Young Company Senior Dinner

On Monday, May 28, 2012 our Young Company gathered at Joey Buona's to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. 

The first order of business was to welcome our new Young Company graduates into the First Stage Alumni Network. The Alumni Network was launched in December, 2011 during our 25th Anniversary Reunion event and its mission is to help former First Stage students, staff, and performers keep in touch with fellow alumni and with First Stage. Members of the Alumni Network receive the online newsletter ENCORE, and invitations to special events and regional gatherings.

Academy Services Manager Patrick Schley, who was himself an Academy student from 1999-2004 before joining the First Stage staff, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments and encouraged them to stay involved at First Stage as they continued on their journeys.  In the fall, students from this year’s Young Company will be attending Lawrence University, Amherst College, Fordham University, the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre BFA Actor Training Program, New York University, Northwestern University, UW-Stevens Point, Viterbo University, Carthage College, Tufts University, and the University of Arizona.

Matt Daniels had some sage advice to impart – as a professional actor and a First Stage Teaching Artist who has worked closely with this talented group of young people.

Matt Daniels on "bringing art and craft together with life" 
Matt Daniels
Now for the obligatory advice. Seniors, as you go off into the world, you’re going to go to college and many of you will study theater, and that’s great. That’s fantastic! You are going to learn lots of stuff. But there are going to be teachers who say, "Everything you have learned before is wrong. Totally wrong. Forget it. Take it. Throw it away." And here’s the thing: they might be right. It is possible that they are right. As Eric [Schabla] just said, "As artists, we are always trying to figure out what this animal, theater, is, and how to kill it and eat it." We’re always trying to figure it out. That is a quest that never stops. And I hope that one of the things you got from me in the rehearsal hall is that if something is not working I am more than happy to throw it away.  Let’s find the thing that works. But here's the thing: The only way to find the thing that works is to try all the things. You have to try all of them. So some teacher may come along and say, "Viewpoints is for the birds, you don’t need it." Okay, that’s fine! You can agree with that or not agree with that based on your work with me.  But you have to see what they are offering as the replacement. Work with it. Master it. And then decide for yourself. What we do as teachers is give you tools. You then decide, as you become artists, which tools you are going to use.

Young Company members at the dinner
As an artist, though, you'll walk through the world everyday on your own; not just in the rehearsal hall, no longer in the classroom. You’re just a human. You’re a person, looking at the world out there with industry, and nature, and machines, and other people, trying to synthesize all of it, to find your place in the world. And the world is vast. And up to now, the theater has been helpful in your quest to find your place; such an important part of your life—the bubbling springs of theater may have been life-giving in these trying high school years. And the fact that theater has become such a huge part of your identity right now is fantastic. It should be and I hope it continues to be that way.  But, someone gave me advice a long time ago that I didn’t take until very recently. And now that I have, I'm a little sad I didn't do it before. Here it is: You've got to find something else to fall back on. I'm not talking about career. Not your career. This career is a calling, and if you're called, you've got to go on that journey. I’m not saying don’t be an artist here. What I’m saying is find something so that when your art—which is something that you love nowbecomes your work, and you are periodically unable to support yourself with that work, (as those times will come,) you need something you love to which you can always return. Because you'll have some sort of support job, which could very possibly be numbing or soul-killing, or if you're lucky, great, but you need something else: something creative by which you find a haven. You can play an instrument, or take up a hobby, you can build model ships. I don’t know, it could be anything, right? Tend your garden. But find something. Something that you can find love in, that you can find joy in, that is not your art. And it will, I promise you, it will fill your art even more when you get back to it.

First Stage Young Company 2012

Finally, bringing these things together—bringing art and craft together with life—it’s something that we struggle with all the time. Right? It’s something we struggle with all the time. But there are some tools that I have given you in my class that you can take with you, not only in your life as craftsmen and artists, but in your life as people. Those Five Images [of Viewpoints] can stay with you. You can walk through the world as if there is a golden band around your head, drawing you up. You can walk through the world with soft focus seeing everything in 360º, being a part of all of it. Allowing that energetic sixth sense to fill you. You can walk through the world with loose arms and shoulders: you don’t need any physical tension, you can let that go. Your legs are powerful, strong; you’re grounded. Finally, as you know, you have hearts that are open and ready to receive. I hope and trust that you will use them.

Find out more about the First Stage Alumni Network and stay connected to First Stage and your fellow alumni.  To subscribe to ENCORE, the Alumni Network enewsletter, email us at


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