Hannah Rose Caton

For the July edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Hannah Caton (stage name Rose Caton), a rising third year undergraduate actor in Juilliard’s Drama Division. Born in London, England, Hannah studied at The BRIT School for Performing Arts (http://www.brit.croydon.sch.uk/).  Prior to joining the Group 48, Hannah acted in theater, film, television, as well as a commercial and music video.  Read on to learn more about Hannah’s acting experience as well as her many off-stage hobbies and talents.  Also, be sure to check out Hannah’s movie reel and IMDB page (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5359541/?ref_=tt_cl_t6)!

Hannah Rose Caton

When did you begin acting and how did you decide that you wanted to pursue drama professionally?A young Hannah hanging from some bars at a playground

I have loved performing from a very young age. My parents created this dress up box, full of props and costumes for me to play with as a child. I would spend hours in it, begging friends and family to play with me! I was also a very physically expressive child too, I took figure skating and ballet classes but I was also incredibly shy! My first role was in Primary School playing the Pharaoh in the musical “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.”

hc13I remember a defining moment being in a tree house in Norfolk, England and as a little girl, I was playing an imaginary game with Sophie and Rachel, two sisters I grew up with and Sophie turned to me and said, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I said an actress. I don’t think any of us really knew what that was! I must have only been six but that memory is very vivid in my mind. Then as a teenager, in London, different schools take part every year in ‘Shakespeare’s School Festival’ and I remember that being everything to me. Playing Viola in “Twelfth Night” was the role that made me decide I had to do this for the rest of my life. I also had a teacher who really believed in me, called Ms Vicars and she supported me in applying to the BRIT School for Performing Arts when I was sixteen – I got in!

You have acted in film, television, commercials, music videos and theater.  Is there a particular medium you enjoy the most? If so, why?

hc24My first love is theatre! l have a fervent, passionate love for being on stage. I love the community that surrounds building a play and enjoy the particular type of artistic struggle it brings. Though, film is a very close second. For me, films have that ability to transcend borders; they can be honest and beautifully life altering. I grew up watching a lot of cinema with my Dad, I took to it quickly and would like to direct and write films later on in my career. I’m currently writing a film called “Leilah” about a young Iranian woman who travels to England after the Iranian Revolution in 1969.

As you know, admission to Juilliard’s drama division is highly competitive. Were you intimidated to apply?  When you found out you were admitted to Juilliard, how did you react?

hc21.jpgI actually wasn’t intimidated because my desire outweighed my fear! And I was so adamant that I needed the training because I had sort of hit a brick wall in my craft and I knew that I had to take a big risk. It felt like the next step on my journey. It felt like a calling although that didn’t make it any less nerve wracking! Juilliard was the only Drama school I applied to that year. I kept on saying to myself, how much do you want this?

I had gotten home from a long flight and my family were all very curious about the three-day audition weekend. I told them that it was one of the most enlightening acting experiences I had encountered in such little time. That evening though, I went to sleep with very bad jet lag! The next morning, I was in my room and I had found my lucky necklace on the floor of my bedroom. I had forgotten it during the three-day audition process and was kicking myself that I hadn’t remembered my good luck charm. I picked it up disappointed (I’m aware of how ridiculous this sounds) and then my phone started to ring with an American number. I assumed it was the hotel calling with receipts. I picked it up and it was Kathy Hood! She then announced that I had been accepted for the B.F.A Degree in Drama. It was one of the most tremendous feelings I’ve ever had in my life! I cried and cried – I couldn’t believe it! I ran downstairs and my parents just knew. I screamed, I got in! I got in!

You are half way through your degree program. What do you hope to gain in the next two years?

I hope to delve deeper into the love and ferocity of the work and to keep on growing into the artist and woman I was born to be. I hope to be challenged and to keep on learning from the brilliant teachers and directors that surround me. I hope to strengthen my sense of purpose, gratitude and to not take anything for granted. I hope to gain experiences that best prepare me for my journey ahead.

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It is now summer, one of the rare times that Juilliard drama students can pursue outside opportunities and relax (if such a thing is possible). What are your plans for the summer both personally and professionally?

hc11I’ve just moved into my first ever apartment in NY with Drama graduate Jasminn Johnson! I intend on making it my own sanctuary. Feng Shui and all that! My best mates from London came out to visit me last week and it was wonderful to spend time with people who you have known and loved for so long. They’re great supporters of mine!

Personally I want to eat good food (I love cooking), spend time with friends and get my running shoes on! During July I’ll be involved in rehearsing the play “Hay Fever” produced by Deb Hecht (Voice teacher), alongside a group of Juilliard actors, and we will be performing it in a town called West Fulton. Then, In August I plan to visit my family in Carriacou (it’s a small Caribbean Island off of Grenada – it’s beautiful) my grandparents have retired out there. I’m also hoping to travel to Canada and visit my classmate Maggie! In my spare time, I’ll be writing and trying to finish the movement choreography for the student run-production of Othello next year.

You are able to do a number of different accents. When did you realize you had this skill?  Do you have a favorite? Is there an accent you find particularly difficult?

I was actually absolutely AWFUL at accents as a kid. My friends had this joke that every accent I tried sounded Scottish! My little sister Laura has a magnificent ear for accents though, and I think growing up around her and doing accents for fun made me pretty confident as an adult. I think sometimes you have to go through a period of sounding dreadful to come out the other side…I actually didn’t realize I was any good until I got into Juilliard and realized that I could pick them up pretty quickly.hc6

My favorite! I have two… The Caribbean/West Indian accent because my grandparents are from Grenada and it accesses a deeper, earth like part of myself. Also doing an Irish accent is incredibly freeing for me. I have no inhibition, I just go!

The hardest accent for me is an Indian accent because of the musicality, it’s extremely difficult to find the true authenticity of it.

Other than accents, do you have any other “hidden” talents?

I can wriggle my ears! I can also… figure skate… and I paint very abstract abstract art!

You were a resident assistant this past year. How did you balance the drama’s rigorous curriculum and this time intensive leadership position?

hc25I bought myself a diary and my whole life was in there! And if something took me less than a minute to do I would do it right away in my breaks. Anything longer had to be scheduled in…I also planned a lot in advance during the holidays. Luckily, I’m pretty creative and quick with ideas for programs and display boards. My mother is a teacher and I would often go into her school and put up displays. I once painted the Tree, Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas over the kid’s library.

I also think knowing what’s good for you and what makes a healthy living is very important! I would try the best I could to put my health first and then this meant I could be present with my job and artistry. The other RA’s were also always very supportive and we created a close-knit team of encouragement and support that you could depend on.

I’ve learnt so much from being an RA and hopefully this year off campus will bring new horizons for me! I’ll have different kinds of things to juggle.

From your experience as an international student and RA, what advice do you have for incoming students joining Juilliard this fall?

Soak up everything Juilliard and New York has to offer. Never be afraid to ask for help but also explore your own independence! I’ve been involved in GLUCK and Community Service grants and have loved those opportunities! If you need your best friend, Mum or Dad then call them. That will fuel your reasons for being here and fill your heart.

You are originally from London. Can you describe what it was like growing up in London and how it may have influenced you as an artist?

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Growing up in London I experienced different cultures, religions and economic backgrounds from a very young age. In addition to that, I’m also mixed-race, white and black British and have found that I can pass for many different nationalities. This has always been a bridge in connection for me, people often like sharing stories about their lives with me…I think this has made me a highly empathetic person which has empowered the type of artist I’ve become.

I also have a real Londoner spirit and this comes out especially when I get passionate, it’s a more tough grittiness to stand up for what you believe in. This voice also helps me in my work and is particularly a London influence.

If a friend was visiting London for only one weekend, what would you advise that he/she do in this very short period of time?hc23

Ooh hard one! I would say go during the summer, go for long walks and sit in Hyde Park or Kenwood Park in Hampstead Heath and have an ice cream. Then hit the town, go to Southbank, visit the London eye, get some fish & chips and visit the Tate Modern, watch a show on at The Globe Theatre and definitely go to a British pub! Maybe see if the Queen is home at Buckingham Palace? You know just casually. Then, for nights out and rooftop bars head towards Shoreditch!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Sports played a giant role in my life, and shaped the type of artist and person I am.

I was very athletic and everyone had high hopes that I would make it as a sprinter! I remember telling my dad that, above all, I wanted to be an actress. It was a moment of revelation but also of sadness because I was closing another door and I thought that my family might be disappointed. I was only 15 and I knew that I had made a life-defining decision. I soon got into the BRIT School for Performing Arts and the rest is well not history but definitely the beginning of something wonderful… I was fortunate enough to work as an actress before I got to Juilliard. I played supporting roles in the films “Last Knights” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2493486/) and “The Falling” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3294200/?ref_=nm_knf_i2). And I still very much love monkey bars!

 

 

 

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Keshav Moodliar

For the November 2016 edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Keshav Moodliar, a second year drama student in Juilliard’s Drama Division.  Born and raised in India, Keshav moved to the US in fall 2015 to pursue his master’s degree after completing an undergraduate degree from Ramjas College (http://www.ramjascollege.edu/) at Delhi University.  In addition to a number of theater and directorial credits, Keshav has acted in a short film and several Indian TV commercials.

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When did you begin acting and why? What was your first role?

I began acting when I was in the 8th grade! It was one of those completely ‘random life changing’ moments everyone talks about. I was in school walking to class when my friend and I saw a line of students outside the class room. We asked and found out it was a ‘reading audition’ for the annual play. They were doing ‘The Boy Who Fell Into the Book.’ I wanted to get out of there, but my friend was super keen on giving it a shot because the young drama teacher taking the audition was UNBELIEVABLY attractive. It would mean we’d get to talk to her! We auditioned.. I ended up getting the part of ‘The Boy’ .. my friend ended up playing a chess piece.

Audition season is coming up, and as you know, the drama program is highly selective.  How would you describe the audition process to prospective Juilliard drama students?

The one thing about the audition process I didn’t realize, is just how liberating it is. The best part about this experience; is that for the most part, if not all the time, there is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to do something. It’s just who you are and what you’re working on, on that given day. And that changes every minute, hour and day. The day and eventually the weekend goes by before you know it, so taking it one breath at a time and just enjoying it is so important.

Watch Keshav in the Short Film, The Day He Sleeps

Drama students at Juilliard have very busy schedules. How would you describe a typical day?

Your day starts at 9am with a workout class, led by the unbelievable Darryl Quinton. #BodyByDarryl is what we playfully like to call it. This is followed by a liberal arts class/ or an MFA seminar class. We then have movement classes till about 1230. You have a one hour lunch break, and after that you run for voice and speech classes, followed by Alexander Technique classes. Then from 3 – 6 you have your acting classes where you work on improv or scene study. We then break for dinner for an hour and after that we get into rehearsal from 7 – 10/1030 for the current show we’re working on!
Every day is a different assortment of movement, voice, speech, acting, singing, mask work, and seminar classes where we analyze things going on in the world and our responses to them as artists.

Of all of the roles you have played, what was your favorite and why?  What role was the most challenging and why?

Different roles I’ve played challenge me in different ways depending on where I am in the training and what it is I need. I’m playing Mark Antony in Julius Caesar this December, and I’m excited about that because the use of language is something i’m working on at the moment! It’s a fun challenge! The most fun I’ve had with a character was Ray from ‘Red Speedo’ by Lucas Hnath. I like the rhythm of the text and the way Ray thinks and operates. Its a great practice in ‘letting go’ while still being specific and truthful.

In addition to being an actor, you also have experience directing.  Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?

Yes, I directed a fair bit back in India. It’s something I really enjoy doing and wish to pursue more seriously in time. There are certain stories I wish to tell as an artist; and help give a voice to specific circumstances and people who normally aren’t heard. At this point in my life though want to concentrate on my training as an actor, and fortunately everything about this training at school lends itself quite beautifully towards an understanding in being a director.

As an international student, do you think there are certain challenges that your American classmates do not face? What are some of the benefits of being an international actor at Juilliard?

Yes, as an international student a BIG thing is adjusting to New York City. Which can be quite an experience. The pace, the culture, the food, crossing the streets, I mean – everything. Also, just having a different dialect is something I’m aware of, so in voice and speech I have to work and function in a slightly different way. Also, there’s the looming question of getting a work visa after graduating, which is something we think about a lot. That being said, people come from all over the country; so we’re all in the same boat in a fun way. I would say there are any BENEFITS of being an international actor at Juilliard, but I do get to learn about this country and its culture from my beautiful classmates, and I get to show them mine!

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When not in class, rehearsing, etc, what do you like to do for fun and/or to relax?

When we’re lucky to get some time off from school, I love getting outside. Be it upstate New York or having a smoothie and napping in Central Park or even if its just getting a quick bowl of Ramen to tickle my soul a little bit. I have family in Sudbury, MA so it is always wonderful going there to spend the occasional long weekend, I’m a big fan of mountains and forest trails, so its nice to get away from all these looming buildings once in a while.

Where in India are you from?  Can you describe your hometown to our readers?

I’ve grown up in a lot of places in India, but I’ve spent most of my time in New Delhi. It’s the capitol of the country. Its a busy city full of life and culture. You get people of all religious, regional and economic backgrounds and it’s a city which really toughens you up with time. It’s not necessarily the safest place in the world, so it teaches you to keep your eyes open and your heart generous. It can also get VERY HOT and VERY COLD. So just like life, the weather loves to play games with you.

Other than family, friends, and food, what do you missed most about India?

I miss the smell, the colors the sounds of the traffic. I miss the mountains and the monasteries, I miss the rivers and songs. I do not miss the congested subway, but I’d be lying if I said I did not miss all the strangers that make them. I miss the patience of the country, the time people take to look at each other. Its the season of Diwali right now, so I miss the love which is soaked in everything people do. I also miss the language, hearing Hindi on the streets of NYC immediately makes me smile.

Did you experience any culture shock when you first came to the US?  If so, what was the most challenging? Is there anything that you still struggle with?

Yes, culture shock is a real thing.  I didn’t believe in it at first, but leaving home is hard. Learning to live in a different way with responses to different sounds is a fun but challenging experience. New York can be a very lonely place sometimes, especially when you first move here – but like everything its a phase, and you get through those patches and hold on to things which make you smile, and learn from things which make you uncomfortable. You never really let go of who you are, you just get to pick up some new stuff. I mentioned before, but crossing the streets here was a whole new experience for me. Thinking in Dollars, Fahrenheit and Miles. The switches being the other way around. The outlets shaped differently. It all adds up in a funny way. But it also becomes home with time.

One of your hobbies is performing social (community) service.  What type of service do you take part in?

I love teaching. Working with children is something I’ve done a lot and wish to do more in the future. Especially working with them to find their creative selves. A lot of us are brought up in ways which don’t allow us to explore that side of ourselves, I got lucky to happen to chance upon it. As Kevin Spacey said – we gotta send the elevator back down. I also just love seeing kids happy and smiling, very few things bring me more happiness than a kid with a new toy to play with, a new song which s/he just learned, or a new roof over their head.

Do you have any hidden talents?  If so, what are they?

I just learned to do a handstand this summer. I’ve been practicing all day in the corridors of school, so its no longer hidden. I think I also have the ability to talk to cows and dogs.. I’m not entirely sure yet, its first time I’m saying this out loud, but i think it may be true. DEFINITELY cannot speak to monkeys.

Where do you see yourself in five years?  Ten years?

Yikes, 5 or 10 years?! I don’t know which COUNTRY I’m going to be in after 3 years! But in 50 years I hope I have a house on a mountain somewhere 🙂
Watch Keshav act in three TV commercials

Jessica Moss

For February 2016’s Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Jessica Moss, an award-winning playwright from Toronto, Canada.   Jessica is a first year Artist Diploma student in the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program (http://www.juilliard.edu/degrees-programs/drama/lila-acheson-wallace-american-playwrights-program).  Her works have won many awards including the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival Best New Play Award for her play CamBaby, and the 2013 Fringe Festival Patron’s Pick Award, Best of Fringe Award, and the Ed Mirvish Award for Entrepreneurship for her one-woman show Polly Polly.  She has also been recognized by the Playwrights Guild of Canada and during the RBC Tarragon Emerging Playwriting Competition (http://tarragontheatre.com/news-events/artists/rbc-tarragon-emerging-playwrights-competition/).  Additionally, in 2013, she was one of NOW Magazine‘s Artists of the Year.  In her interview with OIA, Jessica shares not only her passion for playwriting, but also her love for acting, dance, improv comedy, and Canadian potato chips, and her experience dealing with the subtleties between Canadian and U.S. culture.   

Jessica Moss

Eye on Culture has not featured a student in Juilliard’s Playwrights Program before. Can you tell us a little about it and what attracted you to this specific program?

The Playwrights Program is an Artist Diploma program and part of the drama department. It’s a fellowship led by Marsha Norman and Chris Durang. There are ten of us currently in the program, and we write plays and bring them in and read them and talk about them, and occasionally the actors read them for us and then we talk about them more. It’s a very small and focused program and the most supportive academic environment I have ever been a part of. The other nine writers are the most talented people I know, and I remain in awe that they let me come from learn from them.

I very much wanted to be in New York: I had visited and come down to train briefly before and it’s an exciting place to be if you love theatre. I have a B.A. and then did conservatory style training for acting, so I had done a lot of school already, and wasn’t so interested in doing something where I had to take theatre history classes again, and do lots of writing assignments to try different styles. This program has a lot of freedom in it: there is a lot of time to write. And Chris Durang and Marsha Norman were very big influences on me (honestly, on almost every theatre artist I know), so to get to be in a room with them was a bit unreal…

Are there specific themes you like to explore in your writing? If so, what are they? What draws you to explore these particular themes in your pieces?

I think that everything I write is a comedy, and I think loneliness is at the centre of everything I write. My ideal piece of theatre would be where the audience is laughing along and then spontaneously weeps. And then laughs again. I really like dance numbers: I feel like I sit through a lot of plays silently hoping that the whole cast will dance together! And then I get afraid that they will dance into the audience and there will be audience participation and I will have to dance in front of everyone and that is my nightmare, but also my secret ambition.

Polly Poster Just Polly

I really love the limitations of theatre and the freedom that’s allowed by these limitations. You can’t do everything: so you can do anything. One of my favourite theatre things ever is in the notes to Angels in America, Tony Kushner writes (in regards to how to rig the angel’s flying entrance and how to do the other effects in the play): ‘The moments of magic…are to be fully realized, as bits of wonderful theatrical illusion – which means it’s OK if the wires show, and maybe it’s good that they do, but the magic should at the same time be thoroughly amazing’. I love that: maybe it’s good if the wires show. I like the idea that things can be epic and intimate at the same time: that you can see the actor making the effect, and it can still be transformative. That the audience participates in the illusion and helps the performers make it. I feel that’s what I’m chasing.

You are at Juilliard for playwriting, but you have an extensive acting resume as well. Do you have a favorite role, and if so, what makes this particular role stand out?

I did a production of Alice in Wonderland in Sudbury, Ontario, which is a mining city about five hours north of Toronto. It was December, and the snow came down and just did not stop. We did two shows a day for school kids that were bussed in from all over northern Ontario, many of whom had never seen a play before. Our calls were 8.30 a.m., and I had to walk from my billet and it was so freezing. In my day, I literally had to walk every morning in the snow to get to work! BUT! I played Alice’s sister, the Mouse, the Caterpillar, the Duchess, a talking Tiger Lily, part of the Jabberwocky, and The Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts! She was so much fun. And backstage we were just running around and opening doors and moving the set and tearing from costume to costume and it was a total theatrical joy.

LDN magnifying eyeI’ve written two solo shows for myself, and performing those has been the scariest, most sickening thing, but also incredibly rewarding. I created those shows physically, working by myself in front of a mirror to find the physical language and the running back to my computer and writing the lines to go with it. Throughout the whole process, I kept telling myself, ‘You wrote yourself into this mess, now act your way out of it’. I wrote those parts to do things that I loved doing and do things that I never got to do onstage, and so they were very ‘me’, and also very not: they were both what I knew I could do and what I didn’t think I ever could. I felt so exposed doing them, but it was incredibly gratifying.

But, oh man, when you do a one-woman show that you wrote and produced on your own, you sit in that dressing room before you go out and there is just no one else to blame if things go badly, and in those moments, you are looking into the abyss, and the abyss is looking right back and saying, ‘Don’t you mess this up, Jessica Moss. Don’t you mess this up’.

If you had to choose, would you rather write plays or act in them?

Let’s not kid anyone, I’m just going to cheat at this question and say both, and also produce them. I have a touch of Nick Bottom disease: I just want to do the whole thing.

Last semester you started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens’ Brigade (https://www.ucbtheatre.com/) in New York City. Can you tell us a little about UCB and your experience with the classes?

Jess!lI was doing improv on and off for years in Toronto and it’s just so fun and a great way to write and to practice being onstage. I really think it’s an incredible artform that cuts to the quick about what’s great about theatre: imagination, freedom, specificity, humour, commitment. I love that you build words out of nothing and immediately destroy them. I have really liked going to UCB and doing their method, which is a pretty specific thing all based around an improv format called the Harold. I really hope to keep continue working with them and exploring other improv groups in New York.

Okay, let’s see if those improv classes have paid off. Tell us a joke (clean joke). One, Two, Three, go…

How do you think the unthinkable?
……
With an ithe-berg.

I love that joke! I have a slight lisp so it is very personally relevant to me.

When you are not writing or acting, what do you like to do in your free time?

Looking at writing and acting and thinking about it, mostly. I am trying to explore New York as much as I can. I used to bake a lot and I’m pretty good at it, but my oven in my apartment doesn’t work too well, so I’ve just been looking at a lot of pictures of cake on the Internet.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about where in Canada you grew up? Do you feel that this environment has influenced you as a writer and performing artist? If so, how?

I’m from the west end of Toronto, an area called Roncesvalles. There is a great line on 30 Rock where a reclusive character played by Steve Martin says ‘Toronto is just like New York, but without all the stuff!’, and that is kind of unfair and kind of really true. But it’s my home and I’m very devoted to it, although I do not care about our hockey team.

I think one thing that has been important to me is that Toronto was a big filming destination for movies: but it never played itself. It’s just a big city so it plays Boston, or New York, or wherever. And I always really wanted to see stories that happened in Toronto, so most of my work has been set there, and referencing very Toronto/Canadian things.

Canada has so much influence coming up from the States, but also over from England. Sometimes it’s to the detriment of being able to create our own national voice (particularly in film and TV, where Canadian content kind of gets drowned under bigger American stuff), but it also means there’s kind of a cool melding of the best parts of both worlds. And, there’s a lot of French and European influence coming from Quebec, which is pretty amazing. I went to acting school in Quebec and took class in French, and did a lot of Lecoq-based jeu, Gaulier clown, physical theatre….so there are a lot of really wonderful things that you can be exposed to up there, and I think a lot of that ended up being in the things I aspire to make.

I saw this cartoon recently (below), and it made me chuckle, but do you think there is some truth behind it? Do you sometimes experience this sense of familiarity in NYC but simultaneously, a somewhat “strange” feeling?

cartoonYeah, we are different and the same. It’s weird! I really feel New Yorkers are the greatest, and especially being a part of the school I have felt very welcome. But every now and then there will be a little difference, or I won’t know about something everyone is laughing about, and I remember that I come from a whole other country.

Although home is not too far away, what part of Canadian culture do you miss most while you are in the U.S.?

Canada has better potato chips. There. I said it.

Really the only thing that bugs me about New York so far is how fast people are to put things in plastic bags. Back home we were charged for plastic bags in stores for a while, in an effort to reduce waste, so I (and most people I know) got into the habit of carrying reusable bags around, and trying to not use plastic bags. And here I feel I am constantly saying, ‘PLEASEI’MSORRYIDON’TNEEDABAG’ very quickly and loudly and irritating every retail person I engage with. But it doesn’t work, and I am quickly losing the plastic bag fight, they are taking over my apartment, please help me.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I’m so grateful to be a part of the Juilliard community, to be able to live in New York and be surrounded by so many dedicated and exciting artists. It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. I am so deeply in love with (and endlessly frustrated by) the theatre, and so it’s incredible to go to school in a place where that love is nurtured, and believed in, and then to walk down Broadway and see that it can be made into a reality, that a passion can be a career, a way of living. I’m so lucky. I’m just a lucky little Canadian. (Sorry).

Click the play button to watch highlights from Jessica Moss’ one-woman show, Polly Polly; winner of the 2013 Toronto Fringe Festival’s Patron’s Pick Award, Best of Fringe Award, and the Ed Mirvish Award for Entrepreneurship.  Polly Polly was also nominated for Best One Person Show at the Canadian Comedy Awards.

Note: This video contains some adult language.

 

 

 

 

Hannes Otto

I was thrilled to feature Hannes in our very first interview. As a third year actor in Juilliard’s Drama Division, Hannes graces these questions with his unmistakable charm, wit, and unique personal story.

Hannes 3Tell us about your hometown.
I was born in Pretoria, the Capital of South Africa, although I culturally consider myself from Cape Town. Cape Town must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s at the southernmost tip of Africa with a strong European influence in terms of the vibrant art, theatre and fashion industries. The city is on one side surrounded by the spectacular Table Mountain, with the Atlantic Ocean on another side and a massive stretch of wine lands on the other. This, in my opinion, makes for a pretty spectacular vista all around.

Why did you choose drama?
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I saw The Sound of Music when I was 6 years old and fell in love with the character of Leisl. After two days of being ‘love sick’ and refusing to eat, my grandmother, trying to help, called up the producer of the show, who she happened to know and organized for me to meet the actress who played Leisl for tea- hoping that this would cure my condition. When finally meeting her, I was so overwhelmed by her presence and beauty that I wet my pants. That’s when I knew… I want to have what she has. The ability to change peoples lives (and make them wet their pants).

Hannes Headshot

Photo: Gregory Costanzo
gregorycostanzo.com

Who inspires you?
I have so many idols and influences and inspirations. My dad is a huge influence in my life. His determination is unapologetic. My mother’s quiet understanding and interest in the human psyche and in classical music has influenced greatly the way I look at art. Nelson Mandela inspires me to forgive and seek forgiveness. Charlize Theron inspires me to become the first great South African male in the American film industry. Ed Norton, Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix, Christoph Waltz, Niell Blomkamp, Die Antwoord, Alexander McQueen, Elon Musk, David Fincher, Pedro Almodovar, Malcolm Gladwell… The list is long.

What other endeavors do you feel passionately about?
I’m an avid marathon runner. I ran the NYC Marathon in 2014. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it would be to wear warm clothes even if you think you won’t need it. I also have a strong interest in architecture and fashion.

What languages do you speak?
My mother tongue is Afrikaans. It’s the youngest language in the world and is derived from Dutch, German and western African languages.

Describe your transition to U.S. culture.
Moving to New York was just as difficult as it was thrilling. I think it’s important to be actively involved in your community. It’s the easiest and quickest way to create community for yourself.

What aspect of U.S. culture most surprised you?
How polite and politically correct everyone is. Us Africans are more direct and to the point.

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What are the challenges of being an international student?
The costs.

What aspect of your home country do you miss the most?
The sense of humor.

How were you made to feel welcome at Juilliard?
I was struck by how my class and department has fully embraced me and my culture from the beginning. They were excited and interested in my differences and what we could learn from each other.

Hannes 2In thinking about your experience in the U.S., what are the first three words that come to mind?
Work. Play. Work.

What is the most common misconception of your home country?
That everyone in Africa is black. 😜

What are the main differences between your home culture and U.S. culture?
Bureaucracy, size, politics.