Lilli Jacobs: professional performer, student, and activist, to just name a few of her many talents. We've known Lilli for quite a while, and have had the pleasure of watching her live out her dreams with elegance and grace. She talked to us about what it has been like to study at a Conservatory, a choice some performers and creatives choose to pursue when choosing their university path. Lilli has had the pleasure of studying alongside some of the most driven students...
How do you know TheYaSisters?
I met Tehya several years ago at a group acting class in New York City when we were both young teenagers. I met her younger sister Maya the same way and since we shared the same voice teacher growing up we would often run into each other. They are wonderful young women that I am proud to call my friends.
Where are YA from?
I am originally from Fairfield, Connecticut about an hour from New York City.
What University do YA attend, and what is your focus/major&minor?
I attend The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and I am a sophomore Musical Theatre Major and am minoring in Dance!
Go back and give yourself a piece of advice during the college application process...
[Don't] compare your journey to anybody else’s. We are all on our own unique path that will unfold exactly how it is meant to.
How many colleges did YA apply to?
I applied to 10-12 colleges.
SAT or ACT?
I was homeschooled for high school to accommodate my training and perfomring as a child actor, so the SAT worked best with the online curriculum I was taking.
Did you know YA wanted to attend Boston Conservatory initially?
I did not! However, when I auditioned and when I was accepted I had the opportunity to audit and take acting and jazz classes, and had a strong feeling in my gut that this was a place in which I could thrive and develop myself as an artist and human being. That gut feeling couldn’t have been more right!
How would YA describe your experience at Boston Conservatory to a prospective student?
Unbelievably rewarding! I would tell a prospective student that the work we do here is both deeply challenging and deeply fulfilling. Here at school I have gotten to develop my artistic voice not only as a performer but as a future choreographer, director, teacher, playwright and physical theatre deviser. Getting to explore these different parts of myself while collaborating with my amazing classmates has been by far the most unexpected joy of being at BoCo, in addition to the phenomenal actor singer and dancer training we receive. I would tell any prospective student to come in with an open mind and an open heart, as there is so much to learn and discover on a daily basis. The 9AM to 7pm daily schedule can be grueling, but I try to remind myself that I am so lucky to train this intensely with friends that will undoubtedly become lifelong collaborators and cheerleaders of each other and the work that we make.
Congratulations on being a part of the touring cast of "Cinderella!" Can YA tell us a bit about that experience?
Sure! After being accepted to Boston Conservatory, I ended up auditioning and getting cast in the National Tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Cinderella" at the age of eighteen. My school very graciously held a spot for me in the class of 2021 and I ended up touring the country
for 10 months. Touring is an experience like no other, especially at such a young age. I learned so much from working with Gina Rattan, Josh Rhodes, and Lee Wilkins (our incredible Director & Choreographers) and my fellow company members.
Any tips for balancing being a student, working actress, and having a social life?
I try to plan out my weeks in advance to make sure I stay on top of my school work, any auditions I may have, and my plans to spend time with friends outside of class. We push ourselves so hard as artists, and something I have learned over the past few years is that you can’t be an informed artist without having meaningful life experiences outside of the studio. The relaxation and downtime with friends that happens outside of the classroom can often be the key puzzle piece that lead to the artistic breakthroughs that we have. Taking breaks and making sure that I have time to be with myself, do self care and read a book are all things that have helped me along the way.
Who inspires YA, and why?
I am always inspired by my friends, most of whom are amazing artists in their own right. Hearing a song or watching a piece that my friends have choreographed always makes me want to dig deeper within myself. I also get a ton of inspiration from reading plays and seeing theatre, listening to many genres of music on an almost 24/7 basis, visual art, and from spending time in nature.
What is one cause YA believe in, and why?
I am proud to consider myself an intersectional feminist and am passionate about using art as activism in today’s political climate. What I love so much about theatre is that it can be used as a means of spiritual and emotional consciousness raising, which can help create a more empathetic and peaceful world. Now more than ever, I think it is crucial that new works created by women, gender non conforming artists, and people of color be produced as a way to start a collaborative dialogue and allow marginalized groups of people to tell their own stories in meaningful ways.
How do YA deal with setbacks along the way?
I think it is key to remember that all obstacles are opportunity for growth and transformation, and that difficulties and disappointments, while a part of life, can always be turned from poison into medicine for our happiness. Growing up practicing Nichiren Buddhism, I have learned that having setbacks and obstacles along the way are a sign that you are moving your life forward. Pushback from our environment can be used as fuel for our fire! Being a performer, there will always be rejection.
However, I have learned over time that so much of what we do is subjective, and as long as I go into the room present and prepared to do the work, I feel confident that any job I don’t get is not the job that was meant for me. On a broader life scale, last fall my apartment building had a nine alarm fire and I lost everything that I owned. While this experience was traumatic and painful, I also discovered the amount of strength that was sitting dormant in me, waiting to be challenged by such a big loss. Because of the fire, I can now face most other things in my life with the new found confidence and knowledge that no matter what it is I am struggling with, value and hope can always be created.
The hardest class you’ve taken, and how you survived it:
At school I am currently taking our Sophomore Voice and Speech class, in which we learn IPA and various accents & dialects. IPA requires a lot of patience and aural awareness, and while remembering phonetic shifts can be a big challenge, I’m surviving by making sure to study and brush up as often as I can, so that the IPA stays fresh in my mind.
First thing you’re going to do when you graduate:
Move to NYC! But first, I’ll take a deep breath of gratitude for my four years in Boston.
What do you do to calm down after a chaotic day?
As I mentioned before, I was born and raised practicing Nichiren Buddhism with my family, and I still practice today. Our practice consists of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon, which is a physical manifestation of our Buddha Nature. I chant in the morning and evening every day, but at the end of an especially chaotic day I like to chant as much as I can, as it helps me find wisdom, clarity, and appreciation for the chaos in my life. I also love to take long epsom salt baths. Not only is it super helpful for my sore muscles, but I find it can also really help me unwind mentally and let go of whatever happened during the day.
What 3 beauty products could we always find in your dressing room?
You will never fail to find an assortment of essential oils, the Benefit goof-proof brow pencil, and Tarte mascara in my dressing room!
The hardest question of them all…who makes the best pair of pointe shoes?
For me, I have worn Freed’s for many years, but recently switched to Suffolks. The answer changes as my body changes, but I always feel supported and light on my feet in both of those makers.
Where can readers find YA? (include your social media :)
You can find me on Instagram @lillijacobs and on Twitter @lilli_jacobs. Also, keep an eye out for my own blog, called The Broadway Buddha.