Teen Night is a staple of the School of Theatre Teen Council programming. The event allows Bay Area teens to see a Berkeley Rep show for a discounted price, enjoy a delicious meal sponsored by Phil’s Sliders and IZZE Sparkling Juice, and hear an exclusive interview from an artistic professional. On March 8, teens heard from Oskar Eustis, director of Lawrence Wright’s Fallaci, before heading to the theatre to see the show. Teen Council member Sophia Cannata-Bowman conducted the interview, and her reflections are featured below.
As artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City and director of Berkeley Rep's Fallaci, Oskar Eustis could be considered a sort of "hero" to the teens he spoke to at Teen Night. But Mr. Eustis doesn't strut like a hero, or drawl like a hero, or place any claim on being a hero. As he spoke us about his career and passion as a director, he exuded a great sense of modesty and told only the truth.
I had the great honor of being Mr. Eustis' interviewer that night, and he could not have made the job easier for me. His career alone lent itself to a great many questions already, but the stories he told in response to those initial questions left me teeming with many more by the end. When asked to share a moment of great passion that epitomized his love of the craft, Eustis provided a particularly poignant answer. Lighting up at the memory, Eustis recalled a moment working with Tony Kushner on Angels in America. They had been agonizing over a particular scene for ages, working and reworking it, but never getting it right -- as a writer, I know the feeling. Then one day, Kushner came into rehearsal with yet another rewrite. Eustis took a look, they tried it out, and he knew. They had gotten it. Perhaps that moment of satisfaction –- that gut feeling that this is right -- is why artists do what they do. Perhaps we young people dream so fervently for moments like that.
Toward the end of the interview, Eustis worked up a great passion as he gave the room full of aspiring directors, writers, actors, and designers advice on how to overcome the obstacles of the business. He urged us to fight for our passions and to not be afraid of failure. And when we do fail, he said, we must not take that as defeat.
The honesty with which Eustis trusted us, the passion he exuded -- a passion we all shared to the fullest degree -- was nothing less than inspiring. I am among the population of wide-eyed students who dreams of telling stories for a living. And listening to a man of so many accomplishments get excited about the same things I get excited about gave me, personally, a great sense of comfort as I strive to make a place for myself in this business -- to become my own kind of hero doing something that I love.
Sophia Cannata-Bowman is a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco. Her original play, Story by Leonard Watts, will be featured in the 2013 Teen One-Acts Festival. For more information on the Festival, please click here.
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