Jarielle Gibson, graduating senior, was on spring break in Miami when she received the long-awaited news. Yes, she had been accepted into the Master of Fine Arts program at the New School of Performing Arts in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village.
“I didn’t feel anything. My whole body went absent. It was like my breath just left my lungs,” she explained. “I promise you, as soon as I hung up the phone tears just rolled down my face. I cried so badly, and it was spring break,” said the speech communications major with an emphasis in theater.
Gibson said that her friends huddled around her passing out hugs and words of encouragement.
“They said, ‘We’re so happy for you. Now we have to celebrate. Now we have to turn up.’ Spring break was one of the best parts of this semester,” said the Natchez native who will be crossing the commencement stage on Saturday.
Founded in 1919, the New School’s mission is to ensure students develop the skills that a sound education provides and the competencies essential for success and leadership in an emerging creative economy, according to its website. In 1940, the School of Drama originated through hosting legendary drama workshops that cultivated the talents of renowned artists like Harry Belafonte, Tennessee Williams and Marlon Brando. The school began offering an MFA degree in 1994.
Gibson, who was awarded a tuition scholarship, said she hopes the three-year program will help her gain connections and provide the training she needs to enhance her skills. The senior said she does not want to limit herself to the theater.
“I want to do stage and film. I want to do commercials. I want to do Broadway shows, plays and musicals. I want to do it all. I love acting,” she said. “I want to portray other characters and tell stories. I love doing that. If this program can point me in the direction that I need to be, I’m all for it.”
Whether chance or fate, life has a way of working itself out. Gibson said she auditioned for the New School while at the 2019 University Residence Theater Association conference in New York earlier this year.
“It’s where most of the seniors in our department go to find a graduate program, conservatory theater or any company that will like to work with our talents post-grad,” she said.
In a room full of representatives from various schools, Gibson performed three monologues: “Hurt Village” by Katori Hall, “The Audition” by Don Zolidis and “Antigone” by Sophocles.
Once back in Jackson, the actor received a callback from the New School asking her to return to New York for further auditions. “I didn’t have a dime or a plane ticket. I had no idea how I was going to get back up there,” she said.
Turning to prayer, Gibson asked God for assistance and the next thing she knew, “I was on a plane back to New York. The funds came through. I went back up there and did my thing, and they offered me a scholarship,” she exclaimed.
During the trip, the vibrant JSU Tiger shared that her attitude was one of optimism and appreciation. “I told myself to ‘stay positive, stay confident’ because at the end of the day you don’t want to look scared like you don’t belong. You don’t want to second guess yourself.”
Although she may have been waiting on this moment, Gibson confessed that her plans did not always involve acting.. “I had my mind set on going to nursing school at LSU. I was going to be a travel nurse, help people and shop at the Mall of America,” she said before laughing.
She then explained that her cousin was a travel nurse who would show her pictures of the Mall of America. “I would think, ‘I’m going to do that just like her,’” said Gibson, who eventually decided to try acting at the age of 16, while attending Natchez High School.
Gibson further explained that as a high school junior, she and her classmates went on a field trip to see “Hairspray” at the community theater and she was blown away.“Sometimes we don’t know anything until we’re exposed to it. That’s why I love field trips so much. This is a whole career choice that worked out for me,” she said. “It never would’ve happened had it not been for that field trip. That’s why field trips are so necessary for schools and children. They’re life changing.”
Gibson then decided to audition for the next play, “The Southern Exposure,” held at the community theater and was cast as an extra. However, the actor set to play the lead had to drop out due to surgery and Gibson was asked to take over the role. An interesting twist is that the main character was supposed to be white, but producers rearranged the story format to accommodate the change.
“I blew the role away. The show was sold out every night as a first-time actor. I had no acting experience, and I sold out the seats,” she shared.
In 2015, Gibson brought her talents to her father’s alma mater – Jackson State University.
“I’ve been in love with this school ever since. My four years here have molded my talent. I see a difference in the way I perform and act,” said the soon-to-be alum, who has performed in a plethora of shows and plays since arriving at the HBCU. She was also named Miss Senior 2018-2019. Gibson credits the university for her development.
“Personality-wise I’m much more mature, I think better, speak better and walk with more confidence. I feel like the HBCU experience alone, and our theater department, have turned me into a conqueror. I don’t feel like there is anything I can’t do.”