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BWW Exclusive: NTI Changed My Life - John Krasinski

The National Theater Institute includes a vibrant community of over 3,500 alumni. The many talents of these actors, writers, directors, and designers can be seen on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in films, television, London's West End, and at every major regional theater in the U.S. Today, in an excerpt from The O'Neill: Transformation of Modern American Theater, we hear from actor-writer-director John Krasinski (Promised Land, Away We Go, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Big Miracle, The Office) about why he calls his semester away at NTI "one the most influential moments of [his] life".

John Krasinski came to NTI in the fall of 2001. His semester at NTI was designed to count as his last semester of college at Brown University. He had had a little experience with the college theater scene, mostly doing it for fun. He cites David Jaffe (former NTI director and current faculty member) as being a determining influence in his life.

"We had meetings with David, and-God, I've never told this story, but-we had meetings with David. And he had a huge smile on his face when I walked in and he said, 'How are you liking it here?'

"And I said, 'Oh my God, I love it. It's the best. I'm having the best time ever.'

"And he said, 'That's great. Can I ask you one question? Because, you know, you seem like a great guy and I really like you, but I just want to ask you one question.'

"And I said, 'Yeah.'

"And he said, 'When are you gonna stop bullshitting people?'

"And I said, 'What?!'

"And he was like, 'When are you going to stop being a bullshitter? I'd just like to know when it's going to happen, just so I can keep an eye out on it.' For some reason the little alarm system in the back of my head didn't feel offended. And he said, 'What I'm noticing about your acting right away is that you rely more on people liking you than on doing a good job. I watch you do a monologue or a scene and you're going into some really interesting, really dangerous places, and you're doing stuff that's really, really interesting, as soon as you get nervous and you might have put yourself out there a little too much, you turn to the audience and make a joke or make a face and you bring the audience back in and everyone laughs at you. And it's almost like you clear the air and you get to start again. I'm telling you right now that is extremely detrimental to your work. So I'm just asking you when are you going to step up and actually try acting.'

"I was floored. He was exactly right. Because I had never taken acting at Brown to be the beginnings of a career. I always did it just for fun. So there was this person who said, 'If you want to do it for more than fun you can. And I'm seeing right now that you're constantly pulling the ripcord and taking the parachute out rather than going in and actually doing some interesting work.'

"I'll never forget the next monologue I did after that was the monologue from K2 [by Patrick Meyers], where the character is telling his friend to go on without him and basically leave him to die. And I got so emotional-not even that I was crying necessarily-but I definitely felt something very visceral and something that I had never felt before. And I could totally sense that the back of my brain was saying, 'Now would be a great time to make a joke. Or just tell people that you don't remember the line.' Or something like that, and I just overrode that for David, because he challenged me to. I don't think I've looked back since then. To this day, all my friends who were at NTI say it's one of their favorite things that I've ever done. I think it was probably one of the best, most honest, clear moments I've ever had acting. And it's because a man took the time to challenge me in a very honest way."

"I credit NTI, truthfully, with everything as far as where my head is and what my goals are and dreams are. I would say it was probably one of the most influential moments of my life, being there."

Read more about John's experience at NTI including his memories of September 11, 2001, as well as hundreds of other stories from 50 years of theatrical history in The O'Neill: Transformation of Modern American Theater by Jeffrey Sweet published by Yale University Press in 2014.

Next week: Explore NTI's Moscow Art Theatre Semester. NTI offers the only opportunity for U.S. undergrads to train at the famed school. Alums include: Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Liberal Arts) Paul Thureen (The Debate Society), Etai BenShlomo (Wicked, Fortress of Solitude) Hannah Cabell (A Man For All Seasons), Kate MacCluggage (June Moon, The Farnsworth Invention, The 39 Steps).

To learn more and apply, visit and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@NTIRiskFailRisk). Deadline to apply for the spring 2015 semester is October 20. Early applications are encouraged.

high res photos

BWW Exclusive: NTI Changed My Life - John Krasinski
NTI Fall 2001 ensemble gathers for the traditional class photo on the O'Neill's sea porch (John Krasinski is second from left)

BWW Exclusive: NTI Changed My Life - John Krasinski
John Krasinski in scene work, NTI, Fall 2001. Photo by A. Vincent Scarano.

BWW Exclusive: NTI Changed My Life - John Krasinski
John Krasinski in a theater lab in the fall of 2001

BWW Exclusive: NTI Changed My Life - John Krasinski
In 2011, John Krasinksi returned to speak with current NTI students about his career and training

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