We recently sat down with NTSA alumna and current Board of Directors President Parade Stone to chat about her NTSA experience. She's been up to a lot since completing her NTSA program — like starting her own off-Broadway theatre company (and hiring actors that she first met at NTSA in the process)!
What have you been working on since NTSA?
I worked with NTSA the summer after my freshman year of college in 2014. I was in the ensemble of Jimmy!. Since then, I've come to realize that I am passionate about directing and playwriting. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Purchase College in May 2017 with a BA in theatre and gender studies. During and after my time in college, I assisted on several projects with theatre companies and artists such as Pig Iron, Ripe Time, and Young Jean Lee. A play I wrote was featured at the IRT Theatre's 3b Development series this past summer. Tommaso di Blasi, another actor in Jimmy!, performed brilliantly in it! After the reading, I formed a theatre company with several early career artists, and we produced a cabaret at The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture and a play reading at Dixon Place. I also joined the board of NTSA! This year, I will direct a short play through a residency with the The Drama League for their Fourth Friday ART+PARTY series this June. Lastly, I will sing with choral organization Choral Chameleon in a multidisciplinary piece that features choral singing and dance at the Irondale Center (the theatre where I performed with NTSA!) this April.
What was a typical day like at NTSA for you? (NOTE: Parade's production, Jimmy!, rehearsed exclusively in the evenings with local students.)
A typical day at NTSA usually started with me leaving my summer part-time job at Dylan's Candy Bar. I would feel exhausted from hours of recommending jelly bean flavors to children but truly looking forward to rehearsing Jimmy! in the evenings. The quirky, absurd, and hilarious nature of the show allowed rehearsals to feel spontaneous, exciting, and sometimes, a little bit bizarre. Whether I was trying on my dancing peanut costume, learning new harmonies, or going over the opening tap number, those rehearsals kept me on my toes. Having interned, assisted, and directed new and developing theatre, I can say that Jimmy! was excellent preparation for that process. The playwright and composer were often in the rehearsals re-writing scenes and editing the score. While it was challenging to re-learn music or lines, I know that in many professional workshops and shows the playwright often makes adjustments to the script throughout the process. I think Jimmy! prepared me to enter the world of developing theatre because I gained a deeper understanding of how it feels for the actor to work on a new script.
What’s the best memory that you have of NTSA?
NTSA not only gave me theatre experience but a community of artists. I made some of my best friends through NTSA. Seriously, I still see and communicate with most of the cast and crew of Jimmy!. Some of my favorite memories are spending time with the cast after rehearsal, to practice the songs and dance routines as well get to know one another. We had a favorite diner in Park Slope where we would share baskets of wings and hang out for hours. Jacob Houser (the music director) and I still talk about how it was one of our favorite summers.
What did you learn at NTSA?
NTSA gave me the opportunity to grow as a performer. Jimmy! was a surprisingly dance-intensive show, and I never felt like a strong dancer. I was able to learn new dance techniques through our choreographer. I also had to learn harmonies relatively quickly because the composer added new music close to our opening. I grew as a musician because I had to spend extra time after rehearsal learning the new music. It was hard work but most definitely rewarding.
Even though we were all students, Victoria and the production team never treated us as anything less than professionals. Because their expectations were high, we had to meet them. I think my experience with NTSA was invaluable in terms of developing a strong, professional work ethic in the arts.
What was the most valuable part of the program for you?
I think the most valuable part of the program was the community of friends and colleagues that I made through the program. I recently formed a theatre company with Jonathan Rodriguez and Anna Paloma, fellow actors in the cast, as well as Micheal Blasini, the choreographer, called The Great Room Co. We are a collective dedicated to forging opportunities for young adult artists. United by a spirit of emphatic inclusivity, we aim to empower a demographic we nicknamed "The In-Between." We provide fellow young artists with resources, solidarity, and a shared reclamation of agency as we navigate the often uncertain beginning phases — the “in between” phases so to speak — of building a career in the arts. Fun Fact: The Great Room is the name of the studio where we met at our first Jimmy rehearsal. We decided to name our company after it because our experience with NTSA meant so much to us.
What advice would you give to someone auditioning for NTSA?
At the risk of sounding completely corny, I think anyone auditioning for NTSA needs to just be themselves. Having a confident sense of self will always help a performer pick appropriate audition material that speaks to them creatively! Additionally, being your authentic self will allow the people behind the audition table to connect with the performer. I remember I spoke with the directors of Jimmy! as well as Victoria about my audition. They both said that they liked my singing voice, but that they also just liked me. They felt that they could connect with me. Had I been putting on a front or acting like my idea of the "perfect" musical theatre actor, I don't know if I would have come across as fun to work with or genuine. I think directors want to work with people who are confident in who they are because the person that knows themselves will bring their unique point of view to the rehearsal space which will lend itself to the collaborative nature of theatre.
Would you choose to participate in NTSA again? Why?
Well I am right now! I decided to join the board of NTSA for a number of reasons. I am pretty new to producing and the more administrative aspect of the arts. I am learning that gaining this knowledge will help me grow as an artist and allow me to take practical and realistic steps toward building a career in the arts. But most importantly, I get the opportunity to work with Victoria Chatfield again. I can confidently say that working with her will always be a rewarding experience and opportunity for growth. Victoria has met with me several times to provide advice about starting a theatre company, particularly a non-profit organization. I have seen her help students organize their college tours and write stronger applications. She will happily support and promote any work created by NTSA alumni. I know that she cares deeply about making sure this program aids the students whether they end up pursuing acting or not. I have seen her support the growth of young artists in many disciplines. Working with her has been a gift.
Want to meet your future collaborators this summer? APPLY NOW to join NTSA's 2018 season!
Posted on Mar 03, 2018 in About NTSABack to Posts