Hear from Freedom what it's like to be a National YoungArts Competition Winner!
We were so proud and honored when we learned that Freedom was chosen from a pool of 7,600 applicants to spend the week in Miami as a competition winner in Theater with the National YoungArts Foundation. While in Miami, Freedom had the opportunity to work with renowned mentors, industry professionals, and talented peers in a series of workshops, and master classes.. We had Freedom keep a log of all the wonderful times he had while in Miami so we could all have a peek into the life of a YoungArts Winner!
I arrived in Miami around noon and after getting some cool youngarts merch I explored the hotel for a couple hours. While exploring I met and mingled with so many other young artists from other artistic disciplines like writing and cinematic arts. It wasn’t long before I found my fellow theatre finalists and we all ate dinner together. We clicked easily, sharing our favorite movies, actors, plays etc. After dinner was orientation and after orientation was an interdisciplinary workshop where we played fun games and shared our expectations for the week. Finally, the other theatre finalists and I met our panel, the people who will be coaching us and leading us throughout the week. They reminded us of how grueling the selection process was and how each and every one of us deserved to be here. I’ve never felt more inspired and confident in my abilities. Tomorrow we’ll be performing selections for the panel and preparing for our showcase on Tuesday. I’m excited and scared and nervous and anxious, but above all I’m overwhelmingly happy.
Today we all performed for the panel and I was absolutely blown away by the talent of the other actors here. I’m so looking forward to working with young performers of this caliber for the rest of the week and hopefully later in my career. After we all shared we were assigned a monologue, song, scene, or duet to perform in the showcase tomorrow. I was assigned a scene from the play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark by Lynn Nottage with another uber talented finalist. We spent the rest of the day working our respective pieces, and I think my scene is in a great place. Tonight we took a field trip the New World Center to watch the Jazz and Pop Voice finalists perform and it would take me hours to put into words just how impressed and inspired I’m currently feeling. I can’t wait to perform on the same stage tomorrow.
It’s been two days and I feel as if I’ve known these people my entire life. I am in love with every other young artist here and I don’t ever want to leave. We spent the day preparing for our performance and the night actually performing. It was an exhilarating experience. The audience was composed primarily of other young artists from different disciplines who were extremely supportive and excited to see us share what we had prepared. We were welcomed with overwhelming applause by other disciplines as we returned to the hotel and I cannot reiterate enough how supported I feel here at Youngarts. Today has been grueling, but I’m excited to get back to work first thing tomorrow morning.
Today was emotionally exhausting. The entire day was spent working new pieces for one another and taking notes on each other's performances. It was insane watching the performances of my fellow actors evolve and grow in a matter of minutes as they implemented notes and dug deep into their emotional cores. I worked the Saint Crispin's Day monologue from Henry V and discovered things that I never would’ve without the coaching of the panel. Tonight we watched the Dance and Film performances and they were amazing as expected. My favorite film was about an inflatable alien doll named Richard that goes on a journey with a lonely mechanic to fix his spaceship and return home.
Today we had our first Shakespeare workshop and I will never look at a piece of shakespearean text the same way again. Not only did we learn about the literary aspects of shakespeare's text (meter, stress etc.) but also about imbuing each word with emotional specificity. We did an exercise where we laid out our entire life on an imaginary grid on the floor and relived some of our most vulnerable moments and then applied how we felt in those moments to our Shakespeare monologues. The results were unlike anything I’d ever felt or seen. After the workshop we had the privilege of attending a masterclass led by Santino Fontana. We ended the night with the Classical Music performance at the New World Center and again, I was blown away.
We got back to monologue work today, repeating what we did Wednesday with different pieces. I worked the Man or Fish monologue from the Tempest this time and again I discovered things that I never would’ve been able to without the panel’s guidance. After working we had the honor of attending a masterclass led by the extremely talented, Phylicia Rashad. She’s been a role model of mine my entire life and it was a surreal experience, meeting and working with her in person. Tonight’s exhibition featured the work of the Youngarts writers, designers, and visual artists. I’ve felt inspired from the moment I stepped off the plane Monday, but I’ve got to say after hearing some amazing writing and seeing some outstanding artwork tonight, I’m more inspired now than I’ve been all week.
Since Monday we’ve begun every day with an hour long movement class, and today we had our last one. We all brought in personal items with sentimental value and shared the stories behind each of them. I felt closer than I ever had with everyone in that room and I will never forget the feeling of mutual acceptance I felt as I looked around that classroom at the faces of so many passionate young artists allowing me to be completely vulnerable and responding with vulnerability of their own. After this we talked for the final time with the panel about college and our takeaways from the week. Needless to say, it was a very emotional day. We spent the night celebrating at the annual Youngarts Gala, eating great food, listening to live music, and dancing until after midnight. I’m sitting in bed now and it’s just now hitting me hard it’s going to be to say goodbye to everyone tomorrow.
It’s been less than an hour since I arrived back in Chicago and it’s excruciating how much I miss everyone. I feel as if I’ve just spent a year doing what I love with amazing people in Miami when in reality it’s been merely a week. Goodbyes were tough, but it's reassuring to know that I’ll see everyone again sometime in the near future, hopefully on a broadway stage or hollywood set. It’s cliche to say, but this experience has definitely changed my life. I will never forget the week I spent in Miami, and everything I learned will inform everything I do for the rest of my life.
Check out some of our favorite Bard books and articles:
Read Louis Fantasia's Introduction to Playing Shakespeare's Characters: Monarchs and Madmen
Just released in 2019