Stephanie Reyes-Echevarria

European Devised Performance Practice (MFA) '21

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

Creativity and collaboration. When creativity is allowed and the professors and the institution agree that is the best way for the students to grow, it is when you fully feel that you are in the right place. Giving space to creativity is an important part of our education and our artistic growth and I found this at Columbia. When there is no right or wrong you, as a human, understand that the student process is important but having fun and collaborating with other students without competing is extraordinary.  
In a world where we need to compete for almost everything, I found out that the competition here was myself and collaborating with other artists gave me the opportunity to believe in my work. Having fun and trusting my work has been one of the most surprising things for me, also going to the studio and continuing to learn from others nourished my creative process; a process that is not just constituted by the collaboration in the studio but outside the studio too. I learned from other people, other cultures, different cities (Berlin and the visit to London with some of my classmates and professor) I have been on a constant journey of collaboration in a fun and satisfactory way.  
What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

The program in general works with each one of us individually and I found all of the courses beneficial for the work that I want to continue doing after graduation. To be more specific I would say that the most beneficial courses were the ones that gave me tools to get out of my comfort zone: Acrobatics, Mark Making, one on ones with the faculty, and Devising Time. This course gave me the space to grow as a person and as an artist. A space where you could learn, propose, and create. What a spectacular space, right? Learning from each other (faculty and classmates) makes it beneficial for everyone in the room, and I’m grateful for that.  
What are your plans for after graduation? 

After graduation I will be moving to Massachusetts because I will be starting a new job position as the Conservatory Program Manager for The Drama Studio. The Drama Studio is a non-profit conservatory that creates original and devised work, provides theatre classes to students of all ages and impacts different communities around the Springfield area. I plan to continue devising my own work and at the same time impact communities with the conservatory. It is my goal to keep opening spaces and safe places for all humans, doing it through the power of the arts. 
I also plan to continue my education and learn more about diversity in the arts and the importance of diversifying the stories that we tell. As a Latinx I know that it’s time to give opportunity to the Latinx, Black, LGBTQ+, and more minority communities that have been oppressed. It is time to tell their/our stories and for us to listen and make a change.  
Do you have any advice for current students? 

Yes, this might sound repetitive but be yourself and trust in your work. You will learn so many things and I am one hundred percent sure that your work and your process will be where it needs to be.  
Ask for help and create that communication with your professors and classmates. If you get stuck with your creative process don’t stay by yourself, communicate openly with your professors and classmates, you can be surprised by how many things you could accomplish if you just talk things out with someone else.  
Have fun and enjoy the multi-cultural adventure of living in Berlin and Chicago. It’s an unforgettable experience.  
If you were going to sum up your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say? 

A place where you can explore your creativity and that creativity will be heard.