Hello, I’m William Reymann, unknown playwright, actor extraordinaire, and today I’m here to tell you a little bit about what it is to be a Theatre Major at SUNY New Paltz, and not just because they wouldn’t let me write you a scene where Hugo the Hawk rescues YOU, the reader, from a cruel god and an NYU frat party instead.
Est demens, demens mundi.
As I enter my senior year, I’m met with many of the apprehensions you too might be facing right now. Where am I headed? What am I doing? How did I end up on the SUNY New Paltz Theatre Department web page?
It has been three years since I first asked myself those questions and what I can tell you now is that I am not an inch closer to an answer.
When I came to New Paltz, I brought all my anxiety (newly rediscovered!) with me. The very notion of an uncertain future was this all-at-once towering and invisible terrifier. Fear of the unknown was something that was piloting a lot of my behavior, as fear usually does, mostly in ways I wasn’t even aware of— as fear usually does.
(And surprise! That kind of thing LOVES getting into your art and eating it up like a little rat!)
Fear is tricky because it will never visibly RUIN your life or your art, it will never jump you in an alleyway or burn down your house. It CAN, however, in its dastardly way, stop you from living your life and making your art long before you even begin, if you let it.
Fear was having its little birthday party when I started at New Paltz; the year was 2020 and a lot of slightly terrifying things were happening.
Everybody do the paralyzing fear shuffle! Wheeeee!
I didn’t connect the dots at the time, but also being in a transitional period (going into college) at this time was kinda crazy. I could barely socialize and I could NOT act on practically any of my artistic impulses.
“But William!” I hear you say, “If all this fear stuff was as rife as you say, how did you possibly emerge as the glorious, gorgeous genius you are now? Did you manage to beat fear into submission once and for all??”
While you’d be correct that I am a glorious, gorgeous genius, you might be disappointed to learn that the epic confrontation between me and all my fears never really happened. Through my time here, I have come to re-define my relationship with fear, but what could and should have been a really really cool showdown, was actually way more day to day (boring, I know).
I never really did wrestle my way out of existential dread’s chokehold on the edge of a flaming cliff, but I did learn how to listen to my body for the first time in Intro to Movement. While I never faced uncertainty at high noon in the town square, I did learn how to saddle the unexpected on stage in front of 350 people.
I also got to read Anne Bogart in Acting One, who speaks on fear (“Terror”) in her book, A Director Prepares. She argues that fear is actually essential to the artistic process.
I got to produce my own play, learn how to sew and tie knots, focus source 4 lights, analyze writing, manage a budget, make a schedule, run PR, design posters, play live music and use four different kinds of saw.
These are terrifying things. These are things that I never could have possibly planned doing three years ago.
The thing is, taking on all these unfamiliar, unexpected ventures, you realize that fear is unkillable and fear is unavoidable. Such is our biological hard-wiring. To try and live without fear is to try and live without oxygen. What I’ve learned at New Paltz is that fear, like oxygen, is not inherently bad.
Nor is it mutually exclusive with forward motion.
Fear, the unknown, uncertainty in life, in art, in anything, are scary things, (like, duh) but at the same time, they can also be the most thrilling. Nowhere exists infinite possibility and genuine wonder but within that which is unknown.
What I can tell you, is that fear is something you can safely face at New Paltz. Within the Theatre Major and within the school at large, exists the tools with which you too can begin to explore the unknown.
It’s closer than you think!
Best of best of luck,
William Reymann '24 (Theatre Arts)