in my peers as well. Through their work, each one of them have given me lessons that are fundamental to my development as an artist.
As for perseverance, I think of it as giving the best of me every time. Whether things seem clear or you find yourself lost in the process, if you can fall back to a sense of safety in that habit, you begin to let go of the things out of your control. Before you know it, you’ll start embracing the creative process.
While training at TK studio, I was grappling with identifying when my self analysis tendencies come out of pure curiosity, and when they come out of the need for control. I’ve discovered that it becomes control when it is result-oriented and judgmental, and it’s curiosity when I allow myself to embody the true gift of this work- stepping bravely into the fear that comes from honestly exploring myself and humanity. Excellence is the willingness to put yourself out there and continue making discoveries and mistakes with an open heart.
Being an artist committed to excellence means being a human committed to excellence. Excellence is dedicating myself wholeheartedly to this craft, because it’s my passion. The way I pursue my passions is a mirror of the way I pursue my life. And in that way I am always working towards excellence: excellence in sharing my entire self honestly, vulnerably and openly; excellence in taking big risks; excellence in cultivating intimate, compassionate and meaningful relationships, and excellence in committing to my values fiercely and unapologetically.
SAIDU TEJAN-THOMAS JR.
I feel committed to excellence whenever I remind myself that every part of me is essential to the work I do— the parts I think aren’t good enough to be seen, the parts I nurse and hide like fresh bruises, the parts of me I’ve always told myself I’ll get to later— a commitment to excellence is constantly reminding myself that later is now. It’s meant being present from moment to moment.
I give myself permission to not have to get it right every time, to just show up as my whole self and deal with the consequences. It’s scary as hell whenever I’m in that space. But it must be exciting too because I keep coming back.