At fourteen, my aunt took me to RENT, my first broadway show, and I decided then and there I would audition for NYU and live in New York. I visited the "campus" for the first time at fifteen, and it was the only school I considered or applied to. I took eight AP classes in high school to make sure I had the right academics for such a prestigious school, and I was on the executive board of the student council, captain of the matheletes (SURPRISE!), captain of the scholastic bowl team, and a member of both the National and Spanish National Honor Societies. I was not messing around. I was going to NYU. I was focused. I got straight A's my entire life. At some point it occurred to me that high school could be really really easy if I just took regular classes and coasted through without trying, but that was never my style. What can I say, I'm a workaholic (with a healthy sprinkling of OCD, to boot).
When I auditioned for NYU (the day my senior research paper was due for my AP English class, thanks) I had to indicate my preferences for studio training. The decision is ultimately up to the administration, based on your audition and application, but they do take your request into account. I chose the studio known for its holistic training approach, in which first year students, in addition to acting, movement, and voice and speech classes, are also trained in directing, design, and stage management. I just figured it would make me a better actor, to continue to know more about how other aspects of theatre worked. (Ironically, I said my second choice was the Adler studio, which I think now would have been a terrible fit for me.)
At the end of my first year, when we put on our final presentations, my scene from directing class was chosen (by our group of fifteen students) to be one of the five presented. I also performed a monologue I had written first semester, because I wasn't acting in any of the other scenes that had been selected. At the end of our presentations, I went into my final review with all of my teachers sitting intimidatingly before me, behind a table, while I sat in a solitary chair facing them, sweaty hands in my lap. The only thing I really remember of my fifteen or so minutes in that room was one of my teachers saying, "So, you want to be a directing student, right?" I was horrified. No! I wanted to be an actor! I was just trying to be well-rounded! My monologue hadn't gone all that great because I'd thrown all my effort into my directing scene, but that was because I wanted to be sure my fellow students performing it looked good, and I put them before myself. But I spent the summer panicking. Was I a bad actor? Was I doomed to a life behind the scenes, which, to me at the time, amounted to a failure?
I came back to my second year, and chose to continue directing, to keep my options open, even though I still wanted to be an actor. That year in the program, we were required to stage manage an older student's production, and assist two student designers on designs for others' productions. I ended up assisting one lighting designer, but then lighting a project myself and sound-designing one as well, in addition to the show I was stage managing. (In addition to 30 hours of studio a week plus academic classes plus rehearsals for class and design meetings and tech and load ins and oh, right, homework, or something.) The big project of the first half of second year, at that time, was The Book. The Book was a semester-long project for our design class, which was more or less a history of design from about 1800 to the present, and over the course of those months we took notes and had to compile our own textbook, of sorts, with interesting facts, quotes, pictures related to the period. Halfway through, we had meetings with our teacher to go over The Book thus far and check on our progress. And I remember two things about that meeting - one, that I had a date after, and as soon as he found that out he cut our meeting very short, but two, that his main feedback on my book was that the picture he got from it was "A very neat girl, but interested in a lot of things," and he suggested my book needed more focus. The thing is, I always have been and probably always will be a very neat girl interested in a lot of things. My brain is organized chaos.
By the second semester of my second year, I was torn between "project track" and "performance track." I stubbornly wanted to do it all. I ended up choosing "project track," mostly because I wasn't the biggest fan of our acting teacher that year, but I still had acting once a week, still took voice and speech (that was the stubborn bit) and was taking first year movement for a second time, because I just loved African dance too much. So I remained divided. Still acting, directing, and designing up a storm. And, that semester, stage managing twice, because I'm a masochist, I guess.
Ironically, even though my directing teacher was not a fan of my directing style, I ended up as a directing student my third year. I figured it was rare to have production resources just handed to you, with guaranteed rehearsal and performance space, and so I seized upon that opportunity. I directed two shows, lit several more (never tell people you're a lighting designer unless you want to be asked to light literally everything, especially in school), and somehow squeezed in acting in one production. I think I averaged six shows a semester that year, in one capacity or another. I refused to narrow my focus, no matter how much the program wanted me to. (I kept taking voice and speech, too - the only directing student to do so.)