FROM SYLVIANNE SHURMAN - PROFESSIONAL COSTUMIER, CURRENTLY IN MED SCHOOL
When I left NEYT, I went to college at Carnegie Mellon University where I received a BFA in costume and lighting design. I believe my acceptance into such a competitive and prestigious program was in great part due to the opportunities I was provided with at NEYT. Throughout my time at NEYT, I was able to prepare a vast portfolio of work, much larger than most students are able to during high school years. I entered college with a strong foundation of script analysis, how to think about character, period, design and construction. One of the most valuable skills NEYT provided was an understanding of how to work within a budget while still creating something that was striking, magical and fully supportive of a show’s needs. Learning about design under the direction of NEYT’s faculty, especially Sandy, allowed me to gain a thorough foundation for approaching not only theater, but life altogether. At the theater I learned about collaboration, creative expression, and thoughtful design. During college I began working on high budget features, as well as interning at large repertory theaters. Upon graduating, I moved to NYC where I designed experimental downtown theater, assisted in commercial theater, feature films and television. I found that I began to get disillusioned about theater- what was so magical about NEYT was the incredible sense of community it developed. NEYT forms an amazing safe space not only for its participants but its audience. I had no doubt that what was occurring within the walls at NEYT was incredibly worthwhile and valuable. This was not the case with theater in New York. Either it was intellectually inaccessible with self indulgent, experimental concepts, or it was financially inaccessible on Broadway. I found I was working on shows to which I couldn’t even afford a ticket, knowing that the audience would primarily be filled with white people with white hair who had the means to travel to NYC and spend excessive amounts of money on a watered-down theatrical spectacle. NYC theater was full of pretension, something I had not experienced once at NEYT. The stranger and sillier you are at NEYT, the better. Ego simply is not a factor. Thus, I decided that working in film was a better use of my time as the content was able to reach a much wider and more diverse audience. I moved out to LA and worked for a few years on large scale productions. However, this too became frustrating. I still missed the sense of purpose and exploration I received during my time at NEYT. While movies reach many more people, their content often does not have a net positive effect. NEYT had shown me what the true value of art can be, and I simply was not able to find it in higher budget venues, so I decided to look for other careers that could better fulfill my wish to serve my community.
I made a list of the things I loved about the arts that I wanted to bring in my next career. Many of these qualities were first developed at NEYT: building community, working in a dynamic environment with a diverse group of people, teamwork and collaboration, finding creative solutions, an awareness of how one’s work affects one's surroundings and critical thinking. Like those at NEYT, I wanted to be working a project that had a positive social impact. After researching many careers and speaking to many people in various fields, I decided to go into medicine. I am currently completing my premed courses in a one year accelerated program, while applying to medical school this fall. Having working in a hospital emergency department for the last year, I easily see the similarities between creating theater and working in a medical environment- chaotic, creative teams working towards a common goal.
NEYT was the setting where so many of my peers grew into adulthood. It taught us the skills to be successful, mindful, creative citizens within whatever community we moved on to. NEYT gave us space to play, create, cry, explore, and fail. NEYT is fantastic not only for its high caliber productions, but because it allows risks to be taken. Students are encouraged to shoot for the moon, knowing that they will be supported if everything comes crashing down. Some of my most embarrassing memories took place at NEYT, but some of my greatest achievements did too. The community is built to accept its members fully, no matter what. In this age of technology taking over our ability to socialize and communicate, the skills NEYT engages within its community are so needed. Young adults need to be shown that critical thinking is a necessary part of being a responsible citizen, that self expression is wonderful and appreciated, and, above all, that learning to communicate with others in a responsible, kind way is essential for the success of all. NEYT fills a large gap that is too often missing within our society society, granting a creative haven to those who think outside of the box and dream of a better future.