This fall, as performing arts students moved into
apartments, Airbnbs and condos, they set up
their studios, pushed furniture aside and hung
A “really angsty version of [Taylor Swift’s] ‘Illicit
Affairs’” blasts from a Cape Cod house shared by
six Northwestern opera students this quarter. “You
actually are catching a moment of peacefulness right
now; there aren’t many times in the afternoon where
there’s not singing in the house,” says Bienen second-
year McKenna Troy (which is, in part, due to their
agreed-upon singing hours: from the time classes begin
in the morning to 10 p.m.).
"You actually are catching a moment of peacefulness right now; there aren't many times in the afternoon where there's not singing in the house."
-McKenna Troy, Bienen second-year
It’s also not uncommon for these students to take
classes together, gathering in the piano room for choir.
When they’re not catching a Zoom call, the group makes
TikToks, one of which made its way to For You page
stardom. Although stereotypical, Troy says “watching
Glee together is wonderful.”
Bienen and Communication second-year Ranna
Shahbazi also studies Vocal Performance with Opera,
but she shares an Airbnb with three non-voice majors,
who frequently imitate her singing rather than joining
in. For second-years who don’t have access to practice
space on campus this quarter, learning at home means
practicing at home. Since Shahbazi says she works best
at night, her three roommates say she “start[s] howling
One of Shahbazi’s roommates, Communication
second-year Maggie Lezcano, says the opera student
“brings a lot of laughs to the house.” According to
Lezcano, Shahbazi’s instruction requires stomping,
which “literally just sounds like there’s someone
doing construction,” and watching full-fledged opera
performances while the housemates are trying to
Also in Evanston this quarter are SESP second-year
Ben Finkelstein and his roommate, Communication
second-year Andy Hartman. Finkelstein says Hartman
converted the living room into his ballet studio for
the quarter, pushing the couch aside to make room
for the barre he ordered. Since they signed their
lease last-minute, the kitchen has frequent plumbing
issues. Though Finkelstein doesn’t think twice about
Hartman’s performing arts classes, he expected the
plumber to when he arrived just as Hartman was
warming up for ballet class.
“It just looked like a scene out of a comedy show.”
-Ben Finkelstein, SESP second-year
“It just looked like a scene out of a comedy show,”
Finkelstein says. “You have the plumber making a ton
of noise with all of his tools and everything in the
kitchen, and he’s trying to dance in the living room ...
Then, in the end, he goes ‘Oh, sorry, were you doing
something this whole time?’ It was just a mess.”
In nearby Rogers Park, Medill first-year Madison
Bruno shares an Airbnb with two theatre students,
first-years Adelaide Ray Young and Kate Davis. Young,
an aspiring screen actress, often films audition tapes.
She moved a couch out of the office to make room for
her equipment, saying, “just the theatre things,” when
their landlord stopped by to see how the girls were
When Young prepares audition films, pulls out her
backdrop and goes over her lines, everyone in the house
takes part in the process. Additionally, Bruno says Young
works on talents like gymnastics and skateboarding to
boost her résumé. Bruno, a competitive cheerleader of
eight years, often teaches Young a thing or two.
Though Young keeps up her skills for the screen,
Davis is more interested in musical theatre and is
enrolled in Basic Acting.
“I don’t know what is going on in that class; they
just start with clapping every time and then we hear
her just repeating like the same word over and over,
which I’m assuming is an acting exercise,” Young says
after imitating Davis’ applause.
Bruno actually has a discussion section during just
that class. “Every time I unmute, she’s making weird
noises,” Bruno says, admitting that she’s given up
“I always have to be kind of in the loop of when
she’ll be doing those classes because we have quizzes
or tests, [and] they’re not the time to overlap them,”
“Don’t fight it,” Bruno says about the experience.
“Just take it in ... and invest in some good headphones.”