Finding CFA

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By: Connor Lenahan

I love watching talented actors and actresses work. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t really get much exposure to live theater. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been in love with stage shows since I was a kid because that would be untrue. Hell to this day my favorite play is Planet of the Apes: The Musical from The Simpsons.

Some of the first people I met in my grade at Boston University were Adam Barrameda and David Castillo. They both were enrolled in the College of Fine Arts, nestled away in West Campus. Not much longer after meeting Adam and David did I meet more CFA kids. I had a class with Roxy Brooks, Lydia Utter, Emily Brown, Aaron Dowdy and Molly Eskew in the first semester and quickly became immersed in the world of collegiate theater simply by being alive. Originally I thought that knowing these fun people would lead to me eventually dropping by at one of their performances.

Molly, however, knew how to sell me on the idea of attending a show. In February she told me about the senior thesis performances. The one I was lucky enough to attend, the “Yeezus Thesis,” was apparently stacked with talent. Molly, knowing that I love watching great performers and the music of Kanye West, successfully convinced me to attend the thesis.

Thank God she thought to invite me. It was incredible.

I had no idea what to expect going in. What I was rewarded with was a night of excellent, moving, jaw-dropping pieces performed by some of the brightest stars BU has to offer. I watched Will Madden, Selima Smith-Dell, Ian Geers, Evan Gambardella, and Jesse Garlick absolutely kill in in one of the many intimately tiny performance rooms inside of CFA. Midway during the show I knew that I was loving the evening. By the conclusion I was fully sold on any and all performances CFA had to offer. This was only partly due to the fact Evan almost made me cry three separate times in his 45 minutes on stage. He’s the reason I’ve had “I Believe” from The Book Of Mormon stuck in my head for three straight months. Note: This is a great thing.

I told Molly after the show that she had to bring me to more of these events. She delivered. A few weeks ago she brought me to see SubUrbia, a play that hit entirely too close to home with some of the character types. A play that could very easily have landed with a thud if it weren’t expertly executed, I ended up loving it. Anthony Golden Jr. ended up giving one of the most moving and complex performances I’ve ever seen as a man who’s life has lost direction. Griffin Griggs won me over with heart wrenching ambition going to waste. Brandon Waltz was laugh out loud hilarious. Lucy Farmer terrified me in the best possible way – I couldn’t look away. Eli Raskin nailed the role of one of the few to make a successful living outside of the suburb where all the characters live. Cassie Gilling, one of the best performers I’ve ever seen, has an otherworldly command of the stage from the millisecond she walks in. Selima, who I had seen display electric energy during the Yeezus Thesis, instead went for a quiet spiral into despair and essentially stole the show. Even in minor roles Trevor Liu and Ami Park came to play with real emotion. I cannot say enough good about this show. The only regret I have is not taping it to watch again and again. Despite it being a rough watch I was captivated. Any doubts I had about CFA, of which there were none, were erased this night.

I was able to make a cameo at the Froshapolooza performances on Saturday morning before having to pack my room for the end of the year. I knew that I have more opportunities to see the talented freshmen like Adam, David, Roxy, Lydia, Emily, Aaron, and Molly, work over the next few years which excites me beyond belief.

Last night I was able to see one of the final events CFA has for the school year: Showcase 2014. Molly had informed me that I’d get to see some of the senior actors I love perform yet again, so I was sold. Before they took the stage there was an exhibition for the artists that helped put on the performances all year, I walked through galleries mind blown by the creativity that flows like water through the entire CFA building. Not only did I see the hard work that’s put in behind the scenes by people like my friend Abe Fleischer in designing and executing plays, but I got to see beautiful designs all around from people like my friend Molly Block. I hadn’t been exposed to this previously. Now? I can’t wait to be back. Both because I am taken aback by how talented these people are and because I was more or less shopping for pieces to put in my dorm room next semester.

The night finished with the entire senior class of actors running through quick scenes that let everyone be front and center. Simply by nature it was hilarious and sad all in one. Some scenes would pinball between a man’s life falling apart to a woman (Selima) standing before everyone detailing why she “fucking hates trees.” For lack of a better term, this was cool. That’s severely underselling it, but it was an event to witness in person to truly experience.

Find someone related to the CFA school who can guide you to events like Molly has guided me. A comment I have received across the board is how much the students in CFA appreciate when “outsiders” will come to shows. I always tell them that it’s my pleasure to come, I enjoy it immensely.

Boston University has a rich history of acting alums. We lay claim to my friend Jerry Connor’s idol George Costanza,

John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather), Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Genna Davis (A League of Their Own), Emily Deschanel (Bones), Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), Faye Dunaway (Network), Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love), Yunjin Kim (Lost), Marc Maron (Maron), Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights), Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Raver (24), Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), and Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave).

We even have The Most Interesting Man In The World.

This program isn’t some small time operation. It’s a breeding ground for scores of talented performers, Emmy winners, Oscar winners, and Tony winners. BU CFA isn’t messing around. They’re producing stars.

Take it from me: go see what they’re got to offer. I’ve seen with my own two eyes the incredible work put in by everyone in CFA, it’s more than worth your time. They’re hard-working, kind, welcoming people. You’ll love it there

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at lenahan@bu.edu