I attended Berridge for three summers, from 2012 to 2014, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The first summer, I was only 15 years old, and was traveling overseas by myself for the first time. I had a history of homesickness at other programs, but at Berridge the staff was so welcoming and made sure to seek me out right away to help me feel more at home.
Compared to other theater programs, Berridge is unique in that the faculty and students are truly excellent while also fostering a completely supportive and non-competitive environment. There are no cast lists or cattiness, and the teachers truly believe that everybody is talented and deserve to express themselves. (This is not always true at other high-level theater conservatories!) They also work with you on your own projects and goals. For example, before attending Berridge, people had told me that I was a good actor, but all my characters tended to have very high voices. My voice was high in real life, and it got even higher when I projected my voice as I performed. I acted in a lot of plays in high school, but a busy rehearsal schedule doesn't leave time to work on larger problems like that, and I thought I would have to wait until I could take a voice class in college to figure out how to lower my voice. On the first day of classes at Berridge, one of my teachers gently pointed out that my voice was high because I wasn't breathing enough. Another teacher taught me about five different places I could allow my voice to reverberate from (head, nose, mouth, chest, and belly) and taught me exercises to help me access the chest and belly voices, which had previously been totally inaccessible. I still use those exercises as a warm up every time I act or do any kind of public speaking. As a result, I was able to play a much greater variety of roles in high school and college.
In my third summer at Berridge, I was an artist-in-residence, and got to create my own project. I acted in my favorite play, Proof by David Auburn, alongside a fellow classmate and three of my teachers, one of whom also directed us. It taught me so much and was such a joy to get to act opposite professional actors.
I also was introduced to improv comedy at Berridge and encouraged for the first time to feel like I was good at it. I ended up performing in an award-winning improv group at Yale. I am now in medical school and will likely be teaching medical improv next year.
It is hard for me to express how important attending Berridge was for my growth, both as a performer and a human being. From performing cue-script Shakespeare on the heart-shaped lawn to Saturday talent nights in the barn to twilight walks in the Normandy countryside, my memories of Berridge are still tinged with a warm glow 7-9 years later. It was a time when I felt extremely supported, engaged in my craft, and free to express myself without judgement. I hope to go back someday and I could not recommend it more highly.