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Student Blog: Park Royalty: “Fame” at NYU is Not What You Think

At Tisch, the goal isn’t to be famous but to be aware.

Student Blog: Park Royalty: “Fame” at NYU is Not What You Think

As an NYU student, instead of going to tailgates like other college kids, I, like many others, spend my days people-watching in Washington Square Park, marveling at the abundance of lively, local art and spirited music from around the world.

One night, as I wandered through the park, avoiding skateboarders and enjoying my Mr. Softee's ice cream cone (vanilla, of course), I stumbled across a scene, equally familiar as it was foreign.

An older, black man was sitting confidently at a scuffed public chess table. Across from him: a young, pale boy, maybe 4 or 5, with a mousy brown braid and a look of deep concentration. They were playing a game.

I stopped to watch. They started slow and easy, the elder man almost fatherly, as the boy gained his footing. The man played tenderly, but without hesitation and with obvious experience. However, as the intensity grew, the exchange became quite a spectacle. The boy had gained speed, challenging the old man for his throne.

For a moment in that park, the two were level, two skillful players, nearly opposite in character, playing the same game.

The smiles around me were contagious. The man standing next to me, in particular, caught my eye; he had a camera.

"What are you filming for?" I asked, out of curiosity for the stranger's interest in the game. He flashed an unforgettable grin, it was Wendy Williams's brother, filming the match for an excerpt on the show.

I looked at him and smiled in admiration of his work, then simply went on to converse with him about his project. We talked about the magnificence of the chess boy, his skill, and composure as the surrounding crowd grew bigger. Tommy Williams, although nationally recognized, wasn't the leading man of this small, New York play; it was the boy, grubby Chuck Taylors and all, who captivated us.

Everyone's a star in the park: the street performers masked in paint, the dimpled, grey-haired lady blowing bubbles for the passersby, and even you, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 17-year-old college student whose only objective is to breathe in the vibrance of your new home. You're a star to the little boy on your heels trying to sell you sour-skittles, and to the painter who begs you to drape yourself over the fountain's ledge as inspiration for his work.

Some Tisch applicants worry about the sheer volume of drama students at NYU, and that they won't be recognized as an individual for their work. They become afraid of getting "lost" in the masses of talented students. But, in the few weeks I've been here, I've learned to giggle at that fear, for I couldn't disagree more.

At Tisch, the goal isn't to be famous but to be aware. Here, growth as an artist and as a human being are synonymous. Naiomi Shihab Nye, the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate says it best, "I want to be famous to shuffling men / who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, / famous as the one who smiled back." (Nye, Lines 15-18).

On a campus without walls, you are encouraged to look deeply at the world around you and to discuss it. The conversations had here are deep and bigger than the individual. Validation comes from personal, meaningful experiences, rather than successes.

So, while you probably aren't playing Olivia in Twelfth Night your Freshman year, you'll instead be developing an eye for stories like the chess boy's, strikingly simple enough to fuel your Broadway dreams.

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From This Author - Student Blogger: Sophie Rossman