October 29, 2013

Spotlight on Alumni: Jillian Niedoba

Jill NIedoba Jill Niedoba

Once upon a time, a former classmate and friend who will always remain dear to me had decided to lend his support one evening and came to see me in a show. When we met outside the theatre afterward, he joked that I needed to 'adjust' the part of my bio that stated that I was a “recent graduate” because it was no longer applicable. Whether it was wishful thinking or blatant denial of the passsing of time, I considered my friends' feedback. It had been three or four years since we finished our archetype showings that completed our training in the acting program, and when I think about it now, it was three or four years ago that I was in that show. This anecdote would place me as a 2006—and no longer recent—graduate of the acting program at York. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am coming up on eight years of being out of school and into the professional world of performance. While I have been fortunate to work on stage, in productions around Toronto and in Montreal, to work on independent films and productions, and reap the monetary benefits of commercial work, I am still working on getting seen and heard. Every day.

Jill Niedoba in Dangerous Liaisons at the Segal Centre, Montreal Jill Niedoba in Dangerous Liaisons at the Segal Centre

Do you have any advice or tips for those about to graduate and enter the job market?

Continue to sell yourself in this market as yourself, not someone you think you should be – find strength and confidence recognizing your 'brand' and work with what you have. When you get your first paycheque, be smart! Pay off your student loan, put some aside in savings (preferably one you can not access) and INVEST in yourself – take those classes, update your demo and headshots, hire someone to help you shoot a scene – you are your own business. Try to say “yes” more often than “no” – even if you're not so keen on that early morning Hamburger Helper audition just do it and when you become the next best thing since Meryl Streep then you can turn it down.  

What was your fondest memory of studying at York?

Late night rehearsals—whether it was for independent pieces, fourth-year shows or Shakespeare projects, I always found there was something very special about the work being done at a later hour. You could rehearse and rehearse all afternoon having done the same thing, convinced your choices were accurate, and then, for some surprising reason, that last run-through at 10:30 at night would awaken an entirely new insight—a reminder to me of why I am here and why I love what I do. I loved experiencing this, and I loved seeing these moments happen to my classmates.

What surprised you most about your first month being in the theatre department?

Couple things that surprised me about my first month in the theatre department were #1: 3 days off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [n.b. this practice ended in 2009—ed.] and #2: While every other faculty would remain closed for these holidays, WE would in fact be open and more than likely working on Origins [now known as The Gathering Project, this was a collective creation project that the Acting Area presented in the first weeks of classes]. Looking back, I have realized this is excellent preparatory training. Notably because there is never really enough time to put up a show in this country I'm sure, but more so in that it is reflective of the professional world: we work most holidays, have very long days, and disappear from our lives and loved ones regularly. I wouldn't change it for all the holidays and celebrations in the world that I know the rest of the world is enjoying.

What advice would you give yourself, if you were starting out at York this Fall?

I find i am still telling myself this but not quite as often—and that is to not be so hard on myself. Going back I would not be so disappointed for not having my craft figured out—I would forgive myself and find more reprieve in the unknown, as unsettling as that is, because that is where the actual learning occurs. I would relish in the process more and be less concerned about the product. I don't think there would be a point in obtaining a degree if I knew everything about it, so I think I would be a little more understanding of that.