Joselle Reyes

Musical Theatre Performance (BFA) '21

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia? 

It was surprising to realize that allowing yourself to take a break from your work can increase your passion for it. As someone who can be addicted to working at full speed, I’ve realized the importance of allowing yourself to take a break and to come back to the work once you’re ready. Columbia is filled with a community of creatives that have had to muster up so much time and energy just to be able to create. The work you love doing most can take so much out of you, so taking time away from it can surprisingly help you to witness it from a different perspective and to come back to it with a different approach the next time around. It’s surprising how even the circumstances that continuously work against me have turned into one of my most rewarding years in college. 

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

My favorite course at Columbia was Musical Theatre Workshop III, which you take for an entire year. Each semester I was able to work with different teachers that focused on major projects we would get to work on for our final year in the BFA program. This was the class I had been looking forward to since freshman year and was what reeled me into Columbia’s Musical Theatre Program to begin with. Although I had initially thought that the pandemic would affect the course material I had been expecting, this class provided me with the creative outlets I needed to get back into the groove of things. I was given a lot of creative freedom to work on my Thesis project, which would allow me to pick a lead role from a show I could see myself playing in the next couple of years. I chose the role of Eurydice from Hadestown, and I was able to create my Thesis performance with songs from the show to turn into a short film while being able to utilize my environment to serve as the setting for my pieces rather than performing it in a classroom. In this second semester of the course, I was given the opportunity to work with different casting directors in the Chicagoland area in preparation for Senior Showcase, and I was able to learn more about the industry in the world today as I prepare for my transition out of college. Working over Zoom took a toll on my ability to create, but with this course giving me the creative freedom I needed to succeed and to make the best out of a situation that was out of my control, it became the class I looked forward to the most and that I can happily say I’ve learned the most from throughout my college career. 

What are your plans for after graduation? 

I plan on staying in Chicago to seek out work that will prioritize the stories of BIPOC creators and storytellers. I’ve always been in love with the theatre scene in Chicago and I think it’s at just the right pace for me to thrive and create work with the people that are important to me. I plan on seeking work that will get me on the other side of the table in those audition rooms. As much as I am a performer, I want to also be the person who works to ensure that theatres are living up to their promises of diversity and inclusion both on and offstage. I plan on eventually seeking out my master's degree in Theatre Education so that I can return to my home island of Saipan to take everything I’ve learned and to bring theatre education to the students there. 

Do you have any advice for current students? 

Don’t ever compare your journey to that of anyone else’s because no two journeys should ever be the same. Enjoy yours. Your college experience is what you make of it. Look for the projects that inspire you and see where those opportunities may lead you. Allow yourself to grieve over the things that disappoint you, but just make sure you get right back up. Please be kind to yourself. Lastly, don’t ever let anyone put you into a box. So many things make up who you are, so be all those things and more. 

If you were going to sum up your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say? 

I’ve become a multitude of things that ground and humble my passion at its core.