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Entrevista: ESPA’s Tessa LaNeve

by Antonio Miniño on February 1, 2011

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Tessa LaNeve

Tessa LaNeve

Tessa LaNeve is the Literary Manager and Director of The Primary Stages and Anne Einhorn School of Performing Arts. She was kind enough to answer some questions in the middle of auditions for their next semester and planning DETENTION, a new performance series she will speak more of.

What is ESPA? When was it formed and with what goal?

The Primary Stages Marvin and Anne Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA) developed organically from a collection of in-house playwriting classes at Primary Stages to a formalized multidisciplinary institution with fully formed departments in acting, writing, and directing. Since its 2007 inception, the school has housed over 1100 students and boasted a faculty of award-winning professional artists. The school has refined actors who have been seen on and off-Broadway, developed writers whose work has won awards and received workshops and productions, and ultimately crafted emerging artists on their road to professional success. With the naming of the school in 2010, ESPA emerged as a leading educational institution, offering an extensive array of opportunities for students to collaborate and showcase themselves on the New York stage.

Are there classes for beginners as well as professional actors?

Indeed. ESPA’s curriculum offers a unique selection of classes designed for actors at any stage in their development – from scene study classes that focus on building an emerging actor’s foundation and confidence to weekend intensives that concentrate on specialty skills like mastering green screen acting or polishing a handful of new monologues. Acting is as much a sport as an art, and so we build our program a lot like a gym – drop in for a semester or for several semesters; take one class or take 10. You tell us what you want to accomplish, and we’ll help you find the right instructor.

This month you begin a series called DETENTION, talk to us about it?

ESPA Students

Detention is a monthly performance series allowing students to collaborate and showcase their craft in front of a supportive audience. Each month a professional theater artist on the ESPA faculty will advise the students through specific dramatic structures, themes and communally-created restrictions, challenging participants to produce and perform completely innovative works in a collaborative environment. In cooperation with Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, Detention aims to amplify the creative stakes while preserving ESPA’s constructive arts education. ESPA’s inaugural Detention on February 4th is led by faculty member and guest director Lisa Rothe. Writing students were asked to submit ten-minute plays that adhered to the following constraints: the inclusion of a dream, an animal, a moment when the characters break into a song or dance number, the color red, and someone named Bob. Of the 26 submissions, five plays were chosen along with five student directors. All 14 actors involved were cast from the pool of Spring students. Each month’s guest director will create new constraints for the writers. We certainly look forward to what our upcoming directors (Michelle Bossy, Carl Forsman, Daniel Talbott, Jackson Gay, and Hal Brooks) have in store!

I’m sold! What are the other benefits of studying at ESPA?

Joining the ESPA family is as much about the structured classroom environment as it is about being a key player in the larger community. On the immediate level, our students benefit from safe, intimate class settings led by working professionals. Class time is only one element in the ESPA education experience, however. Students are frequently invited to performances both on and off-Broadway. They are encouraged to collaborate with one another in weekly Jam Sessions, bi-annual Playwriting Festivals, Detention, and Honor Society – our Sunday night salon for writers to hear their work aloud. ESPA is a place where everyone is on a first name basis, and students are known, celebrated, and supported in each of their projects.

How can The Happiest Medium readers become more involved with ESPA?

ESPA’s Spring semester begins on February 13. Whether new students register for one class or five, they are considered an equal opportunity member of the ESPA family and are enthusiastically encouraged to get involved in the multitude of collaborative opportunities.

Learn more at

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