By Ashley Dillard
Hello internet land! I am writing to you today with my last blog post (cue Semisonic’s ‘Closing Time’ as I drown my sorrows in a bowl of dairy free ice cream) because as of May 5th, I will officially be finished my MFA! Let’s face it– change is tough. Huge life changes are especially tough. But these big life changes, while scary, can also be exciting because it opens up your entire world to new possibilities! With graduation a mere week away, I wanted to chat with some of our 2017 Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance graduates and see how they were feeling about entering the real world.
3rd year Scenic Design MFA Kevin Nelson has been hard at work trying to secure employment for post-grad school life. “When I think about graduation, I feel that it has come upon us far too quickly. This year seemed to fly by. I feel that I have missed opportunities to push myself this semester especially because my focus has been on finding work for post-graduation. However, I am ready to go out and do what I love doing away from an academic institution and the “safety net” that has been so wonderful these past three years.”
Senior Josiah Brown echoes that sentiment of time flying by, “I’m feeling antsy. It’s like this big event that I’ve been planning and working towards for four years now and now that it is finally here, I’m not sure what to do about it. However, I do feel prepared and ready to tackle the day. I’ve met so many different people and been through so many different experiences that would have normally been out of my comfort zone before college. Between all of the bonfires at Lake Monroe, easy going summer days during IU Summer Theatre, countless unforgettable productions, late nights on campus, radio shows at WIUX, and so much more its hard to pick out just one as my favorite moment at IU. ”
Senior Contemporary Dance major Bailey Prager finds the unknown aspect of the future part of the thrill, “I’ve just been focused on what’s next–where and how can I find work to keep me in the business. It’s really exciting! You never know where you’ll be in a few months!”
Some of our graduates have made 1, 5, and 10 year plans to help them figure out what the right next step is for them. Senior Courtney Relyea-Spivak has thought out her options, “Paulina Makowska (Movement and Silks Choreographer for The Tempest, in which Courtney played one of the three Ariels) has offered me a job at a Pilates studio that she is opening in town. She will be helping me get the rest of my certifications so that I can be a fully trained Pilates instructor. She’s very flexible and will schedule my clients around whatever rehearsal schedule I have going on because she understands that it’s a day job and not my primary job. I don’t think I’d be able to find that flexibility any where else. I figured ‘better Bloomington than New York’ because it’s either go home and live with my parents for free (Courtney is originally from New Jersey) and then try to break into a bigger pond where I’m a much smaller fish or stay in Bloomington where I’ve spent four years creating a name for myself and there’s still ample opportunity.”
Like Courtney, 3rd year MFA actor Matthew Murry, already has solid plans for his post-graduation life. He has accepted an adjunct teaching position at University of North Dakota where he will be teaching acting. “Graduation is bitter sweet. I’m going to really miss my friends. We’ve worked really hard towards this culmination– to release ourselves back into the world is scary but exciting. Moving forward feels good, knowing that I have a job at the same university as my wife and being able to both direct and teach–the future looks bright. ”
Senior Adam Decker is less sure about his plan, but knows the general direction he wants to go. “Graduation is exciting and scary, honestly. Any time you are going through a huge change in your life it’s going to be scary. Not only am I leaving college, but having been in school for my entire life, now I’m going into the real world and figuring out how to manage my time without a hard school schedule. It’s a big step, but I feel ready! I kind of have a plan. I will ideally be in Chicago. Over the summer I will be searching for a job. It’s close to home and I have a great support base there. Plus it offers a lot of opportunity for things like theatre and media without having to jump into a giant city like LA or New York. Ideally that is where I’ll end up–let’s hope it all works out!”
3rd year Costume Technology MFA Lani Tortoriello can’t wait to put her education to good use! “I am really excited about graduation. I am less excited about not having a full-time job yet, but I am still excited. I think anyone who was working before they came to grad school may be more excited about entering the workforce than someone who is coming straight out of undergrad. I am excited to have things like time in the evening, real paychecks, and being able to go back out with a new, well improved set of skills. Right now I’m in the final round of interviews for a position at Florida State University in their costume shop. It would be exciting if I get this job and I hope I do!”
As for me, I will be sticking around Bloomington for the next year, *hopefully* working in the area (I will be acting in IUST’s repertory productions this summer) and getting married here in October! I love this town so much. I met my soon to be husband here, I learned more than I could’ve ever imagined, I made the best friends in the entire world, and I got to meet all of you amazing IU theatre community members.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything IU!
Ashley Dillard is a 3rd year MFA actor at Indiana University. She has been seen most recently as Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa at IU, Katherine in Home at the BPP, Marianne in Sense and Sensibility and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream both for IU Summer Theater. Though she calls beautiful Bloomington home now, she originally hails from Highland, IN.