Alumni Spotlight: Ito Aghayere '12

December 12, 2017

The Alumni Spotlight is a place to hear from the School of the Arts alumni community about their journeys as artists and creators.

Ito Aghayere is a Nigerian, Canadian, American actress and former White House intern who was never the kind of kid who wanted to grow up to become a ballerina or the President of the United States. All she wanted was to be able to use her big mouth without getting in trouble for it. She has a C-SPAN addiction and bachelor's degree from Duke University in Political Science and Theatre Arts and a master's degree from Columbia University.


She has appeared off-Broadway, on TV and in films such as Orange Is The New Black (directed by Jodie Foster), The Knick (directed by Steven Soderbergh), UnforgettableForever, upcoming independent film Right Song, Wrong Chord (2015 Release) and Wet Behind The Ears (Soho International Film Festival - Winner).

Recent off-Broadway credits include The Liquid Plain at The Signature Theatre, Three Days to See at New York Theatre Workshop (Transport Group Theatre), The Tempest, Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing at Classic Stage Company, Midsummer Night’s Dream at Classic Theatre of Harlem. The Obeah Symphony at The Billie Holiday Theatre, and Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike among others.

How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?

Ito Aghayere (IA): I truly believe that the distinction of any program is determined by the presence of a dynamic faculty - the people at the heart of that beautiful exchange of ideas that takes place between student and teacher. Any school is really just a network of pretty buildings in the absence of a diverse and passionate group of people who can create and maintain an environment where students can learn, assess, and grow.

From day one, I was overwhelmed by the caliber and diversity of the men and women who made up the compelling cadre of professors, instructors and mentors within the School of the Arts MFA Acting program. As a Duke University graduate having focused my study on Political Science, Chinese and Theater Arts, I learned the value of cross pollination across disciplines and the importance of variety and competition in the marketplace of ideas. Continuing my education here at the School of the Arts, I was not to be disappointed with the myriad techniques, ideas and processes that my new professors encouraged me to test and explore. I can honestly say that my process as an artist was directly influenced by the amazing diversity of the faculty at the School of the Arts and the variety of methods, perspectives and approaches that I was exposed to as a student.


Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

IA: Of all the lessons I learned over the course of my three years at Columbia, there is one that comes to mind because it dramatically transformed the foundation of my creative process as an artist. In Kristin Linklater's class, I learned the vast difference between the art of being and the work of doing. As an actor, it's easy to rely on manipulation to get to where you think you should be - to put on and do all the things that you think your body and voice should do in order to effectively tell the story. However, through such manipulation, a layer of truth is lost, and the delicate moment-to-moment, kinesthetic work that allows the actor to be, exist and breathe within the life of a story is eroded by the chore of doing - the work of demonstration. In Kristin's class, I learned how to exist within a world without striving to prove it. Through her endless encouragement and prompting, I learned how to enjoy allowing my body and my voice the freedom to be moved by the text in ways I couldn't have imagined.