"It doesn't end with NEYT, it only begins with NEYT."
from Jacob Knapp, class of 2011
Dear Stephen and NEYT,
Well, I’m off to college! NEYT has yet again convinced another student that it’s a good idea to join the whirlwind of the theater world. However, how can one not when one sees the outcomes of a place like NEYT? It’s irresistible. I want to thank you for this wonderful place to learn, to have fun and to create! NEYT has given me so much, most obviously a great start as a costume designer. But NEYT is more than simply an institution to receive theatre training. I have called it “home” by accident many times simply because of all those countless hours spent there, it has a comfortable and friendly social environment, and it is made up of an incredibly supportive and giving community. Anyone who is lucky enough to be a part of it, even if only by watching a single show, knows what a great place it is. I’m just thankful that I was able to take part in it for over three years, and hopefully for many to come. I will not forget what I owe NEYT in return for my start here, I hope to come back once I have learned what I can, and pass it on to the new tech kids, who will be where I was three years ago. I hope everyone appreciates NEYT as it should be appreciated, and realizes just how exceptional it is to have such outstanding people all working to create such an inspiring organization. Thank you for your support, all your guidance and training, and your generosity.
Much love, Sylvianne
NEYT Class of 2009
Going into the college application process, I never thought I would end up in southern Indiana, miles and miles from comfortable Brattleboro and northeastern academia, but here I am, a freshman at the University of Evansville. I first heard of the school my junior year when I began looking at colleges and trying to decide whether I wanted to train as an actor at a conservatory or at a liberal arts college. At that point, I had my heart set on Vassar’s liberal arts program, but Keely Eastley, one of the acting teachers at New England Youth Theatre, insisted that I look at Evansville. Keely had taught at Yale graduate school in the drama department as a guest Linklater (voice technique) teacher a few years ago and she remembered that there had been a notable number of Evansville graduates accepted into the program. Although it was far from the usual centers of theatre activity: Chicago, New York, Boston, or LA, the name had been popping up more and more frequently in the theatre world; something was clicking in that drama department. I went to see for myself in April during my flurry of auditions and interviews. The school itself scared me off a little at first; it was so different from the atmosphere I had always imagined myself in, with its numerous fraternities and sororities and frankly rather un-diverse populace. Also the theatre department only accepted twelve actors out of the thousands that auditioned each year. I felt a little lost, but, after meeting the other actors and faculty, I could tell the program was exceptional. During most of my visits to schools, I saw a production, and Evansville’s As It Is in Heaven was definitely the most honest and compelling. When I was accepted into the school weeks after my audition, I got a call from the department head, John David Lutz, a Dumbledore-esque genius, telling me to call him directly if I had any questions. At that point, I knew there was a second family waiting for me at the University of Evansville, just as there had been in the theatre department of BUHS and at NEYT.
I have been in Indiana for over six weeks now, and I can safely say that this was where I was meant to end up. After spending half of school in Bob Kramsky’s acting class and countless afternoons, evenings, and nights at NEYT, I was prepared for Evansville’s rigorous program. As a freshmen performance major, a typical day includes one general education class (my one non-theatre class of the day) at 8 am, followed by “Survey and Analysis of Dramatic Literature” with Dr. Brewer, then a quick nap before I memorize lines for my 2 pm acting class with Professor Lank, from which I migrate across Hyde Hall to the scene shop to learn about power tools and lighting equipment with Mr. Meacham, then a voice lesson with Dr. Tuitt, rehearsal for a directing scene from 4:30 to 5:30, gym, dinner, rehearsal for The Children’s Hour from 7-10 pm, rehearsal for a different directing scene from 11:00 to midnight, and finally homework: August Wilson’s Fences for Dr. Brewer, visualize a dime on the tip of my pinkie for 15 minutes for acting, and a paper on the first 40 pages of the Tao Te Ching for that cursed non-theatre class. It is as stressful and satisfying as life in Brattleboro was for me, and the transition has been one of the easiest in my life.
NEYT allowed me to work as hard and as much as a professional would. I was able to constantly occupy myself with acting classes, shows, and tech work from sixth grade on, familiarizing myself with every aspect of the profession. Because I wanted to be treated seriously, as a young professional, my teachers challenged me and gave me everything they possibly could: demanding roles, money for circus training, touring opportunities in other parts of the world, management responsibilities, audition training and advice, and so on. It felt as though NEYT”s resources were limitless, even though I knew, as a student on the board of directors, that this was fiscally not the case. After all of this, NEYT gave me one final push: the May Award. After writing an essay detailing my time at NEYT and being interviewed by the scholarship committee, I waited nervously to see if I would get even a portion of the available scholarship funds. I was overjoyed to receive 10,000 dollars for whatever was needed to get me to Evansville. The money is allowing me to pay my tuition without taking out behemoth student loans that could cripple my future as a working actor in New York or Chicago. Stephen Stearns has always said that artists/actors need scholarship money just as much as athletes; this is one of the few scholarships that meet that need. I am continually thankful for the support.
Now, as an actor at Evansville, I feel prepared for whatever Professor Lank throws at me in acting class or for the massive general auditions at the beginning of each semester in front of terrifyingly talented juniors and seniors. Brattleboro as a whole prepares young people to be professionals in the arts like no other town I have encountered. We have a high school band that performed in a presidential inauguration, a chorus that sings classical music that few others would dare to tackle, we put on a full-blown musical each winter at the high school, we have the Career Center, the Vermont Jazz Center, Brattleboro Music Center, New England Center for Circus Arts, NEYT, Brattleboro School of Dance, River Gallery School, the list goes on and on. I am sure that this town will continue to send prepared young artists out into the world, grateful to the organizations that educated and supported them, and in my case, continue to do so even after graduation.
Class of 2009