I was met with unabashed enthusiasm and encouragement, because the Princeton arts community is a place where new ideas take flight.   

jake2I must confess that when I first came to Princeton, I never imagined that I could grow and flourish as an artist as well as a scholar. However, my experience here has not only allowed me to explore myself as a performer, but my commitment to both Slavic languages and literatures and theater has shown me how a diverse array of experiences can actually develop a more dynamic point of view, an incredible asset for any artist.

At Princeton, I have collaborated with esteemed professional directors in a multitude of wonderful productions through the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Program in Theater. Some of my favorite projects have included Irish playwright Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, and Mel Brooks’ The Producers, directed by Tim Vasen, Bob Sandberg, Tracy Bersley, and Ethan Heard, respectively. Each one of these productions challenged me with new ways of thinking about theater, acting, and art in general. The sheer range of shows is a testament to the diversity of artistic projects taking place at Princeton. In fact, my senior thesis project is a reflection of this willingness to explore new territory. When I proposed a one-man adaptation of the Russian short story, Diary of a Madman, I was met with unabashed enthusiasm and encouragement, because the Princeton arts community is a place where new ideas take flight.

One unique aspect of the arts at Princeton is an emphasis on respect for the work as a scholarly enterprise affected by history, context, and culture, as well as on the playfulness and exploration necessary for the development of good theater. In my courses with the Program in Theater, I have found this incorporation of art with academia to be the basis for more informed and ultimately more exciting theater projects. My first theater course explored the short stories of Anton Chekhov and how they can be adapted for the modern stage. Through this class, one of many collaborations between the Program in Theater and other fields of study, I was able to meld my two passions, Slavic studies and the theater. I was also greatly impacted by a course on ancient Greek theater. While our class stood outside of Athens on the foundations of the world’s very first theater, I was overwhelmed as an actor by the vibrant artistic breath of the place; as a historian I was in awe of the longevity and universality of a theater which began millennia ago; and as a person, I was reminded of what binds all humans past, present, and future.

Finally, in the Princeton Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, I had the arduous yet intensely fulfilling task of bringing Lear to life, and thus becoming a king, a fool, and a father all at once, plummeting into madness. This whirlwind endeavor convinced me that amazing things can be done and substantial progress made through student theater. This commitment to the necessity and importance of student-initiated theatrical projects makes Princeton very special, and proves that the undergraduate focus here extends far beyond the classroom. My other on-campus activities, including Quipfire! Improv Comedy, the Princeton Triangle Club, and the student late-night talk show All-Nighter, have further shown that this school is a place where student art thrives.

These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to partake in a wide array of artistic enterprises are integral to the Princeton arts experience, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to take advantage of these resources to further my art and my being as a whole.

Jake Robertson '15 at Class Day

Press Contact

Steve Runk
Director of Communications
609-258-5262
srunk@princeton.edu

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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