Hope theatre majors often choose one of three large markets to start their careers – New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Recently, three graduates of the theatre department at Hope have started new and promising adventures at other prominent theatre hubs.
Mollie Murk ’16 is an acting apprentice in the 2019-20 Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville, a celebrated regional theatre, after spending a number of seasons with the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. Mollie clarified this shift in her training focus:
“I chose to pursue this particular apprenticeship because of the amount of opportunities it offers to connect with artists from across the country. I visited the Humana Festival of New Plays when I was a student at Hope, so getting to be in the building with theatre artists who are really shifting narratives in our country is such an honor. The on-the-job training at ATL prepares early-career artists to work at other top-tier regional theaters, which is very exciting, but I also sought it out for the opportunity to create and produce my own work with peers and collaborators.”
Bridget McCarthy ’15 is joining the 2019 Hatch Cohort at C4 Atlanta while launching a new non-profit, Atlanta Speaks, that will seek “to give voice to the unheard to create a more just community.” Atlanta Speaks is an outgrowth of Bridget’s varied work as a teaching artist with incarcerated and at-risk youth, and survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking. All the while she has performed with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, among others.
Bridget describes the six-month Hatch Training Intensive as “an incubator for professional artists committed to art-making that amplifies community….This work can be really lonely. It is easy to feel (as a community arts facilitator) that I am working in a vacuum. It has been so inspiring to connect with eleven artists of incredible caliber who are investing in this city. I feel so energized by our training together, and leave every intensive feeling refreshed and ready to deepen my community practice.”
The Hatch Intensive provides its annual cohort of artists training in business management, grant-writing, cultural competency, and a network of resources and advisors as they work to make a difference in the cultural life of Atlanta.
Jocelyn Vammer ’09 has spent most of her time since graduation in New York City. She has held numerous jobs while pursuing film and stage acting, modeling, aerial training, and yoga. Her acceptance this year into the MFA acting program at the University of San Diego’s Old Globe Shiley Graduate School of Acting is a testament to her talent, perseverance, and, as is often the case in the arts, serendipitous connections. Jocelyn recounts her road to the Old Globe training program:
“My grad school journey has taken a decade. I was very specific about which programs I wanted, so it took me longer than most. Right out of undergrad, I tried U of Delaware (forgot a monologue entirely), NYU, and Yale, and then focused on Yale for four years (which, after my last attempt included a flat tire in a rainstorm, never panned out). Then I met Brian McManamon, who coached and convinced me to open the lens a little wider, and two years later, I was waitlisted at Juilliard. I never made it off that list, but was invited back for an unusual third try as a waitlist is still a positive result. I went through the entire process again, and wasn’t accepted (that same year I also managed to get a callback for NYU and USD, but I was crushed). I went back and did another class with Brian, who encouraged me to try again and the next year I was a finalist at USD but no acceptance followed. Now, nine years out and getting too old for the nonsense side of acting and potential college debt, I decided on a final try for only USD (the program is free, but they only take 7 people).”
“In that room was the awesome Jesse Perez, now head of USD’s program, who I’d met through my Juilliard journey,” Jocelyn continues. “Suddenly I had hope, only to open the now-familiar letter telling me I was again a finalist, but not accepted. Jesse asked if I’d be willing to go on waitlist, and I absentmindedly agreed. I signed up to become a 500-level yoga teacher and put acting away. Then, a week before classes, Jesse called me to offer a last-minute spot. Not only that, but I am the first woman to flip their traditional ratio of three women to four men. I bought a car and drove cross-country from NY to CA in five days and am now exactly where I was meant to be.”
I asked each of these gifted young women how their education in the Hope College Theatre Department perhaps prepared them for this exciting new step. Here are their answers:
“Hope College prepared me to wear all of the hats, learn how to wear them well, and how to find help when I need help figuring out how to wear a hat. On a daily basis, I am a working actor, an educator, an administrator, grant writer, translator, resource connector, development coordinator, and a dog mom. There isn’t enough time in the day to pretend I have all the answers. Hope taught me to harness the assets of my circle to make good work happen.”
“I think all of the performance opportunities, self-producing opportunities, and tech possibilities really instill the idea of this art as an entire craft. You come away with an appreciation for storytelling and the many facets of putting a story onstage. Any performer who can think about more than just themselves in the vast scope of a piece is a performer directors love working with. That attitude and awareness opens so many doors.”
“Hope College’s liberal arts curriculum structure encourages a curiosity in young artists that allows us to be versatile, flexible, and big-picture-minded when taking part in any area of the production process. I was taught at Hope to be a kind actor. Say “thank you” when given direction or notes; appreciate and respect technical staff, designers, and crew members; support your fellow ensemble members, etc. Hope College prepared me to approach each day with gratitude to be doing this work that I love so much.”
“I also think that the very self-led nature of Hope’s theatre training builds artists that are ready to take initiative in this field,” Mollie added. “The ability to craft my own individualized schedule and degree program, jam-packed with classes across several artistic and creative disciplines prepared me to enter this industry ready to build my own path as well. There is no one linear version of success, and Hope taught me that by allowing me to explore many winding roads in my education.”
I also asked them what advice they might have for our current students. Their answers were so generous and insightful that I want to include them in full:
“It’s ok to give it up for a bit. Performing, unlike other careers, is not usually a linear trajectory. You have to find ways to keep your soul alive and feeling full. I trained in circus arts and stage combat. I got a yoga certification. I painted, wrote, and held a 9-5 day job amongst many random others. My point is that sometimes you have to just do things to take care of your physical, emotional, and financial health, and you shouldn’t punish yourself with this ‘starving artist’ story that for some reason is the only dang story we tell about artists, which is a complete load of nonsense. Each path is as individual as the artist who takes it. Make deals with only yourself- you didn’t miss any opportunities that were truly meant for you, and while being ready for anything to come knocking is an incredible ideal, it’s just that- an ideal. I botched an audition in front of Christopher Durang because of nerves, and still managed to get work after that. You’ll get there. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t give it up, but tend what needs tending.”
“I would encourage Hope College theatre students to take advantage of every opportunity that gets thrown your way. The reality is, whether it’s undergrad, grad school, apprenticeship/training programs, or in the ‘real world’ — you won’t always be cast. You won’t always be working on your dream role in your favorite play. You won’t always be booked. Find ways to continue activating your creativity and feed your soul during those times. Seek like-minded peers with whom to create work. Take general education classes seriously, and learn as much as possible about every aspect of this beautiful art form (and other art forms too!) while you can. Hope College will offer you endless opportunities to be involved in producing creative work, and it will serve you so well beyond your college experience to get in the habit of seeking those opportunities out.”
“Also, on the flip side of that— any time you do find yourself working on that dream role/job/company/project, you earned it,” Mollie continued. “Be proud of the work that got you there, and let that spur you on to the next extraordinary project you’ll be a part of. Stay curious, and keep learning.”
“I can only be creative when I am working from sufficiency, the belief that I am enough. Creativity and fulfillment will never come from muscling through, from desperation, or panic. Relax. Take deep breaths. Take time. I remember looking around productions when I was in school thinking, ‘Wow, I am never going to be lucky enough to make stuff with my friends again.’ I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was. My favorite work (and most constant work) is with an artistic community where I feel a sense of radical belonging. I make great theatre with great people. That is incredible. I am so grateful to be able to work professionally with a community that enlivens me and supports me. Find your tribe, make good art, inject joy where possible.”
It has been a joy to hear from these fine young artists and catch a glimpse of their bright futures. The Theatre Department is immensely proud of them.
And if you are ever in Atlanta, Louisville, or San Diego in the next couple of years, find out if they are performing and go see them on stage!