SUNY Purchase student Claire Jamison, a senior in the acting program, learned last week that she was the recipient of SUNY’s Patricia Kerr Ross Award in the arts.
The Ross award is given to a student, or shared among several students, who have demonstrated excellence, originality, and promise in the arts. The award is intended as a bridge between SUNY study in the arts and entry into a professional career in the arts.
A jury panel reviews nearly 100 applications from students in all arts disciplines, then interviews the finalists before determining the winners. Edith Meeks, juror for the Theatre category, says that Claire’s submitted reel “shows an engaging and intelligent performer who clearly understands, enjoys, and cares very much about her craft and works generously with her peers.”
Jamison, a native of Minneapolis, MN moved to Harpswell, ME at age 11, but still considers Minneapolis her hometown. She answered questions via email since she’s busy rehearsing for an acting showcase in Manhattan this week.
Purchase College: When did you know that you wanted to pursue acting as a profession? Was there a “defining moment?”
Claire Jamison: No real defining moment comes to mind. I was six or seven when I started acting on stage at StageCoach Theatre Camps, and fell in love with performance. I was still an awkward, loud, tomboyish girl, who liked to be a part of telling a story. Since I can remember, I’d always been performing blues songs with my dad at home and family gatherings, and going with my mom when she was working at Mixed Blood Theatre. Illusion Theatre was also very influential. I always loved the smell and feel of a black box theatre.
PC: What drew you to study at Purchase?
CJ: When I was 13, my aunt told me she knew a friend, Seth Gilliam, who went to Purchase, and has since led a very successful career. Then she told me about a slew of well-known actors who’d come from Purchase—whom I now know as The Purchase Mafia. When I visited the campus my junior year in high school, I was given a lecture of how competitive the program is, how only 20 get in each year, how intense the schedules are, etc. I just knew I would either get in or not, and that whatever happened would somehow be right. Now, I think there’s absolutely no other place I could have gone, and yet I still can’t believe I got in.
PC: What is your greatest acting achievement to date?
CJ: Oh, God… So, in March I performed in Henrick Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, as the role of Hedda, under the direction of David Bassuk. The fact that I was given that opportunity at this point in my life, and with the company of such a perfect cast, makes me so incredibly grateful, I really can’t explain how blessed I feel. We only had four performances, and for such an ambitious play, in such a short amount of rehearsal and performance time, I feel that we all achieved the task of telling our story of Hedda Gabler.
Every play I’ve had the chance to work on, every scene in class, has given me new challenges, or the chance to work on continuing challenges. In the end, the biggest achievement is just getting to that point when you can fully trust yourself, and honor your process of working.
PC: What is the best piece of advice, academically or otherwise, that you have gotten from one of your professors?
CJ: “Give no quarter.” –Akil Vishus Davis
PC: How did you feel when you found out you were SUNY’s Patricia Kerr Ross award winner? What does the award mean to you?
CJ: The award is an honor, because to receive recognition for the amount of work and focus that goes into art is rare, and I am grateful to know that it can happen if you apply yourself. I’m always so shocked at what can be achieved if you just go for what you want, and this award is another reminder to take any opportunity that comes my way. I really could go on, and on, and on about the things I’m grateful for, but I won’t. I’m just really, really grateful.
PC: Looking back on your time at Purchase, what do you love most about it? What do you think you will miss the most? How has it prepared you for what’s next?
CJ: I feel like most of us at Purchase are people who don’t fit in. So, we all fit in, and thrive on not fitting in, together. I’ll miss that. People dressing however the fuck they want to dress, loving who they want to love, creating whatever work they want to create, and learning and cherishing from each other, rather than judging. Being in this environment, and specifically in the BFA acting program, has helped me grow to understand and love my role as an artist in today’s society.
See SUNY Purchase BA program students in action: click here for tickets to Eurydice, Sarah Ruhl’s contemporary retelling of the classic Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Performances are April 12, 13, and 14.