Vincent Mraz MFA '15
Milford, Connecticut

Contact

Director of Graduate Admissions

E-mail Emanuel

914.395.2371

What prompted you to pursue a graduate degree?

After I got my undergraduate degree, a feeling of “there’s still so much to learn, so much more I want to know” was driving me to look into a graduate program. I was living in Chicago at the time and someone suggested Sarah Lawrence to me and after doing some research it sounded like a good fit. I wanted to be able to do many things in my graduate program, not just be stuck in a mold of “director” or “writer,” but to be able to cross disciplines and genres. Sarah Lawrence offers exactly that, the opportunity to come and study but not be stuck in a specific mold.

How did graduate school fit into your life at the time?

I was living in Chicago when I applied. I moved out there after undergrad and for two years had been working at the Second City and taking sketch comedy classes as well as assistant directing around various theaters. I did some really boring day jobs and some not–so-boring day jobs and, as much as I love Chicago, when I was offered a spot at Sarah Lawrence I made the tough decision to head back east. I think everyone I was in school with made sacrifices to be here but we did it because we knew this was a unique opportunity. You fit it in by fitting it in; it’s a matter of saying, “Yes, I will take this journey” and then doing it.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence College for your graduate studies?

Ultimately I chose Sarah Lawrence because at the time I was uninspired by the theater work I was doing. I felt as though if I couldn’t find something in theater that really inspired me again then I would have to give it up and find something else to do. Sarah Lawrence was the door that opened up new possibilities of what theater-making could be and that was like an alarm going off in my head. “This place is weird! It’s different! It’s the opportunity to make the work I want to make”.

What role did the Sarah Lawrence faculty play in your time here?

The faculty is the backbone of the program. They were my advisors, my teachers, my role models, my colleagues and occasionally my chiropractors. One of the benefits of smaller class sizes is more one-on-one opportunity with the faculty, and that was invaluable to my time here. I worked closely with Suli Holum and Dan Hurlin to create my solo performance piece (my capstone piece). Both of them provided critical feedback, ways to continue working when I was stuck, and guidance to shape the piece into its most recent form. I know I can reach out to them (and I do) for professional advice and guidance, and since they themselves are working artists they have gone through many if not all of the same frustrations and roadblocks, which makes them all the more knowledgeable and supportive.

What experience as a theatre student had the greatest impact on you?

This sounds ridiculous, but the moment that had the greatest impact on me was crawling into a garbage bag for a short piece that I made about my grandfather. My friend/roommate/fellow grad student CB was working with me late one night on this piece and I could not figure out what to do with it. I had done one showing that I was not happy with and I was working with a big black garbage bag and she asked me if I wanted to crawl inside of it…which I did…and from there I improvised a lot of the piece with her asking me questions and guiding it along. I showed the new version of the piece in class and got really great responses. I used garbage bags in a few other pieces that year. It wasn’t so much about discovering how to make garbage bags theatrical but about the freedom of expression that came along with putting me inside of the bag. It was a great discovery of how to tell a personal story, how to be vulnerable on stage while still creating something dramatic and theatrical.

What creative opportunities did you pursue at Sarah Lawrence?

I directed several shows here, performed in a few, and received a workshop production of my play “The Green Dress.” I think the project that gave me the greatest satisfaction was producing and performing my solo performance piece, “The Escape Plan." The piece ended up taking the shape of a Spalding Gray monologue, an artist and writer whose work I greatly respect and admire. I think I proved to myself (someone who does not consider themselves to be a performer) that I could write a piece distinctly for my own voice, to tell my own story but to do so in a way that was not just therapy on stage. I learned how to make a piece from start to finish without putting limiting rules or structure in place. I flopped a lot, I succeeded some, and I made a piece that ultimately spoke to a greater truth about who I am as a person and as an artist.

What's the creative community like at Sarah Lawrence?

The creative community here is wonderful. Students from every background and discipline are around and working and whether its theater or dance or visual arts or any other form of creative expression, you are surrounded by people who are pushing themselves and their forms. It’s inspiring to be in the company of people whose work I admire and envy and it fuels my desire to keep working and keep challenging myself. Everyone from faculty to undergraduate students has some sense of how they make what they make and it’s infectious. As an artist I can pick and choose ideas or methodologies for my own practice and in doing so arrive at my own mode of making. I think to make something inside of a vacuum is doable but very challenging. To make it in the middle of a creative and engaged community allows for the osmosis of ideas and beliefs and as a result I think your work becomes more mature, more fully discovered, and therefore more rewarding to yourself and to others.

What is life like as a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence?

Life as a grad student was a marathon where they keep moving the finish line. I felt I was always striving to reach the next mile, reach the next goal. It was tough and exhausting but deeply rewarding and changed me irrevocably. I live not far from campus (I still live there!), which was extremely helpful. I had a car and recently purchased a bike and it makes getting around Yonkers a breeze. Yonkers is fairly walkable as well (depending on where you are going), so on nicer days I walk to campus. Relationships were easy considering I spent the vast majority of my week around all the same faces. We became fast friends, really more like a family. We drove each other crazy, we got into fights, and we helped each other through tough moments and celebrated each other’s successes.

What impact did the proximity of New York City have on your experience?

Being so close to NYC meant that I had the opportunity to go and see new work from all over the world. Work from emerging artists like myself and work from seasoned veterans unlike myself. Having that access meant I could take what I was learning here and see it put into action down in the city. Even better was when it didn’t work. When someone took a risk on stage and it failed. It gave me hope, to see that even in the “professional” world artists are still risking and trying and learning and growing. New York has plenty of polished commercial theater, but I was most excited by the theater that was rough around the edges, that had potential and promise. I felt like what I was learning here would serve me well outside of my studies. It also meant I could go down and see work made by the faculty, to witness their own process and product, to witness how what they taught in class was applied to their own lives as artists.

What is the strongest attribute of Sarah Lawrence's Theatre program?

I think the strongest attribute of the program is the continual opportunity to put up new work. Every month we are invited to experiment with something new in Grad Lab and put it up in front of an audience, which is terrifying, but very rewarding. Space and time are such incredible gifts to give an artist and for two years you get it (your time is definitely packed with a million different things) but you have that luxury here, to be a busy artist. Coming back out into the real world you have to face the reality of getting a day job, doing things to support yourself that take away from your time spent making your work. The challenge to keep making, to keep putting things up and risking is the greatest attribute, hands down. Cherish that time and space!

What advice can you offer to prospective graduate students?

My best advice is to embrace the fear. I was terrified my first week here. I was terrified for weeks before my first week. I was terrified from the moment I said yes to this program. There was a lot of uncertainty and doubt in my mind. But after going through all of that I wish I had been able to curb that fear, to acknowledge it, and then move past it. I am still proud of the work I made, but I wonder what it might have been if I had only let go of some of my fear. Fear is a good thing. Embrace it. Everyone else you’ll meet here is also afraid. But this is a community, so support one another! My colleagues in this program were my life support.

What are you up to now?

I’m back working for the Sarah Lawrence theater department, actually! I’m working in the production department assisting with all aspects of productions for the mainstage season. I'm working with middle school students in Brooklyn to build a set for their production of “Alice in Wonderland,” as well as working on my plays, submitting to companies in the city and around the country. Most recently I started a project called “100 Letters, 100 Days,” where I am writing letters to 100 people over as many days. The project’s goal is to raise awareness of mental health issues and all donations are going to a national mental health services organization. I will also be performing a workshop production of “A0-II,” created and directed by my fellow grad colleague CB Goodman, and I have a workshop production of my play "Marsha and the Zookeeper" premiering at Dixon Place in January 2016.