Tisch Student Cat Heinen on her time at NYU Berlin

Tisch Special Programs offers study abroad opportunities in eleven locations around the globe during the academic year, January Term, and in the summer. We recently caught up with two students who studied abroad with us last spring.

Cat Heinen, a Drama major, spent her semester training in Berlin through the Stanislavski, Brecht, and Beyond program. A rising senior, Cat describes her experience in Berlin and how it’s motivated her to explore other acting studios and disciplines and imagine her future beyond graduation (and New York City).

Why did you want to study abroad?

I came to NYU because of the tremendous study abroad opportunities. I knew I wanted to go somewhere I knew nothing about, a place I could discover as my own. 

Why did you pick your particular program?

Stanislavski, Brecht, and Beyond is one of the two semester-long acting abroad programs, and it’s much newer than RADA [Shakespeare in Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London]. It’s close in style to what the Experimental Theatre Wing might offer, and that’s very different from the training I received at both Meisner and Stonestreet.

How did the location enhance the work you were doing there?

Everything we talked about in the classroom was present in the national, professional theatres. We were studying how the Third Reich influenced Berlin’s theatre scene and then experiencing it first-hand. We read Brecht’s plays and then saw them (in German!) at the Berliner Ensemble. We studied Epic Theatre in studio and then saw it demonstrated at the shows. Theatre in Berlin is wildly different from theatre in New York and I never expected to like it more than I do now. This program made me realize that you don’t have to stay in NYC to make amazing theatre. 

How are you using/will you use techniques or skills you learned abroad in your work?

We did so much devised work that it inspired me to transfer to Playwrights’ [Horizons] for my senior year. Watching my fellow classmates who came from Playwrights’ and their ability to adapt as writers, directors, designers, and actors was inspiring. We studied Lucid Body technique in this program, which can only be taught by 12 different teachers internationally! It’s a movement style that easily helped me deep dive into character work and provided many exercises which I will continue using. 

The staff at NYU Berlin, and particularly this program, care for the students in a way I’ve never experienced in New York. You’re learning a new language, intensively studying Epic Theatre, and are constantly in studio — it’s natural to get overwhelmed at some point. But we were never condemned for needing a break and were always encouraged to take care of ourselves.

How do you think your study abroad experience will shape future projects or career choices?

Everything about my artistry has been changed by the things I learned this semester. I’ve been opened up to international connections, some of which are keeping me in Berlin for the summer for work. I consider Berlin a viable location to live post-grad, whereas before I never thought I’d leave New York. 

Because of the acting classes we took, I’m easily and healthily able to get in and out of character, and leave my scene work at the door. I want to continue learning about devising, a skill I never thought I could possess. I never thought I’d be capable of being in Playwrights’, and yet I’m transferring there strictly because of my experiences in the Stanislavski, Brecht, and Beyond program. I can never say enough good things about this program.

What was special about the location where you studied abroad?

Berlin is a city in development, a multicultural artistic haven that’s still finding who and what it wants to be. It’s special to be a part of that, even to just watch it happen.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I have the capacity to be a multi-hyphenated artist. I love working in ensembles. I am an artist, and will always be a student. I have good ideas! And it’s important to kill your darlings when making work with other people. Everything is for the sake of the piece.

This piece comes to us thanks to Tisch Special Programs and the original can be found here.