Tierney Nolen ’11

JOB TITLE: Graduate student
ORGANIZATION: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
LOCATION: Glasgow, Scotland
GRADUATE DEGREE: Master’s in classic and contemporary acting (expected 2016)

What was your first position after college? Immediately after graduation, I spent the summer working at Shakespeare & Company in Western Massachusetts as an assistant stage manager. In the fall, I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to work with the Brown University/Trinity Rep M.F.A. program as an intern for the next year. I found both these positions so fulfilling and helpful in my growth as an artist. To work consistently in the theater, I believe one must possess an understanding and passion for the many different aspects of the art.  While interning with the M.F.A. program, I had the opportunity to explore a wide array of theatrical duties, including stage management, company management, props, sets, sound, lights, costumes, and so on. The artists I met and worked with while at Brown/Trinity I continue to collaborate with to this day. Years later, the contacts I made while interning have completely informed the career I have built in New York City.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? Absolutely. I think the better rounded one is in her education, the more she can bring to the table as an employee. I’m sure that having a liberal arts background has helped me move forward in my career. I always loved the way Trinity approached required classes outside of the individual majors. Many other colleges require vast numbers of specific curriculum and offer no real choice in what you’re expected to learn outside your major. I loved that Trinity allowed students to decide what class from each discipline we wanted to take to round out our education. My junior year I took a toxicology course that was easily my favorite and the most useful class I took at Trinity. I apply the information I learned from Professor Draper almost every day. Her passion for the subject, as well as her understanding that not everyone in the class was chemistry major, opened up a whole foreign subject I would never have appreciated if I had chosen to go to a theater conservatory. 

I graduated with a double major in English and theater and dance, and looking back I am so grateful I had the opportunity to pursue these two fields of study. My English degree couples so perfectly with my theater career, affording me the analytical discipline I need to break apart scripts and dig deeply into the meat of a play. My liberal arts education gave me the chance to explore different subjects that I never would have been brave enough to delve into, like science and mathematics, and isn’t that what college is all about?

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? Take advantage of Trinity’s facilities, and create as much as you can! Don’t be afraid to fail; college is about pushing your boundaries as an artist – you’re in a safe space, so why not jump? I know there is so little extra time, but get a group of people together and do play readings or snag a studio and improvise together. Anything. Once you leave, you won’t have easy access to such beautiful and free space – so use it now! And study abroad. Going to London and studying at the London Dramatic Academy changed me completely as a person and actor. Ask for others’ advice, and make as many contacts as possible. I know everyone says that, but it couldn’t be more true. Practically every job I’ve received since moving to New York has been through someone’s lovely recommendation. This might sound like a given, but always be kind. Kindness goes a long way. We want to work closely with people whose company we enjoy and can trust; sometimes it’s that simple!