Monday, August 5, 2013

A Goodbye to the Tisch Dean's Scholars

I owe so many of my most memorable experiences during my final semester as a student at NYU to the Tisch Dean's Scholars program. I do not know how to begin thanking this group for the last four years - they have been such an important and meaningful part of my life. From our private lunch with Alec Baldwin to our box seats at the New York Mets games, this program gave me a home every Wednesday night for the past four years and truly made me feel like I was part of a group in which I belonged.

On Wednesday, February 13th, we started the new semester by celebrating Chinese New Year at Jing Fong restaurant in Chinatown. Only a few weeks later, on Wednesday, February 27th, we were invited to see Tisch alumnus Rajiv Joseph's excellent new play The North Pool with Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell at the Vineyard Theatre. Two years ago, our Scholars group saw Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo on Broadway, starring Robin Williams, which was also written by Mr. Joseph. After the wonderful performance of The North Pool, we were treated to an excellent talkback with Mr. Joseph and the play's director, Giovanna Sardelli.

On March 6th, the senior Dean's Scholars were invited by Dean Campbell to join her and Tisch faculty members at a cocktail reception spotlighting the Talent Identification Process at the Tisch School of the Arts. The event was held at the beautiful Fisher Hillman Studio at BAM, and high school arts administrators from all over New York were invited.

The Talent Identification Process is a process by which the Tisch School of the Arts seeks out high school students from all over the country who have excelled in the arts, but who may not have the financial means to attend Tisch.

 The senior Dean's Scholars were invited because, as Cohen Scholarship recipients, our class was the first group of students to receive these scholarships through the Talent Identification Process. In this sense, we are the founding class of the Tisch Dean's Scholars program. Dean Campbell invited us to join her during her speech at the cocktail reception, which was such an honor. My friend Nicole Cobb prepared a wonderful speech about many of the outstanding aspects of the Dean's Scholars program, not the least of which was making it possible for all of us to attend NYU in the first place.

Over Spring Break, the Dean's Scholars took our first-ever out-of-town trip to Washington D.C. On Saturday, March 16th, we took the train from Grand Central Station to Washington's Union Station, where we had lunch together as a group. Soon after, we checked into our hotel rooms at the Westin, and I shared a room with Terrence Crawford, a fellow film student and good friend. In the afternoon, the Scholars group toured the NYU Washington D.C. campus, and then we enjoyed dinner at a great Thai restaurant.

On Sunday, we went on a tour of the United States Holocaust Museum, which was followed by a fascinating lecture from the curator of the museum. From there, we travelled over to Georgetown, where we were let loose for a few hours to roam the area. Nicole and I explored a few wonderful, small bookstores in the Georgetown area (I made some great purchases - old, paperback versions of Scorsese on Scorsese by David Thomson and Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw). The group joined back together at Serendipity, where we snacked on some delicious food. From there, we walked to the Kennedy Center, where we saw a performance of the popular mystery comedy Shear Madness, which was a lot of fun.

Before the performance, we ventured through the various floors of the Kennedy Center (I admit to spending perhaps too much time at the Lego-building station on the top floor, where Nicole and I created behemoth Lego figures that consistently toppled over and shattered to pieces). After the performance of Shear Madness, we explored the George Washington University area, which I hadn't visited in years, and then had a late dinner at a restaurant that I'm not completely certain was ready to serve all twenty of us.

On Monday, we went on a tour of the United States Capitol, which was really something else. Although I've visited Washington a few times, I had never visited many of these historic buildings, so I was very happy to be a bit of a tourist. After some quality time at the Capitol, we headed back to the Westin to pack our things, and then we were off to Union Station to return to Manhattan.

When we saw Death of a Salesman last year on Broadway, our administrators had said that we would likely get to have a talkback about the performance at some point with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who graduated from Tisch in 1989. We were very lucky to have that opportunity on Monday, April 22nd, which happened to fall right near the end of my senior thesis film shoot.

After a fantastic sixth day of shooting my advanced film You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory, the Tisch Dean's Scholars had an amazing talk with Mr. Hoffman. I asked Mr. Hoffman about what kind of adjustments are most helpful for him in between takes on a film set, and his answers to all of our questions - ranging from his working relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson to his days as a student at NYU - were really honest and helpful for our group of young artists. His candid talk with us was one of the highlights of the past four years.

Alas, all things must come to an end, and on Monday, May 13th, there was a final dinner for the graduating Dean's Scholars at the House on 17th Street. It was very sad to say goodbye to the wonderful heads of the program, who have done so much for us - Anita Gupta, Jessica Smith, Jean Chen-Villalba and Chris Chan Roberson - and it felt significant saying goodbye, since we can more or less call ourselves the founding class of the program. It's amazing to think about the number of extraordinary plays on Broadway, discussions with brilliant alumni, dinners at amazing restaurants, dance performances, baseball games and events all over the city that this group allowed us to experience. More than that, though, if it wasn't for this program, I wouldn't have been able to go to NYU at all. 

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