Not many people in the world have had the experience of being transformed by a "hero." When I was 25 years old I was about to become embittered, full of anger and disappointment at the people whom I believed was failing miserably to give light towards young people like me. I had this in my heart as I set forth to apply for graduate school hoping to escape the small dark world I felt trapped in.
I first met Jim Houghton during my initial callback last January 24, 2015. He was leading the callback panel and I had to do the Saint Joan monologue for the second time that day. He was very stern in the adjustments he wanted me to make; even so in his questioning, "Why do you want to go to Juilliard?" After this initial callback process I met him for the second time that same evening for the interview in the Drama Division Office, together with Carolyn Serota. He was much warmer this time, and the atmosphere was more relaxed and informal, to my relief.
One of the questions he had asked me during the interview was, "What do you think of the school?" I started to speak and then uncontrollably, began to break down in tears. "I did not expect everybody to be so warm," I managed to blurt out. I felt misunderstood throughout most of my college and early twenties and had tremendous difficulty finding a community where I felt accepted for who I was. To have traveled so far and then to receive this warmth and kindness from a foreign community that did not even know me yet was initially overwhelming. He offered me a box of tissues. We continued the interview and when it was finished he walked me to the door and said, "Take it easy."
In all of the graduate programs I auditioned for that eventful January 2015 in the United States, it was only in the community of the Juilliard Drama Division that I felt seen as a human being. The initial callbackees who gathered around Jim after the final group exercise that evening were thanked for what it took and cost us (personal, financial) to be there auditioning for them that day. After the final callback weekend in March 2015 and finding out I was accepted into the program, I then walked through one of the longest bridges in my life to make it to the other side. It was a much exposed journey, due to my crowdfunding stint. When I finally arrived on shore, Jim asked me, "You raised the money?" (pertaining to #GoFundRegina). "Yes," I said. And he gave me a high five.
I've completed my first year with the 4-year program, moving onto the second. As I walk through the halls, I am filled with awe at the new space I have found myself in and the beautiful human beings who comprise it. For the first time in my adult life I feel surrounded by love, every day.
Jim helped transform the Juilliard Drama Division into a community. A community that enabled me to find the love and safe space I've always needed to finally heal. When Jim looks at me, when Jim looks at all of us, I feel like a source of light myself. When something (a thought, a person, a memory) occurs in front of me that brings me back to that small dark place, I think of Jim's look. It is the look of another human being who can see the light in another human being. You cannot fake that look. One cannot. I will remember that light when the darkness threatens to engulf me once again.
Thank you, Jim. I will take it from hereon. And I will always remember the light.
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.