Stories

MAKING THE WORLD HER STAGE

Colette, 19, moved to New York City as a teenager to pursue a career in acting. In the process of helping found a theater company and making her Off-Broadway debut, Colette found herself.

I moved here by myself when I just turned 17 — it was terrifying. I’ve never lived anywhere alone, had not been away from my parents for more than a week. I came from this upper middle class, girl’s only private school, where everyone had the same liberal viewpoint. I got out to the real world, and it’s different. Also now, I’m like, wow men exist! It was a slap in the face in the beginning, because I was suddenly surrounded by people who were not like me, and all I knew growing up were people who were very much like me.

After I did a two-year program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in the Upper West Side, I started brainstorming ways to stay when my student visa ended. I started feeling helpless and was like, if no one is going to give me a job, I’m going to make it for myself.

I gathered a group of friends in my dorm and asked if they wanted to start a theater company together we later named it Our Time Players. You never know what’s going to happen but if you don’t take a risk and jump off the deep end, you won’t get anywhere.

We bonded really quickly. We’re all in different stages of our lives but we’re all interested in the same thing. That’s what happens in theater — we spend so much time together rehearsing and practicing that we get over the awkwardness quickly.

As we got to know each other, we realized there are a lot of coming-of-age stories about young adults — ”Dear Evan Hansen,” “Clueless,” “Mean Girls.” But most of the time, they’re created by adults and usually older men.

Inspired by this, we came up with our first production, “Party Worth Crashing,” written by the people it’s about. The people behind it, the band, the writers, production team, cast – we’re not people who have been there, but we’re actively in the trenches. The show is a raw, heartfelt communication of who we are and us navigating life.

This production, which will also be my off-Broadway debut, ended up helping me realize that life is not a competition and it’s not a race. I’ve always felt behind, especially since I was surrounded by peers who were a few years older than me. I have this constant fear that I’m not doing enough fast enough because I need to be caught up with my friends.

Coming into this and meeting this wonderful team of people who are all at varying stages of their 20s and their lives and seeing all we had in common reassured me that I’m doing okay and we really are all in this together. I’m just starting out and I’m still figuring it out.

I still call my parents all the time, and yesterday, I was crying. But at the end of the day, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, I’m going to do this.”

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