… We sought meaning, nurtured curiosities, asked controversial questions, allowed subtlety and intuition to be our guides, and chose to connect to the strange and complex parts of ourselves.

20141003_decker_011_webbDuring production of my first film at Princeton University, I was called into the dean’s office. Twice. Once due to a creatively unauthorized way of submitting a paper on Dean’s Date. (Streaking to McCosh is one thing. Streaking to 185 Nassau is—a long haul.) Twice because my best friend Brittany and I posted flyers stating: “Calling All Nudists: Casting for a Revolutionary Film Project!” Our project “Naked Princeton”—about a fictional “secret underground nudist society” in comedic protest of the banning of the Nude Olympics—required brave souls, but also appeared to require brave public safety officers, who busted into our room on audition day fully prepared for an all-out orgy. They were disappointed to find a woman, clothed, performing a monologue.

And this is how it was. I never thought about encountering the arts at Princeton—they just appeared. Pig Iron Theatre proposed a dream with their show Shut Eye, and after attending their Atelier course and sewing the same skirt 47 times (they tore it every day in rehearsal), I puppeteered, videotaped, stagemanaged, and assistant-wrote for them. Their director is now facilitating my new film. When I think of the arts, I think of Eliza Gregory heading to develop photographs at midnight. I think of wandering into Paul Muldoon’s office with odd questions at odd hours. I think of gathering 200 people on Alexander Beach for a “Marshmallow Party” and jovially roasting them on two sophomores’ outdoor grills. I think of jumping into the Woody Woo fountain at 3 a.m. I think of jogs in the snow holding sausages and wearing construction hats. I think of late-night conversations at Murray-Dodge about Heidegger. The arts at Princeton went beyond the walls of the classroom. The arts were—other people.

In my life outside of Princeton, I am no longer surrounded by astrophysicists, Nietzsche-obsessed philosophers, and pre-med students; I am in a world of New York artists. Eventually “art” was something I chose as a career, just as others chose to be econ professors, speechwriters, molecular biologists. But for our four years at Princeton, we sought meaning, nurtured curiosities, asked controversial questions, allowed subtlety and intuition to be our guides, and chose to connect to the strange and complex parts of ourselves. For those four years at Princeton, everyone was an artist.

Trailer

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)

Credits

This article was originally published in 2015 by the Princeton University Office of Development Communications. It has been reprinted and adapted for the web with permission.

Photography by Kah Leong Poon

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