This summer I had the opportunity to study at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center – often referred to as “The O’Neill” – in Waterford, Conn. I was first introduced to the O’Neill through my acting mentor and academic advisor, Paula Barrett, when I expressed an interest in finding a substantial theatre program for the following summer.

I chose to apply to the O’Neill because it has a nationally-recognized history of being a haven for the creation of new work. With most of my background being in classical theatre, particularly Shakespeare, I figured the O’Neill would expose me to the fresh, contemporary side of theatre. I found a program called “Theatermakers” hosted by the National Theater Institute, the resident theatre school at the O’Neill. I applied with a concentration in acting, since that’s the area in which I’ve had the most experience.

After playing the extensive waiting game, I was informed that there was a spot for me as a member of the Theatermakers class of 2012! Before I knew it, I was making the nine-hour drive to Waterford with my dad. I was both anxious and excited to immerse myself in this wonderful opportunity.

I was part of an ensemble of 16 – consisting of three directors, three playwrights and 10 actors from all over the world. (My friend Tom hailed from Melbourne, Australia!) Besides Sundays, every day of the six-week program began with an 8 a.m. physical warm-up. The warm-ups varied between exercises in yoga and droznin, a mixture of intensive yoga and gymnastics. We once did tai chi in the ocean!

Our days also included three three-hour classes, which covered movement, voice, Meisner, Shakespeare, heightened realism, directing and playwriting. We also had a number of workshops taught by guest artists in everything from monologues to classical movement. Although each class presented different challenges, my favorite was heightened realism; I allowed myself to be “ugly” and completely uninhibited physically in my work. What a rush and relief!

The last two weeks of the program were dramatically different. The O’Neill hosted observerships in two conferences: the National Playwrights Conference (NPC) and the National Musical Theater Conference (NMTC). I had the privilege of observing both an NPC play (“Provenance” by Anna Garcia Romero) and an NMTC musical (“The Toymaker” by Bryan Putnam). It was wonderful to be able to watch professionals in collaboration and to be present in these two very different rehearsal rooms.

My time in Connecticut flew by and acted as a personal haven for artistic exploration. I feel extremely blessed for all that I’ve been given from so many generous, creative, professional people. I can’t wait to actualize the lessons and share my experiences with others. I think that I’m one of the lucky ones, pursuing a life in the arts. We are constantly working to give the most generous gift to others: the gift of ourselves.