Theater Conservatory Confidential: The Art of Sitting Quietly

Eli Diamond finds some quiet time while navigating the second semester of his first year at Theater School.

So, this weekend has opened my eyes to a few things. Mostly that I cannot stand being in the same room with certain people for more than ten minutes. And that I get annoyed when these same people are invited into my room night after night for drinking and video games. I think I’m starting to learn the true purpose of this place. College: Where the cynical Eli becomes even more cynical.

Not to say that there aren’t high points. Going out has led to some interesting encounters with a few of my friends, and no matter what happens, whether it’s good or bad, you can be sure I have a story to tell. Stories that I probably could get arrested for, but stories, nonetheless. I have however figured out a way to tell this story, namely by replacing everything illegal with the word “kittens”.

Ahem. It was my friend/suitemate’s birthday, and so, naturally, he had a few friends over. These friends each decided to bring some kittens. So, me and all the friends stayed huddled over, drinking the kittens. After feeling relatively good, some friends decided they were going out to smoke some kittens. I naturally decided to follow them, and, after we smoked some kittens, I figured out I lost my wallet.

I mean, it’s not a story with a happy ending, but it is a story. And I’m happy to have experienced it at this young age so I know never to do it again. Losing my wallet was a nuisance I lived with for the past few weeks, as I couldn’t get a replacement ATM card, due to lack of ID, and I couldn’t get an ID, due to lack of… well… ID. It’s almost gotten to the point where I’ve decided to invest in a fake, because getting one of those sounds a lot easier than whatever the DMV’s put me through. I have learned my lesson a bit though, as my nights have been spent far more soberly since.

I have been thinking though. I’m not quite sure what has made me think of this. Maybe it’s the doldrums creeping up on me. But I’ve been thinking about transferring or just… going for it. Being in this profession makes me really question the worth of whatever college degree I end up getting. I’ve heard a few people say “Auditors look at your education” and I’ve yet to see if it’s true. Maybe transferring out of NYU after 2 years is a good thing. I’ll have the wonderful education provided for me by the Atlantic Acting School, and I’ll also save 100+ thousand dollars.

These are the things that have been going through my mind. I should probably be focusing on rehearsal though. I’m doing a scene from Shining City, and a scene from Rabbit Hole next, as well as writing a monologue. I’m pretty damn excited for this all. But for now, I’m just gonna sit quietly with my laptop, while those guys outside my door play Smash Bros. for the 5th night in a row.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: Into The Deep

Eli Diamond returns to New York for his second semester of theater school.

This semester has already brought more work than I could have possibly expected. One week in, and I have 4 scenes and 2 papers assigned to me. Honestly, I was not expecting this semester to get to me so quickly, but it’s strange. Ever since coming here, I’ve had a new sense of ambition. All the things that were weighing me down are starting to vanish. This may not sound like a big deal to you, you clever reader, but towards the end of last semester, this was a big problem for me. The moment this ambition really revealed itself to me was last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday, I had to perform a short monologue from The Bacchae (The first Pentheus monologue to be specific), and, in classic Eli tradition, slept til 15 minutes before my class started. Now, First Semester Eli would have seen the clock and be fast asleep again in no time at all. But this brand-new, classy Eli woke up and bolted to class. With sweat dripping down his face, he made it to his class, albeit 15 minutes late.

The rest of the work started piling up quickly, and being away from school taught me two things. One, the steps are always slightly engrained in me; and two, the actual application feels rusty. Everything, be it my repetition to my ‘as-if’ing feels incredibly rusty, as if I have not performed in… well six weeks. But I am slowly but surely feeling it coming back. Watching everybody go through the same troubles I am definitely helps with the sense of community and confidence that we are all going through as actors.

And that’s the thought I’m thinking of right now, as the blizzard continues to rage outside. As a Californian, I don’t know how to really deal with the cold. The few times it snowed in San Francisco, it might as well have been considered a joke. But, as an 18 year old experience the harsh winters for the first time, this is terrifying. I only recently discovered the joys of long underwear, and have been wearing the same heavy coat day after day, due to my inability to find a new one.

So basically, all in all, its the same New York I loved and left, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: Second Semester, or What you Will

Eli Diamond heads once more unto the breach!

In two days, I will be flying back to New York, thus beginning the whole adjustment phase again. If there’s one thing that I remember hating the last time I came back, it was readjusting to life over there. When I’m home, I have plenty of food, a really comfy bed, and I don’t have to worry about waking anyone up ever; after all, it’s my room, my rules. But soon that will all change again, as I need to head back to my little room for another 7 weeks before I return for Spring Break.

This isn’t to say I’m not excited for the new semester. I’m excited to jump back into my work, and excited to get back to seeing all the people I met last semester, but the first week back is going to be painful. I’ve had a wonderful break in the city, and, even though it was a little bit too long, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss being able to go to my favorite cafés and reading. I’m going to miss picking up milk tea from the random stores around the Sunset. Most of all though, I’m going to miss my parents, friends and girlfriend.

It’s been a hard time getting used to seeing everyone again, and I just wish I could spend a little bit more time with everyone, but that’s kinda how things have to go. I go away, but I will keep in contact with all of them, especially my parents, who I developed a newfound appreciation for. I spent a long time going from person to person this break, making sure I didn’t miss anyone, and of course, I did miss quite a few people. I feel really bad, but I hope they know I’ll see them over the Spring/Summer Breaks.

While I was here though, I was able to apply the technique to a reading I was a part of, and it helped me realize that even though I love where I am with the technique, school’s definitely been missed. I cannot wait to dive headfirst into learning the technique for my second semester. I have a lot to learn, and hopefully a lot I can bring back to San Francisco during the summer.

The first thing I need to do though when I get back: Laundry.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: The Home Stretch

Eli Diamond navigates his first Christmas Break back home.

“It’s only been a semester, but already I feel college has done a number on all of us.”

My dear friend Michelle said this to me during lunch the other day, and it took me a while to realize what she meant. I had seen numerous college folk since I’d returned from school, and to me, Michelle seemed exactly the same. A little more confidence maybe, but more or less the same girl who I sat next to for four years in high school. I was really surprised though, by one of my friends.

This friend, who shall remain nameless, spent her last year with me driving around, occasionally smoking weed or drinking, and partying. When I called her up and we agreed to meet up, I was ready for some more insane adventures that all high school kids dream college kids experience everyday. Instead, I was greeted by a girl who decided to go substance-free, hated parties, and was on her way to becoming a frugavore (only eats raw fruits and vegetables. Vegan to the nth degree).

We talked for a bit about how college really isn’t the fantasy that high schoolers think it is; about how the party life is a kind of a lame substitute for real life. We both were semi-partiers in high school, and spent lengthy periods looking forward to college frat parties, but now, nothing could really disgust us more. To us, college is where you learn to be a social human being, not where you walk around passed out drunk people who are almost certainly going to be taken advantage of.

Some of our friends also spent time living the high school fantasies that they never had, only to discover that it really was not worth the wait. These experiences are what changed us. The realization that college is not some dreamland really brought us back to reality. And I feel that’s the change that Michelle was talking about. We all feel real to each other now. College is a different world for each of us, and we all have our stories right now about how we may have had that “one crazy party”, or that “god-awful teacher”, but the thing is, we’re relating in a way that high school students often fail to do.

Of course, I still do treat some of my friends the exact same, because in the end, I’m still Eli, and they’re still whoever they were. We connect on that high school level, but the distance has allowed us to connect deeper. I’ve heard it said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and I concur.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: It’s The End Of The First Semester As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Eli Diamond closes out our blog for the year with some final thoughts on 2012 and an eye to the future. 

So if you believe in all this stuff, it’s December 21st, 2012, the end of the world. If you don’t believe in it, it’s December 21st 2012, average Friday. To top things off, I’m home with a new set of resolutions for the break and next semester. It’s a strange feeling though, not having seen things such as my grades yet. But, to reflect, there is so much I could have done better. I needed to increase my motivation somehow; to keep myself from missing as many classes as I did last semester. If anything hurts my grades this semester, it was definitely that. I don’t know why I missed as many classes as I did. I think it was a mixture of depression and laziness. I was never the best at doing anything. I could come up with ideas and everything, but recently it’s become so clear to me that intelligence and creativity are nothing without motivation, and self-awareness.

I am now aware that no one is responsible for my happiness except myself. Coming back has made me more aware of that. I’m finally given the chance to breathe after two straight months of increased heart rate. It’s been a nice time home. I’ve been practicing a little bit for next semester, going through some basic voice and speech work, along with some occasional analysis work. My days have been mainly spent with my parents and my girlfriend, and its a nice change; no more nights where my social life feels more like a chore than anything else.

I watched in college as some of my friends made the realization that school wasn’t for them, or drama wasn’t for them, or any sort of thing. And for a while, I questioned that for myself as well. But, now it seems clear that the question isn’t whether or not acting’s my thing, but whether or not I have the energy and motivation to put myself into the work. I feel a little bit guilty for how much time I took off my school, and I hope that next semester, I can change that.

Anyways, enough circular talking, the break has few real plans for me. A few auditions, a few holiday gatherings, a few friends getting together with me, but nothing that stresses me out too much. I’ve been reading a lot more, which has definitely improved my mood (The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño – read it), and I’ve also had the resources to actually do things I want to do, like dinner and movies. The balance is going to be much easier over the break, and hopefully, will be something I will be able to carry into the next semester.

See you next year folks! 

Theater Conservatory Confidential: This Is The Work

Eli Diamond checks in after a few weeks of radio silence.

Once again, I feel an urge to apologize for this being incredibly late, but now I can safely say it: My semester is done. All I have left to do is to send in a paper analyzing A Serious Man through the lens of Schrödinger’s Cat, and I’m done. Kaput.

And, in all honesty, it’s kinda bittersweet.

I know I’ve ranted and railed on how much I want to go home, and see my girlfriend, and get real food and family time, but right now, all I can think of is how much I want to get back in the work.

Final Scene day was remarkable. It was truly interesting to see each student, even some I’d never seen, perform for us. It really helped nail the fact in that this technique works. It’s a universal technique the same way that there’s a universal skill for carpenters or painters. Through this, I’m learning how to truly express myself in the work. And after about 15 hours of rehearsal with my lovely scene partner Brigette, another Bay Area actress, we finally got to show off our scene from Dinner with Friends, and it was so fun. The work we put in escalated us to a point where, for me at least, it didn’t even feel like work. We went on, let the scene happen, left, and when we got back, neither of us remembered what happened onstage we were so in character.

The only bad thing about this, is that now I really, really want to get into 10 minute scenes, like we will next semester. And I really want to expand my voice work, and begin to work on my speech. If the goal this semester was to make me a believer in Practical Aesthetics, then it succeeded. With flying colors. Through all the suffering, hard work, tears, and bloodshed, I discovered a method of acting that allows me to truly express myself as an artist. The biggest difference next semester though, is that our group of 16 people is going to be dismantled, and as much as I hate to say this, it’s for the best. I am ready to meet new people and work with others. And even though I’ll miss most of them, I’m sure we’ll stay in touch and everything.

Now it’s time to go home though. Time to bring all the work home, possibly go on a few audition rounds, and sleep. The only difference is that where once I couldn’t wait to come home, now I can’t wait to go back. Because, as my teacher Hilary Hinckle says, “This is the work”.

And this is a work I can see myself loving.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: The Break

Bay Area actor Eli Diamond continues his path through his first year at NYU, braving natural disaster, academic confrontations and artistic growth with equal aplomb. 

First off, I would like to apologize two weeks ago for the delay. In case the world did not notice, there may or may not have been a hurricane that devastated New York, specifically the area of New York that I call my home, and well… It was really really bad. We did not have school for the week, and we spent the time we would’ve spent at school searching for non-perishable goods, electricity, and, if all else failed, a hotel. Eventually, due to a major falling out with some friends, we did end up finding a hotel in the middle of Morningside Heights, though it may be more aptly described as a crack-den.

Nothing occupied the room except for a bed and a dresser, the nearest bathroom was about 7 or 8 doors away, and a piece of the door was lying on the floor. It, suffice to say, was not good. The three of us spent most of our time there watching television, trying to fight off the madness that unfortunately came with the territory. Dinners consisted of KFC and possibly Chipotle, if we were feeling fancy. Most stores were closed down, and the entire place had a sort of dead feel about it. The day after the Hurricane, the streets began to resemble the sub-par Will Smith film I Am Legend.

The worst part of the Hurricane and its aftermath had to be the stir-craziness. With nothing to do except talk, and watch TV on our computers, we quickly ran out of jokes, and ways to amuse each other. By the end of the Hurricane, we had all agreed not to speak to each other for the next two weeks, hoping that by that time, we could reinvigorate our friendship with a well needed shot of adrenaline.

When classes started again, I felt almost broken. I needed to go back home, I got very upset and irritable very easily. I started not going to some of my academics, and at one point lay in bed for almost 2 whole days. It escalated to the point where the head of my studio called me in and gave me a number for a shrink, saying “Hey, we’ve noticed something”. After a while, and some wonderful scene work with my friends Kane, Brigette, and Alex, I was able to get back into the flow of things.

On that same note though, it’s hard. I feel the need to return home now more than ever, and even though my parents came up for Thanksgiving, that does not quite compare to having my own bed, in a city where I can go visit my old friends, while I eat a home-cooked meal. And with only final scene day on the horizon, it looks like the only thing I need to kill right now is time.