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BWW Exclusive: 'It Has Begun' - A National Theater Institute Commencement Address

This week, colleges and universities across the country are celebrating the class of 2015 with commencement ceremonies. High-profile speakers -- including Eugene O'Neill Theater Center alums Lin-Manuel Miranda and Robert Redford -- are congratulating students on their accomplishments and entreating them to make a positive difference as they enter the real world.

There is no ceremony when a student completes his or her studies with NTI. As NTI Artistic Director Rachel Jett often reminds students, the work continues. So for that reason, every semester commences with congratulations, entreats to make the most of an opportunity, and the reminder that at the National Theater Institute you are free to risk and safe to fail.

Today, RISK AGAIN! shares NTI Artistic Director Rachel Jett's (pictured, left) commencement speech, given at the beginning of a semester at the National Theater Institute:

Welcome. Here you are. Embarked. On this journey that is going to have many turns, twists, and surprises. Over the next 14 weeks, you are going to meet many wonderful people. Wise, direct, passionate people who have found their niche in this exciting profession and who all want to teach you, challenge you, and help you find yours.

We are working on some important, groundbreaking, radical, classic, and contemporary plays and musicals. In our conversations, before you were accepted, I warned you of the intense workload. Well, here it is. It and we are going to demand more of you than you could have imagined. All of our programs demand a certain presence, organization, and drive. This is your baseline for every class, every performance: presence and drive.

Take care of yourselves. Be compassionate with each other. You will all experience some difficulty at times. You will operate much like a repertory company. And like a company, you will evolve both from what you learn in class and about yourselves, but also what you learn about each other. Please be conscious of the fact that your working relationships begin now. Today. You are going to see everyone every day. Think about that. You will be creating new work that will be your class fingerprint and which will open its contours to this exact present. Make the most of this singular semester. Make the most of the exact formula of your coming together here at this time.

Be. Here. Now. This opportunity to be marooned at a world-renowned theater center where professionals come to you is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. You worked very hard to get here. You are after something. Every one of you is a seeker. Do not let your goals, your curiosity elude you now. We encourage you to stay off your computers and cell phones as much as possible. Theater lives, at least now, in our physical realm: our bodies and voices in space. Please take this time to get to know how you work, how your fellows ensemble members work. I encourage you to look at this time as not only a theatrical intensive but as a time to research our humanity. Who are you in a room with a theatrical text? With music? With other creators? How do we relate to literature and exercises when we are allowed the time and space to work and discuss without the many 21st century channels of noise that now populate our lives? I encourage you to do some old-world study, experiment, and soul searching.

I was a student here at the National Theater Institute 20 years ago. It changed my life. I have heard those exact words from more alums of this program than I could ever count.

Like life, you will get from this program what you put into it. Be brave and vulnerable. Be surprising and provocative. Be curious, honest, and compassionate. Don't play it safe. We are here to catch and guide you, to be shocked by you, to teach you as well as to learn from you.

It has begun.

Learn more about NTI's acclaimed semester-long, credit-earning training intensives by visiting and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (@NTIRiskFailRisk).

With a singular schedule and an unmatched breadth of training, the National Theater Institute's semester-long programs offer students a springboard to the professional world at the two-time Tony Award-winning Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Founded in 1970, NTI's credit-earning theater intensives -- taught by industry professionals and master teachers -- train actors, singers, directors, dancers, designers, playwrights and composers.

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