In last fall’s UC Davis production of “Spring Awakening” first-year student Teryn Gray played Ilse, a wild child described by Gray as a “girl forced to grow up too fast.”
Gray says she can relate.
Paying her way to UCD and helping to support her family after her single mother fell on hard times, Gray said she’s used to adversity. But now Gray has a new obstacle, one which can’t be solved by extra shifts after school. The UCD freshman will need to figure out how to collect $40,000 in the coming months if she is to attend the NYU Tisch School of the Arts this fall.
Gray, 19, said she has found herself in a “weird financial loophole.” She needs a little more than $70,000 to transfer to the Tisch School, where cinematic greats Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee got their starts. Currently, Gray has collected $30,000 from scholarships and a loan approved through the school. To cover the deficit, most students would take out a private or federal loan, which both require a cosigner. Shortly after Gray learned of her acceptance, she pursued both options and was denied, mainly because of her mother’s poor credit.
“I didn’t want my mom to support me financially, but when I told her I needed another loan, she said that she would cosign for me,” Gray said. “Unfortunately we weren’t eligible because she filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and just started a new job last week.”
Having already submitted her intent to withdraw from UCD, Gray is in need of cash fast. Following the advice of a friend, she started a crowdfunding page on gofundme in the beginning of June. To date, Gray has received donations from 24 sources for a total of $2,495, the largest of which was a $400 gift from a donor who chose to give anonymously.
“I’m not in the position where I can help myself right now,” Gray said. “Being really independent, it’s difficult for me to ask for help, but I hope that there’s someone out there who is in the position to invest in the arts or higher education or my future.”
But Gray did not always envision herself on the stage, and had planned on studying environmental science, or, “something that would lead to a more stable, well-respected career, like doctor or lawyer.”
She hadn’t even planned on auditioning for the UCD production until she learned that it would be a musical directed by Stafford Arima, who was nominated for an Olivier Award for his 2004 production of “Ragtime.” Most recently Arima — the artist-in-residence at UCD in 2013 — directed “Allegiance,” a play centered on the experiences of a Japanese-American family interned during World War II, starring George Takei.
Praised by her castmates and Arima, Gray said working with the well-established director pushed her to consider a career in theatre.
“I had told Stafford that I was thinking of double majoring, and he was just like, why?” Gray said, quoting Arima. “It’s something that you’re good at and that you’re passionate about, why have two majors?”
Upon deciding to pursue theatre full time, Gray applied to nine programs and was accepted into most.
“In working with Teryn over the months, it became evident that this was something that she really loved to do,” Arima said. “I believe that any individual who has the desire to pursue something should follow their artistic instincts, and if you have a lot of desire and talent, like Teryn, it’s worth one’s effort to explore that.”
Gray knows the odds are stacked against her, but former castmate Roberto Aguilar says the teenager with the dramatic red hair is a “force to be reckoned with.”
For now, Gray will begin working for “The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green during VidCon, an annual conference for artists publishing their work online. She will then work for the “This Star Won’t Go Out” campaign, a fundraiser for cancer victims. Gray has been involved with the foundation since 2011 after the death of her friend Esther Earl, who inspired the John Green novel.
Readers may donate and learn more about Gray by visiting www.gofundme.com/TeryntoTisch.